Upwind for One-Way?

Luke Barrs, investment expert at Goldman Sachs, sees growing e-commerce as a structural tailwind for packaging suppliers. But he also expects continued high pressure from the regulatory side.

Internationally, e-commerce has risen sharply during the “corona lockdowns”. What does this mean for the packaging industry?

The penetration of e-commerce will probably continue to grow even if the economy returns to normal remain higher than before the crisis. This could certainly give packaging suppliers a structural tailwind. Health and hygiene concerns may lead to an increased use of disposable packaging, at least in the short term – as recently observed in supermarkets and coffee shops, where the use of reusable bags and cups is limited was.

And what are the consequences from an environmental point of view, for example in the USA?

Before the crisis, packaging for products that are delivered to the home already accounted for 30 percent of the annual US solid waste volume. In the meantime, half of all plastic waste ever produced has been produced in the past fifteen years – but only nine percent of this has been recycled. Many governments have now taken measures, ranging from fees for plastic bags to banning some disposable plastic products. Businesses have also responded to the need for sustainable packaging options and have sought innovation to create alternatives.

So isn’t the upsurge of disposable packaging “sustainable”?

The negative ecological balance of plastic in particular has been preoccupying consumers for some time. Beyond the short-term changes in behaviour, we expect continued regulatory headwind for plastics. So the upswing in the packaging industry will only continue if there are further innovations in sustainable packaging solutions.


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