Sustainability, shelf-life and stopping counterfeits: Three biggest challenges being faced by packaging sector

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

The packaging sector has more to do to tackle waste. ©GettyImages
The packaging sector has more to do to tackle waste. ©GettyImages

Related tags Thailand Packaging Plastic

The growing global population coupled with rising incomes in emerging markets is propelling the global packaging sector, but the three big challenges of sustainability, shelf life extension and counterfeiting are posing significant challenges for the industry.

That was the view of the President of the World Packaging Organisation Professor Pierre Pienaar who delivered the opening keynote address at the Global Packaging Forum in Bangkok, Thailand.

The packaging industry has repeatedly come under fire in recent months as governments and consumers responded to concerns over excessive waste, especially in relation to single use plastics.

Regionally, the Philippines has pledged to ban single use plastics by 2021. On a global level, Canada announced similar moves just last week.

Pienaar acknowledged the packaging sector had more to do to improve its sustainability credentials, but added that consumers had to play their part too.

“Globalisation is having an enormous impact on the packaging industry, as is the demand for the reduction in waste,” ​he told the event, held alongside the Propak Asia exhibition.

“We are very aware of the huge impact that packaging waste is placing on environment and massive strides are being made here, but there is a lot more work to be done.

‘However, packaging is less than 3% of all waste generated and around 18% of household waste. But it is easily targeted because all of us can see it.”

He suggested that reducing packaging waste needed to encompass industry action, government support for recycling and, crucially, consumer education.

“We have to change the culture,” ​he added. “The challenge is for everyone to ensure that no matter how small the packaging is, it is put in the correct receptacle.

“Very often packaging gets a lot of bad publicity, and this is something of a hobby horse of mine. It’s easy  pointing fingers, because it takes the pressure off yourself. Packaging is not the problem, it’s part of the solution.”

Constant demand

He added the packaging industry was also striving to stay on top of rapidly changing consumer needs and demands, not least the expectation that fresh produce should be available all year round, regardless of whether it is in season.

“People used to want five days shelf life,”​ he said. “Now it is very often 28 days.”

“Our grandparents would be quite amazed that we expect to eat fresh produce, even when it is out of season. And packaging is the only thing that can make it happen. Here we are the solution, and not the problem.”

But as the middle class continues to swell, and the global population as a whole increases, these demands are going to increase.

‘You and I are to blame,”​ he told the audience. “We are placing the burden on packaging.”

Finally, he said that the packaging industry had to play a crucial role in combatting counterfeiting, pointing out that the global market for fake goods would soon top $9bn.

“There is a great opportunity to combat this through pack​aging,” he said. “Very often you can’t tell the difference between counterfeit goods, but you can use packaging to show what is genuine,”​ he added, no doubt alluding to technological solutions such as QR codes to prove product legitimacy.

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