On February 3-5, 2020, the 2020 edition of The Packaging Conference took place, bringing together industry professionals across the packaging supply chain. An article published on March 16, 2020 by Packaging World provided an overview of the speakers and their presentations.

In his keynote speech at the event, David Feber, a partner at the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., spoke about key megatrends expected to affect the packaging industry over the next five to ten years. While e-commerce, increased packaging diversity, and digitization remained important as in previous years, one major issue has rapidly expanded. “Sustainability has accelerated to the number one issue over the last 12 months,” he said. Whereas “last year it was number four.”

This message was echoed by the conference’s organizer, industry consultancy SBA-CCI, which commented that “we did not anticipate this being a conference on sustainability 13 years ago, nor did we suspect it would be so much on sustainability six months ago. Something happened about then, and every conversation—from a cocktail party to a Super Bowl party to a business meeting—is all about sustainability.” Speakers at the event linked this shift to an increase in consumer pressure following growth in awareness of plastic pollution, largely catalyzed by the 2017 documentary series Blue Planet created by the BBC. Analyses presented at the event found that consumers are, in particular, strongly demanding that the products they purchase be fully recyclable.

A result of the rise in public concern led to an increase in legislation targeting specifically single-use plastics, including extended producer responsibility as well as recycled content requirements. Multinational manufacturers and retailers have also set up their own commitments concerning the environmental impacts of their packaging. Multiple speakers representing manufacturers at the event echoed this point, with others focused on emphasizing the currently inefficient and expensive recycling systems in the United States. Speakers from the chemical and recycling industries focused on presenting the latest recycling technologies, including for polymer types other than polyethylene terephthalate (PET), such as polypropylene, or various bio-based materials.

Feber concluded his talk by saying “we have big aspirations, but we’re far from the goals. To me, and it may be that I’m just an eternal optimist, I think these aspirations are really driving change in the industry.” However, he believes that setting the exact timelines for reaching predefined targets is less important as long as the packaging sector is improving. “Whether we get there or not by 2025 is almost immaterial, as long as we’re on the journey to get better than we are today.”

Next year’s edition of the conference has been scheduled to take place on February 8-10, 2021 in the U.S. state of Florida.

Read more

Anne Marie Mohan (March 16, 2020). “Solutions for a Circular Plastics Economy.”

HEJ Support (March 2020). “Consumer pressure must continue to ensure real industry change.”

The Packaging Conference (April 2020). “The Packaging Conference 2021.”