Flexible packaging is taking over the shelves both in stores and at home and it’s pretty easy to see why. It’s quite economical to produce, easy to transport, and takes up less storage (as well as landfill) space when compared to many of the rigid packaging options out there. With consumers and brand owners alike jumping on-board the Flexible Packaging Train, it’s safe to say that the uptick of flexible package use isn’t stopping any time soon. In fact, the Future of Global Flexible Packaging to 2020 report by Smithers Pira says that the global market for flexible packaging is projected to grow 18% by 2020.
Here are some highlights from the 2016 Flexible Packaging Transition Advantages Study that break down what consumers and brands think of flexible packaging:
|When consumers were asked to choose between flexible and non-flexible packaging for a product they were considering purchasing (assuming the product was exactly the same and only the packaging differed), 71% of Americans said they would prefer flexible packaging over non-flexible packaging.||Among those who increased use of flexible packaging in some way, 57% were able to lower costs of production.|
|79% of Americans believe there are benefits to having food products stored in flexible packaging versus non-flexible packaging.||55% of those who increased their use of flexible packaging reported a sales improvement.|
|46% of Americans are willing to pay more for food products stored in flexible packaging than they would for food products stored in non-flexible packaging.||58% of respondents who have already transitioned to a higher mix of flexible packaging intend to use more in the future.|
Although its popularity is growing at lightning speed, flexible packaging can be a double-edged sword when it comes to environmental responsibility. According to Lightweight Advances in Flexible Packaging: FPA Member Case Stories by the Flexible Packaging Association: Flexible pouches not only contain less packaging material by weight, but when empty, they require fewer pallets and trucks for distribution and storage. This saves energy and cost associated with the transportation and warehousing of packaging materials. Plus, did you know:
- The packaging efficiency (product to package ratio) of a flexible pouch is nearly DOUBLE that of a plastic container, which means the same amount of product can be delivered with HALF the amount of packaging material.
- One truckload of flat pouches often equals between 15-25 truckloads of empty rigid containers
- A rigid counterpart could weigh up to 70% more than flexible packaging, a costly option especially for small product runs.
- 840 empty pouches with spout fitments (1 L) can be stored or shipped in the same amount of space that would only accommodate 30 plastic bottles (946 mL)
- This means a 96% reduction in storage or shipping space! Volume in reference to actual product volume, not container capacity
- Flexible packaging can be recycled into something like a heavy-duty shipping sack for fertilizer or lawn-and-garden use.
- If using a biodegradable additive in polyethylene packaging, then the package can biodegrade in only 18 months if it’s somewhere with a high count of microbes (like a landfill).
- Two used plastic refill bottles (1.47 L) would occupy the same amount of space in a landfill as 107 used flexible refill pouches with spouts (828 mL).
The flip side of the environmentally-responsible sword is that technology just hasn’t caught up with where it needs to be in order to effectively recycle flexible packaging. Flexible packages (especially those intended for food) are composed by fusing together multiple layers of varying materials and agents. Unfortunately, current recycling systems aren’t technologically equipped to separate, distribute, or reuse the various layers. To get into the nitty gritty details, check out this post from Packaging Digest.
That being said, there’s a lot of great work being done to increase recyclability. Organizations like the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA), the Flexible Film Recycling Group (FFRG) and the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APPR), just to name a few, are making significant strides in developing new processes and technologies to effectively sync flexible packaging, recycling and sustainability.
At AWT Labels and Packaging, we’re dedicated to providing the most cost-effective, environmentally-friendly option for your flexible packaging (and label) printing needs. Contact the Experts at AWT to get started on your next project.