Demand for sustainability spurring changes in packaging, Smithers Pira report says

The objective to make packaging more sustainable and the resulting impetus for material transition is a significant industry dynamic that is outlined in the new report from Smithers Pira, The Future of Paper vs Plastic Packaging to 2024. This market report values the global packaging market in 2018 at more than $850 billion with steady and consistent growth forecast to continue.

Demand for sustainability spurring changes in packaging
Demand for sustainability spurring changes in packaging

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The force and influence of users and consumers in the market is increasing dramatically, driving demand for choice, functionality, quality and environmental sustainability in packaging. In response to sustainability concerns, industry leaders, brand owners and retailers are making a significant proportion of packaging either recyclable, reusable or compostable as well as increasing the use of recycled content.

Participants in the packaging value chain now include bio-based raw materials producers and niche specialist packaging manufacturers and convertors, especially those who focus on sustainable materials. Most recently, there has been a growth in collection, sorting and recycling experts, whose influence is set to increase as sustainable management of the waste stream becomes more critical.

Manufacturing transitions

Transitions are taking place in packaging manufacturing that are complex and multidimensional, including shifting:

  • From plastics to paper and fiber-based pulp materials where technically feasible
  • From Multi-material plastic to mono-plastic materials
  • To bio- and cellulose-based materials, reducing the need for non-renewables
  • To customized recycling loops that cover materials not currently recycled

Changing customer behaviors

Consumers are driving innovation and materials transition in packaging through their changing habits and global patterns, including:

  • Urbanization
  • E-commerce
  • Single-person households
  • Aging population
  • Demand for convenience packaging

Regional trends

Globally, the industry is buoyant, although regional variations do exist and are driven by differences in demographics and economic activity. Clear growth leaders are China, India, and Latin America, where consumption and sophistication in packaging usage is still accelerating, driven by urbanization, population growth and greater disposable incomes. In Europe and North America, absolute volume growth is more modest, although development activities and technical innovation are intense.

For more information on this and other Smithers Pira packaging reports, visit

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