Plastic Economy Report Highlights Continuing Push toward Sustainable Packaging Materials

By 2050, the world’s oceans could have more plastic, by weight, than fish—if something is not done about it.

A coalition of industry players intends to do something about it.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in conjunction with the World Economic Forum and McKinsey & Co., has developed the concept of the New Plastics Economy. It is part of a wider, multi-industry, global initiative called MainStream,  which aims to accelerate business-driven innovations and help further the circular economy. Partners in the New Plastics Economy concept include major producers and users of plastic packaging such as Coca-Cola, Danone, Mars Inc., Amcor and Veolia.

Sustainable packaging materials

The MacArthur Foundation debuted the New Plastics Economy in a 2016 report. An updated version, released this year, includes a concrete, comprehensive plan of action that encompasses the complete plastics supply and use chain, in all parts of the world.

“We urgently need to transform global plastic packaging material flows if we are to continue to reap the benefits of this versatile material,” says Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever. “This report marks a major milestone, calling out specific actions to capture opportunities for redesign and innovation, reuse, and recycling. It’s now up to us all to get it done.”

The Challenges of a Circular Plastics Economy

The report begins by acknowledging the challenges of establishing a true circular economy in plastics. Only 14 percent of plastic packaging is collected for recycling globally, and the cost of collecting, sorting, and recycling packaging usually outweighs the revenues it generates directly.

Sustainable packaging materials

The three ambitions of the New Plastics Economy are Recycling, Reuse and Redesign. SOURCE: The New Plastics Economy – Rethinking the future of plastics

The report identifies several strategies to meet these challenges. Broadly speaking, they are:

Redesign: By redesigning the materials, formats, and delivery models of problematic packaging like small-format packages, one of the greatest obstacles to the New Plastics Economy could be eliminated. Without this, the report estimates, some 30 percent of plastic packaging will be never be reused or recycled.

Reuse: Replacing one-use packaging with reusable packaging could affect up to 20 percent of the total plastics market, the report estimates. Business-to-business packaging has the potential to increase reusable items such as pallets and crates.

Recycling:  Improving the global recycling rate, currently at 14 percent, has the potential to affect fully 50 percent of the plastics market. Doing so will require a number of comprehensive actions, including the initiation of a Global Plastics Protocol among developed nations to “reinforce recycling as an attractive, cost-competitive alternative.” Means to that end include choosing materials, pigments, and additives for maximum recyclability; improving collection and sorting of recyclable materials; and improving the technical capability of recycling facilities.

Food companies are in a unique position to initiate these strategies with regard to ingredients that they buy in bulk.

When they use flexible bulk containers, like bag-in-box or intermediate bulk containers, they can insist that the flexible carriers be designed, or redesigned, as monolayer. This gives them the advantage of using more easily recyclable materials while leaving the challenge of specifying those materials up to their suppliers.

As a business-to-business market, the food industry is especially well-positioned to execute reusability. Rigid reusable packaging for bulk shipments fits well into the closed-loop concept. The problem is that, with many liquid bulk ingredients, reusable bulk containers present issues of contamination. Even when this can be avoided, the energy used to clean and sanitize liquid bulk containers between shipments vitiates the ecological benefits of reuse. Using flexible containers inside rigid, reusable shells confers the best of both worlds: the closed-loop benefits of reuse with the sanitation of single-use food-contact materials.

As for recycling, the food industry can again reap the advantage of the business-to-business market. The biggest challenge in consumer recycling is segregating and sorting loads to ensure that each kind of polymer is processed separately. Because food companies have total control over the loads of used flexible bulk packaging they deliver to be recycled, load contamination is not an issue, and recyclers can process the loads  more efficiently.

Sustainable packaging material

These three distinct transition strategies have the potential to accelerate the shift towards the new plastics economy.  (The percentages are share of plastic packaging market by weight.) SOURCE: The New Plastics Economy – Rethinking the future of plastics

“A new circular plastic paradigm will create great value for business and society,” says Andrew Aulisi, senior director, global environmental policy at Pepsico. “Many actions can be taken individually, but we need collaborative effort to make a meaningful shift.”

