The importance of sustainability in packaging is being increasingly recognised, with food and drink being among the most important sectors simply because these are products everybody consumes on a daily basis as a living necessity.
Food packaging solutions are, therefore, the most important area from an environmental point of view, although it remains the case that other packaging for various goods will also be either part of the problem or part of the solution.
If anyone was seeking inspiration or just a greater understanding of the kind of innovation going on the Packaging Europe Sustainability Awards 2023 is a pretty good place to look.
The nominees include 60 different innovations spread across 13 categories, with the winners to be announced at the ceremony in November. These shortlists came from a total of 325 submissions, so even beyond those listed many great new ideas are being put forward that can advance the cause of sustainable packaging.
Indeed, this is the stated aim of the event: “The Sustainability Awards, organised by Packaging Europe, has a mission to illuminate the most important innovation and initiatives across the packaging value chain.”
It added that the main aim is to “help accelerate adoption of best practice and better technologies, and nurture cross-fertilisation of ideas in order to support positive environmental impacts.”
Among the most novel developments shortlisted was the use of new materials in packaging. This included nominations in the New Materials category for flexible seaweed-based packaging, bioplastic keg caps, and a fibre bottle.
The Recyclable Packaging category included new paper and cardboard innovations, while the Renewable Materials category included millet straw packaging, shopping bags made from fallen leaves and tablet blisters made from renewable raw materials and coated with organic substances.
There is also oxygen barrier coating for food packaging and bubble wrap made from recycled paper, although perhaps the most innovative was a starch-based biopolymer for use as food packaging.
Putting new materials at the forefront of packaging innovation is central to so much of what the industry is now doing, so everybody needs to be on board.
For example, in an interview with the Daily Mail, the boss of packaging giant DS Smith, Miles Roberts, highlighted the need for more sustainable packaging due to the pollution and mess that can be caused by non-biodegradable materials.
Speaking about what he saw on a past visit to a landfill site, he said: “You just know that this is not the right way of using the Earth’s resources – and you can’t clean it up afterwards.”
Mr Roberts added: “I also sail and you go to some places and see the rubbish that’s washed up on the seashore overnight, it’s just not sustainable.”
While DS Smith has moved more towards a focus on paper and cardboard packaging, others are looking to bring in completely novel and original materials. Put together, it represents a sign that the packaging sector is being transformed, which means every firm that needs packaging should get on board with it to meet the expectations of increasingly eco-conscious customers.