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1/6/2016 | 2 MINUTE READ

The Role Demographics Play in Plastic Packaging

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Plastics continue to be the material of choice for the packaging market, according to a new report by SPI.

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Plastics continue to be the material of choice for the packaging market, according to a new report by SPI. 


Plastics account for one-third or $250 billion of the packaging industry, which is the largest single market for U.S. plastics, according to the report: “Packaging Market Watch: Plastics Packaging Wraps it Up”. The global polymer industry is expected to grow with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 3.9 percent over 2015-2020. The demand for polymers is driven by growth in end-use markets, like packaging, mainly from emerging economies.


One item that stood out from the report is a look at the impact of demographics on plastic packaging. The growing middle class in developing countries, changing birthrates and life expectancies, shifting cultural norms and values all change global consumption patterns that affect industry, including the plastics packaging industry, according to the report.


The world population is estimated to reach at least nine billion people by 2050. So as a result, the size of the plastic packaging industry’s potential customer base will also experience growth until 2050, if not longer.


The report states that in the U.S. the two largest consumer groups that should be of most interest to the plastics packaging industry are the Baby Boomers and Generation Y (which is also called Millennials). The estimated 79 million Baby Boomers (ages 51 to 70) as of 2015 grew up with plastics. Boomers are significant consumers of food and healthcare products, both of which serve among the biggest end uses for plastic packaging.


Going forward, the 87 million Millennials will be a key driver for plastic packaging, according to the report. Millennials prefer healthy and convenient food and beverages that come in packaging which are easily opened; can be resealed for later use; and offer recyclability.


But it’s not all sunshine and roses for the industry. Don’t forget that plastic bag bans are still being implemented. So as plastic packaging is becoming more widespread, it’s even more crucial to communicate the recyclability of packages.


“Plastics perhaps do the job of packaging better and more efficiently than alternative materials such as metal, glass and paper, and are equally, if not more, sustainable,” according to the report. “Concerns about the environmental impact of plastics linger in the background, which underscores the importance for industry to focus on increasing recovery opportunities so plastic packaging also wins in the end-of-life category when stacked up against alternative materials.”