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Sustainable plastic packaging plays a vital role in food and beverage sector
Friday, 15 January, 2021, 14 : 00 PM [IST]
Suraj Kahane
Packaging now plays vital role when it comes to branding in food and beverage industry. With constant climate changes and environmental changes it has become vital to switch to sustainable, eco friendly options.

First step towards sustainable packaging would be to reduce packaging weight, in terms of material used per unit, without compromising on function, safety or quality. 'Light weighting' like this is a long-established means of reducing both the environmental impact of packaging and food waste.

Other sustainable packaging practices generally include:
•    Bulk packaging - the unit size of raw material packaging being delivered to the food manufacturer - reusable container with a 1 tonne capacity for margarine rather than smaller consignments in cardboard cartons, or procuring flour in tankers rather than 25 kg sacks.
•    Refills - refillable packaging can be used several times - a more recent development is the use of lightweight refills.
•    Returnable packaging - returnable secondary and tertiary packaging combined with lightweighting efforts in tertiary packaging - using less stretch and cling film (made of low-density polyethylene plastic) can cut packaging waste material in the food and beverage manufacturing sector.
•    Packaging using recycled material - optimising the quantity of recycled material used in packaging can have a significant environmental benefit; it is reported that for every 1 000 tonnes of recycled glass used to produce new glass containers 345 000 kWh of energy, 314 tonnes of CO2 and 1 200 tonnes of raw materials are saved
•    Bioplastic packaging - a partially renewable source which helps to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.
Sustainability is a broad term that encompasses many different interpretations. However, based on legislative goals set by European and Asian states, organisations devoted to promoting sustainable and environmental efficient growth and targets set by global brand leaders, a general consensus revolves around source reduction (using less material) and the recovery of material throughout the life cycle of a product. By using less and reusing more, governments and green organisations alike believe source consumption and landfilling will decline and recycling will increase.

The global sustainable plastic packaging market size is projected to grow from USD 89.0 billion in 2020 to USD 117.3 billion by 2025, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 5.6 per cent during the forecast year.

The sustainable plastic packaging industry has been growing as a result of stringent laws and regulations levied by governments and governing bodies, as well as a shift in consumer preference toward recyclable and eco-friendly packaging materials. Apart from these factors, downsizing of packaging and breakthrough in new technologies are also driving the sustainable plastic packaging market globally. However, the high cost of recycling and poor infrastructure available for recycling processes are likely to hamper the growth of this market.

Biodegradable plastic decomposes naturally in the environment. This is achieved when microorganisms in the environment metabolize and break down the structure of biodegradable plastic. It is less harmful to the environment than traditional plastics. Biodegradable plastics can be composed of bioplastics manufactured from renewable raw materials. Innovation plays a key role in the biodegradable plastic packaging market. Several companies are investing in research and development in search of new packaging materials that are beneficial in use and non-toxic to the environment.

The food and beverage industry is a major one in the sustainable packaging market. The primary function of food and beverage packaging is to reduce food loss and increase the shelf-life of food products. Global players are aiming at using innovative packaging materials developed from degradable and recyclable materials in order to achieve sustainability. Consumers seek convenience food solutions due to lack of time. The expectations of food quality, hygiene, and growing health awareness are driving the sustainable plastic packaging market in the food and beverage sector.

Sustainable packaging is no longer a want for food and beverage producers, it is now a need. To stay competitive in the current market and to thrive in the future, food and beverage companies must become sustainable. While implementing sustainable systems is certainly a responsibility of socially conscious businesses, applying eco-efficient and green-friendly practices will satisfy consumer demand and will contribute to a significant competitive advantage.

As companies plan for future growth, there are four catalysts that will push food and beverage businesses toward sustainability: consumer pressure, retail pressure, international demand and new, developing technologies. Companies that employ resources targeted toward these pressures will realise measured growth, expanded markets and increased margins over the next decade.

Consumer Pressure Consumer desire and demand fuels the research and development budgets of food and beverage producers around the world. While being ‘eco-friendly’ has been an important marketing tool over the past decade, new research released by Business Insights details specific pressures that are enabling food and beverage companies to go green. Factors from within the household battle global consumer pressure to go green.

Retailer Pressure
Not only is consumer demand for sustainable products at an all-time high, increasing pressure from retailers is forcing food and beverage companies to restructure the development, production and distribution of its products.
More than just satisfying the retail conglomerates, there are serious advantages to be had by food and beverage companies that go green.
These cost benefits can trickle down the supply chain. Flexible, lightweight containers are new to the market which bring sustainable, cost-effective benefits over rigid systems for both internal and external transportation use. Intermediate bulk containers are typically designed to hold the equivalent of 5 to 6 steel drums of product and improve transportation and energy efficiencies associated with bulk shipping. By utilising flexible products that require less material, weights are reduced and transportation and warehousing efficiencies are maximised.

(The author is owner of Zhinga La La. He can be reached at info@zhingalala.in)
 
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