From algorithms choosing the ideal size and shape to the upcycling of waste materials, we reveal the latest developments in packaging innovation.
The world of packaging is constantly shifting, adapting to new technology, marketing trends, and consumer demands. And over the past 12 months, those shifts have been heightened by an increasing focus on the sustainability of packaging, especially with the dramatic increase in business brought on by the pandemic.
Many packaging firms have recently reported significant increases in volumes and revenue, including Smurfit Kappa, which announced revenue growth of 5% in Q1 2021, and DS Smith, which expects its corrugated box volumes to increase by 7%. DS Smith has also announced it’s committing £100m to boost its circular economy projects, in particular the creation of a technologies hub in the UK to develop new materials to replace plastics.
“How we live our lives is changing fast due to many factors and how we all take care of the environment is a top priority,” says DS Smith Chief Executive Miles Roberts. “We are now investing more than previous years to ensure that we are leading this change and can offer customers packaging that has less impact on the environment.”
Unsurprisingly, sustainability is high on the list for many of the new trends in packaging, and one of the first materials companies are now turning to is paper/cardboard. With a European packaging recycling rate of 84%, it has all the right circular credentials for companies wanting to increase their sustainability.
Our Top Trends In Packaging Are:
Increasing Use Of AI
For retailers, choosing exactly the right size of packaging for a given item can be time-consuming and labour-intensive, especially when they have thousands of different-sized products. This can result in packaging that’s way too big for the item. The use of AI not only determines the optimum-sized packaging for single items, but can quickly judge how multiple products can be tightly packaged together, fitting more items into a single package to save on materials and shipping costs.
Bursting The Bubble On Envelopes
Envelopes that combine plastic bubble wrap with paper are notoriously difficult to recycle and can cause serious problems at recycling centres if not separated from the paper/cardboard stream. But companies such as Amazon are working on a 100% paper envelope consisting of four layers of paper held together with water-soluble glue. When heated, the layers expand to form a protective interior, offering the same level of protection in a much more recyclable form.
Upcycling Waste Materials
In an effort to increase circularity, many companies are looking closely at their production waste and considering how they can reuse these materials in their products. The clothing industry now understands the value of ‘pre-loved’ products, while IKEA has introduced a buy-back service, offering vouchers for its old furniture. In Colombia, Corona beer has introduced new packaging that combines barley with recycled wood fibre. Usually discarded during the brewing process, barley straw can be turned into paper fibre, a process that uses less water, less chemicals and 90% less water than virgin wood fibre.
Cheers To Paper Bottles
Following Heineken’s prototype paper beer bottle, a number of other drinks brands have got in on the act and developed their own sources of a sustainable tipple. Johnnie Walker launched a 100% plastic-free recyclable bottle for their ‘Black’ label whiskey, while vodka brand Absolut has trialed a number of recycled and recyclable paper bottles in the UK and Sweden. Italian vineyard Cantina Goccia has also become the first winemaker to sell its wine in paper bottles, with manufacturers Frugalpac claiming that the bottle has an 84% lower carbon footprint than a glass bottle and more than a third less than a bottle made from 100% recycled plastic.