Cleveland OH, April 28, 2023 – According to a new study by The Freedonia Group, Global Protective Packaging, plastic will remain by far the leading protective packaging material, accounting for 71% of protective packaging material usage. Growth will be supported by:
- broad and expanding use of protective mailers, air pillows, and other flexible products in e-commerce order fulfillment, by far the fastest growing market for protective packaging
- increasing e-commerce shipments of delicate and fragile items such as electronics, which require higher protective performance to avoid damage during transit (e.g., molded foams to keep items in place, surface protection films to prevent scratches, and rolled foams for additional cushioning)
Paper will see moderate growth and siphon some share from plastic, as sustainability trends – including bans of such EPS foam products as loose fill in parts of the country – will encourage substitution of plastic with paper. For example, paper fill is seeing more use in e-commerce applications at plastic’s expense – particularly for shipping less delicate items, such as books and clothing – due to ongoing efforts of major e-commerce vendors to address consumer concerns about packaging sustainability. However, in some manufacturing applications, a lack of suitable alternatives to plastic supports demand for foams such as molded EPS.
Molded fiber demand will register robust growth, seeing increased use in nondurables goods packaging. Molded fiber is replacing expanded polystyrene in some manufacturing applications due to recycled fiber’s more environmentally friendly profile (e.g., being recyclable and degradable).
Sustainability trends will also drive fast growth for biodegradable and compostable materials such as cornstarch, hemp, soy, and mushrooms (counted in Other Materials). However, the high costs and performance disadvantages of these bio-based materials in many applications mean such products will remain niche.