At the beginning of a new year, the editorial team at Packaging Europe shares its vision for the packaging industry in 2024 – where it might thrive, fall short, or change in the next twelve months.



In March 2022, a UN resolution was adopted to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including the marine environment. The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) was set up as a result.

The third session (INC-3) took place in Nairobi, Kenya in November 2023 and saw steps towards achieving the goal set out, but some work remains to be done. Reactions were mixed. The Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty has praised the majority of Member States for their positive contribution – but the Ellen MacArthur Foundation states that ‘limited formal progress’ was made to boost intersessional work or expand on the zero draft text.’

Jyoti Mathur-Filipp, executive secretary of the Secretariat, expects that the narrowing down and finalizing of different text options will take place at the next sessions – INC-4 in April 2024 in Ottawa, Canada, and INC-5 in the Republic of Korea in November 2024. This will be followed by a diplomatic conference in 2025, when members are expected to adopt the instrument and open it for signature.

“Plastic pollution affects us all. We need a strong, ambitious and just plastic treaty, but that is only the first step. Once the instrument is adopted, the next crucial step will be ensuring its timely and effective implementation. I would like all Members and stakeholders to start looking at how implementation can start happening,” she says.

It looks like progress currently is slow and there are plenty of challenges ahead - we will of course report on progress at the upcoming INC-4 here at Packaging Europe. Elisabeth Skoda, Editor at Large

The rise of AI

2023 has witnessed a disruptive technology emerging across the board of industry and particularly within the packaging sector: Artificial Intelligence. But what possibilities does it have for the future?

This technology can be applied and supports many different factors across the sector; from technological advancements, logistical and production benefits (such as optimizing operations on production lines), sorting materials in waste streams, to marketing campaigns, recycling, sustainability (such as measuring carbon emissions), robotics, connecting supply chains, and boosting inspection performance to name but a few.

The possibilities seem endless for application when addressing key challenges we are looking to solve. Perhaps it will be vital for problem-solving and decision-making in areas we seem to routinely fail as humans – such as interacting with the environment and creating a sustainable future.

According to the research and markets report Artificial Intelligence in Packaging: Thematic Research, AI will leave its mark on all sectors. Incumbents in virtually every industry face disruption from AI, and those that fail to make AI a priority will risk extinction.

In the coming years, AI as a service will drive uptake and democratize AI technologies. The publisher predicts that adoption will rise in the sector thanks to as-a-service offerings from big tech companies that democratize the use of AI.

With the packaging industry putting ever more importance on data learning and transparency, AI has the power to open our eyes and support us in streamlining and improving our current models, beyond our capabilities as humans. Libby Munford, Editor


Given the focus on reuse and refill at the heart of some of the biggest initiatives on packaging waste – whether that’s the Global Plastics Treaty, the revisions to the European PPWR, or the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Plastics Pact, to give just three examples – it seems feasible to hope that 2024 may finally see the industry at least making some headway in the establishment of viable reuse schemes.

Recently, there have been a number of promising startups in the area, including but by no means limited to some of our Sustainability Awards finalists such as the EcoCubly e-commerce platform or Fyllar’s ‘mess-free’ refill solution. Major brands have also been rolling out their own pilots: Nestlé, for instance, has launched reuse pilots across 12 countries, and the Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo have announced specific reuse targets. Next year we can perhaps expect to hear some of the results.

It’s also been suggested that we are rethinking our approach to reuse: more agile and focused on localized areas. An example of how this might look can be seen in London-based clean-tech start-up Again, which funded a pilot scheme in London with the Budweiser Brewing Group, Diageo, Biffa, Greene King, and Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. The company has been using new automation, robotics and software technologies to build a ‘decentralized network of automated micro cleaning facilities’.

The ideas and the enabling technologies are clearly there, but there is a strong caveat: reuse and refill is still even now in its infancy and we have yet to see any initiatives achieve success on a much wider scale – even much talked-about schemes such as TerraCycle’s Loop have struggled to gain real traction after various trials.

