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Recycling

Collaborating Our Way Toward a More Circular Economy

Malkovkosta/Adobe Pizza Box  image submitted by WestRock

From takeout food to online shopping, more people are leveraging the safety and convenience of ordering online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As unprecedented as this moment in time is, consumers’ shifting purchasing habits have a silver lining—people are paying more attention to the sustainability of product packaging. While the pandemic has compounded an environmental crisis, consumers are paying attention to issues of sustainability in a different way and prioritizing the need for greater packaging sustainability. As we navigate this “new normal,” our awareness of just how much we are consuming has sharpened our focus on the need to advance toward a circular economy for a more sustainable world.

In navigating the road to greater sustainability in packaging, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Companies and customers must have access to a variety of solutions and be provided with multiple opportunities to make more sustainable choices.

How do we gain traction on our journey toward a more circular economy? In a word: collaboration.

Cross-sector alliances and interconnected partnerships are not only crucial, but pivotal in the push for circularity. At WestRock, we practice the power of collaborative partnership as an integral part of our sustainability philosophy. This means having ongoing conversations about products, processes and how we can make better choices for people, for communities and for the planet.

In September 2020 during Climate Week, WestRock hosted a forum to explore the trends and innovations in sustainable packaging, moderated by the GreenBiz Group. We joined several of our industry and NGO partners virtually to discuss just how companies can drive sustainable change through collaboration. These included The Coca-Cola Company, The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G), GreenBlue and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. One of the most important things we discussed was how having collaborative conversations that actively involve multiple stakeholders—from the people sourcing materials, to those designing the package, to those responsible for collections—is one of the most powerful ways to ignite truly thoughtful, comprehensive, sustainable strategies.

Both consumers and collaboration are driving sustainable change. For instance, when consumers have questions, that can be a powerful motivator to collaborate for better clarity and better circularity. For proof of the power of this type of collaboration, look no further than your empty, greasy pizza box. Many Americans assumed that their pizza boxes were not recyclable. To reduce confusion and encourage Americans to recycle their pizza boxes, in 2019, WestRock commissioned Resource Recycling Systems (RSS) to conduct a study of the availability of recycling programs in the U.S. for pizza boxes. To further encourage Americans to learn more, WestRock, in partnership with Domino’s, launched recycling.dominos.com –– a hub of information about proper pizza box recycling.

Myth-busting with sustainable benefits.

WestRock also recently conducted a research study that evaluated the impact of typical amounts of grease and residual cheese. The study, which was reviewed and endorsed by member companies of the American Forest & Paper Association, concluded normal amounts of grease and residual cheese do not impact the quality of the recycled fibers. In short: yes, you can recycle that pizza box! Domino’s, American Forest & Paper Association and WestRock worked together to dispel a myth and get more consumers recycling more of their pizza boxes. Considering that each year, about 3 billion pizza boxes — equivalent to 600,000 tons of corrugated board— enter the market. Dispelling this particular myth can have measurable impact.

WestRockCan Collars for beverage cans

Nailing down where consumer interest lies can also prove important in assessing the lifecycle of sustainable packaging. For Coca-Cola Europe, partnering with WestRock to replace its plastic six-pack rings with fiber based CanCollars was a simple, yet effective, recyclable option fueled by the wants and perceived needs of the consumer. Homing in on what companies can do currently, with the resources they already have available, and meeting consumers where they are is a step in the right direction toward a more sustainable future. WestRock has also partnered with CPG companies to innovate all-paper, plastic-free deodorant packaging solutions — the first fiber deodorant packaging of its kind.

The journey to sustainability requires collaboration, innovation, but also a celebration of incremental successes. By applauding progress – however small – we can encourage a commitment to ongoing, long-lasting, change. Day-to-day improvements pave the way for companies to achieve long-term goals.

Continuing to prioritize innovating new solutions, improving recyclability and collection and increasing awareness – from sourcing to recycling – is vital to broader sustainability success. But we cannot do it alone. Through WestRock’s virtual panel during Climate Week, we were able to discuss not only with each other, but with an audience of consumers and both sustainability and industry experts, just how much we can achieve when working together. It’s critical that we continue having these conversations—individually and collectively, privately and through interactive forums. When we share our sustainability challenges as well as our forward-thinking visions and goals for the future, we share a commitment to collaborating our way toward a more circular economy.

