With brands around the globe laying out the frameworks to meet their corporate social responsibility goals and the discourse around the merits and demerits of plastics, sustainable packaging has become a prime focus for a range of material manufacturers and printers in the past decade or so.
However, the pathway to achieving a circular economy has its own set of challenges, especially in a country like India, where a range of waste management processes, such as the extended producer’s responsibility model is yet to gain traction. Amit Banga of SB Packagings said, “The government is advocating sustainability. Many laws have been introduced to promote recycling. However, the problem is that packaging waste is not getting collected, segregated and recycled.”
Plus, there are hurdles in finding sustainable alternatives, such as biodegradable or mono-layer structures — firstly, cost and secondly, achieving barrier properties, such as oxygen and moisture vapour transmission rates.
So, what are the key parameters of adopting sustainable packaging? How can the industry ramp up recycling and collection processes? And more importantly, can India become a 100% eco-friendly country anytime soon?
To answer these questions, the panelists were selected from various spheres of the packaging value chain — Amit Saurkar of MTR Foods provided the brand’s perspective while Amit Banga of SB Packagings and Amit Shah of Uflex shared the packaging manufacturer’s and converter’s view. And DIC’s Andrew Brown spoke about the consumables required to enable the industry to shift to sustainable packaging.
Amit Saurkar of MTR Foods explained how there have been a range of developments in mono-layer and single-polymer-based structures for films and flexible laminates in the country, and hoped that the brand, MTR, will replace its three-layer MetPET structures with sustainable alternatives.
With machine manufacturers and converters ready with solutions to run single-family polymers, such as PE-PE, and the technological advancements in consumables and packaging design, Saurkar was confident that India is gearing up and is on the right path towards a circular economy.
Case in point, SB Packagings, which has built a unique distinction of having 80% of its sales in mono-polymer products, recently bagged the AsiaStar honours for its recyclable stand up pouch with spout.
Meanwhile, Uflex has added to its sustainability offerings with the launch of paper-based tubes named Kraftika and patented epoxy ester.
In addition, to enable these mono-polymer and mono-layer packages with barrier properties, the packages will require the right coating. Plus, inks and adhesives that ensure smooth recycling of the packages, which is essential for post-consumer waste management.
Andrew Brown of DIC explained, “The problem with mono-material packages is the barrier properties that maintain a product’s shelf life. Our coatings can help achieve these properties. And, as the easy removal of labels on bottles during recycling is important, we have the right set of adhesives to address these challenges.”
The company also offers a range of solutions to enable paper-based packages to meet the barrier properties and provides materials made from ethanol in sugarcanes as its biodegradable offering, among other solutions.
These offerings from both manufacturers and consumable suppliers highlight that solutions are available to enable the shift to sustainable packages. And, it is up to the brand owners and the government mandates to take the necessary steps to push sustainability.
This brings us to the second problem – the cost of sustainability.
Amit Shah of Uflex said, “The cost of sustainability is the challenge. If the brand owners and consumers are ready, the entire value chain will support this shift, but the pull has to come from the final consumer.”
Rightly so, it is upon the consumers whether they are ready to pay that extra buck for sustainable products. As Shah explained, only if they are ready, the brands and the value chain will act accordingly.
WhatPackaing? view: There is no one solution to sustainability. Whether its mono-material of single-family based structures or efficient recycling of multi-layer structures, collective efforts will be required from the entire packaging value chain to achieve a circular economy.
Moreover, we need a clear action plan and guidelines in India on how to best use plastic. This will help the end-consumers to shoulder the responsibility for a sustainable environment.
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Key takeaways from the webinar
Mono-material structures are the future: Due to its ease of recycling and post-consumer waste value, mono-polymer packages will see an increase in demand.
Bang for buck: Recycling plastic and upcycling has a pivotal role in the circular economy.
Collaboration is the key: A circular economy will be achievable only if brand owners, customers, government and the stakeholders combine their efforts.