Mission Sustainable Packaging Unwrapped Part 2

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Mission Sustainable Packaging Unwrapped Part 2

Mission Sustainable Packaging Unwrapped Part 1 can be read here - https://www.supplychaintribe.com/article/mission-sustainable-packaging-unwrapped

After having taken a thorough look at the innovative packaging expanse that leading global compnaies are taking in Part 1 of this article, let's gain insights from the subject-matter experts on the growing landscape of sustainable packaging… 

How is sustainable packaging taking shape industry-wide?

The perception of companies towards sustainable packaging has evolved significantly in recent years. While some companies initially viewed sustainable packaging as a cost burden, many now see it as a strategic opportunity.

Neeharika Paul

Neeharika Paul, Packaging Consultant: Sustainable packaging is increasingly taking shape industry-wide as companies respond to consumer demand for environmentally friendly products and practices. Several trends and approaches are shaping the adoption of sustainable packaging:

  • Material Innovation: Companies are exploring alternative materials such as biodegradable plastics, compostable materials, packaging from natural fibres such as coconut, mushroom, sugarcane, corn and recycled content to reduce the environmental impact of packaging.
  • Design for Recycling: Packaging is being designed with recycling in mind, using mono-materials or easily separable materials to improve recyclability.
  • Reducing Packaging Waste: Many companies are focusing on reducing the amount of packaging used, optimizing package sizes, and eliminating unnecessary packaging components. Example: Hair colour pouch with inner partition.
  • Consumer Education: Companies are educating consumers about the importance of sustainable packaging choices and providing information on how to properly recycle or dispose of packaging.
Harshvardhan Kumar

Harshvardhan Kumar, Director, Tegatai Packaging Pvt Ltd.: Sustainable packaging is no longer a mere trend; it's a fundamental shift reshaping industries worldwide. From food and beverage to cosmetics, electronics, and automotive, companies are increasingly recognizing the importance of minimizing their environmental impact through eco-friendly packaging solutions. This evolution reflects a growing awareness of environmental issues and a collective commitment to sustainability across the business landscape.

Raghav Maheshwari, Director, Altpac: As a sustainable packaging founder, I've been closely observing the industry-wide transformation towards more environmentally friendly practices. Sustainable packaging is no longer just a trend; it's becoming an industry standard driven by consumer demand, regulatory pressures, and a genuine desire to reduce environmental impact.

Raghav Maheshwari

How has been the perception of companies towards this?

The perception has shifted from viewing sustainability as a cost burden to recognizing it as a strategic investment in long-term brand reputation and resilience.

Neeharika Paul: The perception of companies towards sustainable packaging has evolved significantly in recent years. While some companies initially viewed sustainable packaging as a cost burden, many now see it as a strategic opportunity to:

  • Meet consumer expectations and enhance brand reputation
  • Differentiate their products in the market
  • Reduce costs through improved packaging efficiency
  • Contribute to environmental conservation and sustainability goals

Overall, sustainable packaging is becoming an integral part of corporate sustainability strategies, driven by a combination of consumer demand, regulatory pressures, and a growing recognition of the business benefits of sustainable practices.

Harshvardhan Kumar: The perception of sustainable packaging among companies has undergone a significant transformation in recent years. While initially viewed as a costly and impractical endeavour, many businesses now understand that sustainability is not just a moral obligation but also a strategic imperative. Companies are increasingly embracing sustainable packaging practices as a means to enhance brand reputation, meet regulatory requirements, and drive long-term business growth.

Raghav Maheshwari: Companies across various sectors are increasingly realizing the importance of adopting sustainable packaging solutions. They understand that it's not just about meeting regulatory requirements but also about aligning with consumer values and future-proofing their businesses. The perception has shifted from viewing sustainability as a cost burden to recognizing it as a strategic investment in long-term brand reputation and resilience.

Chetan Jain

Chetan Jain, Executive Director, Taurus Packaging: Today, brands want to be ahead of the curve with innovations and technology. To be the top-pick brand in the supermarket aisle, a brand must convince customers about its premium and exclusive approach to sustainability. And this starts with packaging. Combinations are deadly. Sustainability for the world’s benefit and premium customization for exclusivity.