About

Patrick E. Lindner is chief innovation officer and president of WestRock’s Consumer Packaging business, and is responsible for the company’s sustainability efforts globally. He previously served as chief operating officer for W.L. Gore & Associates, and before that served in various leadership roles with E. I. Du Pont De Nemours and Company, including as President – DuPont Performance Materials and President – DuPont Performance Polymers. He has a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Hamilton College and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in chemistry from Dartmouth College.

 

Healthcare Packaging

Building a Better Supply Chain Through Unique Device Identification

Photo credit: Dmitry – adobe-stock.com Sterile-dental-instruments-AdobeStock_224823878-ftd.jpeg

The healthcare supply chain has seen its share of ups and downs this year. In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, product shortages were exacerbated by a lack of supply-chain visibility. Ever since the US FDA’s Unique Device Identification (UDI) Rule passage in 2013, the industry has been working on meeting rule requirements created to make the supply chain more transparent. 

 

Some of the most basic products that were in short supply during recent months — such as exam gloves and other PPE items — are deemed by FDA to be Class I medical devices, which are those posing the lowest risk to patient safety. Low risk or not, the crisis showed how critical these supplies are when healthcare providers could not obtain enough protective gear for their front-line workers. Supplies were short, and sourcing data was elusive. A better view of inventory throughout the supply chain would have been extremely helpful as providers scrambled to obtain necessities. The good news is that once Class I manufacturers implement UDI requirements, traceability can be vastly improved, helping healthcare providers find and obtain the products they need more easily, accurately, and efficiently.

 

UDI Requirements and Deadlines

Manufacturers are required under the UDI rule to mark Class I, Class II, and Class III medical device packages with a unique device identifier and standardized date and to upload the device data to the FDA’s Global Unique Device Identification Database (GUDID). Implementation is well underway for Class II, Implantable, Life Sustaining/Life Supporting, and Class III devices (compliance deadlines have already past).

Class I products are the final category facing FDA deadlines for UDI compliance. That deadline was originally set for September 24, 2018 — but in July of this year, FDA announced a second, two-year enforcement delay to allow the industry to focus on more critical issues of patient care, pandemic response, and higher-risk medical device categories (Class II and Class III, which include ventilators and other life-sustaining items). FDA’s new guidance,“Unique Device Identification: Policy Regarding Compliance Dates for Class I and Unclassified Devices and Certain Devices Requiring Direct Marking,” reflects the agency’s updated position on enforcement after taking these urgent challenges into account.

The enforcement delay means that Class I manufacturers can continue working to fulfill the rule requirements for two more years before facing penalties for noncompliance. However, it does not absolve the industry of its responsibility to move ahead in building the data systems to meet these requirements. In fact, work must continue unabated to implement UDI Rule requirements throughout the supply chain, even though FDA will not enforce them until September 24, 2022.

 

Work to Be Done

The Class I medical device category includes a broad assortment of products that might not seem like medical devices — such as cotton-tipped applicators, gauze, exam gloves, and the like — but if they meet FDA’s criteria, they are subject to the UDI Rule’s requirements. Specifically, FDA defines a medical device as any item that is “intended for use in the diagnosis of disease or other conditions, or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease,” so the definition is quite expansive. Guidance is provided on FDA’s website for determining whether a product meets medical device criteria and is therefore subject to the UDI Rule. 

Manufacturing companies of all sizes may be producing one, two, or hundreds of different Class I products. There is a great deal of data to be created and shared in order for Class I UDI implementation to reach critical mass and provide its full benefits. It is estimated that this data will double the 2.6 million device identifiers currently stored in the GUDID. Once that data is uploaded, the database must be maintained so that it will always be up to date and accurate.

The most time-consuming aspect of the entire GUDID registration process for companies will be collecting the required information for each device before uploading it to GUDID. Users must obtain an FDA Labeler Account from FDA which they will then use to log into the FDA website and enter the product data. Once logged in, the interface leads users through a list of questions they must answer. Companies with numerous products to upload may find it worthwhile, depending on their resources, to automate this process using a proprietary business-to-business interface program or to hire a third-party service provider.

