Packaging And Design

Turning To Paper 'Not An Easy Solution' To Plastic Issue, Says Rabobank

By Steve Wynne-Jones
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Turning To Paper 'Not An Easy Solution' To Plastic Issue, Says Rabobank

The transition to paper and pulp-based packaging might not represent an 'easy solution' for a packaging industry seeking to replace plastic, a new report from Rabobank has found.

The Unwrapped: Plastic packaging matters report suggests that the perceived sustainability of paper-based packaging solutions is more complex than it seems, with a myriad of challenges evident.

'A Competitive Edge'

'Sustainability is no longer just an ethical choice – it’s a competitive edge,' Rabobank noted, adding that consumer brands around the world are working hard to transition from virgin plastic packaging to pulp and paper alternatives.

“However, and contrary to what consumers perceive, replacing plastic with paper and pulp is not that sustainable or easy to implement,” commented Jim Owen, senior analyst – packaging and logistics for Rabobank.

Core concerns relating to pulp and paper usage revolve around cost, sustainability and functionality, Rabobank said.


From a cost perspective, achieving plastic-like robustness from paper solutions can significantly increase the price, it noted, while in terms of sustainability, logging and pulping processes can surpass the environmental impact of plastics. Also, protective coatings added to paper products can result in challenges related to composting.

Elsewhere, paper packaging also suffers with regard to constraints in usage, limited to items that don’t need extensive protection to prolong shelf life, such as foodservice products and non-perishable goods.

'Business Complications'

“Pulp and paper solutions are not the cure-all solution many believe them to be," Owen added. "In fact, they can introduce its own set of ecological – and business – complications."

One positive, however, is seen in the fact that legislative efforts globally are seeking to tackle the environmental impact of packaging, with the US and EU both strengthening their fight against plastic waste, and the UN drafting a treaty to address plastic pollution.

'This legislative momentum underscores a collective commitment to sustainable and circular packaging solutions, paving the way for a greener future in the industry,' Rabobank said.

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