No one can predict the future exactly. However, some trends and market developments for the coming year can already be estimated.(Credit: Scott Graham/Unsplash)
Trends in packaging: All this and more in 2022
There’s no doubt about it: 2021 was anything but a normal year, and that’s particularly true of the economy. Across the board (not just in the packaging industry), we were and are affected by a scarcity of raw materials and supply bottlenecks. The perfect symbol for this was the “Ever Given”, which blocked the Suez Canal and thus all global freight transport for just under a week.
Whether and when these bottlenecks will dissolve is tough to predict at the moment. On the other hand, it was clear that environmentally friendly and sustainable methods of production were gaining traction before the pandemic. The increase in the use of paper-based packaging during the previous year is a sign of this development that certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed, and it is set to continue next year. More and more companies are switching their packaging to paper-based solutions, either wholly or in part.
In fact, drawing on fibre-based, renewable raw materials is the obvious choice, as the recycling rate is already over 90% for recycled paper in Germany, at least, and we are thus on the right path towards total recycling. This simultaneously builds the transition to the next trend, which creates a macrocosm from this microcosm.
The recycling rate for paper, cardboard and cardboard packaging in Germany is almost 100 percent. (Graphic: Federal Statistical Office of Germany)
There’s no way round the circular economy
The really big trend is set to be the concept of the circular economy. There’s been a term for this approach since the 1990s: Cradle-to-cradle. This is the idea that 100% reusability and recyclability can be achieved throughout the entire production chain. This is definitely an ambitious project.
However, it’s also where Carolina E. Schweig, an independent packaging consultant, sees the future of the industry heading: “The industry should, or rather must, focus more on the holistic processes, not just on the packaging means and materials. Anyone that is already looking to use cradle-to-cradle will reinforce that focus anyway. However, everyone else also needs to get to grips with this concept, and not just for efficacy and profitability. It’s good for the wallet and the environment.” Part of this process philosophy is not just switching to more sustainable packaging materials but also asking where we could fundamentally change elements in the product itself.
The flat-bottomed bag from Werner & Mertz was awarded gold in all Cradle-to-Cradle Certified individual categories. All of the materials can be safely and securely disposed of or can be recycled into a qualitatively high-value product. (Image: Werner & Mertz)
Finally, the Mainz-based company Werner & Mertz has proven that cradle-to-cradle isn’t just a nice idea that’s a long way off from being realised. Their detergent bag, which is made entirely from recycled polyethylene and is also fully recyclable, is the product that has brought the cradle-to-cradle concept into the here and now. A product like this is not created overnight, and interdisciplinary cooperation is a prerequisite. However, it is possible.
The direction for 2022 is thus clear: a holistic, resource-saving and recycling production chain. How the industry achieves this, with what means and whether the consumers are ready to bear any potential extra costs is as yet generally unclear. In any case, it will be exciting to see what the new year brings.