Summer Brief - Hobby/Interest: Plastic - The Future
In 2009, the UK market for plastic packaging was worth an estimated £3.47bn, having been one of the most dynamic sectors of the UK packaging industry during the previous decade. In its new Packaging (Plastics) Market Report, market intelligence provider Key Note expects that the share of the overall packaging market taken by plastics will continue to increase well into the next decade, overtaking paper and board to become the largest sector. A greater emphasis on the environmental impact of packaging has led to various initiatives by the industry to improve its 'green' credentials, as well as to comply with the numerous obligations placed upon it by recent government legislation. In most cases, this has led suppliers to increase the amount of recovered material used in the manufacture of their products, while simultaneously encouraging greater recycling. More than 60% of the packaging used by industry, commerce and households in the UK is not recovered and recycled, amounting to more than 6 million tonnes per year - a figure that has risen from around 3 million tonnes since the mid-1990s. The recovering and recycling targets for UK businesses in 2010 have already been set out; 74% of all packaging waste is to be recovered, and 70% recycled. As far as the plastics sector is concerned, the recovering and recycling target was raised by 2 percentage points, to 29%. Levels of innovation within the market remain high, with many forms of plastic packaging becoming increasingly versatile, sophisticated and lightweight. A trend towards lighter packaging has been observed throughout the plastic-packaging industry. The British Plastics Federation (BPF) estimates that the UK's plastic packaging is up to 80% lighter today than it was 20 years ago. The appeal of lighter packaging products for plastic-packaging manufacturers is clear: not only does it result in a reduction in the amount of material used, but it can also help operators reduce the levels of energy required for the transportation of finished goods.
Within the past couple of years, plastics has been the fastest-growing sector of the packaging industry, owing to technological developments, such as advances in material properties, as well as the material's lighter weight, its flexibility and its relatively low cost. This, in turn, has created new applications for these products across a range of industries. In 2008, global use of rigid plastics grew by 6.3%, a figure that fell slightly to 6.2% for flexible plastics. Looking forward, Key Note expects a number of future trends will affect the packaging industry. Within the plastics sector, the emergence of products with strong environmental credentials is forecast to continue, in order to concur with ever more stringent legislation and rising consumer expectations. The further development of the UK own-label sector is also worthy of consideration, as is the way that growing demand in countries such as the People's Republic of China (PRC) and India is likely to shape requirements for packaging. Between 2005 and 2014, the value of the UK market for plastic packaging is forecast to increase by 21%, from £2.99bn to £3.62bn.