Traditional packaging development drivers such as creating brand identity, high speed filling, convenience and even protection have fallen in importance compared to environmental issues, suggests new findings.
In a survey of 650 packaging decision makers operating across the EU, 70 per cent suggested that issues of sustainability were affecting their product development, according to the Packaging Community, a European-based research group.
However, amongst uncertainty about legislative requirements for environmental claims and design, the packagers suggested interest in adopting potentially greener technology would be reliant on political policy amendments.
In this market, only 21 per cent of the survey group suggested that they had a direction for development of greener packaging, while 43 per cent believed it was impossible in the current market to take a position due to an apparent lack of information.
The report still found that 57 per cent of respondents believed sustainability was key to any packaging design, with an additional 12 per cent putting the environment as an ‘average’ concern.
In light of this apparent environmental interest, the Packaging Community said that 35 per cent of those interviewed expected developments to be increasingly environmentally friendly.
An additional 21 per cent of the respondents said that they believed that all packaging must become recyclable, with 11 per cent believing that the overall volumes of material used by the industry needed to be reduced.
The survey found that 10 per cent of interviewees believed that packaging will become lighter in the push for greater sustainability.
In terms of current environmental developments, the survey found that there appeared to be a divide in the types of criteria sought for green packaging between ‘high recycling’ and ‘made from renewable sources’.
Another polarisation in eco-commitments was identified in the support for carbon footprint indicators by retailers and Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) tools that the report said were more favoured by policy makers in Europe.
Despite increasingly looking for packaging developments to match consumer and industry concerns over environmental impacts, the Packaging Community said some aspects of convenience remain important.
“The survey revealed that retail requirements such as ‘easy to put on shelves’ and ‘space utility’ come first as a consideration,” stated the report. “[This is] immediately followed by environmental criteria such as ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘allows to reduce waste’, ‘high percentage of recycled material’ and ‘allows to reduce greenhouse gases’.”
In looking ahead at impacts of the economic downturn on packaging, 27 per cent of respondents did not expect possible financial fears to affect their decisions.
While 19 per cent said they expected prices to rise, 15 per cent of the survey group thought packaging would become cheaper in the current market, with 14 per cent of the poll expecting the economic climate to speed up eco-pack development.