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Sustainable packaging – how is Asia covering it?

Industrie Trends | March 22, 2023

Top brands are making headlines these days as they announce ambitious targets to reduce packaging, and specifically their use of plastics.  In November, Sony announced that in FY2023 it will eliminate plastics from packaging of all products weighing 1kg or less (accounting for around 40% of its global sales), and instead use externally-sourced paper boxes, plus new packaging materials developed in-house from sources such as bamboo and sugarcane fibre.  After that, the company plans to adopt new technology to create foam from powdered recycled paper, and use it instead of polystyrene in the packaging of heavier goods, notably TVs.   This is big business: in addition to its products, Sony shipped roughly 90,000 tonnes of packaging in FY2021.

Sony is far from alone.  Apple has already cut its use of plastic packaging massively, and plans to eliminate it altogether by FY2025, and HP now no longer uses polystyrene for packing printers or laptops. 

FMCG brands also regularly announce more sustainable and recyclable packaging, using bio-materials, mono-materials, and recycled plastics (post-industry and post-consumer). As just one example, Colgate, producer of around 20 billion plastic tubes per year, of which 9 billion are for its own brand, is now well on the way to moving its entire range of toothpastes to recyclable (#2 HDPE) tubes by 2025.  And Colgate is sharing this technology freely with other brands, royalty free.

Of course, these huge steps on the part of brands are not being made in isolation; consumers and governments are driving the conversation at least as much as brands are – not least in Asia, which is (probably not surprisingly) the world’s biggest and most important market for packaging, a fact that we’re reminded whenever another multinational announces a major new investment in the region (Merck’s new US $500 million expansion of its massive Tuas manufacturing campus in Singapore, for instance, which includes large-scale secondary packaging facilities).

McKinsey’s 2021 report Sustainability in packaging: Consumer views in emerging Asia concluded that, compared to their counterparts in the USA, Europe and Japan, consumers in the fast-growing markets of Indonesia, India and China not only feel more strongly about these issues, but would also be willing to pay extra for more sustainable packaging.   No wonder that rival Chinese dairy giants Yili Group and Mengui Dairy were so fast to adopt Tetra Pak’s new packaging with plastic-free, “plant-based” caps in the last year.   Tetra Pak now has 3 factories in China.

China’s National Development and Reform Commission announced the phasing in of a single-use plastics ban by 2025, specifically targeting plastic straws and other popular throwaway items, and the State Administration for Market Regulation will impose new regulations in September 2023 aimed at reducing “excessive packaging” in the cosmetics, personal care, food and beverage sectors specifically.  In a formal statement in 2021, the SAMR’s deputy director for standards and technology Chen Hongjun cited research claiming that in China, packaging accounted for 30-40% of domestic waste. 

Making consumer packaging more sustainable is a highly complex challenge.  Not only do products each have their own unique requirements in terms of containment, protection, identification, convenience and more, but different regions and markets also have different requirements in relating to recyclability and sustainability.  Furthermore, the drive towards greater sustainability does not stop brands from wanting to differentiate their products from the crowd by using novel and attractive packaging, including finishes, graphics and so on.

In order to achieve these ends, packaging companies in East Asia are continually upgrading, or breaking ground for new sites, and investing in ever-better equipment and production lines.  Greater flexibility; better performance; minimal downtime; the ability to handle novel, often bespoke, sustainable packaging materials; real partnership through the development of new lines and machines, from concept to installation and beyond; dedicated, local, technical aftersales service: all are prerequisites to compete in Asia.   In rising to these challenges, those at the forefront of the packaging sector will also be investing in a better, more sustainable future for us all.

About Melchers

The Melchers Group has been engaged in international import and export activities since it was founded in Bremen, Germany, in 1806. Foreign trade concentrated on North and Central America during the first 60 years, but gradually shifted to East Asia with the establishment of Melchers & Co. Hong Kong in 1866.

We provide the experience, people, infrastructure and partnership that you require for success in Asia. The expertise of our 1,700-strong workforce is at your disposal, whether you’re an equipment supplier or equipment customer.

With our many years’ experience, commitment to service, and team of highly qualified employees in Europe, North America, and at local level in Asia, your aftersales needs are dealt with professionally and efficiently.

If you are interested in working with us, contact us at: contact@melchers.de

#asiarevisited #ASEAN #packaging #sustainability #FMCG #China #recycling #melchers #blog #mmes

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