Demand for mono-material flexible polymer packaging will reach 21.51 million tonnes and a value of $58.9 billion in 2020, according to research in the latest Smithers market report, “The Future of Mono-Material Plastic Packaging Film to 2025.”

The report says that demand for more sustainable solutions to meet brand owner and consumer expectations will see this market accelerate at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.8% to reach $70.9 billion in 2025, with a total of 26.03 million tonnes consumed. 

The need for easier to recycle polymer formats is being pursued at multiple points in the packaging value chain to cut pollution associated with plastic and embrace circular economy models. Conventional multilayer composite films are difficult to recycle because of the need to separate the different film layers, and many countries lack the necessary recycling systems and processes. In contrast, mono-material films — constructed from a single polymer type — are fully recyclable. 

Smithers’ analysis tracks the demand for the four principal mono-material constructions in packaging films are: 

  • Polyethylene (PE)
  • Polypropylene (BOPP, OPP, cast PP)
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
  • Regenerated cellulose fibre (RCF)

PE is the most widely used polymer for mono-material film packaging, accounting for over half of forecast global consumption in 2020. The report says it will see strong growth through to 2025, but be outstripped by rising demand for PP grades. RCF use will rise only slowly over the forecast period, and demand for mono-material PVC will decline as alternative solutions are adopted by converters.

Demand for these materials is tracked for 2015-2025 in 20 world regions and top national markets; and across 11 end-use segments. Smithers’ research shows that fresh food and snack food and confectionery are the largest users in 2020. Fresh foods will also see the most rapid increase in demand across the next five years, while growth in snack segments will be more muted. Other fast growing applications for mono-material film packaging include, chilled foods, frozen foods, and pharmaceuticals and medical products.