“There’s a great future in plastics.” That classic line from the 1967 movie“The Graduate” seems to have come true for pet food packaging today – but itslack of sustainability could eventually pose a problem.

Plastic bags are used nearly as much as paper for dry pet food and will likelyovertake paper by 2023, according to a 2018 Packaged Facts report. They havebecome popular (also for pet treats) due to their ability to protect theproduct, keep it fresh, include convenient features like zip-top closures andallow for attractive images and graphics.

The sustainability factor cannot be ignored, however. Packaged Facts’ consumersurveys show that 30% of U.S. pet owners try to avoid pet foods with excesspackaging. In the overall U.S. population, 58% of consumers said they have amore positive view of brands using no plastic or limited amounts in theirpackaging, said Suzanne Shelton, president and CEO of the Shelton Group, whichconducted a consumer poll on single-use plastics in March 2019.

Pet food packaging suppliers are researching ways to make their offerings moresustainable, but at this point, truly sustainable packaging would sacrificeimportant features like product protection or oxidation barriers while alsobeing prohibitively expensive, according to companies like TCTranscontinental.

Recycling isn’t necessarily a panacea; it’s usually a one-way process, accessto it is limited in some areas and not all consumers comply anyway. Less than9% of all plastics ever made have been recycled, while only 18% of U.S. petowners consider the use of recycled, recyclable or biodegradable materials inpet food packaging important at this point, Packaged Facts said.

Yet recycling is what we have now, and some pet food companies are encouragingit or undertaking other initiatives to reduce single-use plastics. Brands suchas Wellness and Royal Canin are partnering with TerraCycle to encouragecustomers to drop off or send in empty pet food bags, while Annamaet usesbiodegradable bags, Only Natural Pet uses bags made partially with bioplasticsand Nestle Purina launched a packaging research institute. These are only afew of the pet food players seeking to be more sustainable.

Source: By Debbie Phillips-Donaldson Pet Food Industry

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