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Growing shift to paper in food packaging anticipated

Industry experts believe the share of fibre-based packaging will grow over the next two decades because of new technologies and a decline in the share of polymer-based packaging.

Smithers and UPM Specialty Papers surveyed 200 packaging professionals from across the global value chain to assess key trends driving the development of sustainable food packaging by 2040.

They expect the global share of polymers in sustainable food packaging applications to fall by half over the next two decades, while fibre-based materials are projected to contribute to over 40% of all materials in use for food packaging.

While fibre-based packaging is widely recycled in non-food uses, the industry believes that by 2040 it will approach circularity as technical development broadens its suitability for food. Recycling rates for plastics are also projected to grow.

‘The packaging industry will focus research and development efforts to meet increasing consumer and regulatory demand for more recyclable and compostable packaging,’ says Maria Saloranta, vp strategy for UPM Specialty Papers.

‘As a result, we expect the share of fibre-based food packaging to grow, accelerated by breakthroughs in barrier properties and use of smart technologies that help relay information to consumers quickly and easily.’

The report is said to be the first collective assessment of key trends that are projected to drive sustainability in the food packaging industry by 2040.

‘The survey shows the industry is anticipating a US$ 20 billion (EUR 19 billion) shift from polymer-based to fibre-based packaging by 2040,’ adds Ciaran Little, global vp of business development at Smithers. ‘The use of polymer packaging will not be eliminated but will focus on robust applications in which high strength barrier requirements and reusability are critical.’

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