How do you provide exclusivity to your packaging? It can be done in various aspects. You may provide fast TAT for your developments; you could use different packaging in small quantities; and you may also think of going sustainable. Yet, the most promising point is to offer embellishments and tactile effects. This technology can be driven by 2.5D printing. In taurus packaging, our 2.5D printing technology provides a soft, wet, sand texture on the printing surface. You can also opt for gold or silver foil to highlight the packaging. Holographic printing can also be added to packaging to avoid counterfeiting.

What are the challenges that come in the way of adopting sustainable packaging practices?

Addressing these challenges requires a coordinated effort from companies, governments, and consumers to drive innovation, invest in infrastructure, and promote sustainable practices across the packaging value chain.

Bradley Saveth, Co-Founder, President & COO, SupplyCaddy, stated in an article, “Shifting to sustainable packaging may involve challenges such as supply chain complexities, cost considerations or ensuring compatibility with existing manufacturing processes. To overcome these challenges, it is crucial to take a phased approach. Start with pilot projects to test and refine sustainable packaging solutions before implementing them on a larger scale. Engage employees and stakeholders, fostering a culture of sustainability within the organization.”

Neeharika Paul: There are several challenges that come in the way of adopting sustainable packaging practices:

  • Cost: One of the main challenges is the perception that sustainable packaging is more expensive than traditional packaging. While this can be true in some cases, advancements in technology and economies of scale are helping to reduce the cost gap.
  • Supply Chain Complexity: Switching to sustainable packaging often requires changes in the entire supply chain, including sourcing, manufacturing, and distribution. This can be complex and require significant coordination among stakeholders.
  • Lack of Infrastructure: In many regions, there is a lack of infrastructure for recycling or composting sustainable packaging materials, which can limit their effectiveness and lead to increased waste.
  • Consumer Education: Many consumers are still not fully aware of the environmental impact of packaging or how to properly dispose of sustainable packaging materials. More education is needed to drive behavioural change.

Harshvardhan Kumar: Despite the growing momentum towards sustainable packaging, several challenges hinder widespread adoption. Cost remains a significant barrier for many companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with limited budgets. Additionally, sourcing sustainable materials at scale, navigating complex supply chains, and ensuring compatibility with existing infrastructure are common challenges. Consumer education and behavior change also play a crucial role in driving demand for sustainable packaging products.

Raghav Maheshwari: Several challenges persist in the adoption of sustainable packaging practices. Cost considerations remain a significant barrier for many companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises. Balancing sustainability goals with practicality, functionality, and aesthetic appeal can also be challenging. Additionally, there's a lack of standardized definitions and metrics for measuring sustainability in packaging, making it difficult for companies to compare options and make informed decisions.

What are the alternative packaging practices being followed globally?

Traditional packaging materials, such as plastic and Styrofoam, are being replaced by alternatives like recycled paper, cardboard, plant-based plastics and compostable materials. These materials not only reduce the carbon footprint but also promote a circular economy by closing the loop through recycling and composting processes.

Neeharika Paul: There are several alternative packaging practices being followed globally to reduce the environmental impact of packaging:

  • Biodegradable and Compostable Packaging: Packaging made from biodegradable or compostable materials, such as PLA (polylactic acid) PBL or plant-based materials, that break down naturally in the environment.
  • Recycled Content: Packaging made from recycled materials, such as recycled paper or plastic, to reduce the use of virgin materials and promote a circular economy.
  • Reusable Packaging: Packaging that is designed to be reused multiple times, such as refillable containers or packaging that can be returned to the manufacturer for refilling.
  • Minimalist Packaging: Packaging that is designed to be minimalistic and lightweight, reducing the amount of material used and the environmental impact of transportation.
  • Water-Based Inks and Coatings: Inks and coatings that are water-based rather than solvent-based, reducing the environmental impact of printing and packaging production.
  • Edible Packaging: Packaging made from edible materials, such as seaweed or rice, that can be safely consumed or composted after use.

