More companies have been announcing and pursuing sustainability goals and targets – many of which are coming due in 2022, if they didn’t already in 2021. Packaging is a big part of many of these initiatives, whether increased recyclability, compostability, lightweighting, right-sizing, plastic-reduction, or increased recycled content.
As a result, demand for more paper and post-consumer recycled content of all types has led to high prices… and some creative measures to get the materials suppliers need.
ND Paper in Old Town, Maine, noted that increased online shopping and plastic packaging converting (from bags to pouches and others) to paper-based options, was rapidly driving up prices for the old corrugated cardboard (OCC) they used to make recycled paper pulp. The company began asking local residents to drop off their e-commerce shipping boxes, pizza boxes, cereal boxes, and more at their mill directly.
Novolex, which makes plastic shopping bags, among other products, operates its own polyethylene film recycling facilities. For several years, the company has operated in-store drop-off collections for these films, as single-stream recycling collectors reject films for clogging sorting machinery. In this way, the company works to gain access to the materials they need to make their own plastic packaging more sustainable. More recently, in 2021, the company adopted and promoted recycling labeling prompting consumers to return the film packaging to stores for recycling, as a relatively small number of consumers are in that habit.
Access to adequate paper and post-consumer recycled materials supplies remains a concern of many packaging companies and suppliers of various consumer products. Extended producer responsibility (EPR) proposals are still a possibility to improve recycling and collection when strapped municipal waste management departments have limited or eliminated recycling services. While in place in the EU, they have yet to advance on a national level in the US. Still, in 2021 Maine and Oregon enacted EPR initiatives for plastic packaging, and more states are considering similar legislation in 2022.
With all the renewed consumer and investor focus on accountability for sustainability targets and goals, Freedonia analysts continue to watch trends in waste management and packaging input demand/pricing.
For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, particularly our series of studies in the Packaging and Plastics & Other Polymers catalogs. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.