The green and sustainable packaging market is broad, and covers packaging technologies such as light weighting, biodegradable packaging, and packaging solutions to increase shelf life and reduce waste in perishable market applications. The global green & sustainable packaging market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 7.1% by 2018, as per ReportStack. Green or sustainable packaging is a type of packaging that is produced from sustainable, renewable, and recyclable raw materials such as paper, plastic, metal, and glass. These materials can be easily bent or molded as needed, but can return to their original form once released. One of the major advantages of green packaging is that it produces less toxic emissions such as carbon dioxide, once it is discarded after use. With the increasing environmental concerns worldwide and the growing need to reduce toxic emissions, green packaging is being increasingly adopted by the food & beverage, healthcare and personal care industries.
Sustainable packaging will grow to 32% of the total global packaging market by 2014, up from just 21% in 2009, according to a study by Pike Research. Plastics based packaging, which represents 35% of all materials used, will be the fastest growing sector of the sustainable packaging market over the next five years. Metal based packaging, one of the easiest materials to recycle, will continue to be the sector with the highest percentage of sustainability – by 2014, more than 63% of metal based packaging will be environmentally friendly. "The US$429 billion global packaging industry is huge but extremely fragmented, with no clear market leaders,” says managing director Clint Wheelock. “As such, the move toward sustainable packaging represents a broad based effort by manufacturers, retailers, industry groups, and governments to promote the design of minimal packaging that can be easily reclaimed. A tremendous amount of innovation is going into reducing energy requirements to manufacture packaging and using more recyclable and compostable materials, but there is still a long way to go.” The market is forecast to surpass US$500 billion in sales within five years, an annual growth rate exceeding the total global increase in GDP. Paper and paper-based packaging are the largest sectors with more than 40% of the global packaging market. Sustainable packaging will comprise nearly a third of the packaging market by 2014, which equates to about a US$170 bln industry. This growth is significant, considering that sustainable packaging had just a 21% market share in 2009. The fastest growing area with regard to materials will be plastics, the substances that supplement makers rely on to house their products. Plastics, along with paper, which is also thoroughly embraced in the natural products industry, will have the largest market share in the packaging arena.
Consumer demand, government legislation and technology advances will propel sustainable packaging to a US$244 bln market by 2018, according to a report by Smithers Para. Sustainability programs are increasingly being seen as a source of innovation that can help in differentiating a company by appealing to the consciences of consumers. These programs also serve as a platform for new product and market development. According to the study, the most common sustainable packaging trends are:
- Downsizing/lightweighting of packaging
- Increased recycling and waste recovery
- Increased use of recycled content
- Increased use of renewably sourced materials
- Improvements in packaging and logistical efficiency
In the recycled material packaging segment, paper packaging is the largest market, followed by metal, glass and plastic. While the demand for recycled plastics remains strong, the material faces several challenges, including lack of infrastructure for collection and sorting, international market competition for existing recovered materials and compliance with requirements related to food and drug content. Asia is forecast to be the largest market for sustainable packaging in 2018, accounting for 32% of the overall market. The biggest growth comes from the Asian market, driven by demand for sustainable packaging in countries like China and India. There, boosted by growing middle-class populations that are increasingly becoming affluent and conscious of health and environmental issues, the demand for sustainable practices is driving greener packaging. In 2018, Smithers Pira forecasts that Asia will be the largest market for sustainable packaging, accounting for 32 percent of the global market. According to the study, the issue of sustainable packaging will continue to grow in importance over the next decade and is predicted to become the number-one challenge facing companies, beating cost and other issues by 2023, on account of :
Consumer Conscience Drives Demand: Environmental awareness among a growing population of consumers is fueling demand for sustainability and the reduction of the impact of packaging on the environment. Consumer attitudes toward sustainability have changed dramatically in the last decade, and this is set to continue in coming years. This greater environmental consciousness and concern for the general good of society, as well as the well-being of future generations, is leading to ethical purchasing behavior. There is a general consensus among consumers that packaging is a major contributor to waste. According to a survey by social research company Ipsos MORI, 36% of consumers believe products are “a little over-packaged” and 43% believe they are “very over-packaged.” We can see that a significant proportion of consumers are now considering social and environmental benefits as part of their calculations of product value and purchasing decisions. Despite this, consumer demand can be complex and conflicting when it comes to everyday consumption, which is still mainly driven by convenience, habit, and price. Often, consumers are not willing to pay more for sustainable packaging. While sustainability may not be a primary purchase motivator for most consumers, they nevertheless have increasing expectations of brands to incorporate greener business practices.
Government Legislation Has Proactive Effect : Government legislation around the world is one of the leading drivers for the sustainable packaging agenda and is putting considerable pressure on manufacturers to up their game. The concepts of reduce, reuse, and recycle are being embraced as much by government agencies as consumers. Examples of legislation aiming to reduce the environmental impact of packaging are the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive implemented in 1994 and the Plastic Bag Ban in China in 2009. Government legislation is expected to impact consumer packaging more than other sectors such as bulk or industrial packaging in order to maximize the impact. Consumer packaging reaches the largest population and hence will have the biggest impact on sustainability. In this way, food and beverage packaging will likely see the greatest regulatory impact. In addition to enacting legislation applying mainly to businesses, governments have also provided assistance directly to consumers to mitigate the environment-degrading effects of packaging. For example, local governments provide waste and recycling services for residents, and they may also become involved in waste-education programs.
Firms Reap Lower Costs and Higher Profits : Companies are becoming increasingly aware that resources are limited and the materials that they have traditionally discarded possess value. For example, recycling an aluminum can to make a new one rather than making it from virgin materials has helped to significantly accelerate aluminum recycling. However, for many companies, the link between recycling and profitability has not yet been made, and sustainability initiatives have yet to be integrated into their day-to-day business practices. Interestingly, a survey of 141 top companies that are part of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development found that companies that used sustainable strategies performed better in almost every market segment than their respective counterparts. On average, the sustainable companies returned about 4% higher margins. Increasing recycling also carries the potential for creating and expanding new recycling and secondary materials markets. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic has the highest commodity value, an estimated US$2.9 bln, followed by high-density polyethylene (HDPE), aluminium, and paper, all of which are worth over US$1 bln.
Sustainability programs are increasingly being seen as a source of innovation that can help in differentiating a company by appealing to the consciences of consumers. These programs also serve as a platform for new product and market development. There are definitely opportunities out there for companies to gain competitive advantage through the development of an environmentally friendly strategy without sacrificing product quality or consumer convenience.