Recycling, sustainable materials and the future of packaging

Having recruited in the plastics and packaging industry for over 10 years, I feel that we are genuinely entering into the most interesting period of innovation and change that the industry has seen to date.

Whether it be David Attenborough’s ‘’Blue Planet’’, or the UK government’s target to reach a recycled materials target of at least 50%, the discussion around packaging and our relationship with it has become impossible to ignore.

More and more packaging manufacturers are looking to Scientists to explore biodegradable, bioplastics, 100% non-toxic or recyclable alternatives to our current options. This is more than just plastics bottles and microbeads.

As it stands,  pharmaceutical cartons, cling film/food barrier films, plastic trays and even the takeaway coffee cup are problematic to recyclers and destined for landfill . This is often down to the financial costs of a complex recycling process. The application specific coatings that are used on many of these products are also rendering the material ‘’unrecyclable’’.

It is very easy to use the blanket statement of ‘’plastics are bad’’, which is already a flawed notion. Plastics are not all bad, certain grades and families of plastics are just less flexible or reusable than others. Namely, the single use plastics which are incorrectly labelled as ‘’disposable’’. These plastics are not just harmful to the environment due to being non compostable or non – biodegradable, they are also disposed of incorrectly by human beings.

As a counter point, plastics are also incredibly beneficial to us and our planet. They are a lightweight material, which as a result, means that their transportation has a reduced carbon footprint to that of many other alternative materials. They are also perfect for use in medical devices, healthcare products and tablet manufacture – due to their non porous/microbial properties.

The point is – the need for a balanced conversation. The innovation and research for alternative options to single used plastics is already underway, I have already met with emerging businesses in the field and I’m happy to report that there are some exciting developments coming our way, particularly in packaging. Due to its cost, flexibility, durability and  availability – we are always going to have plastics in our lives. Whilst this new wind of change in product development is a welcome one – it’s our own use and disposal of these products where the real need for change lies.

We are able to support new and established companies in attracting the right people to help them make develop new products, as well as the right people to take their new offerings to market. Whether that be headhunting or contingency searches or whether you yourself are looking for a new role in a forward thinking business, please contract Fraser Nibbs on 01789 201040 or email or visit

Share this:

28th February