Bringing sustainability back to the front burner

The year of living carefully


In the past year of living carefully in the shadow of Covid-19, the packaging industry has been one of the fortunate exceptions in the economy with continued growth and capacity building. The suppliers of film, board, liner, or labelstock or those of gravure, label and offset presses and converting equipment for flexibles, corrugated, and carton packaging have done well. The packaging printing and converting suppliers have delivered on notable projects that were in the pipeline. The filling and sealing segments have also added considerable capacity.

The aggressive capacity building in the Indian packaging industry continues with belief renewed by the pandemic in both the necessity of Indian packaging and its still considerable headroom for growth. With plans made and, in many cases, equipment with long lead times on order, a great deal of capacity building is in progress for the coming two years. However, the question being asked – even by sellers of equipment, technology, and raw materials, is whether we have sidelined packaging sustainability. This subject was on the front burner at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020.

In the last year, many expert commentators have pointed out that there is the danger of arriving at the new normal by taking the ‘Covid bypass.’ Will the economic recovery and the packaging industry’s prosperity overlook the tough questions of waste collection, sorting at source, and recycling packaging in India? Will sustainability remain merely lip service and greenwashing while each material and segment champions its virtuous green credentials to the detriment of others?

The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that it is one of a series of recurring events in which we have perhaps irreparably damaged our natural world. Consumers are aware of the crisis widely and are demanding hygiene and safety in products and sustainability, wiser use of finite resources, and recyclable and recycled packaging.

In recent surveys, a majority of consumers not only believe that improving food safety is the responsibility of manufacturers, they see it as the number one issue that companies need to tackle now and in the future. They are no longer satisfied with the possibility, and they are demanding hygienic and sustainable packaging with recycled content now.

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