Pakistan is on the precipice of its first ever petrochemical policy

Pakistan is on the precipice of its first ever petrochemical policy

Two years have slipped by since Abdul Razak Dawood, the then Adviser on Commerce to the Prime Minister, first breathed life into the concept of a petrochemical policy. Now, Pakistan teeters on the precipice of finally sculpting its maiden petrochemical policy. Media murmurs this week hint that the Government of Pakistan is meticulously applying the final brushstrokes to the policy, and the industry is positively buzzing with anticipation.

However, let’s address the elephant in the room. Many of the industry’s most seasoned stakeholders are left scratching their heads over the policy due to the protracted delay since its initial announcement. Let’s take a moment to jog our memory and revisit what we know thus far.

According to media whispers, the policy aims to lure investment into the  midstream industry to kickstart indigenous manufacturing of petrochemicals. The Engineering Development Board (EDB) is currently engaged in consultations with public and private sector stakeholders to put the finishing touches on the Petrochemical Policy of Pakistan (2023). The goal? To ignite indigenous manufacturing of petrochemicals such as polypropylene, polyethylene, LAB, etc., and ensure sustainable development through local availability of plastic resins for the downstream engineering industry.

A draft policy was reportedly handed over to the Ministry of Industries & Production in July 2023 and is currently under scrutiny from relevant Ministries/Divisions. It will subsequently be presented before the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet for consideration.

The proposed policy is anticipated to yield a plethora of benefits. It is expected to ensure the availability of essential raw materials for a wide array of downstream sectors. These include, but are not limited to, textiles, construction, automobiles, pharmaceuticals, fertilisers, and synthetic rubber.

While all the specifics  related to the policy remain cloaked in secrecy, there’s no denying that anticipation within the industry is reaching fever pitch.

“The Government deserves a round of applause for prioritising the development of a long-term roadmap for the petrochemical sector,” declares Jahangir Piracha, CEO of Engro Polymer & Chemicals. He continues, “This could be a catalyst for industrialisation in Pakistan.” 

Piracha underscores the need for a petrochemical policy that encompasses both existing and new petrochemical assets. He states, “It’s crucial to attract substantial investments into these projects which are capital intensive and have long gestation periods.” He also tips his hat to Pakistan’s existing petrochemical players, saying, “They invested during challenging times and it’s their success that will pave the way for large-scale petrochemical investments.”

Echoing similar sentiments, Asif Jooma, CEO of Lucky Core Industries asserts, “Petrochemicals form the backbone for multiple industries in Pakistan and have been instrumental in supporting various downstream industries and services.” He adds, “They are one of Pakistan’s largest imports and investments in this sector are pivotal for the country’s economic growth.”

Now, while this may be the sector’s first brush with a dedicated petrochemical policy, it certainly isn’t Pakistan’s maiden voyage into industrial policy. In fact, Pakistan’s tryst with industrial policy has been somewhat chequered. Profit reached out to the EDB to understand their rationale behind selecting this particular sector but was met with silence. 

So, will this time be any different? But first things first – what exactly are petrochemicals and why does it seem like they’re being singled out by the Government as a sector in need of a dedicated policy?

What are petrochemicals? 

The midstream segment of the petrochemical industry encompasses monomers and polymers. These are derived from naphtha cracking and utilised by the downstream segment to create a myriad of plastic products. These include, but are not limited to, sheets, films, tubes, profiles, containers, filaments, ropes, and more. These products find their application in a wide array of industries such as packaging, construction, automotive, industrial products, wind turbines, solar panels, electrical & electronics, artificial leather, home appliances, bottles & jars, furniture, kitchen wares, household toys, disposable utensils and packaging.

The major petrochemical products currently manufactured in Pakistan include poly-vinyl-chloride (PVC), polystyrene (PS), purified terephthalic acid (PTA), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), phthalic anhydride (PA), and linear alkyl benzene sulfonic acid. However, it’s worth noting that Pakistan’s chemical sector appears to have hit a roadblock. The output seems to have stagnated at $8.3 billion. This is a step back from its 2021 peak of $9.7 billion. Moreover, if all other factors remain constant (ceteris paribus), this trend is expected to continue until 2027.

Output by Type of Chemical 
Basic chemicals$2,177 million$2,141 million $2,141 million 
Fertilisers and nitrogen compounds$2,658 million $2,613 million $2,613 million 
Plastics and synthetic rubber in primary forms$696 million $685 million$685 million
Pesticides and other agrochemical products$352 million $346 million $346 million 
Paints, varnishes, printing ink and mastics$671 million$659 million$659 million
Soap, cleaning and cosmetic preparations$1,594 million$1,567 million$1,567 million
Other chemical products$236 million$232 million$232 million
Man-made fibres$62 million$61 million$61 million
Source: Global Research & Data Services ( GR&DS

So, could investments in the sector bring about any meaningful change?

