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10th Elite Global Summit highlights collaboration as key to sustainable packaging solutions

10th Speciality Films & Flexible Packaging Global Summit 2023

Prabha Narasimhan, chairman and managing director of Colgate-Palmolive India. Photo: The Packman

On 31 August 2023, amidst a gathering of prominent figures from the Indian and global plastic and flexible packaging community, the 10th Elite Global Summit on Specialty Films and Flexible Packaging kicked off in Mumbai. The first day of the Elite conference featured multiple presentations that persistently tackled the complexities of plastic waste within packaging and the proactive measures undertaken in India and across Asia. The event commenced with keynote speakers praising the present and anticipated robustness of the Indian economy while also delving into technical insights concerning the growing reliance on plastic materials and the urgent need for recyclability.

In his keynote address, CK Mishra, retired Ministry of Environment and Forests secretary, boldly declared that the era of finger-pointing and whatabouttry had come to an end. He urged that the time for action is at hand, emphasizing that the conference held the knowledge, talent, and resources necessary to make a significant impact. Mishra dismissed wishful thinking about improvements in municipal waste collection as unrealistic in the near future. His call to action underscored not only the industry’s responsibility to lead in finding comprehensive solutions for plastic waste handling and recycling but also highlighted the potential for substantial profits from the investments required to achieve this goal. Mishra concluded his powerful presentation by invoking the concept of return on investment (ROI), hoping that this would ignite and motivate the entrepreneurial instincts of the participants more than any other well-intentioned pursuits.

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During his keynote address at the summit, Ashok Chaturvedi, the founder, chairman, and managing director of UFlex Group, emphasized the role of cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and enzymatic processing in expediting sustainable advancements in flexible packaging. He took a moment to reflect on the transformation of the plastics industry, noting that in the 1960s, as chemical companies were establishing large-scale plastic production facilities, they coined the slogan: “If you want to save the planet, use plastic.” Chaturvedi expressed a firm belief that today, the global reach between producers and consumers is made possible primarily through flexible packaging.

He provided historical context, highlighting that during the 1960s, chemical companies faced challenges in marketing plastic products, and their production quantities were around 1500 tons per year. In contrast, modern plastic production has surged to a million tons per year. Chaturvedi underscored the significance of multi-layer plastic (MLP) over mono-material packaging and stressed the importance of establishing a robust recycling ecosystem and integrating bio-enzyme technology. He asserted that these elements would propel the industry into its next phase of growth.

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Prabha Narasimhan, chairman and managing director of Colgate-Palmolive India, pointed out the growing affluence of Indian households and the subsequent increase in consumption, particularly in relation to plastic packaging. She stressed the necessity for packaging to undergo a transformation, stating that it should be designed to engage and excite consumers. Narasimhan emphasized that packaging should go beyond its conventional role and facilitate accessibility by introducing sustainable small-sized options at affordable price points. She acknowledged that sustainability often comes with a higher cost, saying, “Sustainability is expensive.”

Drawing attention to her own company’s involvement in the Accelerator +100 program, Narasimhan posed a critical question: “How can we foster partnerships and collaborations?” This challenge reflects the need for the industry to work together to find innovative solutions to sustainability and accessibility concerns in packaging.

Harsh Mariwala, founder chairman and managing director, Marico, discussed the remarkable achievements of the Marico Indian Foundation over the past two years since its inception. He highlighted the foundation’s multifaceted approach, starting with its efforts to scientifically quantify the problem, which culminated in the publication of their findings, widely available for reference several months ago. Additionally, the foundation has been actively involved in identifying, nurturing, and investing in Indian startups that have devised innovative solutions.

As of the beginning of 2023, the Marico India Foundation had identified and acknowledged 15 startups and small companies with practical and viable solutions. Mariwala mentioned three of these noteworthy initiatives. Firstly, he introduced Ishitva Robotic Systems, which has developed an automated system capable of sorting 6 tons of plastic waste per hour, all at half the cost of imported systems. Next, he discussed Lucro, a company specializing in post-consumer resins. Lastly, Mariwala highlighted Zero Circle, a company that has successfully created bio-compostable and water-dissolving plastics derived from seaweed.

Mariwala also articulated the foundation’s future plans, which involve adopting a non-metro city and assisting it in implementing waste sorting at the source. The aim is to transform this city into a zero-landfill pioneer, serving as both an example and a case study for similar initiatives.

Mahan Hazarika
Mahan Hazarika
Mahan Hazarika has been serving as the Editor of The Packman since 2017, demonstrating an impressive decade-long expertise in the field of writing about the printing and packaging industry. In his leisure time, he indulges in his passions for music, travel, and watching movies.

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