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Flexible plastic packaging expected to grow to 2026

A new report by Smithers indicates a growing demand for more environmentally friendly pack designs is resulting in world consumption of flexible plastic at a projected rate of 31.5 million tonnes in 2021.

This follows a -5.5% drop in overall value in 2020, due to the impact of global pandemic on the market. The global market is forecast to grow by an annual average growth rate of 3.4% to 37.5 million tonnes in 2026, according to The Future of Global Flexible Packaging to 2026,

Flexible packaging is preferred by goods manufacturers for its cost, recyclability and sustainability. Thus, flexible plastics will remain the largest segment of the market and will see the fastest growth.

As governments and consumers show greater interest in more environmentally friendly packaging, these materials have come under scrutiny. Flexible polymer constructions – especially multi-layer laminates are among the most difficult formats to recycle efficiently.

In response, material suppliers and converters are introducing monomaterial packs that can be recovered in existing waste streams. This is driving R&D efforts to deliver performance characteristics previously only possible with multilayer constructions, such as effective high-speed heal sealing, withstanding retort cooking, and pouches for home oven use. Global demand for consumer packaging will continue to grow the fastest in Asia-Pacific, with the region expected to increase at an annual average rate of 5.4%.

This is slower than 2021 GDP growth, but faster than onwards GDP growth, according to the Smithers research. The Asia-Pacific is currently a developed market for flexible packaging; however, it has not reached saturation, so future growth is expected.

China and elsewhere in Asia is already recovering from the pandemic, and represents the largest growth opportunities for flexible packaging suppliers through to 2026.

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