Advancing Sustainable Packaging Initiatives

July 10, 2023 • Posted in Market Insights

Sustainability is a top priority for businesses. According to a recent Gartner survey, 87% of business leaders expect to increase their organization’s investment in sustainability during the next two years due to growing customer, investor and regulatory demands. The same survey found that sustainability created short- and long-term value for over three-quarters of businesses, helping to optimize and reduce costs while protecting against disruption. Gartner identified product packaging as a top operations-related cost being mitigated through sustainability programs.

“Nearly all of our business partners have established sustainability as a critical consideration,” said Lindy Holland Resnick, Market Manager, Packaging at M. Holland. “Now, the plastics industry must focus on how this new normal will be incorporated into existing systems and the creation of new partnerships. The proliferation of sustainable products is key.”

Plastics producers have an ever-increasing number of options to incorporate sustainability into their packaging workflows. A growing slate of sustainable packaging materials and a focus on a product’s complete life cycle are two areas of opportunity available to businesses.

Sustainable Packaging Materials

Incorporating environmentally friendly packaging materials is a natural first step in achieving more sustainable operations for many plastics producers. A sustainable production process helps satisfy customer demand, limit environmental impact, and meet stakeholder expectations and brand goals.

Government regulations are increasingly advocating for sustainable advancement. Recycled content and extended producer responsibility (EPR) requirements in several states could be precursors to national regulation. Should that happen, plastics producers without a sustainability strategy could face higher taxes and other penalties.

Mechanically and chemically recycled materials like post-consumer recycled (PCR) resins have become popular options because they reduce plastic waste and address growing regulatory action targeting single-use plastics. PCR resin technology has evolved so the products can be easily colored or treated with other additives depending on the use case. Bio-based products continue their development and visibility in appropriate applications as well, such as 3D filament and single-use disposables. Improving collection and upstream technologies will continue to make PCR products easier to run in manufacturing rigid bottles, caps and closures, dispensing systems, and more.

“M. Holland recognizes the importance of incorporating more sustainable practices in plastics manufacturing,” Lindy said. “As a result, we are seeking out and encouraging suppliers to invest in materials like PCR resins and bio-based products and incorporate sustainable processes like advanced and mechanical recycling. Together, we are creating a line card of products that meet sustainability requirements to pass on to our customers.”

Packaging as a System

Recycled and bio-based resins generally have an improved life cycle assessment (LCA) compared to virgin materials. LCA measures the environmental impact of a product from production through end-of-life. M. Holland’s focused approach on individual applications allows us to develop appropriate LCAs either from cradle-to-gate or cradle-to-cradle. A cradle-to-gate LCA reflects a product’s environmental impact throughout the manufacturing process, from resource/material extraction to the moment it leaves the factory. Lindy recommends plastics producers reframe the way they view packaging to make meaningful strides toward a more sustainable process.

“Thinking of packaging as a system rather than a singular element helps producers integrate sustainable products into all aspects of any given consumer or industrial product,” Lindy said.

M. Holland is seeing more converters and OEMs call on their distribution partners to support sustainable material advancements. From experimenting with reusable/refillable packaging schemes and flexible packaging for industry and consumer-facing goods to reducing the amount of waste generated by products, M. Holland continues to support customers’ product life cycle improvements. Lindy added: “In some cases, these improvements go beyond individual products to incorporate considerations for next-generation life and landfill diversion. As converters and OEMs adopt similar tactics, plastics reuse efforts will advance across the industry.”

Expectations for Growth in Sustainable Packaging

Reuse is a major priority for many plastics producers thanks to regulatory efforts and customer sentiment discouraging single-use plastics. Improving recycling processes and increasing the use of recycled content are two common sustainability goals in the industry. In recent years, this focus has increased demand for recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polypropylene (PP), but existing recycling infrastructure struggles to produce enough recycled content. Expect updated labeling requirements and disposal practices to become a priority as the industry works to increase the recyclability of PET and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) products. The plastics industry, together with stakeholders including converters and OEMs, can increase PET, PP and HDPE recyclability to meet shared goals and material availability requirements.

This spirit of the sustainability movement extends to all varieties of polymer families. Lindy believes no material or market segment is immune to sustainable progress in materials, labeling or legislative action. “We are already seeing a rapid expansion of sustainable packaging alternatives,” she said. “The market is actively innovating to produce different business-to-business relationships resulting in a diverse range of products and newly formed economies growing to scale in support of expansion for sustainable packaging alternatives.”

M. Holland offers several sustainable solutions and is dedicated to empowering further innovation in the plastics industry. Learn about specific products and solutions available to further your sustainability initiatives by visiting our Packaging market page.

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