The sustainable packaging market is growing much faster than the overall packaging industry, and is expected to double in size from $88 million in 2009 to $170 billion in 2014, according to a report from Pike Research. The global packaging industry will grow at a slower pace, reaching $530 billion in 2014, up from $429 billion in 2009.
The report also finds that along with the growth rate is an increasing burden on the environment in terms of raw materials, energy, transportation, and disposal. Researchers recommend several key areas where changes by the packaging industry can reduce its environmental impact.
These include the design of minimal packaging that can be easily reclaimed and the development of low-energy usage and environmentally-responsible packaging materials. Other recommendations include harmonizing global regulations related to reclaiming used packaging, monetizing all used packaging to establish post-consumer value and providing better data related to cradle-to-cradle cost of packaging options.
To help in some of these areas, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition recently released metrics to help companies measure their progress toward the coalition’s stated definition of sustainable packaging. Metrics cover eight areas including energy and materials use and clean production and transport.
At the same time, the International Standards Organization is developing six standards for international packaging, which cover source reduction, reuse, recycling, energy recovery, chemical recovery, composting and biodegradation.
Pike Research also expects that plastic-based packaging will be the fastest-growing segment of the sustainable packaging sector between now and 2014, and more eco-friendly plastic packaging will have a big impact because it accounts for more than one-third of the total packaging industry, second only to paper packaging.