Piracha posits that a $1 increase in petrochemical output could potentially amplify the gross domestic product by approximately $4, courtesy of a high GDP multiplier effect. “Pakistan’s petrochemical sector is underdeveloped; we are one of the few large economies without a cracker,” Piracha rues. He sees a silver lining in the mid-stream petrochemical sectors, which he believes offer an opportunity to invest $3 billion. “The strong local demand for six products – polypropylene, PTA, PET, PVC, Methanol and linear alkyl benzene – justifies the setup of world-scale plants in Pakistan,” Piracha adds.

This then posits the question: why do you need an industrial policy with tariff production if there’s already domestic demand for the sector to capitalise on? 

Why the need for consistency?

Two pivotal factors are at play here: the imminent Saudi refinery and the potential for stability to catalyse the sector’s growth.

The Petroleum Refining Policy, formally known as the Pakistan Oil Refining Policy for New/Greenfield Refineries 2023, was unveiled earlier this summer. This policy has been tailored specifically for a single project – a greenfield deep conversion integrated refinery and petrochemical complex with a crude oil processing capacity of 300,000 barrels per day (bpd). This project is being established in collaboration with Saudi Arabia. The policy does not permit any future refinery projects that utilise a different oil refining process or technology other than deep conversion, or have a capacity less than 300,000-bpd. Moreover, it stipulates that it must be an integrated refinery and petrochemical complex, regardless of feasibility. Refinery projects with a capacity of less than 300,000-bpd will be considered under a separate package offering lesser incentives and concessions.

Rumours are also circulating that the installed capacity of the Saudi Refinery may be increased to 400,000 bpd.

While the refinery sector may not be entirely pleased with the policy, it could prove to be a boon for the petrochemical sector. Firstly, at 300,000 bpd, the Saudi refinery would become the largest in Pakistan, boasting a cumulative capacity equivalent to that of PARCO and Cnergyico’s combined – currently the two largest refineries in the country. This would not only ensure a steady supply of feedstock for the petrochemical sector from the refinery but also stimulate ancillary industries into action and pave the way for economies of scale for whichever Pakistani company manages to achieve them.

Furthermore, the 300,000 bpd limit in the refining policy suggests that the forthcoming petrochemical policy may also set similar production thresholds for players wishing to capitalise on the sector. While this could further limit the sector to even fewer players than currently exist, it also ensures that those who do operate will be running world-scale plants. This brings them closer to achieving economies of scale and potentially contributing to the country’s exports.

The existence of such a policy would also provide much-needed consistency to the sector. Petrochemical plants typically take around four to five years to become operational. Therefore, any large-scale investment would require safeguards for at least that period. One common sentiment echoed across our interactions with various sector stakeholders was their hope that such a policy would shield the sector from erratic decisions like the super tax.

However, this is where our optimism concludes. This is not Pakistan’s first industrial policy, nor is it likely to be our last. Based on historical precedents, we have an established track record of either botching policies or setting up policies destined for failure from their inception. Let’s now examine all the ways this policy could potentially go awry.

How to tentatively botch the policy altogether 

First and foremost, when a sector is shielded by tariffs, it invariably exerts pressure on the downstream sector. This could be either inadvertent or deliberate. The downstream sector then protests that their production costs have escalated due to the additional protection granted to the upstream sector (or midstream in our case), leading to a tug-of-war. The government typically finds itself in the middle of this struggle, necessitating the intervention of the National Tariff Commission to resolve the issue.

This is precisely what transpired with polyester, PTA, and polymers.

“The domestic market needs to be naturally large enough to attract investors. If it isn’t, no one will invest regardless of the artificial gains you provide,” states Asif Saad, former CEO of Lotte Chemical.

“Shielding one or two products in the value chain engenders imbalances and is not favourable for the growth of the entire sector.  The examples of  synthetic polyester and pvc show that they are unable to grow to any significant scale despite the high level of tariff provided historically,” Saad adds. . 

“China and India invested in domestic capacity building to achieve economies of scale and then gain competitive advantages in global markets. The government needs to invest in large-scale infrastructure. It needs to enhance ports, storage tanks, shipping etc., so that the petrochemical producer is provided with a plug-and-play model. Currently, all of this is undertaken by the companies in the sector themselves,” Saad continues.

“Petrochemical is also a broad term. You can’t have one policy for the entire sector. You need to narrow the scope to provide investors with greater clarity. Paraxylene, for example, has its own value chain that requires the refiner to allocate additional molecules. Every product in the sector has its own value chain,” Saad criticises.

While the sector may be elated with the incoming policy, there’s also perhaps a hint of bitterness across them. This will be the country’s first policy of its kind, and they will now be competing in a world dominated by large incumbents, with China and India being just the most recent additions. Some might even argue that the opportunity to develop the sector to compete with regional and global peers perhaps sailed thirty years ago.

