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

Or “What I Learned from My Recent Trip to Sumatra.” Sustainable packaging expert Bob Lilienfeld explores the people part of the Triple Bottom Line of people, planet, profits.

 


Article

This January Amcor pledged to develop all its packaging to be recyclable or reusable by 2025. The company has also committed to increasing its use of recycled materials and to driving more global package recycling.


Article

Kraft paper bags of frozen french fries distributed through institutional markets that are now certified recyclable have the potential to annually divert up to 30-million pounds of packaging material from landfills to the recy


Article

Not all packages can be recycled through the established infrastructure and options are limited for hard-to-recycle items.


Article

Sustainability authority and associate director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition Adam Gendell offers advice on how packaging and sustainability professionals can attain two important sustainable packaging goals for 2018.


Article

Like many brand owners these days, you embrace sustainability and leverage it in your marketing strategy to appeal to eco-minded consumers. So how can you extend that halo, as it’s called, through to your packaging?


Article

How good are you at identifying what packages are recyclable or should be trashed? Are you willing to put your reputation to the test? The Recycling Challenge game at WestPack 2018 (Feb.


Article

Projects by Coca-Cola, McCormick and Procter & Gamble led our top sustainable packaging articles of the year, with some of the highest page views of all stories posted this year on PackagingDigest.com.


Article

As I sat down to write this year’s review, I found it hard to decide where to start.


Article

Brand owners and retailers--the end users of tags and labels--are increasingly holding companies in their supply chain accountable in the brand owners’ and retailers’ efforts to meet sustainability goals.


Article

In recent years, the consumer goods industry has made significant progress on improving the recyclability of packaging and ensuring that packaging is recoverable.


Article

Despite all the good it does, plastic packaging has taken a beating in the general media for its perceived anti-environment impression. One of the most controversial topics today is how much plastic garbage is in our oceans.


Article

This is a time of uncertainty for recycling in the U.S. But consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies and brands can seize this opportunity to revitalize recycling in the U.S. and make lemonade out of lemons.

 


Article

Sustainable packaging trends—along with a unique package for new Green Giant frozen veggies—scored high last month with our online global audience of packaging professionals.


Article

Skog for Food launched this fall in the U.S. combines FSC-certified paper with double-sided coating that provides barrier properties and permits production on f/f/s machines.

 


Or “What I Learned from My Recent Trip to Sumatra.” Sustainable packaging expert Bob Lilienfeld explores the people part of the Triple Bottom Line of people, planet, profits.

 

We’re all concerned about the environmental and economic...


This January Amcor pledged to develop all its packaging to be recyclable or reusable by 2025. The company has also committed to increasing its use of recycled materials and to driving more global package recycling.

"Our aspiration is to be...


Kraft paper bags of frozen french fries distributed through institutional markets that are now certified recyclable have the potential to annually divert up to 30-million pounds of packaging material from landfills to the recycling stream.

...

Not all packages can be recycled through the established infrastructure and options are limited for hard-to-recycle items. That’s one of the reasons the unique business strategy of upcycler TerraCycle has been so successful—that and the innovative...


Sustainability authority and associate director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition Adam Gendell offers advice on how packaging and sustainability professionals can attain two important sustainable packaging goals for 2018.

 

...


Like many brand owners these days, you embrace sustainability and leverage it in your marketing strategy to appeal to eco-minded consumers. So how can you extend that halo, as it’s called, through to your packaging?

Packaging authority and...


How good are you at identifying what packages are recyclable or should be trashed? Are you willing to put your reputation to the test? The Recycling Challenge game at WestPack 2018 (Feb. 6-8; Anaheim, CA) will award three players with prizes.

...

Projects by Coca-Cola, McCormick and Procter & Gamble led our top sustainable packaging articles of the year, with some of the highest page views of all stories posted this year on PackagingDigest.com.

And three out of our list of eight...


As I sat down to write this year’s review, I found it hard to decide where to start. Should I stick to sustainability or start with a comment on the fact that this year our progress has been under a cloud created by a president that...


Brand owners and retailers--the end users of tags and labels--are increasingly holding companies in their supply chain accountable in the brand owners’ and retailers’ efforts to meet sustainability goals. As a result, label...


In recent years, the consumer goods industry has made significant progress on improving the recyclability of packaging and ensuring that packaging is recoverable. In contrast, incorporating recycled content in plastic packaging, especially post-...


Despite all the good it does, plastic packaging has taken a beating in the general media for its perceived anti-environment impression. One of the most controversial topics today is how much plastic garbage is in our oceans. By 2050, the World...


This is a time of uncertainty for recycling in the U.S. But consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies and brands can seize this opportunity to revitalize recycling in the U.S. and make lemonade out of lemons.

 

When China announced in...


Sustainable packaging trends—along with a unique package for new Green Giant frozen veggies—scored high last month with our online global audience of packaging professionals. All of our top five articles in October 2017, based on page views at...


Skog for Food launched this fall in the U.S. combines FSC-certified paper with double-sided coating that provides barrier properties and permits production on f/f/s machines.

 

For Swedes, “skog” means wood. And for those in the United...


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....

Wednesday, March 7, 2018 to Thursday, March 8, 2018

ADM Cleveland 2018 showcases the latest in robotics, automation, plastics, packaging and design engineering.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 to Thursday, April 19, 2018

From contract packaging/manufacturing to components, BIOMEDevice Boston 2018 helps you develop the next gen of medical devices.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018 to Thursday, April 26, 2018

CPhI North America 2018 is the epicenter for pharma innovation, emerging trends, insights and education.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018 to Thursday, June 14, 2018

EastPack 2018 highlights two industry mega-trends: smart manufacturing and 3D printing. See the latest cobots and a dedicated 3D Printing Zone.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018 to Thursday, June 14, 2018

MD&M East 2018, now in its 34th year, is the largest medtech event on the East Coast.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018 to Thursday, November 1, 2018

Back for its 15th year, MinnPack 2018 brings you the latest packaging equipment, automation and design ideas.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018 to Thursday, November 1, 2018

MD&M Minneapolis 2018 features an expanded conference, sessions on the expo floor, networking activities and expert-led Innovation Tours.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018 to Thursday, November 15, 2018

PackEx 2018 is Québec’s largest, most comprehensive packaging event. Explore the latest innovations, processes and new products.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018 to Thursday, December 6, 2018

Celebrating its 10th year, BIOMEDevice San Jose serves Silicon Valley's thriving medical device design and manufacturing industry.