Industry continues to evolve and accelerate the pace at which we adopt and stronger sustainability and recyclability initiatives. Sustainable and eco-friendly materials are gaining traction in flexible packaging. This includes biodegradable films, compostable materials and recycling-friendly packaging. I recently sat down with Jesse Rosenow, Noth America Sales Manager for Totani, and got the perspective from an equipment manufacturer. He shared, “Obviously over the years, flexible packaging has been steadily capturing market share from products traditionally shipped in rigid packaging. Look at the grocery store, rice, laundry and dishwashing detergents, and even pet food are all showing up on shelves in flexible packaging. This is impacting particular industries, such as food and beverage, where flexibility and sustainability are becoming more critical.
Advances in recycling technologies are making flexible packaging more and more recyclable. The development of new recycling processes and collection systems aim to close the loop and reduce waste, promoting a circular economy for packaging materials. The push for and competition from flexible packaging may also be the catalyst to drive innovation in rigid packaging, developing more eco-friendly options as well as improvements in functionality of materials.
Jesse also shared some recent industry data regarding the impact this trend is having on the overall carbon footprint. One product for a major distributor, when converted to flexible packaging vs rigid, generated an 85% reduction in the carbon footprint, used 80% less plastic and reduced diesel fuel consumption by 600,000 gallons annually! Their business is seeing a trickledown effect requiring their product offerings to handle all Polypropylene and all Polyethylene structures.
SPL Consulting, LLC. also spent time with AJ Buran, President of GOpak Flexibles, capturing his insights from a flexible packaging manufacturers perspective. He shared” The trend toward flexible packaging is occurring on multiple fronts. It is dramatically reducing freight costs due to its lighter weight and not shipping “air” when compared to rigid structures. Amazon is leading the way driving its suppliers toward flexible packing connected to their Ecommerce platform.”
AJ’s unique perspective also leads him to believe “The label industry may ultimately be impacted by flexible packaging as well. Many pouches are printed with no need for labels and direct digital printing on cans may lead to decreased demand for labels and shrink sleeves.”
Government regulations often send mixed messages that confuse the marketplace as they push back against plastic, while at times, ignoring the overall impact on the carbon footprint. Finding the proper balance between these two opposing forces is part of setting the direction we can all follow. As all this takes place it will make it all the more evident that plastic is not the problem, educating people, establishing repeatable processes and gaining the commitment of people to do their part as individuals is.
In summary, the future of flexible packaging involves sustainability, technological advancements, and consumer centric designs. While flexible packaging continues to evolve, rigid packaging will likely adapt and innovate to maintain its relevance in the market, incorporating sustainable practices and exploring new materials and designs.
Brian Van de Water
SPL Consulting, LLC.