(Bloomberg Gadfly) — Packaging is everywhere in modern life, yet it’s easy to miss how it’s changing our world.
If you’re the sort of affluent, urban consumer who’s likely to be reading this article, you may think fears of non-degradable landfill and choked turtles are gradually killing off plastic containers. Cold-brew coffee comes in a cute glass bottle at the convenience store, and organic sausages at least have a brown cardboard sleeve around their polypropylene tray.
In fact, the opposite is the case. Rigid plastic containers will see the fastest growth in global consumption to 2020, while metal cans and bottles will fall behind, according to a 2016 report by Smithers Pira, a consultancy. Flexible packaging — the pouches and wrappers used to hold shredded cheese, muesli bars and washed salad — has been another winner in recent years. To the extent that paper and board continue to thrive, it’s largely as online-purchase delivery boxes rather than anything found on grocery shelves.