The research from the plastics manufacturers' trade group, estimated food and beverage packaging rose 0.5% from 2010 and attributed it to being used in ‘everyday products which are less influenced by economic fluctuations.’
The study noted a plastic bottle uses a third of the material it did 40 years ago and the carbon footprint of meat is more than 100 times the impact of the packaging that protects and extends its shelf-life.
Five largest plastics types, polyolefins, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polystyrene (PS), expanded polystyrene (EPS) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) account for about 70% of the total global demand, an estimated 200m tonnes.
Plastic production growth
According to the research, global plastics production is expected to grow by an average of 4% from 2010 to 2016.
Thomas Bauwens, media and communications manager, at PlasticsEurope told FoodProductionDaily.com the consolidated figures and a geographic breakdown for 2011 would be available later this year.
“However, according to our latest estimations, [food and beverage] plastic packaging production rose by 0.5% compared to 2010."
When asked about the advantages of plastic, Bauwens said: “Being lightweight, it saves resources both in transport and manufacturing. It is cost-effective and convenient to consumers in their daily lives, and it reduces waste by extending shelf life.
“Thanks to modified atmosphere plastic packaging (MAP), for instance, meat can be stored for up to 10 days instead of five.
“Continued innovation, such as biosensors that detect bacteria or RFID tags which can provide warnings over temperature changes and humidity levels, will help to further extend this shelf life in the years to come.”
In 2010, China overtook Europe (21.5%) as the biggest production region with 23.5%, while worldwide production rose to 280m tonnes last year.
Bauwens added: “In 2010, plastic packaging accounted for 39% of the European converters demand which was 46m tonnes.
“Germany and Italy have the highest converters’ consumption with 11.495m and 7.15m tonnes respectively. They were followed by France, Spain and the UK. These annual figures are based on data provided by our member companies.”
Bauwens added that plastics help reduce the overall environmental footprint of packaging.
“As highlighted in a recent study on the impact of plastic packaging on energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, replacing plastics with other materials would lead to 3.6 times more energy consumption, 2.7 times more greenhouse gas emissions and an increased packaging mass.”