 

Make UDI a Top Priority

The industry has made significant progress to improve medical device traceability and address UDI requirements. There remains much work to be done, especially for some Class I and unclassified device manufacturers not yet engaged in the process. If not already in progress, these suppliers are strongly urged to begin now, without delay. UDI implementation is going to take time and involves teamwork between several different company departments such as IT, regulatory affairs, packaging, and marketing. A company that manufactures many different products will need to devote sufficient time to generate a high volume of data and coordinate the efforts of all contributors.

Improving supply-chain visibility is crucial for the industry’s readiness to meet new challenges and — critically — to navigate the ups and downs of supply and demand as effectively and efficiently as possible. Broad adoption of UDIs, combined with unique location identifiers such as the GS1 Global Location Number (GLN), will enable stakeholders to know where products are at any given time as they travel through the supply chain. Providers will be able to manage inventory and work through any problems more proactively so that their standard of care is not jeopardized by a shortage of essential supplies.

 

Help Is Available

FDA offers online guidance for UDI implementation in its online resources, “FDA UDI Basics” and “Global Unique Device Identification Database (GUDID): Guidance for Industry.” Information is also available from GS1 US to help companies understand how to leverage GS1 Standards in UDI implementation, including its “Implementation Guideline – Applying the GS1 System of Standards for U.S. FDA Unique Device Identification (UDI)” and “Quick Start Guide.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the healthcare industry to focus its attention on immediate crisis management, but longer-term priorities can’t be put on the shelf in the meantime. The need for better supply-chain traceability has been dramatically demonstrated in 2020 by a situation that has commanded urgent attention. It is the longer-term, proactive aspect of healthcare transformation that will help us prepare for whatever comes next — do a better job of taking care of patient needs in extraordinary times.

 

Article courtesy of Packaging Digest's sister publication MD+DI

Manufacturing Challenges During a Pandemic

Fictiv Feature Injection molding machines.jpg

McKinsey and Company has studied manufacturing organizations as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe. The consulting company reported on how manufacturers faced profound operational challenges. Some shut down factories temporarily in response to government restrictions. Others shut down in response to falling demand. Still, others faced sharp increases in demand for essential supplies.

Surprisingly, some manufacturing personal in front-office work or even those involved in application design and plant software development took their work home. One challenge they all had in common is the unexpected length of the pandemic. Remember when we expected to count the lockdown in weeks? A prolonged period of uncertainty is one of the greatest challenges for all manufacturers.

Those manufacturers that continued their operation – and those that shut down and then returned to production – found they had to prepare for a lasting need to maintain enhanced hygiene and physical distancing.

McKinsey points to three areas of focus designed to help plant leaders navigate the transition from the initial crisis response to the “next normal.”

1. Protect the workforce: Formalize and standardize operating procedures, processes, and tools that help keep staff safe. Build workforce confidence through effective, two-way communication that responds to employees’ concerns through flexible adaptation.

2. Manage risks to ensure business continuity: Anticipate potential changes and model the way the plant should react well ahead of the fluctuations to enable rapid, fact-based actions.

3. Drive productivity at a distance: Continue to effectively manage performance at the plant while physical distancing and remote working policies remain in place.

We wanted to see what was happening on the ground in the world of manufacturing, so we checked in with Arjun Chandar, co-founder of IndustrialML. His firm offers a comprehensive software platform to run manufacturing plants. We caught up with Chandar to see what manufacturers are facing during the pandemic.

 

Have manufacturers moved ahead with smart manufacturing initiatives during the pandemic?

Chandar: The cash crunch in 2020 has slowed the pace for now, but the needs which the pandemic has highlighted will lead to a significant acceleration in 2021. So, in the short term, there has not been a rush to implement smart factory initiatives, but manufacturers have universally commented on the increased need to invest in smart factory systems in 2021 and beyond. They understand that things like remote monitoring and optimized use of resources are even more critical to better survive events like this.

