The German plastic packaging industry is set to grow in 2018 as the country braces for more stringent packaging rules in 2019.
According to figures published by the German Plastics Packaging Industry Association (IK), the sector is expected to register a 5.1 percent year-on-year increase in sales, reaching 15.4 billion euros ($17.3 billion) by the end of 2018, with volumes rising 3.9 percent to 4.5 million metric tons.
“The plastic packaging industry is continuing to benefit from generally very good economic conditions in Germany,” Inga Kelkenberg, an IK industry expert said as she reported on the current situation.
According to Kelkenberg, “negative reports and discussions in the media” have not had effects on the market, which has posted noticeable growth in all segments.
Additionally, the ability to pass on rising raw material prices has helped the growth in revenue, she noted, but added that the industry will continue to confront the twin challenges of rising energy costs and shortage of skilled labor.
The IK (Industrievereinigung Kunststoffverpackungen e.V.) is the trade association representing the interests of plastic packaging and industrial films manufacturers in Germany and Europe.
The predominantly medium-sized companies in the sector employ over 90,000 people and generate annual sales of 15 billion euros ($16.9 billion). Plastic packaging currently accounts for 44 percent of the German packaging market.
Germany is set to introduce a new packaging act in 2019 which will require all businesses placing goods on the German market to register with the central packaging registry.
The new act aims to improve the existing law on packaging by focusing on recycling and the prevention of packaging waste. As part of the new law, an impartial central office will be set up to check that all packaging placed on the German market is licensed properly.
Additionally, the new act will increase recycling targets for different materials, reaching 63 percent for plastic by 2022, up from the current 36 percent. A target of 90 percent has been set for metal, glass and paper and board by 2022. The act will also encourage reusable packaging, setting a goal for total reusable beverage packaging of 70 percent.
Furthermore, the act will offer incentives for packaging producers to incorporate recyclability considerations into packaging design.
The extent of the new act's impact on the plastics packaging industry is not yet clear.
“The packaging act is going to influence the fees for the collection systems. This means, for example, that non-recyclable packaging would get more expensive. [But] to what extent is still not known,” Kelkenberg said in a written statement to Plastics News Europe.
What is clear is that different parts of the supply chain will have to work closer together to achieve the ambitious targets set by the new act.
“We have to double the recycling rate quite soon, so efforts are needed to improve the design of the packages [for recycling] and to improve sorting and the waste stream,” she noted.
Another area that needs to be addressed is the creation of markets for recyclates, so manufacturers can use them in their products and verify their recycled content rates.
In addition, big players may have to rethink their marketing strategies and reduce their use of “shiny or colorful” packaging, according to Kelkenberg.
“We will need more dialogue along the value chain. In fact, a lot is happening now in this regard,” she added.
IK is currently informing its members about the packaging act and is offering training sessions on the new regulation as well as on how to advance ‘design for recycling' in the coming year.
The trade association will also publish "ecodesign guidelines" for the plastic packaging industry next year to support its members in complying with the new regulations.
Overall, the IK leader pointed to a slowdown in economic growth in Germany, and its potential impact on the packaging sector, which she said is “closely connected” to the general economy.
It is expected that the German GDP will grow 1.6 percent next year after a somewhat higher growth this year. This, according to Kelkenberg, will “most probably influence the demand for packaging.”
Some of the bigger industries in Germany, such as the chemical and automotive segments, have already shown signs of slowdown, the IK official concluded.