A Shift From Plastic to Paper — What Are the Implications?
Packaging is the final albeit important step in the manufacturing of the products. Packaging is a relatively stable market. For example, pharmaceutical packaging companies have undergone less change over the years as compared to the other aspects of the industry. But now, the landscape is shifting. 2022 has brought the trend of using sustainable and biodegradable materials for packaging instead of plastic. Replacing plastic is a huge turning point in the world as we know it. Sustainable packaging has created massive shifts in the trend of the paper industry in the last few years.
Going green is easier said than done. For decades plastic has been the backbone of the packaging industry. Replacing it with sustainable material which contains all the necessary qualities is no small feat. While trying materials for packaging solutions, one must be aware of
- Developing the right solution
- Recyclable options
- A lower carbon footprint
- Creating packaging with sufficient barrier properties.
The Challenges with Paper:
Paper is a good packaging option where low or no barrier is needed. But if the product is sensitive or perishable, paper packaging becomes complicated or even risky. It is because paper is hydrophilic and porous, hence, it provides a very little barrier. Unlike paper, plastics are highly resistant to air, water, and oxygen, making them a perfect packaging material. Paper doesn’t come close to that. To deal with the limitations of paper for packing sensitive products, it is combined with specific polymers or extra coatings to create a necessary barrier. But, the packing does not stay 100% paper.
The Search for Solutions:
There is a solution to everything which unravels with time. Many companies are working on ways to solve these challenges. Carlberg company is working towards making the first paper-made beer bottle by using wood fiber which is one hundred percent sustainable and recyclable. Two promising research prototypes of the Green Fiber Bottle have been created. The prototypes will be used to test the barrier technology.
Plastic-free cartonboard packaging solution is also being developed by AR packaging which is currently being used in the packaging of cheese.
The efforts to achieve sustainable packaging are ongoing but a hundred percent plastic-free packaging for all sensitive products is not yet achieved. For the foreseeable future, a laminated barrier is necessary for these products. Flexible barrier material contains plastic coating and layers but it is more sustainable than pure plastic and recyclable.
So, What Is the Future?
The question arises, “Can paper replace plastic in the present?” The answer is obvious from the discussion i-e Not Yet. But on the brighter side, the possibility of paper to provide the necessary barrier protection is more today than it was a few years ago and that is something!
There is yet more to come. In a few years, we will see cellulose-based products with appropriate barriers. Nanocellulose technology is sustainable, biodegradable, and recyclable with very few adverse effects. Let’s not forget that, where paper manufacturers are trying to control barrier limitations, plastic manufacturers are trying to make plastic more environmentally friendly and recyclable.