Sustainable transformations: the plastic packaging industry’s journey towards a better environmental cycle

Creating a circular plastics economy will require further increased recycling

The plastic packaging industry finds itself face-to-face with unsustainable consumption. After decades of rapid growth – driven by plastic’s ability to cost-effectively protect and preserve products – the industry now finds itself confronting ubiquitous images of beaches littered with its remains.

So, could recycling rates reduce the extent of the outrageous problem of plastic waste? What role does product redesign play? What does all this mean for industry growth? We explored the future in our report on circular plastic packaging. Fill out the form to get your free excerpt and read more in this introduction.

The beginning of efforts towards increasing recycling

Alongside recognition, many of the sector’s biggest brands have stood out for their understanding of the scale of the challenge, with some now seeking to promote a binding UN legal agreement on plastic pollution. This is change, but it needs acceleration.

One of the key levers the industry is relying on to turn the tide of plastic waste is a significant increase in the use of recycled materials. By giving plastic value after use, recycling can help direct plastic toward new applications and out of the environment. When recycled materials replace fresh materials, this can leave fresh materials unused and reduce the carbon output of the value chain.

Can recycled material supplies match plastic demands?

The question the industry faces is whether access to recycled materials can increase to meet demand, given today’s relatively low levels of recycling.

Mechanical recycling is responsible for more than 96% of plastic packaging recycling today. However, only 15% of this waste reaches the packaging sector – almost exclusively in PET bottles, and the rest is recycled into other applications. We expect closed recycling to grow at nearly twice the rate of open recycling until 2040 – in a rapidly growing market. Faster than fresh plastic markets – but this is not enough to meet the latent demand for recycled materials.

Chemical recycling technologies can also play an important role in addressing the challenges of plastic waste. Chemical recycling technologies are generating interest thanks to their ability to make a wider range of polymer types and applications recyclable. While these technologies are still moving towards commercialization, the year 2020 has seen And 2021 major announcements for projects that will become operational before 2025. These investments contribute to a compound annual growth rate of more than 15% for chemically recycled plastic packaging until 2040.

This trend, when combined with mechanical recycling, will see the amount of recycled wood rise sharply, but will not have a uniform impact across the world. Europe will remain the region with the highest recycling rate in 2040, as stringent regulatory targets in the region will push recycling rates higher. Recycling to more than 50% by the end of the forecast, North America will also see the largest increase, with an estimated increase of about 20 percent points, as consumer brands drive recycling turnover relatively low in the region today.

Recycling alone is not enough – redesigning plastic packaging will also be key

While these trends indicate that the recycling industry is about to experience a boom in demand, this in and of itself will not be enough to ensure that plastic packaging reduces its negative impacts on the environment. In fact, recycling is just one thread of the context towards a more circular economy. The industry must also focus its attention on other aspects, such as the need to redesign packaging from the ground up to deliver sustainable products that their customers want to use.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *