U.S. Market for Green Packaging to Hit $44 Billion in 2013

The fastest gains are anticipated for biodegradable plastic packaging and plastic recycled content packaging.

U.S. demand for green packaging -- comprised of recycled content, biodegradable and reusable packaging -- is projected to increase 3.4% annually to $43.9 billion in 2013, using 59 billion pounds of material, according to a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., an industry research firm.

Growth will outpace overall packaging but will remain modest due to the maturity of many products and the fact that recycled content packaging has a large existing presence in paperboard and metal packaging.

The fastest gains are anticipated for biodegradable plastic packaging and plastic recycled content packaging. Biodegradable plastic packaging is forecast to climb nearly 13% per year through 2013, driven by increased price competitiveness with conventional resins, rapidly expanding capacity and lower pricing volatility than petroleum-based plastic packaging materials.

Additional stimulants to the market include enhanced performance properties brought about by more sophisticated polymerizaton and blending techniques; efforts by brand owners to improve the environmental footprint of their packaging; and legislative bans on polystyrene foam foodservice disposables in some parts of the country.

While recycled content packaging demand is expected to increase in line with the overall green packaging average, robust growth for plastic recycled content packaging will be aided by more concerted efforts to boost collection volume, an increased focus on the development of food-contact approved resin grades, and further sustainability initiatives by plastic processors and brand owners. Gains will be moderated by slow growth for paper recycled content packaging, which is dominated by the large but mature corrugated and paperboard box segment.

Reusable packaging is forecast to expand more slowly, held back by marginal growth for drums, which face competition from larger formats such as intermediate bulk containers (IBCs). More favorable prospects are anticipated for reusable plastic containers, IBCs and other reusable packaging types. In general, value gains will decelerate sharply from the 2003-2008 pace due to an expected moderation in raw material prices, especially for plastic and steel. The relatively long service life of most reusable packaging also limits the need for replacements, a factor that restricts growth in demand for new units.

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