Green is the ‘it’ word that has now evolved to become the soul of every market. Sustainability is what dominates every sphere of business. One such sphere where going green is becoming a trend is packaging.
According to a report by ASSOCHAM, a new form of packaging, termed as Green Packaging, is being adopted by a large number of domestic companies as many consumers shift to sustainable and green packaging amid rising environmental concerns.
The sustainable packaging sector is growing at a fast pace of about 25 per cent per year compared to the overall packaging industry which is growing at about 20 per cent annually, according to a study on Domestic Green Packaging Industry prepared by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).
According to the findings in the study, flexible packaging market in India is currently worth about Rs 14,000 crore and likely to reach Rs 22,950 crore by 2015.
“Packaging adds to the product value and preserves its quality, be it food or non-food articles, electronic goods, machinery and plenty of other products,” says D S Rawat, Secretary General of ASSOCHAM.
“Many of our clients are looking at green or ‘greener’ packaging for three reasons. Firstly, as a part of their CSR, secondly, for cost reduction through re-engineering and reduced use of plastics and to appeal to a customer base that is increasingly becoming green conscious. There are a lot of developments in Western countries with respect to eco friendly packaging, which is slowly catching on in India as well,” says Vimal Kedia, Managing Director, Manjushree Technopack Ltd.
Manjushree is one of the leading converters of PET and Preforms in India with an installed capacity of 40,000 MTPA and caters to the packaging needs of a large section of the FMCG fraternity. Besides PET, Manjushree also manufactures Oxygen Barrier Retortable Multilayer and Stretch Blow Moulded bottles.
Green packaging is surely emerging as the next big thing in the market, especially for FMCG, wherein a hygienic and healthy packaging gets more customers than an ill or unhealthy packaged material. Kedia says, “Green packaging adds a lot of value in terms of how the company or brand is perceived by consumers and others. Given the growing focus on sustainability, it also insures the company against any radical moves by regulators. For example, globally Coca Cola packs their products in PET bottles made out of starch-based polyester, which they passionately call the "plant bottle". While there is an added cost of packaging involved, Coca Cola has reported higher sales, which are a direct indicator of the positive perceptions that green packaging can create.”
Manjushree worked extensively with Coca Cola to reduce the weight of the PET bottle used for packaging soft drinks. This technology goes by the name of light-weighting, which lowers the amount of plastic used in a PET bottle and results in reduction of carbon emissions and in the long run, also results in significant savings for the customers. The solution consists of designing the neck of the bottle using lower amounts of plastic material, without compromising on the performance of the packages. The overall design change is kept to a minimum so that companies can use the same filling lines.
Green packaging is still a costly affair to get into as it is still a niche concept in India, but as more and more takers join the bandwagon, the prices are expected to come down drastically. “Due to low awareness and high cost sensitivity, the FMCG industry in India is yet to adopt green packaging. The cost involved in case of use of ‘green’ plastics is generally a premium of about 5-10 per cent over conventional packaging,” adds Kedia.
Joining the bandwagon
Currently, a lot of FMCG companies are indulging in green packaging, the recent one being Bisleri International Pvt Ltd. The company, in order to increase the collection of used PET bottles and ensure clean environment, came together with Inorbit Mall to start a PET bottle collection centre in the mall at Vashi. This is India’s first ever plastic (PET) bottle recycling machine for the consumers.
During the last decade, Bisleri has influenced the kabadis (scrap collectors) to collect the used PET bottles. “Earlier they (kabadis) used to collect glass bottles and PVC, but not PET bottles. Our contribution was, we imported a PET recycling machine from Japan and increased the demand for used PET bottles as they are 100 per cent recyclable. This increased the price and made the PET recycling market self sustainable,” says Ramesh Chauhan, Chairman, Bisleri Group.
Under this initiative, Bisleri will collect PET bottles of all brands and cut them into flakes, transport them and give them to fibre-making companies for making new recycled products. The used bottles are collected from corporate houses, offices, retails, restaurants, tourist locations, road and jungles. At present, Bisleri is recycling more than 1,000 tons (10,000 kg) of PET bottles through its collection centres in India.
Now, as the green packaging industry evolves and moves towards a brighter and greener future, new technologies are entering the scene offering sustainable solutions. “There are lot of alternative resins and additives available that help in producing eco friendly packaging. R-PET (recycled PET) is a big phenomenon in the USA and Europe, where R-PET is used for producing PET bottles for packaged drinking water. Similarly, for other applications like lubricants and oils, R-PET is being increasingly used as a preferred material. The plastic industry in many countries is under a lot of pressure to create biodegradable packaging and recently a company in the UK has introduced an additive, which when mixed with plastic raw materials, can produce biodegradable packaging that decomposes in 5-7 years when exposed to oxygen and sunlight. “Around the world, there are a lot of such efforts afoot to introduce eco friendly packaging,” concludes Kedia.