The Rise of 100% Recyclable Product Packaging

Published April 5, 2019

According to National Geographic, a staggering 91 percent of plastic is not recycled. Although mass production of plastic and plastic products began a short sixty years ago, 8.3 billion metric tons of largely disposable plastic and plastic goods waste has been accumulated. Plastic takes over 400 years to disintegrate. Packaging or disposables such as utensils and to-go coffee cup lids comprised of plastic are detrimental to the environment and the animals who may encounter it. To combat this growing economic problem, consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands and distributors are diligently working to improve the plastic-heavy food and beverage packaging trends by finding innovative ways to make current products more eco-friendly.

Why Plastic it Still so Popular for Food Packaging and How This Can Be Changed

The Plastic Soup Foundation, an Amsterdam-based organization dedicated to ending plastic pollution throughout the world’s oceans, has proved that plastic and food waste are strongly related. Although food products typically last two to three times longer when packaged using plastic, the amount of food waste has not decreased with the increase of plastic packaging. Since single-use packaging was introduced in the 1950’s, both plastic and food waste has increased exponentially. The disadvantages of plastic in the environment are exponential.

The thinking that using plastic is the only way to make food last longer must be changed. In order to preserve the environment for future generations, food packaging methods must improve. One way businesses are beginning to move away from plastic products is to allocate some of their research and development funds to pursuing alternate packing materials. For example, Starbucks Coffee shared that by 2020, it will eliminate single-use plastic straws from every one of its 28,000 stores worldwide. This will be accomplished by expanding the use of strawless lids and increasing alternative-material straw options.

Innovative Companies are Already Leading the Way

In March 2018, Packline USA introduced Repeat USA, an entirely recyclable PE (polyethylene) film and pouch. Comprised of multiple layers of barrier film that have been laminated and sealed together, the resulting structure is similar to multi-use plastic bags produced by CPG brands like Ziplock. The pouch eliminates elements that can have a negative effect on products such as moisture, vapor and odor. The pouch is advertised to be effective for wet, dry, frozen or modified atmospheres. These pouches are providing an excellent alternative to plastic for the environmentally conscious consumer.

The European-based companies Mondi and Werner & Mertz have announced that in 2019 they will jointly unveil a 100 percent recyclable pouch, complete with detachable decorative panels. Their goal is for this product to replace conventional flexible packaging for Frosch products. In development since 2014, the pouch was created with the intention to “reverse-engineer” the recycling process and offer an alternative packaging fit for every stage of recycling.

Immo Sander, the head of packaging development for Werner & Mertz Group, explains “[in order for the design of this pouch to be successful] the entire value chain must be aligned — from packaging producers through players in sorting and recycling to buyers of recycled material.” With two layers comprised entirely of PE mono-material, a prerequisite for recycling, the innovative design of the pouch allows for a speedy composite breakdown. Sander continues, “[We] dress the pouch up in an eye-catching ‘outer garment’ that is printed with brand design on the front and consumer info on the back. When the pouch is empty, we ‘undress’ it automatically by shredding and sorting the two components into separate recycling streams.” Free of glue or artificial adhesives, even the cap and pouring mechanism of the pouch are entirely recyclable.

Consumers can be confident that companies are making a conscious effort to improve current food, beverage and product packaging trends.

What Packaging Changes Mean for the CPG Industry

As consumers increasingly shift their support towards environmentally conscious food and beverage packaging trends, CPG retailers and providers must be willing to evolve. That means taking the time to reflect on production processes and making steps towards the use of organic and recyclable materials. These steps don’t have to be grand gestures—they can be smaller changes, such as switching out packing foam or styrofoam packing peanuts for biodegradable cornstarch or mushroom packaging. Not only will these efforts make a difference in reducing a company’s environmental footprint; these changes may even encourage consumers not currently working with environmentally friendly companies to shift their business to one that employs more sustainable practices.

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