PMMI and AMERIPEN Release Collaborative Study: 2023 Packaging Compass

PMMI and AMERIPEN's collaborative report, 2023 Packaging Compass, identifies key package design and materials trends, and their implications for consumer packaged goods companies.

23 Packaging Compass

PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, and the American Institute for Packaging and the Environment (AMERIPEN) released 2023 PACKAGING COMPASS: Evaluating Trends in U.S. Packaging Design Over the Next Decade and Implications for the Future of a Circular Packaging System, a new study and accompanying infographic identifying key trends in packaging design and materials and the implications of these trends on legislation and the recovery systems for consumer-packaged goods (CPG) companies.  

The PACKAGING COMPASS, based on extensive research and analysis conducted by AMERIPEN and PMMI, highlights the growing importance of sustainability in the packaging industry, as consumers become increasingly aware of the environmental impact of packaging materials and manufacturers strive to reduce waste and emissions.This research strives to close the gap between design needs and recovery needs by beginning a conversation on trends, presenting forecasts for the coming decade, and recognizing the role of multiple stakeholders in advancing a circular packaging system.

As the infographic illustrates, metal beverage cans, PET bottles, and flexible plastic wrap lead the overall compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in packaging materials, which has shown some fluctuation since 2021, but is projected to decrease to 1.3% CAGR by 2025. Based on the report findings, this slight slowdown reflects the movement within omnichannel commerce to design primary packaging for shipping, eliminating the need for secondary and, in some cases tertiary packaging, along with the return to retail as consumers head back to stores after COVID.

Looking at overall material usage, survey respondents indicate that 75% of CPG companies continue to use plastic, more than those who use paper, and significantly more than those who use metal or glass. When asked about shifts in packaging materials usage over the next 10 years, the report indicates that CPGs are increasingly looking to sustainable materials such as compostable, certified SBS paperboard, certified Kraft paperboard, bio-based bioplastics, and post-consumer-recycled content (PCR).

Based on materials changes proposed by the CPG community, the report forecasts growth in lightweight materials like flexible film pouches and food wrappers that are not yet widely recoverable. Compostables are currently viewed by CPGs as seeing a significant increase, although like flexible films, they currently lack a significant recovery system to ensure they are composted after use. Lastly, recycled content in packaging is expected to grow with many CPG firms identifying plans to increase PCR content in existing packaging.

Both the report and infographic outline key packaging waste and policy implications brought on by these shifts toward a more circular packaging system:

  • Extended producer responsibility (EPR): Shifting financial and operational responsibility for end-of-life management of products to producers, instead of taxpayers and government.
  • Universal Access: Providing all households with convenient and consistent access to recycling and composting services.
  • Standardized Definitions: Clear recycling, composting, and other recovery definitions to reduce consumer confusion.
  • Material Bans: Shifting from material bans to dialogues on the best ways to collect, sort, and reprocess materials to reduce environmental impact.
  • Recovery Innovation: Federal investments into programs uncovering emerging science and data to drive efficiencies across packaging design and waste management.
  • Data Collection: Consistent data collection to measure and benchmark the performance of a circular packaging economy.

“By releasing this deep dive into the trends driving the circular packaging system, we hope to facilitate an industry dialogue that will help close the gap between design needs and recovery needs,” says Jorge Izquierdo, vice president, market development, PMMI. “To further this effort, the new Sustainability Central feature at PACK EXPO Las Vegas will shine a light on this issue and bring all segments of the industry together, continue the conversation around the importance of increasing the culture of sustainability in our industry, and help us better target investments as well as legislation to ensure success.”

The new Sustainability Central and accompanying Sustainability Stage at PACK EXPO Las Vegas (Sept. 11–13, 2023; Las Vegas Convention Center) will serve as an interactive destination taking an expansive look into what sustainability means and will provide actionable sustainable solutions in manufacturing, materials, and design. 

Sustainability Central will highlight the current state of six key areas of packaging sustainability and will ask “what if” questions encouraging attendees to think about how these areas influence their own work. The exhibit will focus on meeting attendees where they are, stating the facts, and ultimately being a resource for those who are looking to learn more about making their brands more sustainable. 

The 6 key areas include:

  • Design - Using minimal materials and using renewable resources
  • Materials - Application, labels, mono materials, downcycling
  • Manufacturing - Design for inclusivity of all steps
  • Recovery - Downcycling, design for sustainable alternatives, eliminate problematic packaging (magnets, films, etc.)
  • Logistics - Right sized package, master cartons, weight considerations, modularity
  • Data - Data driving design decisions

At the accompanying Sustainability Stage, attendees will hear from experts on a range of packaging sustainability topics and learn to make brands more sustainable in the future. 

In addition, the PACK EXPO Green Program returns to PACK EXPO Las Vegas and is the commitment of PACK EXPO and its partners, vendors, and exhibitors to work together to create a more sustainable world. PACK EXPO Green identifies exhibiting companies that provide sustainable solutions via new materials, technology, or strategies such as sustainable processes and machines, renewable and biodegradable packaging, source reduction and light weighting, recyclable and recycling-content materials, or innovations that reduce carbon footprint. Look for companies participating in the PACK EXPO Green Program to advance sustainability goals. In addition, look for the green icon to highlight education sessions focused on sustainability.

To learn more and to register, visit Registration for the show is $30 until Aug. 18, after which it increases to $130.

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