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Interview with ICIS

Ahead of her presentation at Sustainability in Packaging Asia 2021 Online, we spoke to our speaker, Tan Jia Hui, Analyst, Plastics Recycling, APAC at ICIS, to gain deeper insight into Asia recycling: prospects for a developing market. Find out what she shared with us below!

Current Industry Focus:

Q: The pandemic has obviously impacted the packaging industry, what are some of the most important impacts that you are already seeing?

We are already seeing impacts such as increased usage of packaging in Asia in the essential industries such as healthcare, food and beverage, and healthcare, as well as lifestyle demands such as ecommerce. Another impact we see is the focus on Green Recoveries and the incorporating of sustainability into many aspects of consumption including packaging. 
Demand for packaging will only increase in the applications highlighted above, and as brands align sustainability goals with the increased production of packaging; alternatives to conventional plastics will gain popularity.
Q. How do you think consumer attitudes have changed in the context of pandemic?

Even the most environmentally conscious consumers value the protection plastics offers with Covid19 as hygiene becomes top priority. There will be inevitably more consumption of more single use packaging from the certain industries, while already non-conscious consumers will only consume more. 
As the pandemic continues to worsen in some countries, consumers make the switch to ecommerce and food delivery to avoid meeting other people. Consuming much more packaging materials compared to before.
Q. What are some of the biggest opportunities gaining attention within the packaging industry? How has your company chosen to react/adapt to stay on trend?

One of biggest opportunities would be the increased focus in sustainability in packaging – from designing for recycling, to standardised recycling labels, to the growing recycled packaging market. Especially the potential to incorporate recycled content in food packaging in Asia, as more countries in the region begin dialogues around that.
With global demand for recycled polymers currently outstripping supply – particularly for food grade packaging plastics – many FMCGs, manufacturers and converters find sourcing of feedstock to hit regulatory and sustainability goals challenging. Sourcing recycled resins in a growing, opaque, and increasingly competitive market providing many challenges to the packaging sector. Driven by regulation and consumer pressure, it remains one of the industry's most pressing issues.
To facilitate the industry, ICIS has developed the Recycling Supply Tracker (both mechanical and chemical) that allows companies looking to source recycled plastics to quickly gain a comprehensive view of the sector and identify new supplier relationships, as well as take a strategic view on existing and announced projects.
This global database coupled with our price reports are designed to bring transparency to an otherwise opaque and fragmented industry, supporting the industry’s transition to a circular economy.

Future Focus:

Q. How do you think COVID-19 will impact the packaging industry in the short and longer-term?

Short term impacts on packaging companies include an increase in demand in the packaging for groceries, healthcare and e-commerce sectors.
Whereas longer term may see the rise in usage of alternative plastics, such as bioplastics and edible plastics alongside higher levels of recycled content.
Q. What does your company/ organization hope to achieve over the next 5 years with regards to the future of packaging industry?

At ICIS, we connect data, markets and customers to create a comprehensive view of the recycled plastics markets, enabling smarter business decisions that optimise the world's resources.
We hope to enable companies to make forward looking decisions to manage and deliver their sustainability goals with confidence. As we bridge the gap between companies' sustainability targets and recycled plastic supply, we also aim to facilitate the industry's transition towards using recyclates across all types of applications, including packaging.
Q. How do you expect to see the recycling infrastructure change in Asia in the next few years?

I foresee more transparency in the supply chain and logistics, as well as increased political will from governments for positive change, and action, in tackling the environmental challenges we face. Discussions around allowing recycled plastics in food and beverage packaging has already begun, we might even see the possibility of harmonized recycling guidelines in ASEAN.
Q. What do you think will be some of the most interesting advancements in materials or packaging types in the near future?

I think it would have to be innovative packaging like edible packaging. It’ll be interesting to see how edible packaging pans out in the age of Covid19, how it scales up while balancing the fine line of hygiene, biobased, degradability and sustainability.

Conference Related:

Q. Your presentation at this year’s Sustainability in Packaging Asia will cover 'Asia recycling: Prospects for a developing market'. Why is it important for others in your industry to hear this message? What are some of the key take-aways?

Asia's recycling capabilities have always laid on the shoulders of China, which left the world reeling under the impact of the National Sword Policy. Do join me during my session as I share how Asia Pacific has responded to this policy, be it in terms of investments or tech advancements. I will also be sharing findings and trend analysis derived from our research from the ICIS Recycling Supply Tracker, including upcoming mechanical and chemical recycling capabilities. 
Q. Which presentations (what session topic) are you most looking forward to hearing about at Sustainability in Packaging Asia? 

I am looking forward to Section 2: Regulatory Landscape and Initiatives for Circular Packaging the most, followed by Section 6: Innovations in Packaging Materials. Excited to hear about new regulatory developments in the region and how businesses are responding with new innovations that can bridge the demand and supply gap.