However, now that we have a policy on the horizon, we can only hope that this is not a repeat of our automotive experiments. “To fully leverage the benefits of scale and integration, it is highly beneficial to evolve a policy that addresses the current and future needs of an integrated refinery and petrochemical complex,” emphasises Jooma.


Accelerating Plastic Reduction Program

Accelerating Plastic Reduction Program

Unilever is inviting startups, students, micro-small-medium enterprises, and individuals to join its groundbreaking “Accelerating Plastic Reduction” program. Launching in May, 2023 in Pakistan, this program offers a unique opportunity to propose solutions to reduce plastic waste and make a positive impact on the environment. This is a one-of-its-kind chance to be part of the solution and make a real difference in the fight against plastic waste. This is an open invitation for working together towards a cleaner, more sustainable future!

The program, which will launch in Pakistan in May 2023, will focus on two key areas, including conducting research to understand the challenges of the informal recycling and repurposing economy and an acceleration program to develop and scale enterprises in the plastic recycling and collection business.

Through the “Accelerating Plastic Reduction” program, Unilever aims to build an ecosystem that resolves plastic pollution by working with the informal sector, accelerating the growth of organizations in the plastic collection and recycling business, and identifying sustainable interventions. The program will also offer mentoring, capacity-building, and networking opportunities to the selected teams.

Speaking at the partnership, Amir Paracha, CEO Unilever Pakistan shared, “We are excited to partner with SEED in this journey of creating a circular economy. At Unilever, we believe that our business can only thrive if the communities and ecosystems in which we operate are also thriving. By investing in innovative and sustainable practices, we are not only contributing to the well-being of Pakistani, but also to the long-term health of our planet. We look forward to working together with SEED to drive positive impact and create a more sustainable future for all.”

Adding, Shaista Ayesha, CEO at SEED said, ” SEED is proud to partner with Unilever in this initiative to reduce plastic waste and create a more sustainable future. By providing access to mentorship, capacity building, and financial assistance, we hope to accelerate the growth of enterprises in the plastic collection and recycling business, while also identifying sustainable interventions. We believe that by working with startups, students, micro-small-medium enterprises, and individuals, we can build a diverse ecosystem that fosters innovation and positive impact on the environment. We look forward to the positive impact this program will have on Pakistan and beyond.” Unilever’s “Accelerating Plastic Reduction” program is part of its commitment to reducing plastic waste, which includes halving its use of virgin plastic and helping to collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells by 2025. The program will enable Unilever to gain an understanding of current market developments, trends, and technologies in the space while building capacity, creating success stories, and making a positive impact on the environment

Pakistan second largest domestic market for plastics

Pakistan second largest domestic market for plastics

Islamabad: Inger Andersen, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has said that Pakistan is the second largest domestic market for plastic with very limited recycling potential of 18% and only 3% plastic is recycled in Pakistan.

Ms Andersen was delivering a distinguished guest lecture on “Environmental governance in addressing plastic pollution and the role of CSOs” here at Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

The UNEP chief said that each year 400 million tons of plastic products are generated out of which 300 million tons end up in global waste basket recklessly, creating a big hazard for the environment.

She said that the use of plastic made day-to-day life easier. She said that her organisation is not anti-plastic but “anti-plastic in environment.” she said that once plastic is part of economy, it should be kept in cycle rather than being used once and then disposed of where it ends up in landfills, marine and water bodies as well as in low-lying urban vicinities.

Highlighting the extensive infiltration of plastic in our lives and the entire value-chain, she suggested that we must be the part of solution and must have a shared responsibility particularly not only in using plastic packaging for goods but also at different stages during transit. She said that it is the responsibility of brands and consumers to reduce, reuse, recycle and refuse by rethinking packaging and how it is delivered to consumers. She called upon the civil society to play its role in advocating the issue, generating scientific data, and creating awareness to reduce plastic waste in the environment. As we make strides in this regard, we must think of garbage collectors, especially the young children, that they must not be left behind and should be provided alternative, safe, decent livelihoods and sustainable incomes, she elaborated.

Stressing the need for stringent legislation to govern the plastic content to reduce waste and improve recycling and extended producer guarantees, she said that even if plastic is mechanically or chemically recycled, we must consider that it does not come without cost and chemical recycling, particularly with a huge carbon footprint.

Responding to a question, she said that as many as 36 countries in Africa have banned single use plastics and public awareness is very high deterring the use of plastics there.

To another question of the financing gap, she said that strict public enforcement will catalyse action from private sector to increase recycling and discourage the use of virgin plastics. To a query, she responded that 65% of global plastic waste comes in single use while only 35% is recycled that must be increased, the trans-boundary dumping of waste though illegal means is still a pertinent issue, which calls for increase in vigilance and requires solutions to address the plastic challenge rather than pushing it to different locations, she concluded. Shafqat Kakakhel, Chairperson of SDPI BoG, said that out of total 9 billion tons of plastic waste produced since the 1950s, 7 billion tons is still circulating in various forms in landfills, dumps and aquatic bodies etc making it one of the most pertinent cotemporary challenges.


