The world of mass retail has recently begun to usher in a bright new era of eco-packaging, with sustainability improvements in a variety of areas. From serious reductions in the proportion of plastics used, to increased recyclability, conversion to cardboard or reusable packaging, and even the return of the bulk aisle–the major retail players are playing the game. Longstanding consumer pressure, along with the French government now moving on a proactive vision to end plastic waste, is further evidence that these new trends will continue.
Under the unifying aegis of the Ministry of Ecological Transition and with nearly every French retailer offering up their signature, the 2019 National Pact on Plastic Packaging has set in motion the nation’s first commitment with concrete objectives to eliminate plastic waste. The Pact is quite ambitious: 60% of all plastics are to be recyclable by 2022 and 100% by 2025–compare those goals to an initial benchmark of only 29% in 2019.
Starting with the European Union’s 2020 Plastic Pact (currently signed by 14 member states), similar politics-powered approaches to plastics elimination have developed around the world. But along with popular consensus driving such political initiatives, the retail sector itself has taken on the challenge of preparing for a large-scale transition to eco-packaging.
“Today, everyone is playing the game,” explains Antoine Daviet, Head of Product Marketing of Trace One, a French company specializing in bringing together retailers and manufacturers. According to Daviet, consumer pressure has driven retailers and suppliers to finally realize that there are serious issues regarding product packaging, and an irreversible movement has already begun.
Manufacturers and retailers have been focused directly on increasing recyclable packaging, but are also working to establish new paradigms in order to achieve the objectives set by the National Pact, and to be in compliance with any and all new governmental regulations that may come about. The retail sector has had a kind of a Copernican revolution over the past five years and is “taking stock of the situation regarding recyclability of packaging, types of plastics used, and other factors, and they’re leading the change to reduce plastic packaging”.
Charlotte Le Coz, Product Marketing Manager at Trace One, adds that in order to make these changes a reality, new professions, such as in the areas of package engineering have emerged in recent years and are particularly focused on research and development. According to Le Coz, two new trends will also emerge in the near future regarding eco-packaging.
Firstly, retailers and suppliers are now working to “make materials sorting easier for the consumer” by ensuring in particular that all the components in the same packaging are recyclable together. This would thus make the recycling process much easier and more efficient. But another trend in eco-packaging is that of retailers seizing upon marketing advantages, using packaging as a “tool of differentiation” among competitors. Le Coz adds that brands “must constantly innovate to adapt to consumer trends,” but these trends are good for business too.
Antoine Daviet concludes by noting that the health crisis has further accelerated these changes and set the stage for an emergence of new concerns related to quality of life, well-being, and the environment. “The time is now for concrete solutions that will improve the distribution model,” he says.