The use of flexible packaging has grown faster in the Asia Pacific than it has in North America. Some countries, particularly Japan and Germany, are also leading the way in terms of recycling efforts. Flexible packaging will continue to grow quickly across the globe as shoppers in developed countries seek many of the new benefits flexible packaging has to offer. In emerging markets, there is huge growth ahead simply because the demand for packaged goods is just now ramping up in these countries.
Global Packaging Overview by Type (2017) (share by units of packaging)
Total U.S. Packaging Market Segment % Breakdown by Segment
Global Flexible Packaging Sales by Region, 2016
How Do Other Countries Handle Recycling?
Germany has a very robust recycling program, bringing back 65% of all Municipal Solid Waste (MSW). The remaining 35% of materials are burned in specially designed “Waste to Energy” power plants. They efficiently burn the solid waste, capturing most of its energy to create steam which is then used to generate electricity.
Japan also sends very little material to landfills, but 70% of their waste is burned to create energy and only 20% of their materials are sorted and recycled.
Many countries in Europe use some combination of strong material recycling programs and waste to energy facilities. As the graph below shows, the United States falls roughly midway among major developed countries in our efforts to recycle instead of sending waste to landfills.
The optimum solution currently appears to be the combination of robust recycling collection plus waste to energy generation. This approach:
- Reduces landfill use
- Captures the highest economically valued packaging materials such as steel, paper, aluminum, and rigid plastic for recycling
- Unlocks the combustible energy within other materials such as flexible packaging or plastics contaminated with food waste, as a valuable alternative energy source
Source: OECD 2015, “Municipal waste,” OECD Environment Statistics Database