 

Are certain technologies favored in this current environment?

Chandar: Remote monitoring technologies, in particular, are growing in favor since they allow manufacturing engineers and managers to stay attuned to the progress of the factory even if they need to stay socially distanced from the plant floor.

 

Are there differences in different geographies? Different countries? Different sectors?

Chandar: We have seen particular interest in APAC and the Indian subcontinent, as these geographies generally have not been targeted by enterprise platforms to the same degree as large American manufacturers in the past. In large part for the same reason (lack of incumbent players targeting the space), the interest in these technologies is particularly prevalent in heavy industries or early-supply-chain industries such as steel, plastics, or paper production, which have operated in much the same way for decades but have faced fresh vulnerability due to attrition and pandemic shutdowns.

 

Are equipment suppliers designing easier-to-deploy technologies that support the smaller manufacturers?

Chandar: Sensors that collect data and transmit it over the internet have become much more commoditized over the last 10 years, which means smaller manufacturers have the ability to collect vast amounts of data cheaply. The main barrier to adoption, other than organizational inertia, has been that smaller companies have no infrastructure to use that data effectively.

Now, enterprise platform and ML-based analysis providers are slowly getting smarter about making their products easier to deploy and connect data to. More importantly, payments for enterprise software services are migrating more to allow accounting as operational rather than capital expenditures, which makes the internal approval process easier for manufacturers.

 

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cybersecurity. For 10 years, he was the owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

 

Article courtesy of Packaging Digest's sister publication Design News

Packaging Career Development

2020 Packaging Trends Explained in 60 Minutes

Photo credit: bankrx – adobe-stock.com 2020-Trends-AdobeStock_295755022-ftd.jpeg

The People of Packaging podcast, now in its third season, introduces people to the world of packaging, and the people of packaging to the world. I had the pleasure of chatting with co-host and founder Adam Peek about how this outlier year — 2020 — is altering packaging trends and where we’re headed from here.

Lisa-Pierce-and-Adam-Peek-web.jpg

Lisa Pierce and Adam Peek get to talk about one of their favorite topics: Packaging!

Robotics

How to Build a Better Robot Application

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A robot is only as effective as the application it’s asked to perform. Robot manufacturer Universal Robots began creating robot applications for its customers when the company delivered its first robot arm in 2008. The company develops robot applications in collaboration with its customers. The tools for robot applications include return-on-investment calculators and risk assessment.

 

The goals are numerous:

• Reducing labor waste (using high-skilled workers for low-skill tasks)
• Cost reduction
• Performing tasks that are hard to hire
• Improving quality

Packaging Digest's sister publication Design News reached out to Universal Robots to find out how manufacturers create effective robot applications. Joe Campbell, senior manager of applications development for Universal Robots North America, explains what it takes to build a better robot application.

 

How do users know what robot applications are able to deliver efficiencies?

Campbell: First, if they are working with a good consultant in the industry, they can get a high-return application. Look for pain points from the customer perspective. Look for the low hanging fruit, not the most complex job. Second, we do a detailed interview with engineers and the business head, to talk about their operation and what they achieved with it. Third, we have a couple of different ROI calculators. We’re about to post a simple one online, and we have a more complicated one. Collaborative robots are making people think differently about automation. There’s the all-or-nothing version or the incremental approach. We often encourage people to start small. You don’t have to solve a million problems at once.

 

Describe the low-hanging fruit for robot applications. Sorting? Picking? Packaging?

Campbell: It depends on the business or operation. We look for where the skill set of the operators is mismatched with the task. Look for places where you have a trained person loading and unloading parts. You don’t want a skilled manufacturing professional moving parts. Is a skilled welder welding simple brackets? That’s a waste of talent.

 

When you enter a plant, can you quickly see potential robot applications?

Campbell: Yes. We love to walk the factory floor. You can see opportunities. You have to have a good tour guide to fully understand the operation, but the factory tour is invaluable.

 

Do users come to you with an idea of a robot application? Or do they come and ask, how could a robot make my operation more efficient?

