How Sustainable Packaging is Paving Way for Circular Economy in India

Aarthi Janakiraman, Research Director, Techvision, Frost & Sullivan

With growing consumer and industrial sectors, packaging is indispensable to ensure not only safe transport and storage of goods but also a means to track, trace, and monitor the movement of goods and products in the supply chain, providing protection from external contaminants and preserving product characteristics. Despite a myriad of packaging materials available, polymers (plastics) are one of the widely used materials for packaging because of the host of benefits it offer, ranging from design flexibility, the ability to be used in congruence with other materials to price parity and so on. The increasing use of plastic packaging, in any form, be it rigid or flexible, results in a myriad of issues ranging from dumping of single-use packaging to incineration of plastics and mixed waste and many more that can create serious threats to the environment and humans alike. Statistics showcase that around 35 to 40 per cent of plastic pollution can be attributed to packaging. Let’s understand how sustainability in packaging can positively transform the environmental impacts.

Various laws and regulations such as the Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016, banning of single-use plastics, and establishment of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policy are steps in the right direction, and progress is seen in the reduction of single-use plastic and use of alternatives; however, plastics remain one of the popular materials of choice. Considering the complexity of the packaging value chain, its use across multiple industries, and the number of stakeholders (both formal and informal) involved, it’s not surprising that achieving circularity is still a challenge, especially for small and medium enterprises that lack continuous access to resources.

Companies have initiated recycling programmes, put sustainability roadmaps and action plans in place, and investigated new technologies to meet their net-zero targets. Despite all efforts, the reduction of waste generated from packaging, especially plastics, remains a challenge to the industrial sector. Efforts by stakeholders have increased the recycling rates; still, there are challenges related to recycling of mixed waste, lack of end-to-end infrastructure, and even issues related to segregation and sorting at initial stages that hinder proper recycling and reuse. Recycling technologies

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