Sidel: Top 3 Packaging Trends For 2020
Friday, January 10th, 2020
Vincent Le Guen, Vice President Packaging at Sidel: From a global perspective, we are witnessing the implementation of an increasing number of measures towards a circular economy. For instance, the EU Single Use Packaging Directive—voted on in early 2019—sets ambitious goals towards the collection and recycling targets for all packaging materials. Namely, it is targeting 90 percent of beverage bottles to be collected as of 2029. Numerous countries are closely watching its outcomes, others— especially in Asia—are following China when it comes to ban waste imports.
At Sidel, we are welcoming the developments towards higher collection targets, together with the measures suggested for increasing the adoption of all recyclable packaging materials. In fact, even though PET is suffering from a negative public perception, based on misconceptions from end consumers and poor collection schemes, we should remember that it is the only plastic that is 100 percent recyclable bottle-to-bottle, provided that local regulations allow it; no other polymer offers this advantage. This benefit goes together with other properties which have been helping position PET as the most widely adopted packaging material in the beverage industry, namely the food safety and convenience it offers, its lightweighting potential, its design flexibility, its transparency and its affordability.
We expect the lightweighting of a PET bottle to be determined by consumer acceptance. However, the container will integrate more and more recycled content, from an average of 10 percent, which is the status quo today in Europe, to a value ranging from 30 percent (in Europe by 2030) to 50 percent, depending on the development of collection and recycling capacity. With 30 percent to 50 percent recycled content, even if bottle weights would not be reduced, an estimated Green House Gases (GHG) saving, ranging from 6 to 11 g eq. CO2 per bottle, would be possible.
In this context, more and more beverages, food, home and personal care manufacturers are welcoming our “End to End” packaging initiative. This is a Sidel program that looks at packaging and equipment with a 360° perspective: not only do we need to take into account the packaging component, but also its interactions with the equipment in the factory. Also, we need to consider the impact packaging solutions have upstream and downstream in the value chain.
At Sidel, whenever we develop new packaging designs for our clients, we primarily engage on design for recycling—this is the big driver behind any new concept we create. Our new X-LITE Still packaging solution, for example, is compatible with r-PET, as long as the quality of the r-PET is appropriate. According to the blowing tests we performed under industrial conditions, X-LITE Still can contain between 25 percent and 50 percent of r-PET, yet ensuring the quality and the performance of the bottle. Additionally, our blow-moulding equipment is technically able to process any concentration of r-PET, provided that it is of good quality. To ensure this, well-organised recycling streams need to be in place.
There is a lot of innovation happening also in other fields of packaging right now. We are seeing sensory and smart or intelligent packaging, expanding the channels a brand can use to engage with its target consumers. With such smart packaging, producers are also able to track their production, stocks and logistics. Certainly, these smart opportunities can lead to important insights for the entire industry. Therefore, intelligent packaging has a future – but without any compromise on the affordability and the primary function of the container: protecting the product inside.
Flexible packaging is currently growing in popularity worldwide due to different factors: it brings economic and logistic benefits; it is fully adapted to modern uses and answers needs such as mobility and convenience in the form of ready-to-use products. According to the latest Smithers Pira report from May 2019, the global total volume consumption for flexible packaging will grow at an annual rate of 4.0 percent from 2019 to 2024, increasing from 29.9 to 36.4 million tons of these packaging solutions.
However, it would be naive not to recognise that the current environmental push around plastics is also impacting this type of primary packaging. Flexible packaging already marks one of the lightest packaging solutions available. The issue here is not really about “lighter” or “thinner”. The plastic industry is rather working to improve education on proper collection and separation as well as on design for recyclability.
This leads to two different approaches, namely: using mono-material for production, sourced from only one polymer or designing and prototyping a plastic-based flexible packaging solution that facilitates higher quality recycling and contains recycled content. This is the goal of project Proof, one of the most recently launched ‘Pioneer Projects’ by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Despite the fact that applicable alternatives strongly depend on the characteristics of the product inside, like its expiration date, the distribution through cold or ambient chain, etc., these developments are shifting flexible packaging one step closer towards a circular economy.
 This hypothesis is based on a PET bottle weighing 12 g.
Contributed by Vincent Le Guen, Vice President Packaging at Sidel.
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