Harshvardhan Kumar: In the automotive sector, returnable packaging solutions are gaining traction as a sustainable alternative. Companies like Mahindra and Renault Nissan are leading the way by implementing reusable packaging systems for transporting parts and components. These returnable packaging solutions not only reduce waste but also enhance efficiency and cost-effectiveness throughout the supply chain. Globally, other alternative packaging practices include:

  • Minimalist packaging designs that use fewer materials and prioritize recyclability.
  • Biodegradable materials derived from renewable sources, offering eco-friendly alternatives to traditional plastics.

Raghav Maheshwari: Despite these challenges, there are numerous alternative packaging practices being implemented globally. From biodegradable and compostable materials to reusable and refillable packaging systems, the options are diverse and evolving. One notable success story is our kraft paper mailers, a circular packaging solution for ecommerce deliveries that partners with leading brands to offer products in sustainable packaging, shifting away from single use plastics. Another example is Paboco, their innovative containers typically consist of a paper-based outer shell reinforced with materials such as bioplastics or coatings to provide structural integrity and moisture resistance. The result is a lightweight, durable, and eco-friendly packaging solution that can be recycled or composted at the end of its life cycle, minimizing environmental impact.

What are the innovations happening in this space?

In terms of innovation, the sustainable packaging space is constantly evolving. We're seeing advancements in materials science, such as the development of plant-based plastics and packaging made from agricultural waste.

Neeharika Paul: Innovations in sustainable packaging are constantly evolving to address the challenges of traditional packaging. Some key innovations happening in this space include:

  • Recyclable Barrier Films: Development of recyclable barrier films that can replace multi-layered packaging, which is often difficult to recycle due to the different materials used.
  • Barrier paper: This is a type of packaging material designed to provide enhanced protection for products, particularly against moisture, grease, and other external factors that can degrade product quality.
  • Plant-Based Packaging: Packaging materials derived from plant-based sources, such as algae or seaweed, that are renewable and biodegradable.
  • Smart Packaging: Integration of technology into packaging to improve functionality, such as time-temperature indicators for food freshness or QR codes for recycling information.
  • Nanotechnology: Use of nanotechnology to improve the barrier properties of packaging materials, reducing the need for additional layers and improving recyclability.
  • Mushroom Packaging: Development of packaging materials using mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, which can be grown to fit specific shapes and are biodegradable.

Harshvardhan Kumar: Innovation is driving significant advancements in sustainable packaging. In the automotive sector, companies are exploring innovative materials and designs to optimize packaging efficiency and minimize environmental impact. Additionally, advancements in returnable packaging technologies, such as RFID tracking systems, are enhancing visibility and traceability throughout the supply chain, further improving efficiency and sustainability. Use of biodegradable materials or environment-friendly materials in packaging. Strict policy changes by the government to minimize environmental impacts and landfill.

In the automotive sector, companies like Mahindra and Renault Nissan have implemented successful returnable packaging initiatives. Mahindra, for example, has integrated returnable packaging systems across its supply chain, resulting in significant reductions in packaging waste and transportation costs. Similarly, Renault Nissan has adopted reusable packaging solutions, leading to improved supply chain efficiency and reduced environmental impact.

Mahindra's implementation of returnable packaging systems has resulted in significant reductions in packaging waste and transportation costs, contributing to the company's sustainability goals. They took this initiative on time and worked more on different platforms like wood and expandable plastic reduction from the manufacturing plant, development of PDMS an online Packaging Data Management System to track all inbound packaging

Renault Nissan has adopted reusable packaging solutions, leading to improved supply chain efficiency and cost savings, while also reducing environmental impact. Work on standardisation of packaging to reduce multiple packaging footprints.

Chetan Jain: A strategy is considered effective only when it provides solutions that not only curtail the shortcomings but also focuses on growth. Banning PVC doesn’t necessarily fulfil criteria for sustainable packaging. We need to see the best possible options that come close to PVC rather than emphasizing on its drawbacks. Let us start with the best known option for PVC substitution which is PET G. PET G provides fantastic results in shrinking and overall coverage. It is non-toxic, provides good compatibility with various plastic bottles. PET G gives an exceptional output in steam shrink tunnel. There is scope for improvement in heat shrink tunnel of PET G due to its high density. Next PET G is another substrate opted for after PVC. Like PET G, Next PET G is also non-hazardous and provides excellent results with HDPE, PET or PP containers. And here’s the best part, the price of Next PET G is quite competitive than PVC. Hence, it is considered as the most opted replacement of PVC.