Ismail Industries to invest in packaging

Ismail Industries to invest in packaging

The successful conglomerate is creating a Rs1.5 billion PVC plant.

At the risk of starting with a personal anecdote, this reporter would like to point out that they are old enough (or young enough, depending on how you look at it), to remember their very first school trip to the Candyland factory. The nice employees at the factory had given the children as much free candy as they wanted, which as you can imagine, meant an extremely over excited bus of school children.

But believe it or not, tactics like that worked and Candlyland, which had only started in 1988, very quickly became and still is a mainstay in school tuck shops and canteens across Pakistan. Its jingles have been seen by adoring children on channels like Cartoon Network, and the parent company, Ismail Industries, has done well off the back of that brand. 

To add to all of these positives, it seems that demand is set to only grow further. On March 15, 2021, Ismail Industries announced that it was to set up a new polyester resin (PET resin) manufacturing plant, with an annual capacity of 108,000 tons. To do this, the parent company is going to invest Rs1.5 billion through equity in the subsidiary company Ismail Resin, through which the plant will be made. “This new manufacturing company will not only meet the local demand of PET Resin in Pakistan but would capture the global market as well,” the company said in its notice.

So, who are Ismail Industries? Technically, the origins of this family affair begin much earlier, around the time of independence, when one Haji Ahmed Chandia set up a factory in Sukkur. This did quite poorly, so in 1964, that factory was scrapped, and along with his four sons Chandia founded Union Biscuit Private (Ltd) in Karachi. This did quite well – up until a point that is. Chandia’s son and heir to his business, Mohammad Ismail, had an early death that shook the company which found itself floundering for a few years before completely falling apart by the 1980s. 

However, the family’s business spirit had not died yet, and two of Ismail’s sons, Mohammad Ismail and Maqsood Ismail, decided to set up a brand new business called Ismail Industries in 1988. The third son joined the company in 1994 after finishing his PhD at Wharton and a short stint in the IMF, and the reader might recognise him as die-hard PML-N supporter and briefly the country’s finance minister in 2018, Miftah Ismail. Today, Mohammad Ismail is the chairman of the group, Maqsood Ismail is the CEO, and Miftah Ismail is an executive director. 

The parent corporation has four major companies. The first is Candyland which was launched in 1990. It introduced soft jellies in Pakistan (think the classic Chilli Milli), along with other iconic brands like Fanty, Super Twister, and Paradise. The second is Bisconni, launched in 2002. This company offered perhaps the greatest addition to Pakistani cuisine: Cocomo ( with the popular tagline ‘Cocomo, mujhe bhi do’). It also introduced Rite, a knockoff of Oreo biscuits (before Oreo became more widely accessible in the country). The third company, SnackCity, was set up in 2006, and mostly manufacturer Kurleez (crisp packets). Ismail Industries exports its products to over 40 countries in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.

Finally, the fourth company has nothing to do with food: Astro Films makes cast polypropylene (CPP) and bi-axially oriented polypropylene (BOPP). The Astro Films family comprises three brands: Astro Pack, Plastiflex Films Pvt. Limited, and Astro Plastics Pvt. Limited.

Both CPP and BOPP used in food and beverage applications like snack and confectionery are also used for lamination and bag making. BOPP is derived from polypropylene, which is the world’s second most used commodity plastic. The ‘biaxially-oriented’ part comes from the fact that the polypropylene is stretched flat in two directions. BOPP films can be white, metal-colored, or clear. That is why it is often used to make transparent labels for clear containers. The material is also waterproof, and non-toxic, which makes it very useful as bottle labels, jar labels, and canning labels. CPP film is also derived from polypropylene, but has gained some popularity over the more widely used BOPP because it has a soft film, and some small barrier property differences.

But now, Ismail Industries is focused on PET, also known as Polyethylene Terephthalate. It is a clear, strong and lightweight plastic which belongs to the polyester family. It is typically called “polyester” when used for fibers or fabrics, and “PET Resin” when used for bottles, jars, containers and packaging applications. Because it is shatterproof, and retains freshness, and is inert (ie.does not react with food products), it is very popular, and is most commonly used to package carbonated soft drinks and water.

So, is Ismail Industries considering branching into the drinks segment? It is not entirely far off: after all, its financials show that its sales have increased year-on-year, and it has not made a single loss after tax since 2004 (the last publically available figures). On the other hand, the company did have a rough 2020,: as it pointed out in its annual report: “The cost pressure on net profit is mainly sourced through overall high inflation, high energy cost & worsening rupee-dollar parity. Rise in prices of basic inputs due to sky-scraping food inflation, stiff competition, causing sizeable increase in marketing spent and other related factors has exorbitantly raised cost of doing business.” That may be true, but children (and plenty of adults) across the country are not going to stop buying candy and Cocomo. Perhaps a new business segment is due.

