Sustainability reigns during two day summit

The 9th edition of the Speciality Films and Flexible Packaging Global Summit 2022 is scheduled on 5 and 6 September at Sahara Star in Mumbai. Nidhi Verma, the director at ElitePlus talks to Abhay Avadhani about the summit and the importance of sustainability in packaging

20 Aug 2022 | By Abhay Avadhani

Nidhi Verma, director at ElitePlus

Abhay Avadhani (AA): What should we expect from the 9th edition of Speciality Films & Flexible Packaging Global Summit 2022?
Nidhi Verma (NV):
Over the years, this summit has become the leading packaging summit in Asia where all stakeholders gather under one roof and provide a unique platform to interact with stakeholders in this industry. In this edition, we have added some tools to allow participants to network better.

The networking scheduler allows participants to pre-plan all their meetings. This year we have selected topics aligned to current and future trends. We are tackling the key issues around sustainability, EPR, and recycling that are being faced by the industry currently. This year would be an even more powerful, high-level – networking, sharing, and collaborating global platform for all the participants.

AA: How do we communicate the message that flexible packaging is sustainable?
When looking at the total life cycle of flexible packaging, its sustainability becomes evident. Flexible packaging requires less transportation and storage space reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. It requires less material overall, making it a more environmentally friendly option than materials such as glass and rigid PET and uses fewer resources during the production process, including water and fossil fuel.

The challenge is that a disconnect exists between brand owners and consumers regarding the importance of sustainability in flexible packaging. Even though most of today’s flexible packaging is not considered recyclable by a large section of consumers and society, an opportunity exists to increase awareness of flexible packaging’s sustainability, including its reduced carbon footprint.
AA: The Indian packaging market is dominated by PE - even during the pandemic years, the barrier film/sheet market ramped up significantly. What's been your experience about the flexible packaging film industry in India?
During the lockdown period, the eCommerce industry has seen a surge in business which continues post-pandemic. Amid the eCommerce surge, the Indian packaging industry is witnessing steep growth and is one of the strongest growing segments. During the pandemic, the demand for packaging for groceries, healthcare products and eCommerce transportation has increased exponentially. But at the same, the demand for industrial, luxury and sections of B2B-transport packaging has declined.
 AA: When we look at sustainability are there any strides in the past two years that you have observed that you can share with our readers?
The pandemic situation in the past two years has forced companies to work with a reduced workforce, improving processes and using online means to collaborate. Whereas, sustainable growth requires changing the workplace to maximise the contributions of all people.
AA: Are brands investing enough in packaging design and materials with long-lasting properties?
Packaging plays a pivotal role in consumers’ experience with respect to the brand and the overall purchasing experience. Packaging can make a huge difference in category dominance and sales growth, creating a significant brand value. In my opinion, brands have to consider that the packaging is the product, and it should create consumer value and brand value. Brands should invest more time and energy in packaging.
AA: We were studying one of the major packaging manufacturers who have a network of over 30 collection partners and four independent recycler organisations nationwide that are engaged in collecting and recycling used cartons. Is this enough for such a vast country?
The volume of waste generated in India is astounding and waste management is a major problem especially in megacities. Thanks to the waste pickers, India has one of the highest PET recycling rates in the world. But a lot more can be and need to be done and more infrastructure is needed in two-tier and three-tier cities. Hopefully over the next few years, we’ll see India make even greater strides in waste management and recycling.
AA: One of the things we heard during the 8th edition of the Summit was that an economic demand for recycled goods would have direct correlation with its economic value. Can we make recycled goods an attractive proposition? Does recycled PET offer economic value over virgin PET when you incorporate the cost of collection and recycling? 
Recycling is not just a matter of recovering recyclable material, but it’s a total economic system. There’s clearly a consumer demand for green products. The success of recycling indeed won’t depend on how much landfill space is saved but on whether or not recycling makes economic sense. Faced with falling prices for PET, the recycling market had only one source of relief to remain cost competitive, which was paying ever lower prices for recovered containers.
AA: How do we minimise plastic waste? One concrete step we can take / implement.
We can minimise plastic waste by sorting the waste at source.