Sustainable packaging has become significantly and increasingly important over the past few years, as consumers are more focused on protecting the environment. Over the past few decades, there has been a conscious effort to move towards a circular economy — a system where businesses design products to be recycled and reused. This has become an increasingly influential principle in the packaging industry as manufacturers are striving to make their packaging products more sustainable. Sustainable packaging solutions are not only critical for the circular economy but just as important to the consumer as well in today’s time. This is particularly the case with the Gen Z population all over the world, whose views on environment and sustainability have proved to be very different from the previous generations that preceded them. This younger generation also has such power to communicate and be vocal about brands and their opinions which these days largely shape how people shop. Businesses and companies have never experienced such dedication, following, or visibility in the everyday lives of consumers. Public concerns and regulatory policies have led to the curbing of single-use packaging waste which was causing serious damage to the environment and ecosystem. Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies and businesses are proactively making strong commitments to improve both – the sustainability of their packaging solutions and to fundamentally redesign their packaging systems.
What is Sustainable Packaging
Sustainable packaging solutions aim to reduce its carbon footprint on the environment over a period of time. Such reduction can be achieved by following these two ways –
Use of eco-friendly raw materials which are 100% recyclable and reusable
Encourage the transition to a circular economy which extends the service life of packaging materials and supplies
Although there is a lot of awareness about sustainability and environmental protection still there are a few hindrances such as
Lack of Consensus:
At present, there is a lack of consensus within the packaging industry as to what should come under the purview of sustainable packaging solutions. The definition and consensus around sustainable packaging supplies and material needs to ensure that the waste to landfill ratio has to come down which can be achieved by the practical implementation of the ‘reduce-reuse-recycle’ philosophy
Rising Regulatory Pressure and its Economic Backlash:
Government authorities all over the world are increasingly focusing on sustainable packaging solutions, thus nudging corporations to meet the latest regulatory standards and guidelines around environmental conservation and protection. This will lead to severe economic backlash as it will put many businesses out of work. For instance, China’s packaging monopoly will be severely affected as the new laws prevent the use of specific materials in the manufacturing process. Such laws will also put pressure on the manufacturing companies to adapt or perish.
Printing and Labeling Challenges:
While many organic and environmentally friendly packaging materials are considered to be viable alternatives to plastic or traditional single-use materials, these do not offer operational and practical convenience. For example, plant-based materials such as starch are a bit difficult to print and label to the same standards as plastic. This can cause damage in the printing & labeling and compromise the way in which operations are carried out for adding additional graphic content like bar codes, batch numbers, and expiry dates.
Challenges in Waste Recovery:
One way to make sustainable packaging economically more practical and feasible is to ensure the proper recycling of packaging materials. However, in the absence of well-defined standard operating procedures, lack of financial incentives for people engaged in the logistics of waste collection and loopholes in regulatory policies have created a disconnect that poses significant challenges in waste recovery and recycling.
The challenges and obstacles around sustainable packaging solutions aren’t insurmountable or impossible to tackle. Enterprises and businesses need a strong resolution and collective focus to ensure that transition is made to sustainable packaging options. Nothing motivates businesses and companies more than their loyal customers. A survey done by Accenture found that more than 50% of consumers would be willing to pay more for sustainable products which can be easily reused or recycled. This provides the necessary impetus needed for brands to pursue the path of sustainable packaging.