The FINANCIAL — While enterprise commitments to sustainable packaging have centered on 100% of packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, Gartner, Inc. predicts that 90% of those public sustainable packaging commitments won’t be met by 2025 due to reliance on plastics and single use packaging.
“There are a number of reasons why well-intended corporate efforts to establish sustainable packaging are not progressing,” said John Blake, senior director analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice. “For example, most kinds of plastics are not broadly recyclable, and even if they were – the recycling infrastructure and the aftermarket for recycled materials are far from mature. Therefore, the overwhelming amount of packaging today is not technically recyclable or is not widely recycled in practice.”
Companies must act now, as more countries and regions have already, or plan to, implement Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation that will either ban or penalize single-use packaging. For example, in 2021, Maine and Oregon passed the first EPR legislation in the United States. New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Washington and California are among states that have introduced or amended proposed legislation. The U.K. is introducing a new tax on plastic packaging in 2022.
That’s why organizations will have to find ways to reduce single-use packaging. One solution could be to incentivize consumers to embrace reusable packaging and develop in-store refill models with retailers for goods such as pet food, laundry detergent and beverages.
On a pre-competitive level, organizations can also come together and scale innovative recycling methods and packaging solutions, for example by collaborating via an industry association. The Consumer Goods Forum provides “Golden Design Rules” for optimal plastic design, production and recycling, and How2recycle provides member organizations with harmonized labeling to improve package recycling.
Sustainable Packaging as an Innovation Driver
As the recycling infrastructure and aftermarket for recycled plastic will be limited for the foreseeable future, many companies focus on reducing packaging waste by either eliminating unnecessary packaging or reducing packaging size. In addition to replacement approaches, such as increased use of recycled materials to offset virgin plastics, organizations are piloting paper bottles, refill models and package take back programs.
“This challenge can also be a driver of upstream innovation. Supply chain leaders can work with their peers to create a pipeline of new products and business models that don’t rely on plastics or single-use packaging. They should challenge their suppliers to commit to producing sustainable packaging material, therefore increasing the organization’s access to recycled or multi-use materials,” Blake concluded.