Lightweight and efficient, flexible packaging has a smaller environmental footprint, but innovations in recyclability are still needed.

In our last blog post, we talked about the steps a company called TerraCycle has taken to make the recycling of flexible packaging easier and more widespread. While flexible packaging is an environmentally friendly packaging option for many reasons, challenges with recycling remain an issue. This was addressed at a recent conference hosted by the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE).

Quoted in an article in Plastics Today, Terence Cooper, CEO of Argo Group International, said that flexible plastic packaging sometimes gets bad press because it’s more difficult to recycle and has a high visibility in the environment. But the fact remains that it uses less energy and fewer materials in its production, so it still has a smaller environmental impact in many respects.

Cooper said the segment can improve through enhanced recycling technologies and better design. For example, he highlighted the replacing of multi-layer barrier film with mono-material structures using coated barrier systems. He also emphasized that the industry needs to ensure the packaging is actually recycled and not just recyclable.

The article outlined several companies that are currently involved in chemical recycling technologies, such as depolymerization and pyrolysis, that are achieving a high level of success. While biodegradable materials are also an option, Eric Klingerberg, Materials Science Program Leader for Mars Advanced Research Institute, expressed some skepticism. “Is it a solution or another problem? Companies come to us with biodegradable additives to test but we’re approaching this very cautiously,” he was quoted in the article as saying. “We can’t control where it degrades and what it might biodegrade to.”

To truly make an impact in sustainability, you need to be aware of the ever-evolving nature of environmental science. At AMGRAPH, we have seen first-hand how well flexible packaging can reduce costs and improve a brand’s overall carbon footprint—and we are firm believers in the technology! At the same time, we support continuous improvement in the efforts to recycle these materials and keep them out of the waste chain. Give us a call, and we’ll show you how utilizing flexible packaging will be a win for your products, your company, and your overall sustainability.