Wayne Wegner, director of sustainability, Bemis Co. will be discussing enhancing the sustainability of products through flexible packaging innovations at Sustainability in Packaging 2014.
Wegner directs Bemis' environmental sustainable efforts on a global basis. With more than 35 years in the packaging industry, he serves as the primary contact for flexible packaging sustainability initiatives with customers, suppliers and industry associations. Wegner acts as a resource and catalyst to help all business units deliver Bemis Co.'s long-term sustainability goals by monitoring and evaluating new technologies, sustainable products and next generation packaging opportunities within the company and the global marketplace.
As part of the Sustainability in Packaging 2014 agenda, Wegner will address optimizing the package to protect the product throughout the supply chain; new developments in active packaging to control food degradation and extend shelf life; renewable feedstocks with the potential to enhance sustainability and more. He shared some insights with us before we head to Orlando this March.
In your opinion, what are the main packaging innovations that have happened in the last year for flexible packaging? What are the main areas for development and optimization improvement?
Wegner: Over the last few years, innovations in what we call "active packaging" have been driving new product development in flexible packaging. Products are being developed to absorb food odors, retard oxygen migration and preserve food longer.
Working closely with food scientists and packaging engineers at consumer packaging companies to incorporate new materials into flexible films has led to improved product quality, longer shelf life and expanded distribution channels.
There are some challenges for handling end of life for flexible packages; can you tell us what role sustainable innovation has in addressing those challenges and what are the opportunities to improve the sustainability for flexible packaging?
Wegner: Clearly, the use of multiple materials and light weighting of flexible packaging has challenged the current infrastructures and technologies of our municipal solid waste streams. Incorporating more post-consumer recycled materials into flexible packaging is a trend and opportunity for improving the sustainability of flexible packaging.
There have been various flexible products that have been designed for recyclability that we believe can be more efficiently managed through existing recycling facilities. Also, as polymers sourced from renewable feedstocks become more cost competitive and their performance is improved, preliminary life cycle assessments have shown that these will improve the sustainability of the package.
You're going to be discussing Renewable Feedstocks in your presentation; can you give us a little teaser of what you will be covering?
Wegner: Well, in my opinion, the near term opportunities are for conventional plastics that are manufactured from monomers sourced from renewable feedstocks such as sugar cane, corn and perhaps biomass. What we are calling "drop in" polymers. In general, these plastics can be manufactured using existing reactors and processed using existing equipment. Therefore, the barrier to entry is minimized and the time to commercialization is shortened.
What are you looking forward to hear at Sustainability in Packaging 2014?
Wegner: I am looking to hear what opportunities branded companies are seeing for sustainable packaging and what trends consumers are looking for in packaging. Without better understanding our customer's needs and expectations, opportunities for growth in the packaging industry will be limited.
Sustainability in Packaging 2014 will take place Mar. 5-7, 2014 in Orlando, FL. More than 300 leaders in the sustainability and packaging supply chains are expected to come together to discuss the opportunities, challenges and solutions that will lead to packaging innovations that improve sustainability and the bottom line. Nearly 50 experts from diverse organizations like Waste Management, The Coca-Cola Co., the NRDC, Aveda, P&G, Otterbox, the U.S. Department of Defense and more will engage and inspire you through presentations, workshops, networking events, panel discussion, Q&A and more.
Source: Smithers Pira