One way to measure industry trending is to check what people are reading, which is something we do regularly at PlasticsToday. We sometimes do this monthly, but this time we uncover the top-read feature articles that caught readers’ attention through the first half of 2019 that ended June 30. As in prior assessments, one topic reemerges as a landslide winner: sustainability in all its green varieties and applications.
The first of our top-read articles perfectly sets up the sustainable packaging features that follow. Coming in at #5, it lists recent news headlines including among others single-use plastics that dominated global headlines in 2018, scattered plastic bans including in Seattle, at Walt Disney Co. parks and within the European Union.
What does this all mean?
For Phil Van Trump, Chief Technology Officer, Danimer Scientific, it means that manufacturers and suppliers have responded in considering the environmental impact of petrochemical plastics and invested considerable resources in developing eco-friendly alternatives. Specifically from his view in this Op-Ed feature, it means that the industry seeks a way to create resins that will reliably biodegrade at the end of their lifecycle without sacrificing the durability of traditional plastic.
Van Trump outlines the value and unique benefits polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) products as having a role in the wider discussion. Better known as PHA, this polymer not only biodegrades in ocean water, tests show that it effectively biodegrades in both aerobic and anaerobic environments. Also, the company’s compostable next-generation snack bags that earned it and PepsiCo a joint Innovation in Bioplastics Award from the Plastics Industry Association are mentioned as an example.
For more, see Why 2019 may be a promising year for PHA, which was published in January.
Next: Paper vs. plastic
The thing about myths is that once they are made, sometimes they are busted.
During an industry gathering, veteran plastics reporter Clare Goldsberry noticed a coffee cup at the table made of “eco-friendly” paper next to a juice cup made of plastic, in this instance polypropylene.
In her words, “I was reminded of how uninformed people making these choices really are. Someone at the Hilton Santa Fe Plaza had decided that EPS foam coffee cups were not recyclable and, thus, purchased paper coffee cups with the accompanying paperboard wraps to keep consumers from burning their hands.”
That’s all it took as a jumping off point for one of her trademark blogs pointing out the inaccuracy of a follow-the-herd mentality when facts about plastics and alternative materials are either ignored or not considered at all.
Read the story in Myth-busting the belief that paper is more environmentally friendly than plastic, published in April.
Next: All you need to know about biodegradable packaging
It’s said that knowledge is power, and in this breezy and authoritative piece sustainable packaging expert Robert Lilienfeld will help give anyone interested in the topic of degradables, biodegradables and compostable things a far better grasp sorting through the subtle or not-so-subtle the differences in these critical terms. He elaborates on eight key highlights of what you need to know:
- Biodegradation is a process, not an end result.
- Disintegration and fragmentation are not biodegradation.
- The certification process is complex, timing consuming, and costly.
- Certification for compostability requires that the entire structure and/or all of its components be tested and certified.
Read about the details on these four and the rest of the eight in Top eight things to know about biodegradable packaging, published in March.
Next: Flaws in plastic bag bans
Editor Goldsberry again struck a nerve with sustainable gold in this blog wherein she deftly punches holes in the logic of plastic grocery bag bans. She starts with “when I hear the term ‘single use’ applied to plastic retail bags, I cringe. I reuse those plastic bags to hold trash and cat litter. I reuse them to carry things to take to people. I’ve discovered that most people reuse the plastic retail bags for a number of things, which means they are not single-use.
About 20 years ago, a woman in Phoenix invented clips to hold plastic bags on garbage cans so you can put trash in them easily. I interviewed her and she gave me several of her newly invented garbage can clips. I use them to this day!”
Along the way to laying out her science- and fact-based position, Goldsberry references a study done by University of Sydney economist Rebecca Taylor that found bag regulations in California resulted in a classic tale of unintended consequences.
In fact, she cites a number of studies that found that paper bags are actually worse for the environment than plastic.
To read more, see The unintended consequences of plastic bag bans from April.
Next: #1 winner(s) so far
Why was this feature the most popular over the past six months?
For one thing, at 14 pages it’s one of our longest features, an aspect that multiplies the PageViews that underly the website metrics and determines quantifiably how many people read what.
For another, it’s a vetted review of the best in flexible packaging, which is in the midst of a lengthy bull-market run. One of the contributing factors to flexpacks’ success is the tremendous amount of innovation, an attribute that’s put on full display in the Flexible Packaging Association’s 2019 edition of the annual awards competition.
Here, too, sustainability plays a role—it’s something that’s permeates throughout the wide world of packaging in terms of geography, markets and types.
Our 14-page slideshow presentation kicks off with the Highest Achievement award for Miller Coors’ 12-pack cooler bag and 13 packages later concludes with a “Sustainable Pouch with Easy-Lock (APLIX) Reclosable Feature” that won silver in Sustainability for St. Johns Packaging Ltd.
We think you’ll enjoy a quick—if you like pictures of pretty packaging—or not so quick if you want to read all the information found in this visually driven review of the best in flexible packaging in Fantastic flexible packaging: FPA winners 2019 from March.