News Sources: Pakistan Today

Siegwerk, Rotopack Form JV in Pakistan

Siegwerk, Rotopack Form JV in Pakistan

Dirk Weissenfeldt, VP Business Unit Flexible Packaging EMEA at Siegwerk and Aamir Hirani, founder of Rotopack during the signing ceremony. (Source: Siegwerk)

Siegwerk announced the signing of a joint venture agreement with Rotopack, a leading supplier in the printing and packaging industry in Pakistan. The jointly founded new company Siegwerk Pakistan Ltd. will start its business in Q2 of 2022.

The joint venture contract has been officially signed on Oct. 13, 2021, in Karachi, where the new company will be located to serve customers across the country.

“As the fifth most populated country in the world, Pakistan is a strategically important market for us,” said Dirk Weissenfeldt, VP Business Unit Flexible Packaging EMEA at Siegwerk. “The joint venture partnership with Rotopack allows us to not only significantly strengthen our footprint in South Asia but also to benefit from Rotopack’s domestic market know-how and network.”

The partners have found the future location of their joint venture in the Karachi area. The construction activities are currently under way, and it is expected that Siegwerk Pakistan Ltd. can start operations on April 1, 2022. The production will focus on inks and coatings for flexible packaging applications first.

Going forward, the production will also be expanded to other packaging segments, including water-based and UV products. The partners are currently assembling a local team of local experts and specialists for starting operations in spring next year. The new team members will be trained by Siegwerk experts in Turkey and Germany over the next few weeks.

“Since more than 10 years, we deliver high-quality products and solutions to our customers throughout Pakistan that create value and competitive advantage while positively impacting the world we live in,” explains Aamir Hirani, founder of Rotopack. “With the joint venture partnership with Siegwerk we can now build on our expertise helping to make Siegwerk’s high-quality inks and coatings available to the market as well.”

“We are happy to have found a partner with such deep-rooted experiences in the domestic printing and packaging market like Rotopack, who also matches our values and vision,” added Weissenfeldt.

News Sources: Inkworldmagazine

Pakistan’s first plastic road made with 10-tonne bottles goes functional

Pakistan’s first plastic road made with 10-tonne bottles goes functional

1-km road paved with recycled plastic is 2-3 times more durable than ordinary road

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmed on Monday inaugurated the first of its kind road in the country paved with plastic waste.

A large number of youngsters, particularly school kids participated in the launching ceremony.

They were holding placards with slogans to protect environment from plastic waste. The project, completed under public-private partnership (Capital Development Authority, Coca Cola and National Incubation Centre), aims to provide solution to the country’s hugely mismanaged plastic waste problem which is highest (in percentage) in South Asia. 

“Pakistan produces 55b plastic bags annually”

In Pakistan, according to a report shared by the organisers on the occasion, around 55 billion plastic bags are produced in the country every year and most of these single-use non-biograded bags find their way to open garbage dumps, landfill sites or municipal sewers.

The new concept of a plastic road, which though is not new in many countries, will create a scalable solution for plastic to be used in high-value production, said an expert.

‘10 tonnes of plastic bottles utilised’

Fahad Ashraf, VP for Coca-Cola Pakistan and Afghanistan said; “This road belongs to all Pakistanis, and all the people who care about progress.

The road utilised about ten tones of plastic bottles collected for this purpose and serves as a model for nation-wide practice, he further said.
Sheikh Rashid said the road was in line with the Pakistan government’s vision for a clean and green nation.

He said: “Prime Minister Imran Khan has given us the vision to find solutions that serve the common man. I’m happy to say that this road is part of the prime minister’s vision because it provides jobs, saves the government repairs cost and above all, protects our

A global phenomenon.

The plastic road is a global good-practice and is said to last about twice as long as a normal road. 

It will help protect the environment, but if scaled up to other roads in rural areas, urban centres and national highways, the impact to both development and environment will be large scale, not cosmetic.

Parvez Abbasi representing the strategic leadership of the National Incubation Center (NIC) said, “We now must ensure all partners who are for a better planet step in and support this public-private partnership by doing their part.”

News Sources: Gulf News

Global Corrugated Packaging Market expected to reach approximately USD 317 Billion in 2023

Global Corrugated Packaging Market expected to reach approximately USD 317 Billion in 2023

Global Corrugated Packaging Market expected to reach approximately USD 317 Billion in 2023, growing at a CAGR of slightly above 3.5% between 2017 and 2023”
— Zion Market Research

With the presence of a large pool of participants, the global corrugated packaging market is displaying a highly competitive business landscape, finds a new research report by Zion Market Research (ZMR). Smurfit Kappa Group, Mondi Group, Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing Ltd, Nine Dragons Paper (Holdings) Limited, and DS Smith Plc are some of the key vendors of corrugated packaging across the world. These players across corrugated packaging market are focusing aggressively on innovation, as well as on including advanced technologies in their existing products. Over the coming years, they are also expected to take up partnerships and mergers and acquisitions as their key strategy for business development, states the corrugated packaging market study.

