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PÖYRY POINT OF VIEW REPORT / 20 Sep 2017

New packaging materials - the balancing act

What if in the future, all packaging will be based on renewable resources and is reusable, recyclable, water-soluble, fully compostable or even edible?

In this ideal world, the packaging rubbish we create does not disappear in a dustcart, the environment or our oceans; instead, it is processed in our own households. Products are sold in packages which use a minimal and absolutely necessary amount of packaging material based on renewable resources to balance product integrity, shelf life and other functions with the demands for circular packaging. The fraction that is not recycled can also be water-soluble, fully compostable or even edible. 

It is not a matter of if, but when we will have packaging that meets all the challenges of today. The race is on: an increasing number of consumer brands are seeing sustainable packaging as an investment in brand image. Numerous innovative solutions are currently introduced to packaging materials that are based on paper and plastics. For instance, fossil fuel based polyethylene can already be replaced by bio-based plastics at a marginal cost to most packaging solutions.

The use of paper board for applications such as liquid containers or coffee cups is under increasing scrutiny due to the recycling issues related to the coating materials. The recycling of these multilayer materials is technically feasible, but widespread recycling infrastructure is not yet there. 

Although bio-based plastic packaging has been growing at double digits, less than 1% of plastics are currently derived from biomass and even less are compostable. Rapidly advancing synthetic biology is now opening up new opportunities for plastic materials which, when produced at affordable price levels, could redefine plastic packaging altogether. 

Read more in the Point of View article below.

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Contact information

Henna Poikolainen
Senior Consultant, Biorefining, Management Consulting