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Sustainable Packaging Market to Hit $244 Billion by 2018

Stackable, biodegradable, molded pulp packaging for Newton running shoes | Image credit: Newton

Consumer demand, government legislation and technology advances will propel sustainable packaging to a $244 billion market by 2018, according to a new report by Smithers Para.

The Future of Sustainable Packaging to 2018 details market sizes, projections and five-year sustainable packaging trends to 2018, focusing on key drivers, trends and technologies shaping the sustainable packaging industry. The report breaks down sales by type, end-use market and geographic region, and provides comprehensive coverage of the global market and supply chain.

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, the report says. 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.

Driven by demand for sustainable packaging in countries like China and India, the biggest growth comes from the Asian market. The demand for sustainable practices is driving the market for greener packaging, which is boosted by a growing affluent and health-conscious middle-class population. Smithers Pira forecasts that Asia will be the largest market for sustainable packaging in 2018, accounting for 32 percent of the overall market.

The report concludes that 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.

Innovation in packaging has a wide reach, particular in the food and beverage industry. European beer maker Carlsberg recently teamed up with a group of global suppliers to develop the next generation of packaging products that are optimized for recycling and reuse, otherwise known as “upcycling.” The companies will use the Cradle to Cradle Design Framework®, created by professor Michael Braungart and EPEA Internationale Umweltforschung GmbH, to develop a Cradle-to-Cradle® roadmap and assessment of their products.

And last year, UK paper manufacturer James Cropper announced it has developed an innovative recycling process that incorporates cocoa husk waste from chocolate production into unbleached cellulose fiber to produce a food-grade paper. The company says turning the otherwise wasted skins of many of the 3.5 million metric tons of cocoa beans produced each year into paper could be a significant breakthrough for the food and packaging industries.

For more examples of innovations in sustainable #packaging, check out
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Based in San Francisco, Mike Hower is a sustainability strategist and storyteller on Edelman's Business + Social Purpose team where he works with some of the world's leading brands on corporate sustainability strategy and stakeholder engagement. With several years of… [Read more about Mike Hower]


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