This review is based on a report by Zion Market Research, titled “Corrugated Packaging Market by Flute Profile (A Flute, B Flute, C Flute, E Flute, F Flute) by Combined Board (Single Face, Single Wall, Double Wall, Triple Wall) by Box Type (Slotted Boxes, Telescope Boxes, Rigid Boxes, Folder Boxes) by End-Use Industry (Pharmaceuticals, Electronics, Automotive, Consumer Goods, Chemicals) by Region (North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, Middle East & Africa) – Global Industry Perspective, Comprehensive Analysis and Forecast, 2017 – 2023.”- Report at

In a major event witnessed across corrugated packaging market, on September 4th 2018, De Jong Packaging Holding, a Holland-based corrugated board & solid cardboard packaging product manufacturer, acquired Gaster Wellpappe, a German firm producing corrugated board for die-cut packages and constructive packaging. Analysts believe that the strategic move is likely to help the former expand its production capacity in Europe.

As estimated in this report, the global corrugated packaging market stood at US$ 250 billion in 2017. Witnessing a tremendous rise during the period from 2017 to 2023, the revenue in this corrugated packaging market is expected to reach US$ 317 billion by the end of the forecast period.

Escalating Trend For Environment Friendly Packaging To Spur Market Size

“Mounting customer preference for sustainable & eco-friendly packaging along with strict laws governing product packaging is likely to boost the growth of corrugated packaging market in the years ahead,” says the author of this corrugated packaging market study. Apart from this, meteoric penetration in cosmetics, electronics, consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, automotive, chemicals, and food & beverage sectors will further drive the demand for corrugated packaging in the ensuing years.

Poor barrier property of corrugated packaging materials, however, has restricted its use. In addition to this, manufacturers of liquid products avoid the use of corrugated packaging as a result of this. Reportedly, humid and moist weather conditions are found to reduce the durability of corrugated boxes. All the aforementioned factors are projected to hinder the expansion of corrugated packaging market.


The Future of Sustainable Packaging

The Future of Sustainable Packaging

How the circular economy is revolutionizing the plastics packaging industry

Plastic packaging has a sustainable future. Delivering effective, circular packaging solutions that are both convenient for consumers and don’t negatively impact the planet is a challenge packaging manufacturers and global food and beverage brands are stepping up to.

But plastic packaging has a terrible public perception. Hashtags like #plasticfree and #noplastic abound on social media. The plastic industry is facing both the emotional issue of consumers influencing brands to move away from plastic, and the technical issue of insufficient infrastructure to collect, sort and recycle plastic waste.

Yet while alternative packaging materials may be more socially acceptable, are they really “better”? Will the current popularity of alternatives to plastic be short-lived, thanks to their depletion of natural resources and negative environmental impact, including larger greenhouse gas emissions?

Global Forest Watch reports that “40 per cent of global deforestation is commodity driven”, with paper packaging a contributing factor. From 2001 to 2018, 361 million hectares of trees were destroyed, equivalent to a 9 per cent reduction of the world’s forests [1]. Over the same period, paper consumption increased by 26 per cent, with 55 per cent of its volume attributed to packaging [2].

Glass packaging production also negatively impacts on the environment. The proportion of silica – the mineral known as quartz sand – in the manufacture of glass is about 70 per cent. Studies on the natural reserves of silica indicate that extraction and high consumption of this mineral damages the environment and leads to the depletion of its reserves. Moreover, the high melting point of the material in glass packaging production is a source of significant CO2 emissions, and impacts negatively on climate change.

PET packaging is the most popular choice for mineral water, still and carbonated drinks, beer, dairy products, and vegetable oils. PET is also widely used in medicine as well as cosmetics and household chemicals. It is cheap, light, easily moulded and branded, non-breakable, has high barrier properties and does not impair the product’s quality. Thanks to these advantages, the consumption of plastic packaging continues to grow. According to a Smithers report, global plastic packaging consumption was projected at 58.6 million tonnes in 2019 and is forecast to grow during 2019-24 at an annual rate of 3.5 per cent, to 69.8 million tonnes [3]. According to Euromonitor International research, the total share of plastic packaging is about 60 per cent of the entire packaging market.

While studies show that consumers prefer this type of packaging, it is necessary to find multifaceted solutions to show that plastic can be both convenient and sustainable. In most European countries, PET is already widely recyclable in standard collections, giving it a valuable second life as recycled PET, or rPET.

