How has COVID-19 Pandemic Impacted the Eco-Friendly Food Packaging Industry?
The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 catastrophe has put the use of eco-friendly packaging items in a debate. It seems that the risk of virus transmission is severely affecting the use of eco-friendly food packaging materials.
With the arrival of the year 2020, many news related to food packaging materials flooded the market with stories related to the ban on plastic materials and adoption of eco-friendly materials for sustaining environment safety and becoming as sustainable as possible.
In the food-packaging sector, several companies were seen shifting to environment-friendly substitutes and coming up with advanced technologies to help the environment. Ban on plastic materials emerged as a hot topic, and people started preferring eco-friendly materials. With the rising awareness about biodegradable food-packaging, many alternative options came into the market. However, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, packaging industry started leaving behind its principle of sustainability and began using non-recyclable materials. Ever since March 2020, countries all over the world have enforced lockdowns and social distancing norms in an effort to avert the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on the Eco-friendly Food Packaging Sector
The global food packaging industry is an enormous and fairly developed sector. Although some segments are rising faster than others, the overall industry growth rate inclines to broadly track GDP in the long run. So far, the industry has observed momentous growth, but due to the unpredicted eruption of COVID-19 pandemic, the eco-friendly food packaging industry is predicted to witness a decline in the growth rate this year, stated a report by Research Dive. The decline in growth is primarily due to the closure of several restaurants, the ban on transportation, and enforcement of several stringent rules and protocols by the government bodies. Furthermore, a substantial drop in the supply of raw materials due to the stoppage of logistic services is obstructing the market growth.
Will Eco-Friendly Packaging Options Be Reconsidered?
At present, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a halt to the shift in consumer preference for eco-friendly packaging solutions for an extended period. For instance, in the UK, The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has postponed the prohibition on plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton buds to October 2020.
The food industry is also reconsidering its approach for using recyclable or eco-friendly materials that might augment transmission threats. For example, even before the enforcement of lockdown, some players involved in the coffee business had resumed using disposable cups. Though this might be a momentary trend, it does mean that the eco-friendly packaging options will not be reconsidered in the future.
The preferences of retailers and customers are also likely to switch toward more pre-packaged food stuff, like vegetables and fruits, instead of purchasing them loose. Such preferences might accelerate restocking and be considered by customers as safer. Basically, the principles that the packaging industry has abided since long for retaining the safety, hygiene, and reliability of products might come to the forefront in the course of this crisis.
Disposable Plastic “Significant” For Health and Wellbeing
The question over the medium of the transmission of COVID-19 infection resulted in a debate over the packaging of items. As per some researches, the virus can be transmitted through plastic and cardboard, while some other researches including the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) have opposed this fact. Due to this concern, stores and food service centers have observed a surge in the usage of disposable materials to pack products, such as cling film for wrapping vegetables and fruits. Moreover, in March, professionals from the packaging sector pondered on a debate over whether plastic workers must be categorized as essential or not during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Later, in April, Packaging Gateway questioned industry experts whether the COVID-19 pandemic has halted the ‘war on plastic’. Consents from the professionals’ opinions determined that several businesses might be still using plastic avoidance strategies. Some others specified that anti-plastic movements might be set aside for some duration due to the enforcement of lockdown.
Consumers Worried about the Environment
As per a survey it was found that approximately 40% of the global consumers at present have more positive awareness about packaging owing to the virus, whereas nearly 55% are “more concerned” about nature than before the pandemic. The results of the survey also exposed that about 47% of consumers are ready to pay more for environment-friendly products.
Although eco-friendly products seem to have taken a backseat, companies are still working on approaches to become more environmentally friendly. Recently, Lifestyle Packaging introduced a novel formula to enhance the biodegradability of packaging items. Moreover, Nova Chemicals and Enerkem have partnered to discover innovative techniques to reprocess plastic waste. Also, ECOS has launched a Mother & Child Refill Kit, thus promoting sustainability. Sustainability might not be a point of debate before the pandemic, but efforts were always in the process to help Mother Nature.
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