Campbell: It depends on the type and size of the company and its history with automation. Sometimes we work with a small and medium-size manufacturer who took a run at automation and they concluded it was too expensive. They were too small, or the automation was too complicated. They have preconceived notions of what a robot cell looks like. We do pretty detailed suggestions.

Some come to use with a pain point. When you’re finishing in cabinet making, sanding is the worst job in the plant. They’ll say, “We can’t hire enough sanders. Can we automate this?” Or, “I can’t hire enough machine operators. I have to leave my machines idol because of the staff.”

They are not saying they need a robot on a cart, but they articulate their pain point. Once customers get the technology, they get smart quickly and they start to identify areas for applications. COVID has been eye-opening. Longstanding customers have gone to another level based on COVID. They are deploying differently for social distancing. They’re coming through that saying, “I’m more productive than ever.”

 

Are cost/benefit and ROI considerations part of the robot application analysis?

Campbell: They have to be. If you’re a business operator or owner, you don’t have an unlimited level of capital. You have to show a return. The surprising part is when you stack up all the benefits that accrue, they can be considerable. The ROI calculator is a framework they can think through when they have a discussion with a robot supplier. When they have a robot load and unload, they get a bump in quality. We also put together a risk scorecard for an application or project. It’s designed to help someone identify the relative risk in a project.

 

Are workforce considerations part of robot application considerations?

Campbell: Smart users factor that in. Right now, despite the atrocious economy with 20 million workers unemployed, manufacturers still can’t find enough people. The debate is not who I’m going to layoff. I haven’t heard of a layoff due to robots in a decade. What I do hear is reassignment. The worker usually moves to a higher skilled job.

Weld shop operators want their skilled welders working on complicated assignments, not brackets. The skilled workers get bored welding brackets. The operator gets more return on the difficult assignments. One company that had been using our robots had to adjust for social distancing. They moved to a different model. The robot does the loading and unloading, and the operator does the set-up.

 

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cybersecurity. For 10 years, he was the owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

 

Article courtesy of Packaging Digest's sister publication Design News

Flexible Packaging

Flexible Packaging Innovations Involve Materials and Machines

Check out the new products in flexible packaging that you can see at the 2020 Pack Expo Connects event.

What are the top trends for bagging, pouching, sleeving, sachet production and closure applications? This preview reveals news for both materials and mechanicals:

Materials: We see broader options and greater performance characteristics for recyclable materials and resealable closures.

Machinery: You’ll see plenty of updated emphasis on streamlined design and easy access for smoother operation, maintenance, and faster changeovers.

For this year’s Pack Expo virtual event, we’ve collected the latest developments in flexible packaging into an easy-to-view gallery. Think of it as a personalized GPS — guide to packaging solutions.

As you review each item, you can click the “learn more” link for more information, videos, and in many cases live demos several vendors have scheduled during Pack Expo Connects.

Packaging Design

Packaging Design that Taps into Human Psychology: Distinctive Assets

Creating a brand is all about tapping into human psychology — adding an intangible desire (and a higher price) to what is often a good product but is objectively no better than a dozen others already on shelf.

However, by creating a set of associations in the consumer’s mind and having Distinctive Assets that trigger those associations time after time, a successful brand significantly improves the odds of a purchase.

What are Distinctive Assets? The book series How Brands Grow recognizes 25 types and seven classes of potentially distinctive assets, but most brands are lucky if they have more than one and that’s usually the logo.

As we enter an era in which digital disruption is changing the environment of brands profoundly, increasing, enhancing, and “weaponizing” your Distinctive Assets are essential. 

In this 12-minute video, Steve Osborne, principal of Osborne Pike in the UK, explains  the conditions and advantages of this approach. Although the video was created specifically for a soft drinks audience, those involved in design for other categories will benefit from his insights.

About

With more than 30 years’ experience creating, repositioning, and extending brands, Steve Osborne’s focus is on packaging and its unique role in branding: Simultaneously part of the product as well as a communication medium.

Following a career in Marketing at Unilever, Osborne switched sides to join Design Bridge in its early years. After playing a leading role in that agency's development, including 7 years as Founder and Managing Director of the Amsterdam office, Steve established Osborne Pike 17 years ago. 

