The Future of Packaging

the future of packaging

The Future of Packaging

Written by: Christopher Mohler

Packaging is made with a lot of different things in mind: convenience, sturdiness, aesthetic appeal, protection from the elements, but perhaps the most influential development of late is the push for sustainable packaging. It’s part of the larger trend of being more eco-friendly and “green”. Many companies have made an effort to use sustainable packaging while continuing to feed the growing consumer demand for their products, often from materials that can be recycled time and time again for new uses. Recycled packaging and other biodegradable goods are gaining a steadily increasing presence on shelves around the world. Not only are the materials getting greener, but the factories that manufacture them are becoming more energy efficient as well. Innovations in the packaging of biopharmaceuticals will also be an area in which progress will be made. The question is, how will these trends affect the future of packaging?

Sustainable Packaging

Over the course of the past few decades, alarming discoveries about the toxic impact of many different packaging materials has motivated manufacturers to uncover new forms of packaging that won’t have the same effect. Environmental concerns have led to shifts in a wide variety of industries around the world. Innovation in sustainable packaging will lead to waste reduction and a cleaner ecosystem. The Sustainable Packaging Coalition {SPC} lists several several characteristics that define sustainable packaging. It should be safe to use for both individuals and communities throughout its entire lifecycle. Eco-friendly packaging also must be sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy. The final main criteria listed by the SPC is that sustainable packaging should be made out of recyclable materials and able to be repurposed again after use.

Eco-Friendly Packaging

2016 is shaping up to be an eventful year in the evolution of eco-friendly packaging. One of the primary problems cited as an environmental impact of the packaging industry is the harmful levels of carbon and other greenhouse gasses emitted from manufacturing facilities. Consequently, manufacturers will continue to transition to other methods that don’t have such a negative environmental impact. Additionally, there should be an increase in bio-based polyethylene terephthalate {PET} plastics. It also seems like many will work to come to a more precise concept of biodegradable materials. The bioplastics industry will probably seek to make innovations in the thermal, mechanical, and barrier properties of their materials. This would remedy the weakness of some bioplastics to heat. The Lux Research organization is one of the leaders in developing the technology to improve those characteristics. A Japanese company called Toray recently introduced type of protective film that is both sourced in biodegradable materials and resistant to temperatures as high as 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Waste reduction is going to be another important topic in packaging. By using biodegradable and recyclable packaging, the amount of toxic waste emitted by communities should decrease sharply.

Edible Packaging

One of the most clever and interesting concepts in the transition to eco-friendly materials has to be that of edible packaging for foods and beverages. A Harvard professor named David Edwards proposed such an idea, calling it WikiCells. It would function much like the natural skin of a fruit, but applied to manufactured goods. The first WikiCell product are pearls of ice cream packaged in biodegradable plastic. Edwards suggested that edible packaging like WikiCells could keep food fresh for impressive lengths of time. Pepsi has also been developing their own type of edible packaging, partnering with an agency called Sparks & Honey for the endeavor. They conducted a survey, in which 40% of the participants approved of the idea of edible packaging. Many more expressed their hope of seeing sustainable packaging expand. Another company called Loliware makes biodegradable and edible cups, and a sushi bar in California started printing QR codes containing information about their sushi on edible rice paper wafers. KFC tested edible cups and bowls in place of traditional packaging as well.

Biopharmaceutical Packaging

In addition to the development of sustainable packaging, the packaging of biopharmaceuticals has also been relevant. The current primary method of delivery is through injection using a syringe. Recently; the efficiency methods such as films, sprays, transdermals, gels, and tablets are being studied to determine their potential. Scientists have encountered the problem that orally-administered medications are often ineffective because the stomach and intestines prevent the drug from dispersing properly. However, Rani Therapeutics is developing a capsule that might be much more efficient. It’s protected from stomach acid and can permeate to spread through the rest of the body. While the end product is still likely over a decade from its release, the concept has a lot of potential and could change the way in which many medications are consumed in the future.

The Future of Packaging

Packaging is a massive business around the globe and is related to nearly every other industry at some level. Envision a world in which sip on a drink and simply eat the cup once after you’ve finished the drink, or plastics sourced from plants that naturally degrade with no negative impact on the environment. And not many people are fond of getting a shot {except junkies…this is a note to Aaron the Editor, not actually a part of the blog…}, but they could eventually have the alternative of just swallowing a pill instead. By taking the cleanliness of the environment and unlocking biological secrets to create new ways to deliver medicine, innovation in packaging secures future generations with a brighter future.


Leave a Reply