Plastic Predictions

by Todd McDonald on December 28, 2012

As the holidays wind down and we get ready to begin a new year, we can’t help but notice the numerous 2013 trend predictions popping up online. From marketing, to technology, to plastics, it seems as if everyone’s pausing to prepare for what might be on the horizon for the upcoming year.

Take, for example, Heather Caliendo, the senior editor at Plastics Today, who has identified four upcoming trends in the packaging and plastics industry in her recent article “What to Expect in 2013 for Plastics Packaging“:

  • Promoting Recycling – According to the Freedonia Group, U.S. demand for post-consumer recycled plastic forecast to rise 6.5% per year to 3.5 billion lb in 2016 – the result of “growing emphasis on sustainability among packaging and consumer product manufacturers, advancements in processing and sorting technologies allowing a wider variety of plastic to be recycled into high quality resins, and an improved collection infrastructure”.
  • Increased Use of Bioplastics – Unfortunately, the full potential of bio-plastics will not be seen until the cost is reduced (currently they are at least 2-3 more times more expensive than traditional fossil-based plastics), but they are expected to grow 6% by 2020 due to new technology and economies of scale. Scott Steele, President of Plastic Technologies, notes that “Packaging is one of the biggest end users of this product as bioplastics can help reduce the amount of litter across the globe,” contributing to an uptick in recycling.
  • Emerging Markets Playing a Bigger Role – India, Russia, Indonesia, and Brazil lead this growing market that includes a total of 14 countries that are emerging in the flexible packaging markets. With the growth of supermarkets and population booms in these areas, the demand for packaged goods is on the rise.
  • Continued Growth of Pouches – Demand for such goods are expected to increase 5% per year until 2016. It’s a win-win for consumers and producers – the lightweight and flexible packaging makes shipping costs cheaper and the 18-25 year old demographic prefers the colorful and new-age design over cans.

While we can definitely find merit with all of Ms. Caliendo’s predictions, at TEQ, we have a few of our own.

  • Mono-Polymer Medical Packaging – Hospitals and medical facilities in the US produce more than 5.9 million tons of waste annually, with plastics representing a very large portion of this waste, but very little is recycled. One of the factors contributing to this lack of recycling is that medical device packaging is often multi-polymer, and nurses and physicians lack the time and effort to separate plastics in order to recycle them. In response to this issue, we created TEQethylene™,  a mono-polymer sterile barrier system that utilizes a new, proprietary blend of High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) that is easily recycled. This type of sustainable thinking will definitely be on the rise in 2013.
  • Modular Manufacturing  – With the recent downswing in the economy, finding ways to improve efficiency and control costs has never been more important for manufacturers. One key way to achieve these goals is to examine the supply chain for every project, new and old, for innovative ways to streamline workflow processes and increase efficiencies. This can include creating custom tools, redesigning workflow processes, or even moving entire manufacturing operations and supply chain networks back to the United States and closer to product demand, otherwise known as onshoring. We did this for Kaz when we took over production of their Braun ear thermometer covers, decreasing supply chain inefficiencies, streamlining workflow, and increasing sustainability of the project – building an managing a transportable clean room which reduced the project’s overall environmental impact and removed unnecessary delays and costs from the supply chain.

What about you? What are your industry predictions for 2013?

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