Reusable Packaging Scales Up Despite 2020 Challenges

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The Loop reusable packaging initiative, while still not fully self-supporting, is advancing globally online and in physical stores with the support of major (and minor) consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs), retailers, and other partners. The global circular shopping platform launched last year by TerraCycle.

In this 20-minute podcast, environmental visionary and TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky tackles questions from Packaging Digest Executive Editor Lisa McTigue Pierce about Loop’s recent national expansion in the US, the COVID-19 impact, his plans for the near future, and packaging lessons learned by supporting brand owners. Recorded on October 12, 2020.

 
Packaging Design

Loop’s Sustainable Packaging Concept Now Spans the United States

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Seventh Generation is one of more than 30 brands with products selling in reusable packaging on the Loop circular shopping platform.

Following a successful pilot program that started in 2019, the Loop circular shopping platform from TerraCycle has expanded its online operation to provide an unlimited number of US consumers from coast to coast with home delivery of products packed in reusable packaging, as well as pickup of the empty packages.

Loop also made its brick-and-mortar debut recently, in France. “Carrefour just brought Loop into its first store,” says Eric Rosen, publicist, US public relations, for Loop/TerraCycle. “We anticipate Loop being in-store in other retailers in 2021.” Carrefour’s online Loop service launched in Paris last year.

In the United States, consumers will find Loop products at Kroger stores starting in 2021. Also in North America, Burger King and Tim Hortons restaurants plan to launch Loop pilot projects next year.

*************You might also be interested in listening to the 20-minute podcast where TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky tells Packaging Digest's Lisa Pierce about the challenges of Loop's expansion, the COVID-19 impact, and plans for the future.*************

Loop’s online scale-up coincides with an explosion in internet shopping and home delivery fueled by the COVID-19 virus, though it’s also a natural next step considering the success of the pilot program. More than 100,000 people have signed up for the service to date.

With the online version of Loop, consumers buy products that have been filled into reusable packaging made, for example, of metal or glass. They then return the empty packages to Loop, which cleans the packages for refilling by Loop’s brand partners.

Loop packs consumer orders into reusable totes for delivery, and consumers return the empty packaging to Loop using the same totes. Loop products are packed and shipped from the company’s New Jersey warehouse to all US ZIP codes. (Frozen products are only shipped to locations where delivery can be made within 24 hours.)

The platform launched in 2019 as a pilot program in the Mid-Atlantic United States and Paris, France. In July 2020, Loop launched online in the United Kingdom, working in partnership with retailer Tesco. A Canadian online launch is planned for Toronto in February 2021.

Loop has expanded rapidly vis-à-vis brand partners and product selection, now offering more than 80 brands and 400 products in the United States and Europe. Product categories include grocery, beauty, health and personal care, and household essentials. Brand owners range from giants like Nestlé and Procter & Gamble to start-ups like Soapply.

Next year will be an important one for Loop in brick-and-mortar restaurants and stores. Burger King plans to start a pilot Loop program in 2021 that will offer eat-in and to-go customers sandwiches and drinks packed in returnable, reusable food containers and cups.

Photo supplied by LoopBurger-King-web.jpg

Consumers who choose the reusable packaging will pay a deposit when they place their order and get the deposit back after returning the packaging to Burger King. The pilot will start in select Burger King restaurants in New York City; Portland, Oregon; and Tokyo, with additional cities to join in the months that follow.

Canada’s Tim Hortons quick-service restaurant chain has announced a similar Loop pilot. The program will start in 2021 at select Tim Hortons restaurants in Toronto.

Also starting next year, US consumers will be able to visit Loop in-store at select Kroger locations. The plan for Loop in brick-and-mortar stores is not only to sell Loop products but also to collect the empty packaging for cleaning and reuse.

Loop publicist Rosen discusses the program’s burgeoning expansion, both online and in-store, in this exclusive Packaging Digest Q&A.

 

How many brick-and-mortar retailers in the United States will be selling Loop products in 2021? Is this a channel Loop is interested in exploring further? What have consumers said about their willingness (or not) to take empty packages back to a physical store?

