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Asia’s big appetite for flexible packaging – but how can it catch up on recycling?

Australia – Worldwide, the flexible packaging market will be worth US$ 222 billion by 2020 – up from US$ 182 billion in 2015, according to a new report commissioned by Australia-based multi-national packaging company Amcor.

Flexible packaging makes up more than 21% of the entire packaging industry. Asia counts as the largest market (40%) and growth in the region is projected to be 5% between 2015 and 2020 as compared to 4% globally.

China consumed 585.7 billion units of flexible packaging in 2016 while India was runner-up on 218.6 billion units, the report states. It also observes that a poor waste collection infrastructure in developing Asia implies recycling facilities and infrastructure are lagging behind; an analysis of India and developing countries in South East Asia shows that anywhere between five and 14 government departments can be involved in various aspects of waste management and recycling at a national level.

‘The move towards back-end, capital-intensive technologies robs city governments of the opportunity to turn waste management into a profitable utility and burdens the citizens through future taxes due to their long investment horizons,’ it is argued.

Amcor is currently developing packaging that is ‘more recyclable’ while increasing the volume of recycled plastics used for its products.

‘Even as improvements in design and innovation in material types are being actively researched and developed, greater intervention is needed to address growing post-consumer flexible packaging waste in Asia,’ the company stresses.

Its report identifies Belgium as the European leader in packaging recycling, scoring an 80% overall recycling rate. This is said to be thanks mostly to Belgium’s successful extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes.

‘Conservative assumptions show that properly implementing a Belgian-style EPR scheme would enable India, Indonesia and the Philippines to net a significant amount of additional funding which can then be allocated to further improve waste segregation, collection and recycling services and drive circularity of packaging materials,’ it is concluded.

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