Global PET and rPET packaging producer RETAL* has more than 20-years of expertise in plastics manufacturing, and is increasingly active in circular economy initiatives and the promotion of public awareness of used PET packaging. Anatoly Martynov, President of RETAL, asserts that how we manage plastic packaging beyond its first use underpins everything and impacts everyone. Insufficient understanding by consumers of their responsibilities for the disposal of used packaging and poor collection infrastructure can both lead to serious problems of environmental pollution. In addition, the long-term payback period of recycling projects is the reason for the insufficient development of the recycling industry.

The goal for every PET packaging company is to minimise its negative environmental impact. RETAL works closely with its global customers to ensure that its packaging meets the strictest criteria. The company is also active in various sustainability-driven plastic packaging value chain organisations, including PETcore, the Circular Plastics Alliance and Waste Free Oceans.

On the technical side, RETAL has developed the capacity and expertise to produce preforms from up to 100 per cent recycled PET, and continuously works towards creating innovative, patented “design to recycle” solutions that use lightweighting and tethered closures.

NEO GROUP, part of RETAL Industries, is also actively involved in the implementation of the circular economy. One of its main projects is the launch of a production line that will produce PET resin containing rPET. The first phase is planned to be completed in 2020. With consistent investment in additional lines planned over the next five years, the recycling of used PET bottles at NEO Group is expected to reach 4.5 billion units per year. Thanks to the new lines, a significant share of the European market’s demand for recycled content will be produced by NEO.

Since 2015, NEO GROUP** has participated in the Horizon 2020 program, which promotes greater resource efficiency and reduced environmental impact for waste by developing beneficial workflow for recycled materials, industrial by-products and by using rPET. Since 2018, programme participants, including NEO GROUP, have been actively working on chemical recycling. This technology will boost the ability to recycle “contaminated” PET, which cannot currently be recycled using mechanical methods. Practically 100 per cent of used PET can be chemically recycled, and it can be recycled unlimited times. This is a revolutionary technology that truly supports the circular economy.

All these factors come together to illustrate how RETAL is active in closing the loop, contributing to environmentally responsible solutions and meeting the requirements of the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive.

While no single business can effectively tackle climate change or solve the problem of environmental pollution by itself, a joined-up approach to plastics circular economy that takes into consideration all the relevant stakeholders will allow PET packaging to realise its true value, and change its negative perception to a positive potential.

* RETAL develops and manufactures high-quality polyethylene terephthalate (PET) packaging solutions, including preforms, closures, containers and films. Globally active, RETAL supplies customers in over 60 countries worldwide. Strongly focused on quality management standards, RETAL is ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 22000 accredited. Parent company RETAL Industries Ltd  is headquartered in Limassol, Cyprus.

** NEO Group is a PET manufacturer for food and beverage packaging. With the introduction of its third production line in 2018, the company has become one of the largest PET manufacturers in Europe. NEO GROUP expanded into the chemical recycling of PET waste in 2011 in order to provide a complete, responsible service to its clients, with NEOPOLYOL also popular for use in the construction industry. NEO GROUP serves around 300 companies in over 30 countries.


Nestlé announces soft plastics recycling trial

Nestlé announces soft plastics recycling trial

Announced at the National Plastics Summit in Canberra on 2 March 2020, Nestlé and Australian recycler iQ Renew are launching a trial that aims to collect, sort and process soft plastics from over 100,000 homes through kerbside recycling and therefore be diverted from landfill. The trial aims to turn soft plastics from a waste to a resource. The project will commence with a pilot of 2000 households, with plans to expand to over 100,000 households later in the year, processing approximately 750 tonnes of soft plastic that would otherwise be sent to landfill.

“Most material recovery facilities (MRFs) can’t separate soft plastic from other items in household recycling, so while soft plastic can be recycled, what we lack is a robust, scalable system to collect and process it using existing kerbside collection. We’ve designed the trial so that at the front end, it will support householders to pre-sort their soft plastic and get it into a recycling stream, while behind the scenes, we’ll test using the sorted soft plastic as a resource in a range of different manufacturing processes,” said Danial Gallagher, iQ Renew CEO.

The trial will uncover how households understand soft plastics collection and provide insight into how it affects in-home recycling behaviour. Locations for the trial are currently under consideration.

“While we are working to make all our packaging recyclable, we know that soft plastics is an area that needs greater focus and collaboration. We need to find ways to drive more recycling here. As Nestlé plans to reduce our virgin plastic use and increase the amount of food-grade recycled plastic packaging we use, we need plastic to be collected. Given the low amount of soft plastic collected from consumers today, we hope this trial can unlock the significant potential for soft plastic packaging to become a resource,” said Sandra Martinez, Nestlé Australia CEO.


Exploring the issues of switching to plastic alternatives in packaging

Exploring the issues of switching to plastic alternatives in packaging

The appealon zero plastic, especially  for  consumer goods packaging is accelerating although slowly, according  to a report produced by the UK-based Green Alliance Circular Economy Task Force (CETF) comprising of members including  Kingfisher, Viridor, Walgreens Boots Alliance, SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, and Veolia.

