The 19th Elite specialty films and flexible packaging Summit brought over 1,600 delegates representing 680 companies from 18 countries together — making it, to our knowledge, the largest packaging summit held anywhere in the world. The theme of the Summit was ‘Flexible Packaging – moving to a Sustainable Reincarnation.’ The two-day event included nine business sessions together with the audience and panel discussions and questions.
The context of the event was both the recovery from the pandemic and the enormous growth in flexible packaging that is taking place in India, South Asia, and Asia. The overriding subtext was sustainability and how to make packaging recyclable with initiatives in Europe such as CEFLEX and ReCyclass and other ground realities such as EPR, sustainability, and the Indian plastic waste management rules that are developing and coming into force piecemeal. These were again discussed and demystified to the extent that the concerning issue is the infrastructure for waste collection and sorting.
The concerned social entrepreneur and chairman of Gemini Corp, Surendra Patwari, among others, highlighted the excellent arbitrage opportunity in recycling for the investor community. The leading FMCG companies’ leaders took both responsibility and full part in the discussion of their thoughts on the path forward for sustainable consumer good packaging.
The Summit provided practical and forward-looking economic insights on the role of private equity and merger and acquisitions as well the Indian economic landscape. Apparently, there is no shortage of capital in the country for the packaging industry and perhaps even for the waste management and recycling industry. A considerable number of recyclers took part in the conference.
The new polymers, additives, technologies, and new films and properties were discussed as perhaps has never been done in any single event anywhere, over the two days. The challenges of new materials, monopolymer and MDO films and laminates, coatings, and new paper developments were discussed in the context of the industry needing to evolve and adapt to new regulations and compliances, especially for food packaging. The government perspectives on EPR, raw materials, and particularly on food packaging standards were presented by the Food and Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
What came through from this conference was that the needle has moved further in the direction of producing flexible packaging that is laterally recyclable and not just melted into other products – although this level of recycling is also useful and can only happen if the waste plastic is first collected.
The needle has moved forward on the complexity of the solutions – although there are many compromise solutions, in the main, the new films and laminates will have to be designed for specific applications and then collected, sorted, and handled in specific streams for recycling.
Three other points from the conference have salience. The first pointed out by both Sanjay Gupta of the DS Group and Nadeem Mohammed of Paharpur 3P is that the flexible packaging industry itself needs to be viable – sustainability cannot come at the cost of being unable to grow and invest. And these margins are only likely to rise when legislation or mandatory regulation insists on recyclable laminates for all flexible packaging.
The second valuable input was by Pankaj Poddar of Cosmo Films, who asked why can small sachet laminates (and other pouch formats by implication) not be standardized. This will immediately drive up their value after use, as they will be collected and go into common and recognizable waste and recycling streams.
The third point was made by almost every speaker – collaboration. None of the sustainability changes can come from a single supplier or technology or actor. Collaborative projects with polymer, additive, coating, and ink manufacturers will be needed together with the machinery and technology suppliers and the brand owners and film producers.
Lastly, the Elite conference arms the participants well – both speakers and delegates – to take the conversation to the next level at the upcoming K event in Dusseldorf from 19 to 26 October.
Nidhi Verma, founder and managing director of ElitePlus Business Services, drove the conference over the two days, marshaling the speakers, panelists, and the participation of delegates. The platform has emerged as a meeting place for the global flexible packaging industry, with a combination of experience, knowledge, technology updates, and practical societal discussion. I speak for her as well, in wishing you all – A happy Diwali to all!