Rosen: As of now, in the United States, there will be one brick-and-mortar retailer, Kroger, selling Loop products in-store in 2021. There are, however, many retailers who are and will be integrating Loop into their ecommerce platforms.

Yes, [in-store] is a channel Loop is pursuing and will continue to pursue. In fact, Loop just opened in its first brick-and-mortar retailer — Carrefour in France.

As for consumers’ willingness to take empties back to a physical store, while we haven’t surveyed consumers, we believe returning empty packaging will be embraced.

 

When will Loop be expanding into additional markets in Europe and Asia, either online or via brick-and-mortar stores?

Rosen: Loop will be launching in Canada, Australia, and Japan in 2021. We will continue to seek opportunities to launch in other countries and will be announcing more as we solidify plans.

 

How will Loop, brand owners, and/or retailers educate consumers about how in-store Loop works and its benefits?

Rosen: Loop, brand owners, and retailers educate consumers through websites, social media, and earned media placements in outlets worldwide.

 

Now that the Loop program is national in the United States, how many locations are cleaning the empty, returned packages?

Rosen: In the United States, the cleaning facility is in Pennsylvania. We will be adding facilities as we scale.

 

What, if anything, has changed in the logistics of the Loop program (outgoing and incoming packages)? What, if anything, has changed with the lifecycle analysis of the packages sold in the Loop program because of the additional distances?

Rosen: Nothing has changed in the logistics. Based on Loop’s third-party lifecycle analysis, creating a durable (or “reusable”) container uses more energy and resources than creating a disposable (or “single-use”) container. However, over time, the reusable container has a lower environmental and economic cost, as it does not need to be remanufactured on every use.

Instead, it is transported and cleaned, which is a much lower environmental cost. According to Loop, the efficiency of a reusable package in Loop is even more evident as consumers participate repeatedly. After two to three uses of the packaging, the environmental impact is breakeven. By 10 uses, there is a more than 35% reduction in environmental impacts.

 

Are all products still being shipped to consumers from Loop’s New Jersey warehouse? Is that still the plan moving forward, to have just one warehouse?

Rosen: Loop’s New Jersey warehouse ships all products in the United States. As we scale, we intend to have additional warehousing in other parts of the country.

The Loop warehouse in France is in Lille, and the one in the United Kingdom is in Crick.

 

How well are the durable packages holding up to use, cleaning, and reuse? Are the brands getting the number of uses they hoped they would?

Rosen: The durable packaging is holding up well as it goes through Loop cycles. I can’t comment on the brands, and what their expectations were/are.

 

Is UPS still Loop’s only partner for deliveries/pickups? Are there any plans for additional delivery services to be involved, especially as volumes and delivery areas are growing?

Rosen: Yes, Loop’s US logistics partner is UPS. In France, it’s Colisweb, and in the UK, it’s DPD. There are no plans for additional delivery services to be involved.

 

The allergen warning on the Loop website states: “Please note that the Loop Tote is packed in a facility that may have handled wheat, milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, and soy, and may contain traces of the same. If you or someone in your family has a serious food allergy, Loop may not be for you.” Are there any plans to address this, so people can safely order Loop products without worry from allergens?

Rosen: There are no current plans to address this.

 

Who designs the Loop packages?

Rosen: Each brand partner is responsible for the design of its packaging. All packaging must be approved by Loop.

 

What is the size range of Loop packages?

Rosen: The smallest container is 20 ml (less than an ounce) for Tea Tree Oil from The Body Shop. The biggest package is an 8-lb container for kitty litter from Purina.

 

How have consumers reacted to Loop since its launch last year?

Rosen: We have had an overwhelmingly positive response to Loop since its launch. In fact, meeting consumer demand is what led to the rapid expansion — from 10 states to every ZIP code in the contiguous 48 states. We have more than 100,000 sign-ups, and that continues to grow.

10 Sustainable Packaging Insights Emerge From 2020

Photo supplied by SPC SPC-Virtual-Advance-ftd.jpg

Sustainable Resilience in a Time of Change, the theme of the 2020 Virtual SPC Advance, was delivered through more than 30 excellent presentations, panels, tours, roundtable discussions, and networking events given by leading industry experts within the sustainable packaging world and beyond.

