Action and compliance rather than just talk

Packaging-related trends for India in 2019

Plastic Waste Management
Pile of sorted plastic waste, prepared for recycling. Waste disposal, collection, separation, management, treatment, reuse, recycle and recovery concept

The packaging trends we forecast in our January and February 2018 issues were mainly about sustainability and packaging waste. We did not know what would happen as our society emerges from a legacy of perpetual talk and slow action. It was a pleasant surprise  that many of the worries and possibilities regarding packaging waste actually became pressing calls to action in the past year

Our 2018 trend forecasts were in light of the Indian government’s Plastic Waste Management Rules of 2016 (PWM), about which we wrote vociferously for months without much notice or feedback from industry. The industry remained silent until it went into a panic mode in February – precipitated by various state pollution boards sending notices to converters that the PWM 2016 rules regarding multilayer plastic laminates would be enforced as of 18 August 2018. The anxiety emanating from these notices was palpable at the PlastIndia exhibition in Gandhinagar in February 2018.

Next came the Maharashtra government’s order of 23 March 2018, banning the manufacture, usage, sale, transport, distribution, wholesale and retail sale and storage, import of plastic bags with or without handle, and disposable products made out of plastic and thermocol. Citing the environmental risks and harm caused to wild animals from ingestion or entanglement in plastic, the government attempted to enforce the ban with immediate effect.

Subsequently, the Ministry of Forests and Environment issued a notification on 27 March 2018 that it called the PWM (Amended) Rules 2018,  which essentially and almost totally diluted the earlier (and somewhat hasty and impractical) order. Several points cited reusability for ‘energy’ as an alternate and acceptable use of plastic packaging waste. Although this amendment meant a reprieve for most parts of the plastic packaging industry, the Maharashtra ban even with certain exceptions and allowances continues to this day.

Those who predicted the inevitability of government action even last year were right. The main trend of 2018 – action by government bodies – was established. In 2018, the industry also responded and overcame its usual mode of total denial. Major stakeholders such as Reliance Industries and Hindustan Unilever (and others) spoke up at the Elite Conferences in Mumbai about actual plans that major stakeholders were together discussing and making for collecting packaging waste, for recycling and disposal.

In 2019, beyond all the talk about the circular economy, it seems that the trends of action on plastic waste collection and recycling will continue by both government bodies and consumer product and packaging industries. The  trend will mean more scientific and business interaction with  government bodies and better ground rules and rulemaking.

EUR, robust growth, more PE, food safety, food packaging regulations

The trend of action by industry will continue and lead to concrete projects for collection and recyclability in 2019 in the country. The separation of waste at source trend will continue.

New biodegradable films and laminates will come to market. The increased use of PE for flexible packaging will become a strong trend with several consumer product companies and packaging converters investing in new projects in the country to do this. In 2019, Extended User Responsibility will come into being on the ground!

Beyond these sustainability trends we can only reiterate that packaging growth will be robust. The consumer product economy is recovering and at least flexible packaging suppliers are running to capacity. We can only forecast that packaging supplier margins are projected to remain thin through most of 2019 although some consumer product companies may get a breather from lower commodity and oil prices for their inputs.

The other major packaging trend will be the active implementation of food safety and food packaging regulations in India. The new FSSAI regulations for food standards have come into force from 1 January 2019 and 1 July 2019. The FSSAI regulation for food packaging are to be issued in the first week of January 2019 and these will come into force from 1 July 2019.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Packaging South Asia’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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