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Plastic Replacement: The Sustainable Packaging Trend in the Food and Beverage Industry

Jul 06, 2023

June 2, 2023 by Zixin Yuan Leave a Comment

The food and beverage industry has been growing at a notable pace with an expected growth rate of 9.7% according to CAGR, reaching to a market volume of $6,383.49 billion in 2022 starting from $5,817.4 billion. A hidden fact behind such growth is the problem of packaging waste and especially the use of plastics which has been a common option for their packaging from primary packaging to secondary and tertiary. Examples are shrink-wrapping, plastic rings and pallet wrapping.

While the European Commission is implementing a plastic tax to keep a curb on the use of plastic packaging and then to control waste generated, companies that engage in the manufacturing of beverage and foods products as well as those packaging companies are now taking actions to achieve a more sustainable future with innovative packaging solutions.

A sedentary lifestyle all over the world is propelling the consumption of ready-to-drink beverages, accompanying which trend is a growing concern about the environmental impact of single-use plastics including their contribution to pollution and harm to wildlife.

While shrink wrapping has been a popular option for beverage multipack, what those packaging and packaging automation companies are doing is to introduce alternatives to such kind of single-use plastics so as to make packaging more sustainable and eco-friendlier.

One of the references is Westrock who is a leading packaging company of sustainable packaging innovations. The key initiative is the use of fiber-based materials, such as paper and cardboard, which are renewable, recyclable, and biodegradable. Westrock also offers innovative designs that reduce the amount of material needed for packaging, while still providing adequate protection for the products. With their patented design such as CanCollar and CarrierKote which are alternatives to shrink wrapping and also provide tamper-proof features, Westrock has partnered with various industry leaders such as Coca-Cola to promote sustainable packaging practices and develop new technologies that can help reduce waste and improve recycling rates.

ÉLITER Packaging Machinery, a family-owned packaging automation company based in Wenzhou, China, is the current market leader in terms of sleeve packaging automation which is a secondary packaging considered as an eco-friendly option compared to traditional carton boxes. The company has worked with various international brands in the industry of drinks and beverages to implement carton sleeve packaging machines.

Ready meal industry has been preferring plastics trays and plastic film sealing for their packaging. The downside there is that both of them are of plastics and can cause considerable impact on the environment considering the large market volume of ready meal.

KCC, a Korean chemical company, has introduced eco-friendly packaging for ready meals. The packaging is made from a combination of biodegradable materials such as PLA and PBAT, which decompose naturally without harming the environment. The new packaging also has excellent barrier properties to keep food fresh for longer periods of time. This sustainable packaging solution is an important step towards reducing the environmental impact of the ready meal industry, which generates large amounts of plastic waste.

Regulations and enforcing compliance are other key factors to promote sustainable packaging. The regulations in turn will help to reinforce consumer behavior and awareness of the role that plays in improving sustainability with packaging.

The European Commission has taken several measures to promote sustainable packaging and reduce plastic waste. One of the most significant actions taken by the Commission is the introduction of a plastics tax which is implemented to incentivize businesses to use more sustainable packaging materials such as reusable cardboard and carton boxes and discourage the use of single-use plastics. In addition to the plastics tax, the Commission has also implemented legislation that requires all Member States to achieve a 90% collection target for plastic bottles by 2029.

An expectation behind these actions is not only to force manufacturing end to adhere to sustainability target, yet as well to promote consumer consciousness. An idea result would be that consumers may gradually adopt sustainable practices in their lifestyle which will in turn lead to a ripple effect of positive change and boost the shift to a sustainable future with packaging.

Photos provided by the author.

Filed Under: Business Tagged With: eco friendly packaging, food and beverage industry, plastic replacement, sustainable packaging

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