PODCAST: Sustainability, “cautiously-optimistic” outlook among key takeaways at The Packaging Conference

Emily Friedman


HOUSTON (ICIS)–Industry giants along the packaging value chain converged at The Packaging Conference this week, hoping to gain better insight into critical issues impacting the packaging space this year.

Among the key topics, presenters and attendees continued to discuss innovation in sustainability, advocacy within legislation and market drivers that will steer 2024.

Several presentations gave updates on innovative plastic recycling or sustainable solutions including novel recycling technologies as well as ground breaking packaging products which will enhance recyclability. Recycling processes included methanolysis, pyrolysis, enzymatic recycling and many others, including solutions for plastic waste sortation.

Both presenters and attendees passionately advocated for more participation from the industry in ongoing policy talks, both at the state level in regards to extended producer legislation (EPR) which has been passed in four states and is proposed in five other states, as well as on the global stage in relation to the rapidly approaching United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) INC 4 meeting in Ottawa Canada, happening 23-29 April 2024.

When talking on market dynamics, attendees shared that they are cautiously optimistic on 2024 packaging demand.

Some presenters shared statistics reinforcing the market softness felt last year, such as the fact that both carbonated soft drinks and packaged alcoholic beverage sales volumes were down, though bottled water sales volumes grew, reaching over 16 billion gallons in 2023.

This is supported by the continued weakness in consumer purchasing activity when it comes to convenience stores (C-stores), which were 6% down year on year  in December and 7.5% down in January year on year, according to the latest US Census data.

Though 2023 packaging sales volumes were down, resin volume sales were hit even harder, as many in the chain worked through excess inventory throughout the year.

That bsaid, destocking is largely agreed to be finished and so market players see 2024 as a year of similar underlying consumer demand but potentially better sales through the value chain.

Tempering these predictions of a stronger year for packaging was the fact that global markets, particularly within the chemical industry, continue to show volatility, added with the fact that freight issues have laid a familiar blanket of uncertainty over the market in terms of material availability and rising costs.

For more information on these topics, as well as other insights exchanged during the event, please reach out to Emily Friedman (emily.friedman@icis.com) or Antulio Borneo (Antulio.borneo@icis.com)

The Packaging Conference was hosted 12-14 February 2024 at the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center in Austin, Texas.


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