DS Smith, a prominent company in the molded pulp packaging market, initiated its Now and Next sustainability strategy in September 2020 to support its objectives to transition to a circular economy. Simultaneously, the company aimed to offer more circular solutions to consumers and society at large, eliminating carbon from supply chains, and replacing problem plastics. The initiative is a significant reminder of the fact that since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate consciousness has only increased, paving the way for sustainable solutions in the packaging industry.
The advent of sustainability, coupled with rising consumer demand for environmentally sound packaging materials, has boosted the popularity of molded pulp packaging. This has also been supported by the growing scientific understanding of the properties of the material as well as technological advancements that have expanded the scope of the material’s application.
This shift in consumer and industry trends is creating huge potential for molded pulp packaging manufacturers. The molded pulp packaging market is estimated to be valued at more than $4.8 billion by the end of 2028, as per a report by Global Market Insights Inc.
The following paragraphs focus on the application and manufacturing process of the material, its major advantages, and the impact of sustainability trends on the overall industry.
Molded pulp packaging or molded fiber packaging is a type of packaging made from recycled materials that have conventionally been limited to niche markets, such as egg boxes and trays. Recycled fibrous materials, chiefly natural fibers (bamboo, sugarcane, and wheat straw) like recycled cardboard and paper, are also used to manufacture molded pulp packages.
These materials play a crucial role in determining key aspects of the packaging like surface texture, strength, and even color. With its improving appearance, this packaging has found its way into a broad range of applications. As it is made with recycled materials, molded pulp packaging has become a vital product in the sustainable packaging solutions landscape, complementing the increasing consumer inclination toward greener products. Its perception as an environmentally friendly material has played a major role in enhancing its adoption worldwide.
Recent research activities have been focusing on making production process of molded pulp packaging less energy-intensive and more efficient than conventional procedures. Moreover, the advent of novel techniques, such as 3D printing or additive manufacturing, has created notable opportunities for the optimization of molded pulp manufacturing.
To cite an instance, in September 2020, tech behemoth HP introduced the Molded Fiber Advanced Tooling Solution, an innovative and eco-friendly tooling solution for molded pulp manufacturers. The solution supports fast and improved designing and fabrication of high-performance molded fiber tooling in two weeks as opposed to traditional methods that can take up to four to six weeks.
HP’s end-to-end solution delivers mass customization capabilities, increased production uptime, and reduced maintenance, promoting superior production efficiencies. It offers lighter, easier to use, and more durable tools, as well as enables more innovative designs. Consequently, emerging manufacturing technologies are positively shaping the future of molded pulp packaging production.
Due to its properties, the packaging offers several benefits, which has positively influenced the outlook of the molded fiber pulp packaging market. Some of these benefits have been discussed hereunder:
This packaging reduces the carbon footprint as it is made with recycled materials. Moreover, its production process also does not lead to high carbon emissions.
Molded pulp packaging is highly biodegradable. At the end of its use, it can quickly decompose and break down entirely, which is a key advantage of the material against its plastic counterpart.
Conventional packaging, such as Styrofoam and plastic packaging, is made from synthetic and petrochemical materials that can emit toxic gases when exposed to heat, polluting the environment. Since it is biodegradable and manufactured using allergy-free materials, molded pulp packaging is not toxic.
The environmentally friendly materials that are utilized to make molded pulp packaging allow it to be reused at the end of its lifecycle. The molded pulp can be reused to make other environmentally-sound products for application in varied industries.
This packaging is lightweight and cuts down on excess space. This drastically reduces packaging waste, thereby decreasing shipping and overhead costs.
Consumers are interested in eco-friendly products now more than ever. Thus, switching to molded pulp can substantially improve the market perception of a company. This has enabled molded pulp packaging manufacturers to enhance their brand image as a firm that is environmentally conscious.
Plastic pollution is a pressing environmental concern as widespread scientific evidence suggests that plastics are causing contamination of water bodies and wildlife, negatively impacting human health. Since plastic packaging is a large contributor to this global crisis, the subsequent search for plastic-free packaging has fostered the outlook of fiber-based packaging.
Recycling rates of plastic are alarmingly low, whereas paper and cardboard packaging have favorable recycling rates. Moreover, the network to recover recyclable packaging is well-developed. Molded pulp packaging offers high recyclability as it is made from recycled fiber materials, which makes it a part of a robust closed-loop system. Due to its benefits, companies worldwide are beginning to integrate molded pulp into their packaging, which has enhanced the molded pulp packaging industry dynamics.
For instance, in August 2021, DS Smith revealed that it was exploring the potential use of seaweed fiber as a sustainable alternative to conventional materials in the manufacturing of its packaging products. The company announced that it was collaborating with several biotech companies to study the use of seaweed as a raw material in products like paper wraps, cartons, and cardboard trays and as a substitute for petroleum-based and plastic packaging. Soaring emphasis on circularity is shaping the future of the molded pulp packaging industry in key regions across the globe.
As molded fiber is manufactured using recycled materials that are also renewable, molded pulp packaging has built a positive environmental image. This has improved consumer perception of the product in the wake of escalating climate consciousness. With increasing industry-wide adoption, the material is witnessing rapid growth, which is likely to be favorable for molded pulp packaging market over the forecast period.