The next in line is OPS, i.e. “Oriented Polystyrene”. It is most prevalent in Japan for the purpose of refrigeration. It is usually opted for the PET G shrink sleeves performance is not adequate and PVC is not an option. It is also environment friendly but is more costly as compared to PET G. LDPET is another choice over PVC. Low Density Polyethylene Terephthalate (LDPET) is more dimensionally stable than OPS. Its density is 1.1 which decreases the overall plastic usage making it more yield oriented than PVC and PET G. Though it is more expensive, however not as much as OPS.

Finally let’s move on to the Sustainable and Recyclable shrink sleeves substrates. Firstly, let’s discuss “TruCycl” – the first recyclable shrink sleeves in India. It is the only substrate that can be recycled and reused in the industry repeatedly. Labels or shrink sleeves can be recycled with bottle containers. The various inks can be washed off easily. It’s relatively recent in the market but has already created a stir.

How do you foresee the scenario shaping up from here?

Sustainable packaging will become the norm rather than the exception, leading to a healthier planet and more resilient businesses.

Neeharika Paul: From here, I foresee the sustainable packaging landscape continuing to evolve rapidly, driven by several key factors:

  • Regulatory Pressures: Governments around the world are increasingly implementing regulations to reduce single-use plastics and promote sustainable packaging practices. This is likely to accelerate the adoption of sustainable packaging solutions.
  • Consumer Demand: Consumers are becoming more aware of environmental issues and are actively seeking products with sustainable packaging. This trend is expected to continue, putting pressure on companies to adopt more sustainable practices.
  • Technological Advancements: Ongoing advancements in technology, such as material science, recycling technologies, and packaging design, will continue to drive innovation in sustainable packaging solutions.
  • Industry Collaboration: Collaboration within the industry, as well as with governments and NGOs, will be crucial in driving the adoption of sustainable packaging practices. This includes sharing best practices, investing in infrastructure, and developing new technologies.
  • Circular Economy Principles: The adoption of circular economy principles, such as designing for recyclability and reuse, will become increasingly important in shaping the future of sustainable packaging.

Overall, I expect to see a continued shift towards more sustainable packaging practices, with companies across industries embracing innovative solutions to reduce the environmental impact of their packaging. This shift will not only benefit the environment but also help companies meet consumer expectations, reduce costs, and drive long-term business sustainability.

Harshvardhan Kumar: Looking ahead, the momentum towards sustainable packaging in the automotive industry and beyond is expected to continue to accelerate. As consumer awareness grows and regulatory requirements become more stringent, companies will face increasing pressure to prioritize sustainability. This will drive further innovation and collaboration, leading to more environmentally friendly packaging solutions and a brighter future for generations to come.

Sustainable packaging is not just a trend; it's a strategic imperative for businesses operating in the automotive industry and beyond. As Indian OEMs lead the way in implementing eco-friendly packaging solutions, the industry as a whole is poised to embrace sustainability as a cornerstone of its operations. By investing in innovative packaging practices and fostering collaboration across the value chain, companies can drive meaningful change and create a more sustainable future for all.

Raghav Maheshwari: I foresee the sustainable packaging landscape continuing to evolve rapidly. As technology advances and consumer awareness grows, we can expect to see even more innovative solutions emerge. Collaboration across the industry will be essential to drive progress, as companies work together to overcome shared challenges and accelerate the transition to a circular economy. Ultimately, sustainable packaging will become the norm rather than the exception, leading to a healthier planet and more resilient businesses.

Chetan Jain: Sustainability is not just a formality that we need to consider for government norms and subsidies. It is futile unless we practice in every process. Opting for sustainable and recyclable substrates is the start. There are plenty of options available these days that provide a healthy packaging choice. This single step can change the whole industry. Collection, segregation, and processing will operate on different levels. Mono-material is another significant approach. Opting for a single sustainable packaging substrate in bottles as well as shrink sleeves is a game-changing movement. Sustainability provides a bouquet of opportunities to explore. Water-based inks and adhesives are another area to explore.

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