Bio-based bottlenecks in post-pandemic packaging strategies – and how to avoid them
With many businesses still reeling from the pandemic, we know that packaging manufacturers and managers are looking ahead to potential obstacles in bio-based material markets. As this new landscape will undoubtedly impact packaging processes, now is a great time for businesses to re-assess and potentially pivot.
According to a report from Grand View Research, the global recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) market size, valued at USD 8.56 billion in 2020, is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.7% from 2021 to 2028. While this is good news for those investing in bio-based materials, the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic have created challenges for packaging providers.
COVID-19 VS. the drive towards recyclable packaging
The pandemic failed to throw consumer desire for sustainable packaging off track, but it did unfortunately cause several pain points for the industry as a whole.
- The demand for single-use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) dramatically increased – global personal protective equipment market size is expected to reach USD 123.38 billion by 2027
- Packaged take-out meals and home-delivered groceries created a huge pressure point. During Singapore’s initial eight week lockdown an additional 1400 tons of plastic waste were generated.
- In the early days of the pandemic, mixed messaging about transmission also created high demand for hygienic packaging options. A consumer intelligence survey by G&S in April 2020 found that 69% were more concerned about food safety than they were prior to the coronavirus, and 55% were more concerned about food waste.
With plastic waste management and recycling taking such a significant hit, the demand for recycled goods and bio-based materials is already creating the potential for choke points.
New legislation is continuing to impact the space – the introduced a that came into force in January 2021, and last September, California brought in new rules around plastic bottles. These regulations are continuing to drive demand and threaten availability. This is a state of play that’s sure to bring new products to the fore – and result in the need for new testing solutions to check they are safe for market.
How can production managers and brands meet demand?
Innovation will always be key when it comes to navigating potential shortages. Academic research into bio-based materials is showing positive results, with an exciting array of sustainable packaging origin materials being researched for viability.
For example, Yale, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Maryland are working together to develop a new bioplastic derived from sawdust. Meanwhile, the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada is developing a biodegradable polyurethane-like cushioning material for transport packaging made from fish heads, bones, and other salmon offal.
The simultaneous utilization of different synthetic and biobased polymers in the form of composites/blends is also an emerging area of research – the use of bio-based reinforcements can help ensure bio-films have the desired properties for packaging.
COVID-19 and quality control in the packaging sector
The advent of the pandemic also brought new, quality-related challenges to the table. From consumers seeking product packaging that lowered the risk of cross-contamination, to pharmaceutical industries faced with a huge uptake in the need for temperature-controlled packaging environments, the impact was felt far and wide.
The importance of quality control is clear, especially when we explore areas such as vaccine creation and distribution. Whitney Winters, Senior Director, Strategic Marketing, Biologics at West Pharmaceutical Services, outlined the need to scale up equipment and labor to meet vaccine demands.
“We’re adding production lines and team members to cover additional shifts and capacity ramp-up. Some plants already run 24/7, others are adding shifts. We have two priorities—to ensure the health and safety of team members and to supply the market for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 products without interruption.” Ms. Winters said, “Right now, vaccine makers need tried-and-true packaging.”
New materials mean new testing processes
Of course, the introduction of any material creates the need for rigorous testing. That’s where we can help.
At Industrial Physics we supply trusted test and inspection solutions that allow you to ensure the quality of your packaging, products, and materials. From leak testing to burst testing, our huge suite of solutions allow you to move forward with confidence.
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