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Benefits of Flexible Packaging

Over the last few years, there is a constant growth in the market of flexible packaging, gradually replacing the non-flexible one (rigid bottles, cans etc). This increasing popularity is attributable to a variety of factors, such as consumer convenience, favourable environmental profile and supply chain optimisation, added advantages include: gauge and barrier-property adjustability, increased durability of packaging materials and shelf life of packaged goods and formatting variability.
Overall, flexible packaging constitutes a formidable marketing and sales-enhancing tool, a wide array of color/ texture combinations, special pigmented inks, holographic films and opening features and contribute to increasing brand equity, propelling innovation and gaining the benchmarking advantage.

Most significantly, the eco-credentials of flexible packaging materials (cost efficient/low-carbon-footprint of production process) are a highly attractive feature: the requisite amount of energy for the production of a flexible package of specific volume is 16% of the amount of energy requisite for the production of a glass container of identical volume with a concomitant mass reduction on the order of 78%; in turn, considerable transportation and reduction in waste volumes are attainable. Despite the fact that glass and paperboard are fully recyclable, when we consider the production process as a whole, flexible packaging is more cost effective.

Recent study by the IFEU (Institute for Energy and Environmental Research)1, has indicated that manufacture of flexible packaging materials is accompanied by a 77% reduction in the volume of base materials utilised, a 38% reduction in gas emission and a 44% saving in the volume of water used relative to the manufacture on non-flexible materials (100% recyclable). Thus, counter-intuitively, we arrive at the conclusion that flexible packaging is eco-friendlier than their rigid fully recyclable counterparts. Furthermore, intensive research in sustainable flexible packaging production processes in ongoing at institutes, universities and the private industrial sector around the globe. Fully recyclable and diodegradable flexible packaging produced useing naturally occuring (non-petroleum-based) raw materials, such as cellulose and starch, are highly anticipated upcomming innovations.

In conclusion, a credible/rational assessment of the sustainability and economic benefits of flexible packaging should encompass observation of the overall procuction cycle, supply chain, consumption and dispsal and not only be focussed on a single factor, such as recyclability.

1 Flex Affairs, FPE, January 2014, Volume 8 Issue 1