Towards Sustainable Plastic Packaging: Pathways for Circularity

The food and beverage industry is under mounting pressure to adopt more sustainable packaging strategies. While consumers are highly concerned about the environmental impact of plastic waste, governments worldwide are implementing stricter regulations to reduce single-use plastics, such as Europe’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation. As India’s trusted manufacturer of recycled PET sheets and thermoformed packaging solutions, AVI Global Plast recognises the urgent need to address this challenge.

A recent PwC report by their consulting team Strategy& outlines recommendations for enhancing the sustainability of plastic packaging for food and beverage. These insights provide a valuable roadmap for brands and packaging manufacturers to navigate the complex issues and opportunities in this space. The key recommendations emphasise reducing plastic usage through techniques like downgauging (reducing the weight of packaging by using less material), developing consistent designs for recycling, and collaborating with the recycling value chain to collect and process high-quality recycled materials.

Meeting environmental and consumer demands

The drive for sustainable plastic packaging stems from two main factors: environmental preservation and consumer preference.

Plastic pollution’s detrimental effects on natural ecosystems have prompted governments and regulatory bodies to take action through stringent regulations against single-use plastics and encourage greater adoption of eco-friendly packaging materials. Take, for instance, the Spanish Plastic Packaging Tax, or even the Plastic Packaging Tax in the UK. Non-compliance can result in significant penalties and reputational damage for businesses.

Another factor is that today’s consumers are increasingly environmentally conscious and actively seek sustainable products. This shift in consumer behavior is compelling food and beverage companies to re-evaluate their packaging strategies and explore more sustainable options.

Designing for recyclability and standardisation

A key pathway to sustainable plastic packaging lies in designing packaging for recycling at end-of-life. According to PwC’s Strategy& team, a plastic pack’s design is “the most important driver of recyclability”. However, the current landscape features a wide range of plastic packaging material compositions and formats, creating challenges in achieving economies of scale for collection, sorting and reprocessing.

To address this issue, Strategy& recommends establishing standardised designs for recycling and material guidelines across the industry. Initiatives like the European PET Bottle Platform and even the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) in partnership with The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) in the USA have successfully implemented up-to-date research and technological developments into PET design standards. Extending this approach to all types of plastic packaging can streamline recycling processes and encourage investment in the necessary infrastructure.

Strengthening the recycling value chain through collaboration

Industry-led initiatives and collaborative partnerships among key stakeholders, including brands, packaging manufacturers, recycling providers, policymakers, and industry associations, can help too. Examples include the Circular Plastics Alliance (by the European Commission), the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment (by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the UN Environment Programme), the Recycling Partnership (USA), the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (Singapore), the UK Plastics Pact, the European PET Bottle Platform, and the India Plastics Pact. Active participation in these trade associations allows companies to collectively explore sustainability challenges, share best manufacturing practices, and advocate for policies that support a circular economy for sustainable plastic packaging.

Improving recycling and reprocessing capacities is crucial to ensuring that plastic packaging is effectively recycled and diverted from landfills or oceans. However, this endeavour faces challenges such as volatile feedstock supply, uncertain policy developments, and a lack of credible suppliers prioritising material traceability. Collaboration helps to strengthen the recycling value chain and drive investment in recycling infrastructure and track-and-trace systems while unlocking new opportunities for sustainable growth.

AVI’s sustainable plastic packaging approach

At AVI Global Plast, responsible manufacturing and consumption is a core focus, driving our mission to provide innovative and sustainable plastic packaging solutions. Our practices and offerings are aligned with PwC’s Strategy& recommendations, ensuring a comprehensive approach to addressing plastic waste challenges.

We recognise the importance of reducing plastic usage through techniques like downgauging. Our recycled PET sheets and thermoformed offerings are designed to optimise packaging and machine performance, minimise virgin use, and adhere to industry-leading standards and guidelines. For example, we have introduced up to 100% verified PET-based designs that have the highest recycling potential, with optimised pack size and maximum certified recycled content.

Furthermore, we actively collaborate with recyclers and industry associations to strengthen the recycling value chain. AVI is a member of the India Plastics Pact, and through this collaboration, we have gained valuable insights into emerging trends, regulatory developments, and innovative packaging solutions that can drive sustainable practices across the entire value chain.

Indeed, the journey towards a true circular economy for plastic packaging requires collective action from all stakeholders, including businesses, policymakers and consumers. By proactively addressing environmental concerns and embracing sustainable plastic packaging practices, we can all help create a future where plastics for packaging are a valuable resource that is continuously reused and recycled.

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