Here are 10 key takeaways from the two-day members-only event held on September 29-30 by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.

 

1. Prepare for the exponential.

The problems of climate change, species loss, resource extraction, and ocean plastics have grown at an exponential rate. The good news is that solutions can accelerate exponentially, too. For example, the cost to build new renewable energy has gone down 89% since 2009.

From a packaging perspective, that might also mean exponential growth in the availability of recycled content or a huge uptick in reusable packaging platforms.

 

2. Understand and respect planetary boundaries.

What planetary boundaries are we overstepping with today’s packaging systems? Because packaging requires sourcing materials, then manufacturing, distributing, and disposing of them, packaging typically plays a role in accelerating climate change. Respecting the limits of Earth’s natural systems will require addressing impacts along the entire life cycle of packaging, striving for a more closed loop, circular economy. 

 

3. Focus, always, on people.

In his opening keynote address, Andrew Winston summarized his reflections of the challenges today by stating, “It’s time to address the significant consumer demand for more sustainable options. People are increasingly frustrated with over-packaged ecommerce deliveries, disillusioned with the amount of single-use packaging in foodservice, and frustrated by materials that aren’t recyclable or compostable.”

 

4. If you don’t hear about it, you don’t know about it.

In Suzanne Shelton’s TED-Style talk, she asked companies, “What do you stand for?,” dispelling the myth that business and politics do not mix. She continued to highlight the critical call to action to share information and be transparent in the sustainable efforts businesses and brands are making.

 

5. Nature-based carbon removal strategies (such as growing trees, restoring forests, and regenerating ecosystems), is projected to enhance the ability to sequester carbon in biomass and soils by supporting soil water quality and increasing biodiversity.

Regeneration, Transparency, and Resilience are three matters highlighting how industry needs a shift in mindset — from one of simply ‟doing no harm” to one of becoming regenerative, and actually ‟doing good.”

 

6. The future will be new things in new places — not new things in old places.

Focused on a vision, a design lab, and a FutureWorld, Space10 urges for new things in new places instead of new things in old places to tackle today’s sustainable challenges by thinking about the future as a direction rather than a final destination. For example, to preserve ecosystem services such as pollination, Space10 created free digital files that can be downloaded by anyone containing bee home templates that can be customized and printed at a local makerspace.

 

7. Big data means big opportunities for sustainability.

In her TED-Style Talk, Julie Kae, the executive director of Qlik.org and Qlik’s global head of corporate responsibility, spoke to the power of data and technology and the role and responsibility that technology has in transforming business and advancing the sustainability agenda.

 

8. Recycled fiber is a good solution for the general industry, but for a specialty industry in particular, where they make many food packaging and processing papers, recycled fibers need additional processing to achieve the direct food contact certification and maintain food safety.

Addie Teeters and Zach Leimkuehler, of Ahlstrom-Munksjö, led a Papermaking 101 tour, shining a light on how advancements in the papermaking process are moving into the sustainable food packaging space.

 

9. We can mitigate marine plastic pollution, and we can do it fairly soon.

Current measures being pursued can work if industries, governments, and consumers take the right measures. If these groups can dramatically amp up the intensity of these efforts, an 80% reduction in marine plastic pollution can be achieved by 2040. The question is not what to do, it’s how much to do, and the answer, of course, is MUCH MORE.

 

10. Wash steps are an expensive but critical step in producing high-quality PCR films.

Revolution gave a great presentation showing how even before, in pre-COVID-19 times, its films undergo extensive washing steps to remove contamination that would otherwise create processing difficulties and result in unusable film containing holes and other defects. While the wash process is expensive, it allows Revolution to produce high-quality, thinner gauge films with up to 97% post-consumer recycled (PCR) content.

 

Overall, Virtual SPC Advance did not shy away from the sticky challenges facing the sustainability industry in today’s world. Instead, the speakers, presenters, and SPC members embraced the event’s theme by spreading their industry knowledge in an attempt for their listeners to conquer these challenges. While still unknown, next year’s SPC Advance theme is sure to bring even brighter thinking and innovations to move the needle where we all want to see it go.