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Tightly wrapped: sustainable packaging anno 2022 - opportunities in spite of massive hurdles

Disruptions in the global packaging industry in 2021 - mostly due to Covid - will remain in force this year as well. What exactly is happening? What causes these changes? In this article we examine the developments as well as the prospects going forward.

Demand for paper and cardboard (over a third of the €900+ billion global packaging market) is soaring and will this year also be much larger than supply. Several key driving forces are behind this: 

  1. Increase of sanitary paper use in emerging markets such as India and China. A growing middle class consuming more toilet paper requires vast amounts of virgin and recycled fibres. 
  2. The Covid pandemic has caused a surge in worldwide use of sanitary paper. 
  3. The European ban on single use plastics (SUPD) is causing a shift from plastic to paper, board and wooden products. 
  4. During lockdowns the already rapidly growing market for takeaways meals, to-go and delivery is growing even faster. 
  5. Growth of online shopping has accelerated tremendously throughout the pandemic. In the Netherlands alone, 524 million parcels were delivered in 2020. Delivery boxes of Bol, Amazon and practically every online store are all made from (recycled) cardboard. 

The consequence of all this is a serious shortage on the global market for paper and cardboard. Increasing supply in the short term is relatively difficult. Managed forests need to maintain their size or ideally grow. This cannot easily be stretched in the short term. Besides, the harvest age for paper manufacturing of a birch or poplar tree is around 30 years. Recycled post consumer paper is a very sustainable choice - but this resource is fully tapped as recycling rates remain high. 

As a result, book publishers are forced to either delay or cancel publishing of new books altogether. Delivery times for paper and cardboard are soaring at an alarming rate. Products are out of stock for long periods of time. Converters (who make paper cups out of pulp) must decide swiftly to get certain conditions. Yet this is often impossible as their customers in turn need approval from their customers. The result is a sportmarket with volatile pricing. Similar shortages and price pressure applies for (bio)plastics, chemicals, adhesives and pigments too. All raw materials that go into packaging products. 

On top of this come - to put it mildly - severe logistical challenges and price increases. The cost of shipping a container from Asia to Europe has increased fivefold. Shipping companies in 2021 earned more than in the twenty years prior and see their customers coming back regardless. The demand remains, stocks are to be replenished and production cannot be moved elsewhere overnight. Last but not least, sourcing from Asia has seen longer lead times but also shipping transit times as ports are regularly (partly) closed or face staffing shortages (due to local outbreaks). 

Thus it is hardly surprising companies source away from China back towards the EU. This is a positive development and saves both shipping costs as well as passage through two busy seaports. The regional outlook here is, however, hardly better. Shortage of personnel, high energy costs and rising raw material pricing all add to a building price pressure. Some cardboard packaging factories (most notably paper cups) do not take on new customers and are fully booked for this year already. 

Fact is that the EU legislation SUPD has further stimulated the market for sustainable alternatives. Use of polluting single use plastics is being cut back at a high rate. This is good news. The EU campaign introducing this program however wasn't exactly smooth and has caused confusion with many involved. Most illustrative are following two developments: 

1. The ‘Turtle’ logo  has fairly rapidly become a regular on mainstreet. Good to raise awareness and it’s of course true the 5% (bio)plastic coating share of a paper cup is not conducive to recycling and harmful when littered. Bio Futura has accepted that bioplastics - despite their added value - are treated equally to conventional plastics in this legislation. This means compostable paper cups (with PLA coating) have to show the turtle logo. The awful logo and extra (printing) costs passed on to producers and their customers has sparked development of a new generation of ‘plastic free’ paper cups. Key question here is: what exactly is plastic? This is mostly a matter of definition and currently - according to the EU - in case a polymer is not a structural component of a product no plastic is involved. Consequently, a wave of paper cups and cardboard packaging emerges that do contain fossil additives (to prevent leakage) but are in fact marked as free from plastic because the additive is not regarded as a structural component of the product. Bio Futura supports the development of paper cups without a coating as these cups are much better recyclable and easier to certify as (home) compostable. More monomaterial and better recyclability of packaging is something to be very much welcomed. We would however like to see biobased rather than fossil additives and are quite positive for the prospects going forward. 

2. Another peculiar development is single use products (such as cutlery) which have suddenly been rebranded as ‘reusables’. Possibly a few percent of (bio)plastic was added to the spoon but really only the packaging label has been replaced. Bio Futura strongly rejects this phenomenon. We assume someone who’s always bought single-use cutlery will not all of a sudden reuse a fork 20 times and continue to wash it up. Let alone utensils delivered along with a takeaway meal. The consumer is just not going to reuse this for a long period of time. This marketing qualifies for proper greenwashing. Besides offering no good alternative to decent reusable cutlery this also slows down development of true sustainable alternatives and renewable resources. 

