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Do You Regret Some of Your Sustainable Packaging Decisions?

Conversations about packaging sustainability should be this frank.

Lisa McTigue Pierce

November 23, 2022

Before he started working in the packaging industry four years ago, Nathan Dube, Digital Marketing Specialist for Industrial Packaging, was a self-proclaimed environmentalist, wary and disappointed (like many) at the sorry state of packaging’s sustainability efforts.

But over the years, he asked questions, he learned … and then he asked more questions. He shares what he’s learned in a blog and in the popular The Industrial Packaging Podcast.

Several weeks ago, Dube invited me to talk about packaging sustainability for a podcast episode. The tables were turned on me, as I was a podcast guest this time, not the interviewer. Enticed by Dube’s excellent, on-target questions, I thought deeply about my answers for a couple weeks before we talked.

What followed was an open discussion. Quite frankly, it felt good to me to say some of it out loud.

“There’s a big difference between a package that’s ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ and one that’s ‘circular.’”

“There are a lot of sustainable packaging options now, which is great! But deciding which is the best one is kind of getting harder for the brands.”

“Most of the academic research and peer-reviewed research I’ve come across — much to my surprise — is kind of leaning towards the idea that, in many ways, plastics are one of the most sustainable options.”

“The average consumer … can understand this. It’s complex but it’s not hard to understand. There’s just a lot of pieces to it. Lay out the pieces, one at a time. Put them in the right order and, you know what? The vast majority of consumers are going to get it.”

“Why would anyone move away from [PET] just because it’s plastic and move to another packaging material??”

“One of the biggest challenges we’re going to see for many companies, whether they’re in the packaging industry or not, when it comes to plastics of any type, is back-pedaling all of the misinformation we’ve heard.”

Over the course of an hour, Nate and I waltzed from one topic (ocean plastic) to the next (economics of recycling) without a rest. Driven, as we were, by the thought of solving something important.

Some issues, like how to boost recycling rates, can be fixed overnight. Others, like the exodus from plastic packaging, need a reboot. We explain. Take a listen.

 

The questions:

How to define “sustainable packaging”?
What are the biggest challenges for companies switching to sustainable packaging?
What advice do you have for companies looking to become more earth friendly?
How can companies that want to offer more post-consumer recycled (PCR) packaging do so?
Why is the current attitude that plastics are bad dangerous? What insights on plastic packaging do you have to share that people may not be aware of?
How can we help people understand uncomfortable truths about plastic to prevent the detrimental effects that would occur if plastics are banned?
Who are your go-to people, those experts who are knowledgeable about packaging sustainability? (So glad I get to answer this one!)
Are you willing to pay more for a product if it has truly sustainable packaging?
What is your favorite type of sustainable packaging? (I’m ready and willing to debate this. Any takers?!)

About the Author(s)

Lisa McTigue Pierce

Executive Editor, Packaging Digest

Lisa McTigue Pierce is Executive Editor of Packaging Digest. She’s been a packaging media journalist since 1982 and tracks emerging trends, new technologies, and best practices across a spectrum of markets for the publication’s global community. Reach her at [email protected] or 630-272-1774.

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