Ideas to make more of an impact in sustainable packaging

By Lisa McTigue Pierce in Sustainable Packaging on February 27, 2018

If two heads are better than one, imagine the power of several hundred packaging and sustainability professionals musing on today’s challenges and opportunities. That’s what will happen at SPC Impact 2018 (Apr. 24-26; San Francisco, CA), a new event from the leaders at the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.

Barbara Fowler, senior manager for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, has prepared a spectacular three-day event with thought-provoking presentations, interactive sessions, engaging panels, interesting tours and fun business networking functions. Packaging Digest is proud to be a media partner for this landmark event.

Among the major brand owners scheduled to speak about their sustainability efforts are:

Procter & Gamble—Brent Heist, who leads the global packaging sustainability team, will introduce us to PureCycle, a new purification technology developed by P&G to encourage use of post-consumer recycled polypropylene, in his presentation “Virgin-like PP via PureCycle Purification.”

Intel—Carter Anderson, senior packaging engineer, is a panelist on the “Understanding the Complexity in Electronics Packaging” session.

Amazon—Brent Nelson, who leads development of sustainable packaging solutions for Amazon worldwide, will also participate in the panel “Understanding the Complexity in Electronics Packaging.”

Seventh Generation—Director of packaging development Derrick Lawrence will moderate several sessions focused on “Ecommerce and the Changing Retail Environment Landscape.”

Nike—Elizabeth Blackwell, packaging sustainability manager, tackles a critical component of ecommerce packaging—returns—in “Moving Towards Cooperative Reverse Supply Chains in Fashion, Apparel and Retail.”

Method—Kaj Johnson, green chef, will join a panel discussion on “Leveraging Bioplastics’ Advantages on Performance, Technical Benefits and Functionality.”

Clorox—Alexis Limberakis, senior director of environmental sustainability, joins a panel of plastic packaging stakeholders to discuss the use of recycled content in “False Assumptions that Get in the Way of Creating Circularity in Plastics.”

 Mars—Rachel Goldstein, global sustainability director, scientific and regulatory affairs, will participate in a workshop on “Sustainable Forest Products Sourcing.”

This is just a taste of the hot topics, keen insights and powerful networking you will enjoy at SPC Impact 2018.

Fowler touches on some of the many benefits for attendees:


How will the program this year help packaging professionals align their actions with the bigger picture of sustainability and keep the momentum for their projects/strategies?

Fowler: SPC Impact has been designed to provide high-level perspectives on the current issues, opportunities and challenges on packaging sustainability: from learnings from other industries and examples on creative problem solving to providing a variety of sessions that address specific types of packaging, or zeroing in on different parts of the supply chain.

Our end goal is that our attendees will be inspired; will learn new concepts; will make new connections and forge new partnerships coming out from the event.


One of the new features at SPC Impact this year is the Ideas Lab. What is that all about? How is the Ideas Lab different from, say, a workshop?

Fowler: The Ideas Lab will be an ideation exercise in a small group setting to address a specific challenge. The session will be centered around the “Unboxing Experience in E-Commerce” and participants with prior experience in the topic will try to improve the customer experience together, zeroing in on four areas.


Also new this year are masterclasses on design thinking, neuroscience, consumer perspectives and the aesthetics of sustainable packaging. Why those topics and how will they be presented in a masterclass?

Fowler: A big component of SPC events are the unique opportunities we give attendees to learn about a variety of topics. In these new masterclasses, we will take a deeper dive on topics that are closely related to sustainability and packaging, but that will provide new information, new concepts and new ways of thinking about how to solve current challenges in the industry.

The common thread on some of these masterclasses is that they are intimately related to consumer experience and expectations of how sustainable packaging should look and feel.


What’s new or unusual about the tours this year?

Fowler: As we do when we go to different cities, we try to showcase the best in sustainability the city has to offer. The Bay Area is so rich in examples both in sustainability and technology that we wanted to show a bit of both. Recycle Central is the best-in-class MRF [materials recovery facility] in the country. The Target Open House and the Autodesk Gallery are prime examples of inspiration via technology. The California Academy of Sciences has science and environmental initiatives that go well beyond what would be expected from a museum. The USDA Research Center is host to a number of startups developing the next set of technologies that brands and manufacturers will want to know about.

Tours showcase local sustainability efforts.


Why is this such a good event for networking?

Fowler: Throughout the event there will be several opportunities to connect with other attendees: from attending a tour; to joining in smaller setting sessions like workshops, working groups and masterclasses; to functions like breaks, receptions and organized business social networking like Dinner and Dialogues and the Pub Crawl.

We make sure attendees leave with valuable connections that can help them advance sustainability in their organizations.

Dinner & Dialogue is a favorite for casual and comfortable conversations and networking.


SPC will recognize the winners of the 2018 SPC Innovator Awards on Wed., Apr. 25 at 5:00 p.m. What was most surprising about the entries this year?

Fowler: The collection of entries we received truly embody the march of progress in packaging technologies that advance sustainability. We’re seeing ideas that would have recently been characterized as wistful, idealistic thinking now made real in packaging innovations that are ready-for-market or on the market.

Exciting things are happening in responsible sourcing, material recovery and smart design. We’re looking forward to announcing the winners!

SPC Innovator Awards recognizes significant achievements.


Is there anything else about the event you’d like to point out?

Fowler: There are some new sessions included in this year’s program that we have not touched upon in previous years, such as electronics packaging; cold chain packaging; reverse supply chains in apparel and retail; and the issues around creating true circularity in plastics. We will have two exhibit halls with plenty of options for attendees to learn about new products and technologies.

We are expanding the content on ecommerce to match the massive growth in this sector and the opportunities this represents for packaging. New this year is a masterclass from on the challenges associated with packaging and shipping large items that are highly fragile or bulky and the sustainability implications this has.



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