Packaging innovation in 2022 is guided by one central idea: packaging solutions will be sustainable or they will not be.
How is innovative packaging design incorporating environmental concerns into the equation? We take a look at the main packaging innovations today and what they mean for companies looking to comply with current legislation around packaging waste and beyond.
Top trends in industrial packaging innovation today
The first thing to take into account when looking at the current industrial packaging innovation landscape is how well the industrial packaging market is doing.
The market value is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 3.53% in the period between 2021 – 2026, according to figures by Mordor Intelligence. This growth is guided by the increasing quantity of industrial goods being transported across the globe.
However, growing concerns for the environment have put packaging on the spot. This means leading industrial packaging innovation today incorporates eco-design criteria, an effort that is being rewarded by consumers: eco-friendly packaging can lead to a boost in sales of between 2 and 4%, according to a relevant study.
In such a context, industrial packaging innovation today is characterized by the following three movements:
The effect of industrial packaging regulations in packaging waste
Industrial packaging has received growing attention from regulatory bodies in recent years. This means international and national legislation is now pushing companies to adopt more environmentally-friendly solutions.
While different locations must comply with different regulations, the European context can serve as an example. The Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) has been established to minimize the environmental impact of packaging solutions. Some of its requirements for companies include the obligation to reduce packaging waste.
This is where industrial packaging innovation comes into play, allowing companies to comply with regulations.
Innovative packaging design leads to material reduction and innovation
A great focus is put by innovative packaging design today to minimize material use in packaging solutions, as well as devising lightweight packaging solutions. In such a context, materials such as EPS and EPP (which are made of 2% polystyrene and 98% air) have gained increasing attention.
Secondly, packaging innovation is also in charge of incorporating alternative, more sustainable materials.
When speaking of material sustainability it’s important to avoid reductionistic statements such as the “ditch plastic” movement.
Currently, best practices in innovative packaging design are based on “full life cycle” perspectives. As such, materials are considered sustainable if they:
- Present a reduced carbon footprint during their manufacturing
- Can be incorporated into circular economy models that minimize packaging waste. This includes recyclable or reusable materials, a measure that 60% of companies claim to be working on, according to figures published by McKinsey
- They are biobased materials or materials made from renewable sources
Customized packaging in the industry
Customized industrial packaging solutions are also at the heart of current packaging innovation efforts.
Simply put, these solutions are specifically designed and manufactured for the transportation and preservation of a particular product. As a consequence, they can take into account that product’s needs, which may represent a key factor for certain transported goods that need extra protection or present varying shapes and sizes.
The use of customized packaging also opens the door for significant environmental advantages, because:
- Less material or more lightweight packaging materials can be incorporated
- The use of sustainable and environmentally-friendly materials can be considered and tested
How to design innovative packaging that is also sustainable
Eco-design initiatives are taking the lead when it comes to packaging innovation today.
At the core of this transformation lies the possibility of picking the right sustainable protective materials.
As a result, packaging designers resort to materials that are:
- Can be reduced to a minimum without compromising on that packaging solution’s protective capabilities
- Present additional sustainability claims, such as a low carbon footprint during their manufacturing process or the possibility of recycling or reusing them
This has led to a growth in the use of certain plastics such as EPP and EPS in packaging: the market value for plastic packaging materials presents a forecasted CAGR of 3.47% between 2021 and 2026, according to figures by Mordor Intelligence.
Innovative packaging design with biobased materials
Biobased materials are also leading in terms of packaging innovation and the quest for more sustainable solutions. Defined briefly, they consist of materials made from biological sources, which typically include plant and agricultural waste.
NEOPS®: 100% recyclable mono-material
NEOPS® is a 100% recyclable biobased mono-material.
Devised by Knauf Industries as a more sustainable alternative to EPS, it replaces the raw fossil materials necessary for the manufacture of polystyrene with renewable, non-petro sourced raw materials (the so-called green waste).
Its main sustainability benefits include:
- A 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to EPS
- 100% recyclable in PSE sectors (such as sorting bins, collection points, and our own Knauf Circular® program)
- The same physical and sustainable advantages of EPS: lightweight, extra protection against shocks, durable…
Packaging innovation with returnable systems
Packaging innovation must go hand in hand with embracing solutions that minimize waste. This means devising solutions that can be incorporated into returnable systems and circular cycles.
Such is the case of Knauf’s efforts in devising Knauf Circular®: a program ensuring that
EPS waste is recycled into new products by working with and for all stakeholders and setting up a pick-up scheme and EPS recycling plants.
But recycling is not the only option for packaging innovation from a sustainable perspective: the incorporation of reusable EPP packaging is also transforming the way logistics and shipping look today and reducing their environmental impact.
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