Flexible packaging market sector in the United States represents the second largest packaging market according to the Flexible Packaging Association FPA. In 2014, the flexible packaging market accounted for 18% of the US$145 Bn United States packaging industry. One of the key driving forces behind the increased uptake of flexible packaging within the major brands is its ability to reduce energy costs and capital spend on materials as result of higher volumes of product to packaging material ratios. Less space is also taken up with flexible packaging when packing large numbers of products. Flexible packaging is also regarded as environmentally friendly in that it requires less material for production and generates less CO2 during transportation. In addition, flexible packaging takes up a significantly lower volume of space in landfill.
However, the key for the increased uptake of flexible packaging is focused on whether the product can be recycled. Currently, there is no closed-loop system operating which can take flexible packaging which has ultimately dampened demand within the United States. Recycled plastic re-use results in 80% less energy being utilised compared to new plastic packaging equivalents.
One of the problems with recycling flexible packaging lies with the need for the packaging to be non-contaminated as the majority of this plastic packaging type is used for food. Mono-layered flexible packaging is inherently easier to recycle as it does not contain the aluminium foil centre although the process for recycling is more complex compared to hardened plastic alternatives.
Manufacturers are implementing cradle-to-cradle concepts which use either eco-friendly materials that biodegrade or bio-based plastics. The increased use of bio-based or plant-based materials within flexible packaging would also drive increased demand within the agriculture sector.
The use of pyrolysis for plastic components combined with Enval’s process for recycling aluminium components represents the best way for recycling and handling multi-layered flexible packaging waste at the current time.
Flexible packaging can have less of an impact environmentally by developing more effective end-of-life processes such as using bio-based materials and using pyrolysis to create waste into energy sourcesIn terms of recycling packaging, a number of fast food outlets have been highlighted as performing badly in this area within the United States according to a new report. Among all of the plastic packaging only 14% is recycled in the United States. In addition, this new study highlighted that a number of fast food companies predominantly use flexible packaging which is difficult to recycle for their kids’ meal products, drinks and snacks.
One of the better performing fast food companies operating in the United States in terms of plastic recycling was Starbucks which is aiming to offer recycling at the front of 3200 company-owned stores by 2015. Starbucks has also committed to serving 25% of all beverages in their stores in reusable mugs and tumblers.
Some of the key players operating in North America’s flexible packaging market include Amcor Ltd, Bemis Co. Inc., Berry Plastics Corp. and Sealed Air Corp.