Sustainable innovation in plastics and packaging

It’s time to get serious about sustainability – to unlock trillions of pounds worth of commercial opportunities and create a positive human future.

As the perception of plastic has shifted from a wonder material to a public scourge, the forces of opportunity present leaders with a chance to drive positive societal change that makes business sense.

  • World plastic production reached 350 million tonnes in 2017
  • It's estimated that just nine per cent of all plastic ever made has been recycled
  • There's a $12 trillion opportunity awaiting those able to tackle the world's most pressing sustainability challenges

Drivers for change

Those operating in consumer packaged goods (CPG) and retail must now meet entirely new expectations, driven by:

A suite of national, regional and international legislative developments necessitate awareness, compliance and horizon scanning
Fuelled by mass media, more publicity has led to deeper sentiments, which in turn has encouraged greater consumer awareness
A host of technologies are available to those looking to improve their sustainability approach - the trick is deciding which to pursue and why

Options for tackling sustainable plastics

There are three categories of response to sustainable plastics and packaging: less plastic, better plastic or no plastic.

The path that’s right for you will be guided by the organisation’s size, capacity, audience, product, industry – and by a delicate balance of ambition and realism.

Less plastic

Using less plastic sets a strong foundation for making incremental changes over time without committing to a complete product overhaul. It’s a good starting point for organisations that want to take measured steps towards more sustainable solutions, laying the foundations for steady improvement.

We educate consumers and work with [them] so that they understand first of all what they should do with the packaging once they have consumed the product, and what is the right way to recycle or dispose of it.”
Vice President of Global Packaging, Mondelēz

Better plastic

A better plastic strategy ranges from seeking out more durable, thinner or lighter plastic, through to better educating consumers about how to reuse or appropriately recycle plastic packaging and products. Organisations should also consider the wider recycling system and how ‘waste’ can become part of the circular economy.

If an organisation is going to sacrifice laminate for the modern material where they know it will increase weight, they’ve got to be sure the increased weight of material is going to be recycled.”
Sustainability expert, PA

No plastic

Completely abandoning plastic is a particularly ambitious approach to sustainable plastics and packaging. While some startups have shown the way, many incumbents prefer to eliminate plastic in a sequence to incrementally reap the rewards of sustainability.

I don't think it will be long before those that don't use compostable magazine wrappers follow the National Trust. It's a big step in the right direction and it's the right thing to do”
Head of Business Development at Advanced Direct Mail

Recommendations for success

Whether you choose the less plastic, better plastic or no plastic approach, we believe all organisations should:

  • Build the case for profitable purpose and use sustainability to uncover new opportunities, recapture worth and overhaul legacy technologies, supply chains and processes
  • Balance ambition with attainment to engage and inspire your customers, employees and investors – creating a sense of momentum towards a grand ambition
  • Look beyond your walls and embrace the disruptors, working with and learning from new entrants and those in the wider ecosystem to deliver systemic change.

Contact the team

We look forward to hearing from you.

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