By Alessandra Lacaita,
Plastic has grown significantly as a packaging material over the last decade. Is it still increasing its market share? Where do you identify further opportunities for greater use of plastic packaging?
With a turnover of €40 billion (2009), plastic packaging is market leader and represents nearly 40% of the total packaging market turnover. Between now and 2016, market share is forecasted to continue to grow in both the flexible and rigid packaging sectors, with the food sector being the biggest end-use sector with around 17 million tonnes forecasted for 2016 globally.
Part of the rising consumption is offset by light-weighting in rigid articles and reducing film thickness, basically doing more with less and becoming more resource efficient. In addition, the average plastic packaging weight has been reduced by 28% over the last ten years without compromising either strength or durability.
Opportunities for greater use of plastic packaging are clear in the food sector, and more specifically, for packing fruit and vegetables. Indeed, according to the European Commission, 90 mio tonnes of food are wasted each year in the EU, and if we look at Germany, for example, the largest potential for avoiding household food waste lies with vegetables (which constitute 26% of avoidable food waste) and fruit (18%).
Some may question whether more packaging is the way forward when it comes to making Europe more resource efficient; but the figures are clear: the resources required to produce food outweigh by far those needed to manufacture the packaging – and saving food should not only be among our priorities from an environmental point of view, but from an ethical one as well.
Where we do see that more effort is required is at the end-of-life: no packaging, be it plastic or other, should end up in landfills.
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