Lightweight packaging to take off, despite challenges

Thursday, 12 December, 2013

Rigid plastic and flexible packs are poised to take off in the US, with demand expected to increase by 32.85 billion packs between now and 2017, according to a new report from Canadean.

The research firm says the demand for greater convenience and cost-effectiveness will drive the use of lightweight flexible and rigid plastic packaging with innovative pack shapes, closures and dispensers.

“The key advantage of flexible packaging is its low intrinsic weight, which ensures lower transportation overheads and reduces the overall supply chain costs. These incremental weight savings not only provide cost benefits, but also reduce transportation costs and overall breakages,” said Dominic Cakebread, director of packaging services at Canadean.

While manufacturers are feeling the pressure to reduce the weight and gauge/thickness of packaging materials, consumers still expect these new packs to exhibit the same technical performance and functionality as existing packaging formats, making the production of lightweight packaging materials more technically demanding than ever.

Bioplastics made from agricultural by-products offer manufacturers a reduced carbon footprint. These eco-friendly plastics also reduce dependence on petrochemicals and other mineral-rich packaging materials.

These materials can reduce fuel consumption by up to 70% per ton, while releasing significantly less carbon into the atmosphere. But they’re not without controversy: the use of valuable agricultural land for growing bio-polymers instead of food in a world facing increasing food insecurity has been criticised by some.

Despite increased demand, it won’t all be smooth sailing for the flexible packaging industry: it still faces challenges such as unstable raw materials prices and a lack of skilled labour, Canadean says.

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