Sustainable packaging in focus

Major CPGs are looking at ways to move the needle on sustainable packaging. Packaging producers have a large role to play, and sharing the environmental benefits of flexible packaging is one part of an all-hands-on-deck approach

Sustainable packaging is at a critical juncture. Major CPGs, driven by an environmentally-conscious consumer base, have set lofty sustainability goals with rapidly approaching deadlines. Packaging, particularly single use plastics, have become center of attention for these companies and they look to reduce their overall environmental impact.

Perhaps the biggest champion for sustainability comes from the New Plastics Economy initiative by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which calls for all packaging to be recyclable, compostable or reusable. To date, 450 brand owners, retailers, government, and packaging providers have signed on to reduce or eliminate “problematic and unnecessary plastic.”

These major brands are not just paying lip service to their customer base. There is a tangible ROI to investing in sustainable packaging these days.

A study by Nielsen found that 73 percent of millennial consumers – today’s largest consumer demographic – are willing to pay more for sustainable products. But just how much more? A separate study from Nucleus Research found consumers were willing to spend up to 6 percent more for products from socially responsible companies. Not only are consumers prioritizing sustainable products, they are willing to open their wallets to support companies that share their values.

This is all great news for the planet. But it could present challenges for flexible packaging producers, a printed packaging segment that has historically struggled with sustainability.

Most of the flexible packaging on the market is not recyclable because it is manufactured with multiple laminated layers made up of different materials, meaning it can’t be successfully reprocessed. The majority of it ends up in landfill.

Flexible packaging is growing rapidly, and today is the second largest packaging segment, after corrugated boxes. For the $33.6 billion flexible packaging industry, the pressure is on to move the needle toward sustainable solutions.

It’s true there are sustainable solutions on the market. (Learn more about S-OneLP’s sustainable flexible packaging products here.) But flexible packaging in general has a sustainability story that often gets lost in the sustainable packaging narrative. There are plenty of benefits to flexible packaging films, like our Classic Line, apart from just recycling:

  • Material and resource efficiency: On average, flexible packages use less fossil fuels and water, and emit less green house gases in production, compared to bottles and cans. Flexible packages are lighter and have less waste than rigid packaging.
  • Transportation benefits: Flexible packaging is shipped flat or on rolls. Life cycle analyses have shown flexible packages to use anywhere from 15 to 25 fewer trucks to ship the same amount of packaging.
  • Extends shelf life: Food waste is a global concern. Wasted food is the biggest occupant of U.S. landfills, and wastes valuable resources like water and farmland. Flexible packaging is shown to significantly increase shelf life for fresh produce and meats.

Sharing these messages with customers and brands will be important as the packaging world moves toward a more circular economy and sustainable future. But none of that happens in a vacuum. Consumers championing environmental drives, multinational players are developing a road map, and packaging manufacturers have a crucial role to play in further developing sustainable solutions to meet shared vision for a greener future.