The Challenges of Sustainable Packaging
Published Nov 1, 2021

The Challenges of Sustainable Films

In today’s world, CPGs are experiencing unprecedented supply chain challenges, often times taking focus away from key initiatives.  One of the biggest global initiatives is to transition packaging to sustainable packaging. 

But, with competing interest that are often immediate problems (i.e. avoiding out-of-stock), it’s hard to get a handle on sustainable packaging. 

SourceHUB has identified three main challenges when transitioning to sustainable packaging.  We are focused on flexible films, as they are typically the most difficult to get a sustainable package from.  

Protecting Your Product

Flexible packaging is purpose-built to protect your product and stand-out on the shelf.  Without high barriers, shelf lifes are so low that there is a food spoilage/waste issue that negates any benefit from moving to sustainable packaging.  Historically, there haven’t been suitable replacements, but that is starting to change. 

To give an example.  PET/MET-PET/PE is one of the most common structures used in food today.  It’s great - print is amazing, barrier is well-suited from most products requiring barrier, and the films are readily available. 

Another issue is running FFS equipment.  If a film is too ‘stretchy’, it just doesn’t run.  Given all of these challenges, there are some very good films currently on the market, that can replace PET/MET-PET/PE. 

Certain films are fully recyclable, while also providing equal or superior barrier properties.  Further, the stiffness problem has been solved - which makes print clear and crisp, while also enabling recyclable film to be run on FFS equipment. 

But, the right film is hard to find as many proprietary films are developed in other countries.  Which leads to the second main challenge in transitioning to sustainable packaging…..

Finding the right suppliers

Moving to sustainable films takes significant R&D.  But, what if suppliers were already running packaging that meets all of your sustainability needs. 

They are (and, SourceHUB’s marketplace can quickly identify the right one) - but most companies spend months, if not years, searching for a supplier that meets all of their requirements. 

Having a good handle on your current specifications is a good starting point.  It at least provides a baseline to start an R&D project and get closer to sustainable films. 

There is hope!  Suppliers across the globe are making amazing packaging that is fully sustainable, while also protecting your product and brand.  You can cut out lengthy R&D projects and get to your goals faster. 

Supply Chain Disruptions

The packaging supply chain is a disaster.  There is absolutely no way to describe it.  Material shortages keep procurement and engineers scrambling to find pouches to keep their product on the store shelf.  This often distracts from sustainability efforts, which makes sense.  There is an immediate problem to solve, and it’s incredibly time consuming. 

But, what if the supply chain disruptions are an opportunity to move to sustainable packaging faster?  If you know the right films and suppliers, why not transition your packaging to something sustainable while also solving single sourcing and resiliency problems. 

Trials still need to be completed with any new vendor, so timing won’t be affected.  We will admit that it’s not that simple - the trials for a new film are more complex and detailed than just switching a supplier. 

But, it is possible that two birds can be killed with one stone.