As 2020, the year that nobody predicted, finally draws to a close, Antalis’ Head of Business Development for packaging, John Garner, offers a mix of realism and optimism as he looks ahead to 2021.

John Garner.

2020 is a year that very few will look upon fondly, but one thing it has shown, according to John Garner, is the extraordinary capabilities within the UK’s packaging industry. “In the face of the most challenging period in living memory, it has shown a resilience, adaptability and depth of expertise that makes me feel very optimistic for the future. The work rate and innovation from our team here at Antalis over the last few months, as they have supported our customers to adapt and cope, has been incredible to witness.” John believes 2021 is about getting back on track with some key issues.

Prior to COVID-19, the ‘Blue Planet effect’ had brought about a revolution in the way people think about and use plastics. Concerns around virus transmission, coupled with the need for businesses to get orders out of the door, has seen sustainability issues take a back seat.

John believes 2021 is the time to refocus on this important issue. While a lot of businesses, have shifted from plastic to paper, other non-wood fibre sources need to be found to support the transition away from plastics. “At Antalis, we’re working on a number of projects to see how we can develop packaging products made from sustainable sources,” explains John, “It’s something that will need to be accelerated over the next 12 months with the new Plastic Packaging Tax scheduled for April 2022.”

The Plastic Packaging Tax will see manufacturers and importers paying £200 per tonne on packaging materials made from less than 30% recycled plastic. For many Antalis customers, packaging film is one of the biggest contributors to their plastic waste and so the company is looking at ways to help them reduce this, plus Antalis will be continuing its research into other options.

“There is still a degree of uncertainty about how new rules and regulations will affect businesses, but what is certain is that Brexit will be top of the agenda for anyone involved in exporting to countries in the EU and further afield”, comments John.

The big issue facing many is the regulations around heat-treating pallets, which, as part of the EU, the UK has up until now been exempt from. It has led to a rush in businesses stockpiling ISPM 15-compliant pallets needed to export to the EU. “It’s going to be important for businesses to find alternatives. Probably one of the best is PALLITE® recyclable paper pallets. As well as being environmentally-friendly and very light, PALLITE® pallets are also ISPM15-exempt”, says John.

John believes there is also likely to be a greater need for volatile corrosion inhibitor (VCI) packaging for industrial products making long journeys via sea freight. Similarly, this is also likely to see a growth in requirement for heavy-duty packaging boards able to withstand knocks and humid conditions.

In addition to the many practical issues of getting product packed and safely to its destination, the continued rise in online ordering – accelerated by changing consumer habits – e- companies need to ensure they are balancing this with providing standout customer experiences, particularly for luxury goods.

John believes there have been some interesting developments over the last few years as businesses understand the growing importance of delivering e-commerce experiences that really ‘wow’ customers.

John concludes: “2021 is going to be an interesting year for all sorts of reasons. I think we’re going to see lots of changes and developments but, one thing I am sure about, whatever the year throws at us, I know the packaging industry is ready. At Antalis, we offer free audits whereby we will come in and review your operation and make recommendations on the kinds of improvements that can be made. But I can’t stress enough that it’s something you need to do now if you’ve any hope of coping with changes like we’ve never seen before.”

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