Move over, metal and glass: The future is in plastics.
According to a new report just released by Research and Markets titled Containers and Packaging Market in the U.S., 2012 – 2016, plastics in packaging are on the ascendant because manufacturers and brand owners prefer using raw plastics for their packaging products. Plastic is versatile, durable, and light, which means reduced shipping costs.
Consumers are showing a decided preference for goods in plastic packaging as well. The trend of convenience food items that are portable, resealable, and single- or multi-serve has been steadily growing over the past few years and it’s a factor in the growth of plastic packaging. As more convenience food items populate store shelves, and brand owners use plastics to help design safe, convenient and eye-catching packages, plastics are the material of choice.
Which isn’t to say there aren’t concerns with using plastics in food packaging. A recent study published in Toxological Science links plastics to migraines, specifically to Bisphenol A (BPA), an industrial chemical used in the manufacture of plastics and resins. And this isn’t the first study to raise concerns about BPA leaching into food products. In 2012, the FDA banned the use of BPA for baby products, like bottles and cups. A study mentioned in the New York Times found that of 2,000 people who took part, 90% had BPA in their system.
Of course, environmental issues are also a growing concern with plastics. If the appropriate recycling isn’t available, or consumers don’t put their used plastic containers in the recycling bin, they end up in landfill. Of the around 34 millions tons of plastics Americans use every year, only a very small percentage—about 7%—is actually recycled.
To address the issue of what to do about both of these problems, there have been some very creative minds at work. Plastics company Plantic has combined PET and their own film technology to create a new product they’re calling Plantic eco Plastic R. It’s made from up to 60% renewable materials and can be recycled and also biodegrades.
A group of students at the Imperial College London are reverse-engineering the problem of waste plastics. They’ve created a bacteria that turns landfill into a bio-plastic (biodegradable plastic).
And consumers do seem to be getting the message. A report released by Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers and the American Chemistry Council states that Americans are recycling more plastic bottles then ever—2.8 billion pounds, in fact.