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Why is flexible packaging more sustainable? | DIC Asia Pacific

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What makes Flexible Packaging a more Sustainable Alternative?

Packaging is a major focal point for manufacturers when it comes to sustainability, owing to the ways in which it ties into waste generation, carbon footprint reduction and other dimensions of environmental impact. Conventional packaging solutions are the largest sources of plastic waste generated today, contributing 42% of the total primary plastics in use currently and about 141 million tonnes of non-biodegradable waste material annually. Moreover, packaging is also a crucial factor in mitigating the problem of food waste generation, improper packaging is associated with lower shelf life and contributes to about 1.3 billion tonnes of food waste annually.

It is safe to say that the packaging choices of manufacturers play a significant role in defining the environmental impact of entire industries and countries. Material substitution in packaging can be considered the “low-hanging fruit” option, as it is the easiest to implement in the context of sustainability as compared to costlier and time-intensive options like recycling. This is where flexible packaging comes in.

Here is a step-by-step enumeration of how flexible packaging contributes to sustainability:

Ease of Transport

One of the significant ways flexible packaging contributes to increased sustainability is evident in its name – its flexibility! The flexibility of this form of packaging allows for easy customization of shapes, formats and sizes of product output. Moreover, flexible packaging also has a 5 to 10 times lower product-to-packaging ratio as compared to its alternatives. This makes flexible packaged products lightweight and much easier to transport.

Lower Waste Generation

On average, glass and metal-based packaging produce 10 times more emissions per ounce (25 grams) during manufacturing than flexible packaging materials. In terms of the amount of waste sent to landfills per 100 grams of product, plastic PET bottles and caps generate over 4 times as much waste as flexible packaging solutions. Taking the European market as an example, it is to be noted that even though flexible packaging is associated with over half of all food products in the region, it utilizes merely one-sixth of all packaging raw materials.

In an age of changing consumer preferences, digitization, increasing e-commerce-based consumption, and cost pressures around raw materials, it is necessary that manufacturers across industries consider more viable packaging options. Older and more conventional materials are becoming difficult to source and sustain under new product cycles, and the awareness around their negative environmental impact is also rising.

Better Material Choice

An essential quality of flexible packaging is that it can be manufactured by combining various raw materials, from paper and aluminium to biodegradable polymers. They also offer a higher level of customizability as far as branding and other functionalities are concerned, including the use of lamination ink and eco-friendly inks for printing. The benefit of flexible packaging material also stems from improving the overall efficiency of entire product lifecycles. An excellent way to illustrate this would be to consider that merely 1.5 pounds of flexible packaging material are required to contain 60 pounds of beverages, while over 50 pounds of glass, 6 pounds of rigid PET, and 3 pounds of aluminium are needed to package the same amount of product in conventional product lifecycles.

Improved Product Quality

Other than the eco-friendly benefits of manufacturing flexible packaging, several positives are associated with reducing food waste. Flexible packaging offers increased protection to its product constituents compared to alternatives, which is crucial in prolonging the shelf life of pharmaceuticals, food products and beverages. This type of packaging is especially conducive to using solvent-free laminating adhesives, which help retain the packaged product’s various characteristics, such as flavour, odour, taste and nutritional value in the case of food products. These aspects all contribute to reducing food wastage, which is a significant problem from the point of view of sustainability.

Fact File: If all food items in a region were packaged in flexible materials, the carbon footprint would be reduced by approximately 40%, even without any recycling efforts. However, if all food items were packaged in rigid materials, the carbon footprint would increase by 6%, even with a 100% recycling rate.

Make the Move, Now!

As a leading lamination adhesive manufacturer in the Asia-Pacific region, DIC understands the benefits of transitioning to sustainable ‘flexible packaging’ and its implications for entire supply chains, regardless of the industry. Moreover, as one of the more prominent food-grade printing ink suppliers in the Asia-Pacific Region, DIC has also witnessed the ongoing mass revolution towards flexible packaging in the food industry as awareness around climate change and environmental sustainability increases. Manufacturers and distributors around the globe must switch to more sustainable modes of packaging as opposed to relying on conventional techniques so that they may take accountability for their carbon footprints.

 

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