In summary, flexible bulk business-to-business packaging, such as CDF’s bag-in-box, Air-Assist products, and flexible intermediate bulk containers, has the potential to incorporate several of the strategies of the New Plastics Economy. They combine the safety and sanitation of one-time use together with the ecological soundness of reusability, and the recycling custody chain is tightly controlled. Contact us for a free sample and download our corporate brochure.

Wrapping up 2016: Packaging Trends to Watch

Here are some sustainability trends in packaging that we think will gain momentum in 2017:

Multiple uses: Great packaging protects not only your product, but also your brand. But what if the packaging is part of the product itself? That is the case with innovations such as the expandable bowl by Swedish design studio Tomorrow Machine. Using 100% bio-based and biodegradable materials, the company created a cellulose wrapper that hugs freeze-dried food and morphs into a bowl when hot water is poured into the spout. The bowl ― a sustainable packaging award winner ― is now in good company and we expect more will follow.

Unconventional materials: Egg shells, fermented sugars, barley, and wheat ribbons. Those were the materials used to create, in turn:

  • Bio-compostable films: Nanoparticles from waste eggshells helped researchers at Tuskegee University in Alabama make a plastic film that is completely sustainable and 700% more flexible than other bioplastic blends. Film made of the new material could be used in retail packaging, grocery bags and food containers.
  • A prototype PHBottle: The European PHBottle project aims to initially create a bottle, cap, and sleeve, although use in other applications (non-food packaging and non-packaging uses) will be tested. The bioplastic material used to make the bottle comes from the transformation of organic matter found in juice processing by-products.
  • Edible six-pack rings for beer: Imagine washing down the six-pack ring with your favorite beer. Although that moment is not quite here yet, the future is looking up for a piece of plastic that is notorious for ensnaring wildlife. The first bio-degradable edible six-pack ring for beer is the result of a partnership between Saltwater Brewery; We Believers, an advertising agency; and Entelequia, Inc., a small startup in Mexico. Made from barley and wheat ribbons spent grain from the brewing process, the rings are safe for wildlife to eat and sturdy enough to support the cans.

Reusable packaging: The throw-away culture is not for everyone. In fact, Mintel’s Global Packaging Trends 2017 shows 63% of U.S. consumers actively seek out packages they can re-use. More than half of consumers also say they would prefer to buy foods with minimal or even no packaging. With such great demand for waste reduction, innovation is bound to pick up even more momentum.


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Source: EBN

5 exciting, emerging sustainable packaging materials to watch in 2016

Every year technology advancements in the packaging industry become more innovative, widespread and tangible. These advancements are key contributors in propelling new safety and sustainability opportunities. Manufacturers and technology providers are working together to provide the most sustainable packaging solutions for end users. Here are some of the latest packaging materials to keep an eye on.


  1. Sustainable Aqueous Barrier Coatings

New sustainable coatings improve fiber products by preventing moisture from penetrating them material and possibly contaminating food. New sustainable coatings also present alternatives to laminated structures that cannot be recycled.


  1. Molded Fiber Printing

New technology enables high-res four-color graphics to be applied directly to the molded fiber packaging.


  1. Light Weight Insulation

There is a new lightweight, durable insulation material for cold and hot applications called Chill Buddy. The packaging material is temperature controlled and offers a sustainable substitute to expanded polystyrene foam.


  1. Micro-Fibrillated Cellulose Specialty Fiber

Micro-Fibrillated Cellulose is a fiber derived from plant waste. It is used to strengthen and lighten fiber products sustainably; resulting in reduced material with maintained performance,  improved crack resistance and a stronger fiber that is lighter weight.


  1. Micro-Pattern Material Enhancement

This new technology improves the grip, comfort and handling of hot beverages, while slowing down the condensation process.



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Source: Packaging Digest