In conclusion, shortages and logistical problems will lead to further price increases and inflation. Similarly, we foresee vast opportunities to make takeaway packaging more sustainable, start regional production and development of a whole new generation of plastic free packaging and mono materials.

Opening hours during the holiday season 2021

During the coming festive season, transport delays could occur. To make sure that you receive your order in time please allow a bit of extra time by placing your orders in advance.

This year again, our customer service will be limited over the winter holidays to allow everyone to enjoy the holidays with family and friends. All orders placed online during this period will be processed normally and will be shipped as usual, only delivery times can be longer.

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Disposable plastic ban is coming - how to become fully 'SUP-proof'?

Two years ago we commented in a blog article on the upcoming European ban on single-use plastics. As of July 3, 2021, new measures by the European Commission (EC) will enter into force that prohibit the use of single-use plastic to reduce the plastic soup. This prohibition is summarized under the "Single Use Plastic Directive" (SUP), an EU directive that bans the most polluting single-use plastic products. For a large part of these articles, Bio Futura has been offering only sustainable alternatives for more than a decade already.

Additionally, further measures are currently being developed by the national government to contribute to an improved recycling infrastructure and consumer awareness by providing information about reusable alternatives. With our specialist knowledge and tailor-made advice, we help our customers to facilitate the transition to products and (compostable) packaging made from renewable raw materials. We will ensure that you meet all measures and requirements on time. Simultaneously, we are still relentless in our focus on delivering sustainable quality at every stage of our value chain.

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Bio Futura 2.0 fully operational again

First and foremost, we wish you all the best for 2021, a year in which we deliver the final blow to the pandemic and slowly resume our old life. We sincerely hope that your business thrives or finds its way forward again. After a week of stock and system updates, we are as always at your service with a complete range of compostable packaging materials made from renewable materials.

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Closed: Bio Futura in transition!

On December 30th and 31st, our webshop will be closed for maintenance, no orders can be placed or processed.

On January 1st, our webshop will reopen, but orders will only be processed from January 11th due to our annual inventory and an update of our ordering system, wherein our entire range will be switched to full-carton quantities. From January 1st we will no longer be offering the products per unit.

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Bio Futura launches a tableware line of biobased ‘Durables’!

For over ten years, Bio Futura has been offering a wide range of sustainable alternatives to traditional plastic disposable tableware. Next to that, we are working on circular solutions for our sustainable disposables. In line with our vision and mission, we only offer compostable disposables and packaging made from renewable resources without compromising on quality. Together with our partners and customers we are actively driving the transition towards a low-carbon circular economy by preventing plastic waste. As Bio Futura is thoughtfully taking actions in this direction and because of strong customer demand, we have recently introduced an additional product line of biobased reusable durables. The marketplace has finally proven to be ready for sustainable durables. This new product category contributes to phase out single use - oil based - plastics and fits perfectly with our existing philosophy and know-how.

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Important customer information regarding customer service, stock, orders and delivery

During this difficult time, the safety of our customers and employees is our highest priority. As the COVID-19 outbreak evolves, we are taking all necessary precautions to ensure this, while continuing to deliver the best possible customer service to you. Our online shop is currently operating as normal, with high safety measures being taken at our warehouse. Orders are processed and shipped in a safe way and on time. As always, our customer service is available to answer any questions you may have by phone or email.

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COVID-19 poses a formidable challenge for all of us

We are a diverse and dedicated international team and from an early stage we have been closely following the development of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Not only in business, but also in private life, the main thought that guides and motivates our entire team is the need to build solidarity, especially in times like these. In practical terms, this means that we are actively supporting our regular customers who are actors in the health system (for example, clinics, pharmacies and aid organizations) by meeting their needs for single-use packaging.

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Household plastic recycling is a disaster; can biobased plastics be part of the solution?

Plastic recycling

From the 8 billion metric tons of plastics which have been produced since the 1950’s hardly 10% has been recycled. Recycling of plastic waste is problematic in general, but this pertains especially to the highly polluted, fragmented mix of household plastics. To make anything useful out of this diverse stream is increasingly becoming a herculean task. With the global production of plastic set to double within the next 15 years we need swift and concrete solutions. Marginal gains won’t get us out of this recycling mess. Fortunately, there are ways to solve it and biobased materials are part of the answer.

 

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