Sustainability is very high on consumers’ agendas. This is particularly evident in preferences for packaging: More and more often, the choice in the supermarket falls on bottles, boxes or bags that are advertised as particularly ecological. Market researchers observe that not only practical but also emotional factors are part of the purchase decision – the entire customer experience including the “unboxing” is gaining in importance.

To market packaging as particularly sustainable, manufacturers and distributors are therefore increasingly using a material with paper content instead of pure plastic packaging. After all, the material offers consumers not only visual but also haptic experiences.

For the recovered paper industry, the trend is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, the growing share of packaging with paper content can result in increasing quantities of recovered paper. On the other hand, by far not all the newly marketed packaging can be easily recycled. For many applications, barrier layers are needed, which can be made of common or (under certain conditions) biodegradable plastics. The composite material often interferes with processes in common facilities: At best, it can be sorted out; under certain circumstances, it leads to contamination of entire batches.

To ensure real sustainability that does not end in greenwashing, consultancies recommend an exchange along the entire value chain: only if packaging manufacturers know the requirements of waste paper recyclers can they use materials that can be efficiently and fully recycled.

However, replacing plastic with fibres and the increasing focus on recallability could also be a short-term trend, according to industry experts. Market observers expect reusable packaging to gain importance in the long term. If the forecast proves true, stability and durability would become decisive factors. Whether plastic, glass, metal or fibers can benefit most from this is still an open question.