Sustainable Packaging

Remove, Reduce, Recycle, Renew, Re-use. These are five of the original 7 R's of Sustainable Packaging revealed by Wal-Mart when it introduced its Packaging Scorecard to a standing-room only audience at Pack Expo 2006. The mega-retailer has since shortened the list to reduce, reuse and recycle, but also added a new term, rethink, to encourage companies to always remember to consider smarter sustainable options.

 

To better understand sustainable packaging, we need to understand what sustainability is and how it's different from the focus in the 1970s on the environmental aspects and impacts of packaging.

 

Sustainability surfaced in packaging vernacular in 2006, after publication of "The Triple Bottom Line: How Today's Best-Run Companies Are Achieving Economic, Social and Environmental Success - and How You Can Too" by Andrew Savitz with Karl Weber, which Amazon.com describes as "the groundbreaking book that charts the rise of sustainability within the business world and shows how and why financial success increasingly goes hand in hand with social and environmental achievement."

 

This broader look expands on packaging's previous environmental-only focus to include the business (economic) and social aspects (such as ethical material sourcing and manufacturing conditions).

 

The basis for sustainable packaging started during the environmental movement in the 1970s. Americans celebrated their first Earth Day in 1970, and became aware of some of our ecological problems such as pollution and littering through various media outlets. One of the most powerful messages came from The Crying Indian anti-litter commercial from Keep America Beautiful.

 

The finger-pointing at packaging as the main culprit of the country's ecological problems didn't happen in force until the late 1980s. That's when the Garbage Barge became a media sensation. Piled high with trash from Long Island residents, the Mobro 4000 barge left New York City on March 22, 1987, initially headed for a landfill in the southern U.S. But the load was refused there, and at other ports. As Chaz Miller wrote in 2007 for Waste 360, "The economy was hot, and news was slow. Garbage, which is just the effluence of our affluence, was the perfect target. Greenpeace, Phil Donahue and Johnny Carson all used the barge as fodder. Six months after it sailed, the garbage barge's trash was burned in a Brooklyn incinerator, and the ashes buried back in Long Island. The media didn't attend the funeral."

 

Thus began a concerted effort to reduce the volume of trash by increasing recycling rates of used packaging in the U.S. Efforts to establish an economically viable infrastructure for various packaging materials and engage all stakeholders continue to this day.

 

While sustainable packaging isn't a difficult concept to understand, it is complex. Is it replacing a rigid container with a pouch? Is it removing a carton and letting a toothpaste tube stand on its own on a shelf? Is it creating one bulk pack instead of multiple single-serve items? Is it using PET instead of PVC because PET can be easily recycled? Is it changing from a round to a square container to be more cube efficient? Is it faster set-up times on the packaging line to minimize the amount of product and packaging waste? Yes, it's all of this - and more.

 

Sustainable packaging is no longer focused on just recycling. Just as packaging is not the only eco target, although it is still top of mind for many. Right or wrong, packaging is frequently scrutinized and used as the measure of a company's overall sustainability, even though it may contribute only a small percentage to the total eco impact compared to other things, such as transportation, and water and energy use.

 

The idea of looking at the entire life cycle of a package - from raw materials all the way through disposal - gained ground in the early 2000s. But much of the focus remains on end-of-life.

 

In an exclusive interview with Packaging Digest in 2013, Jim Hanna, director, environmental impact, Starbucks Coffee Co., explains, "Consumers, especially in the U.S. and Canada, define sustainable packaging by focusing on end of life. That's caused us to focus a lot of effort and resources into creating solutions for our packaging because we know that's what resonates most with our customers."

 

But in seeking the broader, more encompassing definition of sustainable packaging, most packaging professionals refer to the Definition of Sustainable Packaging developed by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition in 2005:

 

Sustainable packaging...

  • Is beneficial, safe & healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle
  • Meets market criteria for performance and cost
  • Is sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy
  • Optimizes the use of renewable or recycled source materials
  • Is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices
  • Is made from materials healthy throughout the life cycle
  • Is physically designed to optimize materials and energy
  • Is effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial closed loop cycles

Brand owners and packaging developers continue to search for more sustainable packaging materials.

For example, efforts to develop plant-based bioplastics for packaging accelerated in 2009 when the world's largest beverage company devoted time and resources to create and commercialize the PlantBottle. The Coca-Cola Co.'s first-generation PlantBottle replaced one of the two base components of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) with renewable materials made from sugar cane byproducts.

PET is made of 30% mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) and 70% purified terephthalic acid (PTA). The PlantBottle replaces petroleum-based MEG with a plant-based alternative, which doesn't change the recyclability of the PET.

To help fund continued commercialization of the PlantBottle technology and make it more economically viable for all, Coke has collaborated with a number of suppliers - as well as consumer packaged goods (CPG) partners, including Heinz and SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.

While the Coca-Cola PlantBottle introduction was one of the most impactful developments for the bioplastics industry in recent years, it was not the only one. The Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance is another partnership developed to boost bioplastics development, an area of sustainable packaging that is undergoing a quiet revolution.

