Europeans urgently need to find another solution, because of the ban on imports of European plastic waste impeded by China at the beginning of 2018. The EU commission, for example, is considering a ‘plastics tax’. An EU directive against lightweight plastic carrier bags has already contributed to a reduction of consumption in many countries. Until 2030, all packaging in the EU ought to be reusable and made of recyclable materials.
“Manufacturers do not need to worry about demand”, said Oliver Kutsch, Managing Director of Ceresana. The market research institute has analysed the European market for plastic films. “Included in this market are plastic bags and sacks but also packaging films, shrink and stretch films, agricultural films as well as other films such as construction films”, explained Kutsch: “This market is likely to grow to about 14 million tonnes until 2024.”
Wafer-Thin High-Tech Products
Packaging should be light, visually appealing, and microwavable; they ought to present the content well, help to increase the durability, and contain the intensity of flavour over a long period of time. Accordingly, the pressure on film producers to meet the continuously rising requirements regarding optics, handling and barrier properties, as well as conservation of resources and sustainability is high. Requirements increase also for agricultural and other films. In defining the individual products, all kinds, from wafer-thin films to thick, rigid boards, can be found. The new study by Ceresana focuses on flexible films.
Numerous Influential Factors Lead to a Complex Market Structure
Besides the trends of the consumer goods market, numerous other factors influence the demand for plastic films on several national markets as well. Many EU countries in particular try to contain the demand for light-weight carrier bags. The implementation of the respective regulations, however, varies considerably from country to country. In contrast, demand for secondary and transport packaging such as shrink and stretch films depends on the macroeconomic development and the consumer climate of the respective country. In some countries, the efforts to intensify agriculture propel the use of agricultural films. The demand for construction films corresponds to the order situation of the respective construction industry.
BOPET and BOPP Keep Things Fresh
The plastic BOPET (biaxially oriented polyethylene terephthalate) provides a high transparency, high-quality visual appearance, and a high tensile strength – ultra-thin and light films can be made thereof. For further reduction of thickness and weight of packaging (downgauging), BOPET plays a major role. BOPET helps to increase the durability of perishable food with its barrier properties and is, for example, used for aroma-proof packaging. Thin BOPET films of about 8 to 50 µm are mainly used for FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) packaging, thicker films of up to approx. 350 µm are rather used for stationary or electronic goods.
BOPP (biaxially oriented polypropylene) is mainly utilised for foodstuffs packaging. However, BOPP films are not readily heat sealable. As this is a prime requirement for packaging films, BOPP is normally given a surface coating of a heat sealable polymer such as a coextruded polypropylene random copolymer. Copolymers for heat seals need to exhibit a high gloss and transparency. Coating or coextrusion increases the barrier properties of BOPP film, decreasing its permeability to gases. Common barrier polymers are ethylene vinyl alcohol, polyvinylidene chloride, and polyamide.