Papa got a brand new bag back in the Sixties, thanks to James Brown. Now, the European Union is hoping for a brand new bag—one that is made from bioplastic materials instead of polyethylene. According to a recent market study, “Bags and Sacks—Europe” from Ceresana (Constance, Germany), the popular issue of lightweight carrier bags is seeing the first consequence of the EU Plastic Bags Directive.
The international market research and consulting firm specializing in chemicals, plastics and packaging analyzed the directive. “Most states of the European Union have regulations to reduce consumption,” said the executive summary of the new market study. “Carrier bags made of paper are frequently exempt from these regulations; their manufacturers could become the ones who benefit from the EU directive.”
Ceresana expects the European market for bags and sacks made of polyethylene films, other plastic films and woven plastics, as well as paper, to reach a volume of approximately 8.77 million tons by 2024. Polyethylene (PE) is by far the most frequently used material, and implementation of the EU directive for the reduction of lightweight plastic carrier bag consumption has not been addressed equally in all EU countries. “Currently, the European Commission is addressing Greece, Italy, Poland, and Cyprus once again to [perform] a more determined implementation,” said Ceresana. “The initial position and urgency are very different from country to country.”
More and more EU countries are actively engaged in banning certain types of carrier bags or, with the help of special taxes and fees, regulating demand; lightweight plastic carrier bags made of polyethylene are the primary target of these incentives. Carrier bags made of bioplastics are often exempt from these bans and fees. These bags are typically made from renewable resources, such as corn or starch, or at least are biodegradable.
Consumer acceptance of bioplastics is increasing in the EU, and this past spring, the European Commission once again commented positively on the use of bioplastics in the carrier bags packaging segment. “Even if the market has developed very dynamically in the past years, bioplastics alone are not the ultimate and ecologically perfect solution propagated for a long time,” said Ceresana. “For example, composting of bioplastics still does not work flawlessly in commonly used facilities.”
Heavy duty and industrial sacks have gained importance over the past several years, Ceresana noted, with some segments of this market substituting conventional paper sacks with sacks made of plastics. In areas such as animal feed or construction materials, paper sacks continue to play an important role, but, given their properties, sacks made from polyethylene have the potential to gain additional market share in the future.
However, Ceresana commented, conventional heavy duty sacks made from plastic films are faced with increasing competition from “flexible intermediate bulk containers” (FIBC) in the segment of bulk material handling. These FIBCs are made from a stable plastic, often polypropylene, and can reach a capacity of up to 2,500 liters. “They are often used as transport packaging for construction materials, fertilizer, grain or other bulk goods,” said Ceresana. “Dynamics of the market for heavy duty sacks depends to a large extent on the economic development of the country as well as on the construction industry.”
Another market segment Ceresana analyzed is stand-up pouch packaging, which has become more popular in the retail sector. “Mainly metal cans and glass jars are replaced, but sometimes also rigid plastic packaging,” said the study. “One advantage of flexible plastic pouches is that they can adapt to the size of the packaged goods, which helps to optimize packaging size. Furthermore, this packaging can be produced in a microwaveable way.”
The ability to print on these types of packages has become much better as the technology has improved, helping to increase demand for flexible pouches. Additionally, new technology in form-fill-seal machinery allows a single continuous process that increases productivity and improves quality.
In addition to an analysis of the various materials (LDPE, LLDPE, HDPE, woven plastics and paper), the market study analyzes various applications for bags and sacks. The study also provides detailed profiles of the largest manufacturers of bags and sacks including Amcor Ltd., Bemis Europe, British Polythene Industries plc, Sealed Air Corp., Huhtamaki Group and Smurfit Kappa Group plc.