But bioplastics are only one alternate material being considered. Dell has been actively looking for and using sustainable alternatives for packaging materials, such as bamboo, wheat straw and mushroom-based packaging. In May 2014, the computer and accessories dynamo touted its new packaging made from air.

Content Tabs


Article

For your sustainable packaging projects, do you struggle to introduce innovation and stay on schedule and on budget? Think you can’t have it all? Well, maybe you can.


Article

Alter Eco switches from a non-recyclable laminated pouch structure to a “Gone4Good” backyard-compostable stand-up pouch made from non-GMO (genetically-modified organisms), plant-based materials.


Article

When deciding the size of a product’s package—single serve versus multiserve or 12 versus 16 ounces, for example—brands typically consider consumer convenience, optimum shelf display or profitability.


Article

Source reduction, recycling and “efficient” packaging continue to be go-to methods to minimize the amount of waste sent to landfills in the U.S.


Article

Wegmans. Ikea. Mars. SC Johnson. Carlsberg Group. Nestlé. Keurig Green Mountain.


Article

Seventh Generation is committed to achieving zero waste by 2020, and sustainable packaging is a key element in its strategy.


Article

In an increasingly sustainability driven world, packaging experts and consumer products companies alike are learning that a focus on “green” is quickly becoming a necessity in today’s product environment.


Article

Sustainable packaging trends, material options and commercialized examples captured your interest throughout the year, as companies’ environmental goals often include, if not center on, packaging improvements.


Article

In September, the United Nations adopted a final roadmap for the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Article

The 2015 Trends Report from the Foodservice Packaging Institute, Falls Church, VA, highlighted industry opinions that focused predominately on environmentally friendly packaging and customization techniques to differentiate pr


Article

The global market for bioplastics will grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 14.8% to become a $30.8 billion market by 2020, according to a new report, "World Bioplastics Market Opportunities and Forecast, 2014-2020," fro


Article

Is your company taking advantage of the circular economy approach to sustainability? Have on-pack environmental marketing claims become more important to consumers or to your company?


Article

Three resourceful companies are changing the rhetoric on waste by reimagining it as feedstock for innovative bio-based packaging materials.

 


Article

In celebration of America Recycles Day on Nov.


Article

Wolfgang Puck Coffee is walking the talk when it comes to sustainable packaging. The brand has announced it is switching to recyclable single-serve coffee pods to reduce the number of used pods going to landfill.


For your sustainable packaging projects, do you struggle to introduce innovation and stay on schedule and on budget? Think you can’t have it all? Well, maybe you can.

Oliver Campbell, director, worldwide procurement and packaging...


Alter Eco switches from a non-recyclable laminated pouch structure to a “Gone4Good” backyard-compostable stand-up pouch made from non-GMO (genetically-modified organisms), plant-based materials.

The new pouches replace previous packaging for...


When deciding the size of a product’s package—single serve versus multiserve or 12 versus 16 ounces, for example—brands typically consider consumer convenience, optimum shelf display or profitability. But perhaps sustainability should be higher up...


Source reduction, recycling and “efficient” packaging continue to be go-to methods to minimize the amount of waste sent to landfills in the U.S.

The just-released 20th Anniversary Edition of “A Study of Packaging Efficiency, As It Relates to...


Wegmans. Ikea. Mars. SC Johnson. Carlsberg Group. Nestlé. Keurig Green Mountain. A virtual who’s who in sustainability and packaging will converge on the Windy City this spring for the 9th annual...


Seventh Generation is committed to achieving zero waste by 2020, and sustainable packaging is a key element in its strategy. Most recently, the company switched to a packaging design for dishwasher-detergent pods that offers all the functionality...


In an increasingly sustainability driven world, packaging experts and consumer products companies alike are learning that a focus on “green” is quickly becoming a necessity in today’s product environment. On the heels of COP21, an exciting 2015...


Sustainable packaging trends, material options and commercialized examples captured your interest throughout the year, as companies’ environmental goals often include, if not center on, packaging improvements.

Here are the top seven...


In September, the United Nations adopted a final roadmap for the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Broadly speaking, SDGs are targets for governments, communities and institutions to further international development.

The 2030...


The 2015 Trends Report from the Foodservice Packaging Institute, Falls Church, VA, highlighted industry opinions that focused predominately on environmentally friendly packaging and customization techniques to differentiate products. The annual...


The global market for bioplastics will grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 14.8% to become a $30.8 billion market by 2020, according to a new report, "World Bioplastics Market Opportunities and Forecast, 2014-2020," from market intelligence...


Is your company taking advantage of the circular economy approach to sustainability? Have on-pack environmental marketing claims become more important to consumers or to your company? Are you correctly measuring sustainable packaging success?

...

Three resourceful companies are changing the rhetoric on waste by reimagining it as feedstock for innovative bio-based packaging materials.

 

Free trade coffee, biofuels, recycled plastics, non-GMO apples, conflict-free minerals,...


