Future of packaging materials: the road ahead/ effective management of anti-plastic narrative

12 September 2023


Martyna Fong, Director, Market Intelligence

"The European SUP directive and the Packaging Waste Directive provide a regulatory context to move away from non-recyclable materials used in packaging and single use items. This context has caused a dramatic shift away from PS in the thin wall packaging space into recyclable alternatives, such as polymers with established recycling streams (PET, PP), compostable materials (PLA based), cellulose and natural materials such as bagasse. We are seeing investments in new technologies from both a material and manufacturing perspective.

We are witnessing a phenomenon of ‘paperisation’, which means a renewed interest in the use of cellulose in conventionally plastic domains. While replacing plastics with paper is still a highly nuanced debate, it's encouraging to see so much R&D in the industry, and opportunities opening across the whole value chain to manage new material performance and barrier parameters.

Moulded fibre, for example, is a complimentary material to plastic for traditional plastic packaging businesses and can offer a route to extend the portfolio as well as to manage risks associated with the potential loss of customer base. Likewise, moulded fibre is another portfolio product for paper packaging converters. In the thin wall packaging space, the markets that are most reliant on foamed PS, which isn’t recyclable, offer the greatest opportunity. Food service disposables, such as drinking cups, trays, plates, bowls and cutlery are a perfect entry for moulded fibre. Retail applications, with shelf-life requirement and hence seal integrity, will be the second phase of development – dependent on overcoming technical challenges.

Whilst conventional paper packaging companies have chosen to use an anti-plastic narrative in recent marketing communications, the industry needs to manage how both solutions are marketed to end-users as viable options. This alignment offers consolidation opportunities across packaging industries."

Martyna will be presenting at our forthcoming event Plastic Sustainability Strategies, 5-6 December 2023 in Düsseldorf, Germany. Book your place