What is needed in the coming year – and what has been largely lacking to date – is the collaboration of global policymakers, manufacturers, supply chain members and retailers, not to mention a willingness on the part of consumers to adapt their behaviour. Reuse can’t become a major part of packaging value chain if there isn’t coherent legislation, clear definitions for different reuse models, and willingness to accelerate the uptake of promising new business and delivery models.

This being the case, it’s of course hard to predict with certainty how much progress will be made in reuse in the coming year. But after many, many conversations among experts, policymakers, and stakeholders we now at least have an idea of how to get there. Victoria Hattersley, Senior Writer

Fibre-based packaging

Last year, the area of fibre-based packaging saw products such as Releaf’s bags made from fallen leaves and Paboco’s paper bottle prototype being developed. However, the need for more recyclable barrier coatings became clear.

August this year saw RyPax and CelluComp collaborate on a fibre-based bottle with a plant-based coating, apparently the ‘first all-fibre bottle solution’ with a biodegradable inner coating. Made from pulp fibre with sources including root vegetable waste, bamboo, and bagasse, it is predicted to benefit industries such as food, beverage, beauty, and retail.

Craste, which creates products from crop residue, was a finalist in this year’s Sustainability Awards with its compostable millet straw packaging including boxes and bags. The company claims its technology can transform any type of crop waste into customized packaging.

What other applications for fibre-based packaging have we seen this year? In July, Ahlstrom, adapa, and Maped worked together to incorporate transparent, fibre-based packaging papers into flowpacks for erasers, often used in school supplies. Ahlstrom’s ‘Cristal’ fibre-based paper was used, which is reportedly renewable, biodegradable and made from natural cellulose fibres.

I anticipate 2024 will see further research and developments in creating a more efficient life cycle for fibre-based packaging, particularly around recyclability at the end of life, and more applications in areas beyond food, beverage and retail. Frances Butler, Junior Journalist

Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation

Depending on who you ask, the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (formerly a Directive) has either come on leaps and bounds or taken one step forward, two steps back. After its initial draft was leaked in late 2022, it has made lots of progress this year – and sparked months of discussion, both positive and negative.

Now the European Parliament has voted on and adopted the Regulation with 426 votes in favour, 125 against, and 74 abstentions. The Committee on Environment has introduced a series of Compromise Amendments to fill gaps in the original draft, and both the European Parliament and Council have established their positions for trialogue negotiations coming up in January 2024.

Criticism of the legislative text is likely to continue into the new year. When both positions have already been met with mixed reactions, it remains to be seen whether the final draft will be widely accepted.

Even the most recent amendments to date have caused concern for certain industry players, from UNESDA’s reservations about new reuse targets failing to complement existing recycling efforts to EUBP objecting to missing measures regarding bioplastics.

In any case, laws will be passed, responses will follow, and Packaging Europe will keep on top of the latest news! Emma Liggins, Junior Journalist

Sustainable Packaging Summit 2024

For Packaging Europe, stories around the UN’s Global Plastic Treaty and the EU’s PPWR drove immense amounts of interest from readers in 2023, and we expect much of the same in 2024 as these bits of regulations start to take a more concrete shape. Indeed, the other themes picked out by my colleagues Libby, Victoria and Frances are frequently touted as potential solutions to the issues that these new rules will be designed to deal with.

Regardless of how people feel, however, it’s clear that plastics will also have a key role to play in these discussions in the year ahead. Recyclability, material reduction and other innovation-forward themes in this realm will be crucial.

Needless to say, our 2024 Sustainable Packaging Summit and Sustainability Awards will be at the forefront of all of these discussions. We’re very much looking forward to hearing from industry-leading experts on all the themes identified above, and spotlighting the products and innovations that we believe are making a real difference as the packaging industry moves towards a more sustainable future.

Some important dates for you calendar: the Sustainable Packaging Summit 2024 will be taking place from the 12th to the 13th of November this year, and submissions for the Sustainability Awards open on the 15th of January! More information on all of this will be available soon – stay tuned to our website and social channels for updates! Fin Slater, Digital Content Manager

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