In celebration of America Recycles Day on Nov. 15, Packaging Digest takes stock of the latest recycling statistics for plastic, glass, metal, paperboard, flexible packaging and two other surprise areas, courtesy of the leading...


Wolfgang Puck Coffee is walking the talk when it comes to sustainable packaging. The brand has announced it is switching to recyclable single-serve coffee pods to reduce the number of used pods going to landfill. The recyclable EcoCup pods, from...


Best Packaging Systems Inc. was established in 1987 to provide quality products and services to a wide variety of industries. Twenty-five years later, our commitment to our customers remains strong, based on our personalized service and technical...


IMEX Packaging is a leading supplier of high-quality, distinctive CLEAR bags and packaging since 1974. We know that in this fast-paced world, timeliness is of the essence. That's why we strive to provide quick turn-around at the most competitive...


Discover what literally hundreds of thousands of customers have come to know and trust since 1952 - McNICHOLS is the worldwide leader in providing Perforated Metal, Expanded Metal, Wire Mesh and other Designer Metals, as well as a full line of...


Mondi is an international packaging and paper Group, with production operations across 30 countries and over 25,700 employees. Its key operations and interests are in central Europe, Russia and South Africa.

At Mondi, our vision is...


It is our goal to offer our customers the highest quality products and services available in the carded packaging industry. We are continually striving for zero defects, 100% on-time delivery and total customer satisfaction. Thanks in large part...


At So-Cal Solar Inc., we pride ourselves on our unwavering integrity and commitment to quality that we bring to every installation. Our customer service is unparalleled in the solar industry. Dedication to our core values of service, innovation,...


Air Products touches the lives of consumers around the globe in positive ways every day. With over 20,000 employees and operations in more than 50 countries, we serve customers across a wide range of industries from food and beverage, health and...


As the world’s leading packaging manufacturer, Amcor offers customers the highest quality in innovative and sustainable packaging solutions, and partnerships built on service, reliability and excellence. Our extensive global footprint puts us on...


With sales of 11,2 billion euros in 2013, Bayer MaterialScience is among the world’s largest manufacturers of high-tech materials. The company’s innovative products and solutions are used in many key industrial sectors and help to bring about...


Berkley International Packaging is leading the way in eco-friendly packaging solutions.

We are striving to not only become a premier supplier in the molded fiber industry, but in the custom packaging space as well.

As a provider of...


Reduce: Reducing waste generated by buying/driving less or buying products that use biodegradable packaging made from sustainable resources is the best way to be environmentally friendly.

Reuse:

Reusing items that...


Founded in 1949 by J.D. Tatem, Plastic Suppliers, Inc. is an innovative, international film manufacturer that has produced high quality plastic film for nearly 60 years. This makes Plastic Suppliers one of the top film producers in the world.

...

Ecologic Brands is dedicated to creating a more sustainable world through better packaging choices.

Let’s face it, much of today’s packaging is not recycled and piles up in landfills. In fact, 71% of today’s plastic milk and...


Our goal is to drive value for our customers by providing them solutions to meet increasing government Industry and consumer demands for environmental sustainability and biodegradability

Eco-One™ is easy to use and will run under existing...


We are Committed to working with industry and consumers to rid the world of toxic, unsustainable materials.. Ecovative is a material science company developing a new class of home-compostable bioplastics based on mycelium, a living organism....

Tuesday, February 9, 2016 to Thursday, February 11, 2016

At WestPack, identify new, more cost-effective products, technologies and processes to help accelerate your packaging projects.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016 to Thursday, February 11, 2016

Attend MD&M West for access to the products, technologies, ideas and suppliers for all product development stages.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 to Thursday, February 11, 2016

At Pharmapack Europe, find hundreds of packaging solutions and drug delivery technology suppliers that serve the pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical and veterinary markets.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016 to Thursday, April 14, 2016

At  BIOMEDevice Boston, find new materials, technologies, ideas and equipment from hundreds of qualified suppliers, quickly and easily.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016 to Wednesday, June 15, 2016

At EastPack, network with world-class suppliers. Take part in the NEW! EastPack Seminars, offering expert insights on trends and solutions.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016 to Thursday, June 16, 2016

At MD&M East, you’ll find the thought-leadership education, suppliers and other resources to bring your medical device to life.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016 to Thursday, September 22, 2016

At MinnPack, see the newest packaging technologies first-hand, meet suppliers and compare solutions side-by-side.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016 to Thursday, September 22, 2016

Attend MD&M Minneapolis and find what you need to design and develop the next generation of medical devices and equipment.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016 to Thursday, November 17, 2016

NEW! The Advanced Manufacturing Expo & Conference engages key decision makers within packaging, processing and manufacturing.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 to Thursday, December 1, 2016

At PackEx Montréal, test drive the latest packaging products. Attend free technology presentations, conveniently located on the show floor.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017 to Wednesday, May 17, 2017

At PackEx Toronto, benefit from hands-on access to the newest packaging and processing technologies, equipment and materials.