Flexible packaging is experiencing rapid growth and is projected to grow in various industries. Not only does it save on transportation costs and storage space, but it also provides product protection and the ability to reseal. However, plastic-based flexible packaging currently dominates the market, accounting for about 93% of consumption globally. Nevertheless, consumers are increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of plastic packaging, with a survey revealing that 70% of respondents are actively trying to reduce their use of plastic packaging.
Paper has historically been used in flexible packaging and is considered more environmentally friendly by consumers. Although plastic effectively protects products during shipment, it is made from non-renewable resources and is challenging to recycle. Paper, on the other hand, is biodegradable and easily recyclable. However, much of the paper-based flexible packaging currently available is laminated with non-recyclable materials. Companies are exploring ways to make paper-based packaging recyclable and compostable to address this issue.
A research organization in the UK, has been at the forefront of developing innovative packaging technologies. They have been experimenting with coatings applied to paper that provide strength, barrier properties, moisture resistance, and heat sealability. Other materials like natural gums are also being explored in paper-based flexible packaging. Some have successfully transitioned 80% of their flexible packaging business from plastic to paper, using water-based inks and food-compliant toner for printing.
Companies like SAPPI and Xeikon also embrace recyclable and compostable papers for flexible packaging. These companies utilize sealable substrates from fresh pulp-based material and natural and biodegradable coatings. These substrates provide barriers for aromas, grease, oil, water vapor, and gases while remaining 100% recyclable.
As the demand for sustainable packaging grows, more companies and consumers are expected to switch from plastic to paper-based flexible packaging.
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