Why Use Polymer Packaging?

Polymer packaging provides consumers and brand owners with a variety of benefits over other materials. For starters, polymers such as high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) are often more energy-efficient to manufacture due to how light they are compared to other materials. According to the American Chemistry Council, just two pounds of plastic can deliver 10 gallons of a beverage. To hold the same amount with other popular materials for beverage containers, companies would need:

  • Three pounds of aluminum
  • Eight pounds of steel
  • Over forty pounds glass1

Not only does polyethylene’s lighter weight help make it more energy and cost-efficient to manufacture, but it also protects products in transit since it’s more durable and resistant to damage. That's just one of the reasons why polyethylene is a great option for packaging for retail environments. It’s tougher than other plastics, while still maintaining a variety of other benefits distributors and sellers look for such as moisture resistance.

Reduce Food Waste with Flexible Polymer Packaging

One of the largest applications for polymer packaging is in the food and beverage industry. In addition to being cost-effective to produce, plastic film plays a major role in combating a common environmental hazard – food waste.

Polyethylene film packaging can help elongate the life of wrapped food items, which can increase shelf life and reduce the chances of being thrown away. According to The Economist, “...food wrappings can in fact be an environmental boon. By more than doubling the time that some meat items can stay on shelves, for example, better packaging ensures that precious resources are used more efficiently.”2 According to the American Meat Science Association, there are a few reasons for this:

  • Most materials designed for wrapping meat have specific qualities, such as low moisture/vapor transmission rates, heat shrink ability, stretch, pliability, strength, and the ability to retain their protective characteristics over a wide range of temperatures and conditions.
  • Films for fresh meat packaging are designed to allow a small amount of oxygen to pass through the film, thus maintaining the oxymyoglobin that gives meat its fresh red color.3

Additionally, as food decomposes in landfills, it generates a harmful greenhouse gas called methane. So, extending the shelf life and reducing food waste means fewer greenhouse gas emissions.4

In support of plastic packaging, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) reported on a new study by sustainability data consulting firm, Trucost, that found that the environmental cost of using plastics in consumer goods packaging is nearly four times less than alternative materials.

According to the ACC’s official press release, “Trucost found that replacing plastics in consumer products and packaging with a mix of alternative materials that provide the same function would increase environmental costs from $139 billion to $533 billion annually.5

In addition to providing brand owners with environmental benefits, incorporating plastic packaging such as film can become an important component in alleviating both hygiene and sustainability concerns during COVID-19, as consumers look for their hygienic ways to get products while still wanting to take into account sustainability concerns.

Dan falla

Meet Our Pro

Meet Our Polymer Packaging Expert

Dan Falla has spent more than 30 years helping customers to innovate in new product and application development, and is a Fellow with the Society of Plastics Engineers, Membership Chair Flexible Packaging Division, Recycle Division Councilor and a Fellow with the Society of Plastics Engineers. Dan is a Lifetime Achievement recipient with the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada.

Polymer Packaging Provides A Competitive Edge

Especially with COVID-19 leaving its mark in many prominent industries, polymer packaging will play an even larger role as consumers now consider how packaging protects a food product during the delivery or shopping process. Packaging can now offer key signals to a consumer that the food is safe to consume by creating a container that can be sanitized after purchase or preventing tampering. According to a survey by the Service Management Group, 84% of consumers ordering takeout and delivery since the COVID-19 pandemic began agreed that packaging is an important consideration when placing an order.

Before it reaches the consumer, polymer packaging gives converters and brand owners benefits such as cost-effectiveness and durability. For example, in the early half of the 20th century, milk was delivered to customers' doorsteps in glass bottles. While functional, they were heavy and easily broken. In 1915, the classic carton was introduced to the dairy industry. Finally, in 1964, the patent for plastic milk jugs6 disrupted the market, promising to have a positive impact on the shelf life of the beloved dairy product.7 To this day, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) is still the primary material for dairy containers, providing producers an easy way to package and transport dairy for consumption.8

Both rigid and flexible polymer packaging offers benefits that can help make brand owners stand out from the competition and offer their customers more time to enjoy their purchase.

Discover More From Shell Polymers

1 https://www.plasticpackagingfacts.org/plastic-packaging/resins-types-of-packaging/
2 http://www.economist.com/news/business-and-finance/21711846-vacuum-packs-mean-meat-can-stay-shelves-between-five-and-eight-days-food-packaging
3 https://meatscience.org/TheMeatWeEat/topics/meat-safety/packaging
4 https://thisisplastics.com/plastics-101/rethink-plastic-packaging/#:~:text=In%20fact%2C%20that's%20when%20it,and%20less%20methane%20is%20produced.&text=Vacuum%2Dsealed%20plastic%20packaging%20is%20key%20to%20preventing%20oxidation%20of%20meats
5 https://www.americanchemistry.com/Media/PressReleasesTranscripts/ACC-news-releases/Study-Finds-Plastics-Reduce-Environmental-Costs-By-Nearly-4-Times-Compared-to-Alternatives.html
6 https://patents.google.com/patent/US3152710A/en
7 https://www.eater.com/2019/10/21/20919693/milk-carton-bag-pouch-history
8 https://www.waste360.com/mag/waste_hdpe_bottles_2