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Events 'sustain' packagers' interests

Natural is not necessarily environmentally friendly," and "Fact: Packaging protects far more resources than it uses." These provocative statements—and many more—characterized a March gathering on packaging sustainability in Orlando.

More than 150 packaging professionals spent two days listening intently to 26 speakers outline various aspects of packaging sustainability at the inaugural Sustainability in Packaging conference. The conference was organized by Intertech-Pira and sponsored by Packaging Digest and Converting magazines.

A fairly evenly mixed audience of brand owners and packaging suppliers came to learn about the year's hottest topic in packaging. During two jam-packed days, the attendees heard several themes emerge.

Sustainability must become a part of every corporation's culture, from top management down. It must dominate all corporate decisions, from what kind of copier paper is purchased (recycled, of course) to how products are designed and made and then to how they are transported to the customer.

Life-cycle analysis is critical to measuring the sustainability success of any packaging. However, there are not yet any common metrics by which to make this assessment. Wal-Mart, of course, has offered its scorecard as a guideline. The speakers at the conference spent much time explaining their directives, but each had slightly differing emphases.

Sustainability will never succeed without consumer education. How this information will be disseminated—and by whom—remained undetermined, other than that the education process will probably have to be shared by packaging machinery manufacturers, packaging materials suppliers and the consumer goods brand owners, not necessarily in that order of priority. Associations will also play a pivotal role, as will the media. Sustainability is, for now, an evolutionary journey that requires much more research. A trial-and-error period is only now beginning for most corporations. While many of the larger materials companies have had sustainability directives for as long as a decade, most consumer goods manufacturers are only now embarking on this journey.

Wal-Mart stages second sustainability expo

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. saw a 30-percent increase in exhibitor participation in its second annual Sustainable Packaging Exposition, which hosted 135 suppliers of packaging equipment and materials for sustainability near its Bentonville, AR, headquarters in mid-March. Representing the only trade magazine invited to the event, Packaging Digest learned from Amy Zettlemoyer, director of packaging for Sam's Club, that the two-day event was designed to give packaging suppliers and Wal-Mart and Sam's Club buyers and product suppliers the unique opportunity to interact with one another, while exploring the many innovations in packaging designed around sustainability.

For a complete overview of the expo, as well as on Wal-Mart's update on the results of its Packaging Scorecard, visit www.packagingdigest.com/info/walmart07/.

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