The pressure is weighing down on companies in the retail and in the manufacturing segments, and this is due to the increasing demand to ditch plastics, if not significantly minimise their use amid the flurry of plastic pollution congesting the environment.

The report, authored by Green Alliance’s Senior Policy Adviser, Libby Peake, says that companies, particularly in the grocery sector, that use plastic packaging “ are now under great scrutiny, and often public pressure, to stop using the material. “

While companies in this sector, specifically, are starting if not already implementing ways to use substitutes for plastics in their packaging, “these decisions are driven by consumers’ attitudes towards plastics and corporate strategies combined with a desire to be seen to be acting quickly on concerns about plastic,” the report added.

However, these decisions are often made “without considering the environmental impact of the substitute materials chosen, or whether or not there is adequate collection and treatment infrastructure in place for them, “the report said.

An example stated, quoting a supermarket representative, that customers would suggest replacing plastics (in the soft drink section) with other packaging types like glass or the six-layered carton packaging type (popularised by a Swiss packaging company, TetraPak). However, the interviewee lamented that such packaging types are not recyclable in their area.

On the other hand, other plastic alternatives may not exactly be more eco-friendly in that the carbon footprint in sourcing the raw materials and in producing them could be greater than producing conventional plastic materials, as well as biodegradability is either not assured or that they can still leave residues in the environment (thus, becoming microplastics).

One option that is considered by the retail and manufacturing sectors is incorporating more recyclable content into the product/packaging as well as increasing their recyclability.

“. The speed this can happen is currently constrained by problems with the supply of adequate amounts of recycled material, “the report said, citing also of an opinion by a respondent that “the lack of sources of recycled content [which] causes a bottleneck and therefore drives the price up significantly.”

Carbon footprint of paper bags 

The use of single-use plastic for products such as fresh produce, frozen foods, ready meals and the like is also urged to be discontinued and to be replaced with single-use paper or other biobased or compostable materials. According to an audit by Greenpeace International a number of multinational companies are switching to more environmentally friendly materials. About eight UK supermarkets, including Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury’s have abandoned plastic packaging to use paper bags for loose produce and bakery items.

The report however claims that paper bags can have “much higher carbon impacts, though this can depend on material sources and product specification”, citing a 2011 study for the Northern Ireland Assembly, which found that “paper bags generally require four times as much energy to manufacture as plastic bags”. The report also cites another study from Denmark that paper bags, if they are reused as bin liners, they do not perform as well on other indicators. “When factors like ozone depletion, human and ecosystem toxicity and water and air pollution are accounted for, a paper bag would need to be reused 43 times to have a lower impact than the average plastic bag, “, according to the Danish study.

Vague perception on environmentally friendly materials in packaging

Respondents to the UK report, meanwhile, are observed to be unclear about what biobased, compostable and biodegradable mean.

Commonly, consumers perceive plant based compostables as most environmentally friendly among other packaging materials, including paper, glass, cardboard, conventional plastic and aluminium, according to a 2019  grocer survey of more than 1,000 individuals.

Cost in replacing conventional plastics with alternatives, as well as the suitability of the material is presenting drawbacks, according to some retailers and brands. Moreover, the lack of public understanding on biodegradables “could result in the mismanagement of used packaging”, one respondent also opined. A business suggested: “We need to work together as a waste value chain to decide what we do with compostable packaging, where we should use it and how we should mark it so that it can be identified readily.”

Taking baby steps while seeing the bigger picture

There is, however, other ways some businesses and retailers are implementing to push the “environmentally friendly” approach to use less plastics, such as offering refill and reusable containers options. Some stores are also encouraging customers to bring their own containers. The report however noted that, specifically for the in-store refill model, respondents expressed concern. “Part of the concern with the in-store refill model is the reduction in shelf life for some products, with one noting that some fresh drinks would last just two days if poured into a customer’s own bottle, compared to 20 to 30 days in a factory sealed container, “ the report stated, adding that many respondents suggest exploring other refill options, which might be better, for certain products.

Among the suggestions included, “a deposit return scheme designed around returning and refilling bottles, rather than recycling”; and “a home delivery, such as the Loop system, whereby used containers are picked up when new products are dropped off. The empty bottles are then cleaned and reused by the supplier”.

At the end of the day, there are important issues that need to be addressed when implementing systems that use less to zero plastics for packaging. “Limiting losses, breakages and emissions from transport, will be vital to ensuring any such systems are environmentally beneficial, “are some factors, which the report stresses.

In effect, tackling the issue of plastic pollution by using fewer plastics or their alternatives in packaging requires concerted effort from all stakeholders. The report infers the overall sentiment of the businesses it interviewed: “The government, and society as a whole, should not only be thinking about tackling plastic pollution when considering appropriate interventions, but also about other materials and their impacts, not least around climate change”.