Environmental awareness has been a consumer trend for a long time now. According to NielsenIQ, as many as 81% – across national and generational borders – believe that companies should participate in the fight against climate change. Often demanding that suppliers and manufacturers do what they can to be a part of the solution – not the problem – and preferably prove it before purchasing.

Measures that reduce waste, enable recycling, and save resources and energy are simply expected in the 21st century.

The big brands are catching on and are keen to please.

Procter & Gamble aims to cut its virgin plastic use in half by 2030, stating "via light-weighting, increasing recycled content (PCR), driving conversion to more concentrated product forms, and when it makes sense, using alternative materials." They are also committed to making all its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2030. And the Coca Cola Company aims to make its global packaging 100% recyclable by 2025 and use at least 50% recycled material in their packaging by 2030.​

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4 Eco-Friendly and sustainability trends within packaging and labelling

In the wake of "Climate Change" being one of the biggest megatrends this past decade, several macrotrends and microtrends have emerged within the packaging and labelling industry.

Learn more about megatrends, macrotrends, microtrends and fads within packaging and labelling here.

1. Mono-materials

Mono-materials are packaging and labels made of the same material, enabling sorting and recycling as one component. For example, if your packaging is of a different grade of plastic than your label, then together, they might not be recyclable – even though one of them is. The same goes for packaging made of recyclable plastic with a paper-based label and vice versa.

Read more: How mono-materials in labelling contributes to a circular economy

2. Natural Textures

Paper labels can add a tactile texture that today's consumer appreciates — especially those interested in renewable energy. The natural feel creates a link to something organic and pure. But make sure that the complete packaging is eco-friendly – even after use, this type of consumer won't stand for greenwashing. Paper labels can often make plastic packaging non-recyclable, but with the right kind of label you can get the natural texture and feel without losing the recyclability.

3. A green story to tell

organic product communication

Knowing what a brand stands for influences the consumer's choice – more than the price point in many cases. According to Forbes, a study based on 1,000 consumers in the US and UK shows that 88% want brands to help them be more environmentally friendly and make it easier to make ethical choices in their everyday lives. The brand's values should, of course, be genuine and communicated in a way that your customer group immediately understands them.

For example, many consumers actively search for sustainable brands, local and nationally produced brands, or organic brands. Knowing this, both your label and your packaging should reflect the values of your business. In the food industry, this could entail telling a story about the local farmer as the supplier, sourcing method, animal welfare, or areas of origin.

Read more: Do you have a sustainable plan for your packaging and labelling?

4. The Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT)

Well, not so much a trend as it is a law, but new legislation often drives change in trends. The Plastic Packaging Tax will be enforced in the UK come April 1st, 2022, and apply to plastic packaging manufactured in or imported into the UK containing less than 30% recycled plastic when measured by weight. With a tax rate of £200 per tonne, manufacturers and importers alike are making significant changes to their packaging to ensure that it contains a minimum of 30% recycled plastic.

At the moment, unfortunately, the Plastic Packaging Tax doesn't ensure that the packaging material is recyclable post-consumption, as the 30% minimum use of PCR plastic refers to the product as a whole and not to each component. Meaning that you could have an HDPE bottle with a PP label or paper label – which combined may make the whole thing non-recyclable.

Many brands don't know this, which is why it's so important to seek advice from your packaging and label manufacturer. We engineer labels and know how materials from the different components work and recycle when used together and can demonstrate your packaging and labelling sustainable potential.

Packaging and labelling trends uk label manufacturer Skanem UK