When it comes to sustainable packaging, UK consumers are putting their money where their mouth is. Over the past three years in particular, notably since the airing of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II nature documentary series on the BBC, environmentally-friendly products and sustainable packaging have become increasingly demanded by consumers. It’s what those in the industry call ‘the Blue Planet effect’. 

A 2018 study by Neilsen stated that “a whopping 81% of global respondents feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment. This passion for corporate social responsibility is shared across gender lines and generations. Millennials, Gen Z and Gen X are the most supportive, but their older counterparts aren’t far behind.”

Additionally, 2019 research from digital analytics firm, onefourzero, notes that the number of online searches around the topic of sustainable packaging have skyrocketed since 2018. This was, of course, the same year that the UK government pledged to reduce plastic packaging and fast-food brand, McDonalds, announced that it was planning to make all its packaging renewable by 2025.

Clearly, sustainable packaging is one of the leading ways we can meet changing consumer demands. The future of sustainable packaging is looking bright, and the packaging industry is taking this changing consumer landscape seriously.

Sustainable packaging for ready meals

One of the worst offenders when it comes to packaging is the humble ready meal. These commonly-consumed dinners are overwhelmingly packaged in a heat-resistant black plastic which is neither recyclable or biodegradable. However, things are changing.

Waitrose, for example, has launched a new line of cream-coloured, compostable ready meal containers. The material used is fibre-based (similar to cardboard), heat resistant (for both oven and microwave), and cool to the touch after cooking. Diners can actually recycle these containers in their home composting bins. Along with being compostable, this packaging material creates a 50% saving in CO2 emissions.

This is just one example of sustainable packaging for ready meals that, as it spreads, could take the place of black plastic ready meal containers forever.

Sustainable packaging options

Though the materials used in packaging are the main way to reduce waste and help the environment, the design of the packaging also contributes to its ecological footprint. Flexible packaging designs are being put into use which use less material and therefore create less waste. In cases where it is, as yet, impractical to use sustainable packaging materials, these alternative designs can help minimise environmental impact.

These flexible packaging options are environmentally-friendly for another reason: logistics. Through smart packaging designs, more units can be transported in one load, reducing vehicular emissions and further saving money across the supply chain. 

There’s also the matter of toxicity. Many plastics contain toxic substances which are bad, not just for the environment, but also for human health. The elimination of these toxins is another key aspect of sustainable packaging development.

You can explore a wide range of sustainable packaging options at PPMA Show. 

Sustainable packaging machinery

It is not just the packaging itself that needs to become more environmentally-friendly. Attention also needs to be paid to the machinery which produces both the packaging itself and the products that go into it. As consumers increasingly demand a manufacturing industry that reduces waste and resources, the production line must change.

Installing more energy-efficient packaging machinery is not only vastly beneficial to the environment and preferred by consumers. It is also an economically smart choice for manufacturers. Energy efficiency reduces energy costs, in turn reducing overhead costs in running the factory. 

Though plastic has long prevailed for being inexpensive, the myth that sustainable packaging options cost more is quickly being disproved. As sustainable packaging becomes the preferred option by consumers, more units are sold - bringing profits up for companies. And as demand for sustainable packaging increases, the cost of production will come down as well.

All round, sustainable packaging is a money-saving, money-making choice for manufacturers. As consumers begin to choose sustainable options over non-recyclable plastics, those companies that move with the times will be those which survive the changing tide.

Sustainable packaging machinery at PPMA Show 2021

Recognising that packaging accounts for over 40% of the world’s total plastic use, a massive overhaul in the packaging industry is firmly underway. It is clear that those companies which lead the way in this area will be those who benefit the most.

At PPMA Show 2021, you will have the opportunity to discover sustainable packaging machinery and materials. You can also expect to hear from logistics and packaging designers from across the industry.

If you are planning to cement your place at the crest of the sustainable packaging wave, the 2021 PPMA Show is an important packaging expo to put in your calendar. The 2021 event takes place from 28 to 30 September 2021 at the NEC, Birmingham.