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Need to Know

FPA Publishes 2018 State of the Flexible Packaging Industry Report

In addition to its report, FPA released a fact sheet and infographic that are available for download.

The Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) released its “2018 State of the Flexible Packaging Industry Report,” which provides industry converters, suppliers, investors and analysts with insight into the performance (i.e. growth, revenue/volume expectations, profitability and capital spending) of the U.S. flexible packaging industry over the past year.

The report also examines several other aspects of the U.S. flexible packaging industry, including:

  • Performance (growth, revenue/volume expectations, profitability and capital spending)
  • Materials and processes (printing and expected material usage)
  • End uses (end use forecast and U.S. Census Bureau retail segments data)
  • Structure and consolidation (M&A activity)
  • Imports and exports (trade outlook)
  • Industry vision, challenges and critical issues

The total flexible packaging industry is estimated to be approximately $31 billion in annual sales for 2017. The $31 billion includes packaging for retail and institutional food and non-food (including medical and pharmaceutical), industrial materials, shrink and stretch films, retail shopping bags, consumer storage bags and wraps and trash bags.

The focus of this report is on the segment of the industry that adds significant value to the flexible materials, usually by performing multiple processes, such as printing, laminating, coating, extrusion and bag/pouch manufacturing.

Flexible packaging represents approximately 19 percent of the total $167 billion U.S. packaging industry and is the second largest packaging segment behind corrugated paper and just ahead of bottles and miscellaneous rigid plastics packaging. Flexible packaging’s solid long-term strength, coupled with flexible packaging replacing other packaging formats, resulted in the growth of flexibles from 17 percent in 2000 to the current level of 19 percent in 2017.

This year’s erport includes data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 Annual Survey of Manufactures (ASM) full set of reports for all U.S. NAICS industries. Census Bureau data for 2017 is not expected to become available until late fall 2019 or early 2020.

In addition, information for this report is collected from the U.S. Departments of Labor and Commerce, industry analysts, investment banking reports and other authoritative sources to provide a more complete and insightful picture of the flexible packaging industry.

The FPA "2018 State of the U.S. Flexible Packaging Industry Report" is a benefit of FPA membership and is available in the Members Only section of its website. The report is also available to non-members of FPA for $4,000.

In addition to its report, FPA released a new fact sheet that summarizes the key findings of its recent sustainability report, “A Holistic View of the Role of Flexible Packaging in a Sustainable World.”

The report highlights six Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) case studies using EcoImpact-COMPASS LCA software, which allows for quick life cycle comparisons between different package formats. Results from the case studies show that flexible packaging, when compared to other package formats, has preferable environmental attributes for carbon impact, fossil fuel usage, water usage, product-to-package ratio, as well as material to landfill.

Download the fact sheet here.

FPA also unveiled a new infographic that summarizes the future of flexible packaging and provides foresight into future opportunities for flexible packaging with the emergence of e-commerce, innovation and sustainability trends.

As the U.S. and other countries drive toward higher packaging recovery goals, it will require additional focus on new flexible packaging recycling technologies and recovery systems. Consumer education is vital to impact behavior change and effectively utilize new systems. More than 80 percent of marine debris comes from countries that lack waste management infrastructure. According to FPA, investment in infrastructure in developing countries is needed to reduce ocean-bound plastics, and more consumer behavior education in developed countries, where the infrastructure is already robust, is needed to reduce litter.

FPA noted the Store Drop-Off Program/Wrap Recycling Action Program allows consumers to recycle flexible packaging that is made from polyethylene. This may include items such as retail bags, newspaper bags, produce bags, bread bags, dry cleaning bags, overwraps for napkins/paper towels/bath tissues and air pillows used in e-commerce.

How2Recycle on-package labels provide consumers with instructions on which flexible packaging components can be recycled and how. The program informs consumers about flexible package components that may be dropped off at stores with their plastic grocery bags for recycling.

Materials Recovery for the Future (MRFF) is an industry coalition across the flexible packaging value chain that is engaged in finding solutions for improved recovery of flexible packaging. The MRFF project is an industry initiative committed to advancing auto-sorting of flexible packaging at materials recovery facilities (MRFs) from single stream waste collection systems, including end markets for sorted material.

Download the infographic here.

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