Of flexible – and other packaging

By 14 Jul 2017

On the cusp of 2000s, an Indian kirana store offered 500 items of which less than 30% used to be packaged goods. Now, 70% of the products in a kirana store and almost all items in a supermarket boast of a robust, eye-catching packaging.

In the 1990s, it could take three hours to prepare a meal. Now, it’s just a matter of 15 minutes to prepare a wholesome meal. User convenience, extended shelf lives, JIT usage, and widespread availability are crucial. While the role of packaging is significant, it has been boosted by the developments in flexible packaging films such as re-sealable bags, modified atmospheric packaging, ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat packaging, and boil-in-the-bag etc. (Read about re-sealable chocolate packaging on Page 38 of WhatPackaging? July issue)
More than two-third of the products on supermarket shelves are protected by flexible packaging. While plastics comprise 42% of the total packaging material pie for the Indian market, about 50% of this is flexible plastic packaging. According to a report prepared by FICCI and Tata Strategic Management Group (TSMG) titled, Plastic Packaging: The Sustainable Choice, flexible packaging in India is expected to grow annually at 25 percent, by far the fastest growing packaging segment.
While all this is exciting, discarded plastic packaging is one of the most daunting challenges that we face today. According to the 2013 estimate by the Central Pollution Control Board, 15,342 tonnes of plastic waste is generated in India daily. While 60% of this waste is recycled, we are still left with 6,100 tonnes of plastic that end up polluting the environment.
One of the key initiatives of the Indian government which is addressing this issue is the Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016, which include imposing the Extended Producers’ Responsibility (EPR) on manufacturers, brand owners and importers. Sensing the administration’s seriousness of the initiative and realising their social responsibility, FMCG companies are gearing up to use sustainable packaging for their products. In turn, packaging suppliers can be seen looking for innovations that can make packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable.
The WhatPackaging? team visited Parakh Agro in Pune (Read the report on Page 4 of WhatPackaging? July issue). Their team is working with its strategic partners to develop environment-friendly high-barrier substrates. Among new products launches, Huhtamaki-PPL has developed packaging for Paper Boat Chikki, which uses a combination of oriented poly propylene and cast poly propylene film structure thereby eliminating polyethylene terephthalate (PET) from the structure.
There has been traction for post-consumer recycle (PCR) films. Uflex’s Anantshree Chaturvedi, says the company’s PCR film is in great demand and it is producing significant chunks of volumes of PCR film. (Read Q&A with Anantshree Chaturvedi in WhatPackaging? July issue) 
At Interpack, paper majors like Sappi and Billerudkorsnas push the sustainability agenda. Sappi’s Algro Guard packaging papers demonstrated high barrier functionality and heat sealing properties. Billerudkorsnas showcased a bio-degradable and compostable flow pack combining paper with bio-coating.
We need more of these solutions. If the government is keen to tackle the issue of waste management, the 2016 ban on plastic packaging for gutkha, tobacco and pan masala was just the beginning. Even today, sales from the gutkha industry go under-reported. And gutkha constitutes about 35-40% of the flexible packaging market. 
When will we be really ready?




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