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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

The brewer talks sustainable packaging strategies and tactics including 3-layer plastic bottles, paper sleeve cartons, fiber-based multipack rings and more.

 


Article

Nestlé USA packaging specialist details the highly engineered bottle and innovative sleeve label that enabled the development of 100% recyclable sleeve-labeled bottles.

 


Article

The Coca-Cola Co. has announced yet another sustainable packaging launch for non-alcohol canned drinks in Europe.


Article

In today’s cost-conscious and eco-aware world, businesses are looking to control costs but still produce and use ethical, ecological packaging. Are you one of them?


Article

We’re drowning in plastic packaging waste, according to some sources, and need to act now to fix it. Should we boost recycling rates? Develop non-plastic alternatives?


Article

As the anti-plastics movement steamrolls across the globe, many consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs) are shying away from plastic packaging. Are they leading or following consumers?


Article

The Coca-Cola Co., as part of its sustainable packaging focus, recently proved that plastic fished from waterways and plucked from beaches can be recycled into bottles suitable for soft drinks.


Article

Henkel and masterbatch producer Ampacet have joined forces to develop a recyclable black plastic.


Article

San Francisco is often the poster child of compostable packaging. Polystyrene is banned, and restaurants are required to use compostable or recyclable containers and utensils.


Article

The automotive industry has led technological transformations in the past.


Article

Looking for sustainable packaging options or ideas for foods and beverages? Good news!


Article

Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) has announced that it’s switching the carriers on its multipacks from shrink wrap to paperboard to reduce packaging waste.


Article

Plastic waste is becoming a more pressing concern for today’s consumers than it has ever been in the past.


Article

TC Transcontinental Packaging helps brands rewrite their flexible packaging story using recyclable and compostable materials.

 

What’s new with Loop’s reusable packaging initiative?

Article

Such a daring initiative, the new Loop shopping platform is all about reusable/refillable packaging.


The brewer talks sustainable packaging strategies and tactics including 3-layer plastic bottles, paper sleeve cartons, fiber-based multipack rings and more.

 

Molson Coors Brewing Co. introduced in August a set of new global packaging...


Nestlé USA packaging specialist details the highly engineered bottle and innovative sleeve label that enabled the development of 100% recyclable sleeve-labeled bottles.

 

Time can deliver a whole new perspective on things.

In...


The Coca-Cola Co. has announced yet another sustainable packaging launch for non-alcohol canned drinks in Europe. The company, together with Coca-Cola HBC and Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), plans to roll out a streamlined paperboard “topper”...


In today’s cost-conscious and eco-aware world, businesses are looking to control costs but still produce and use ethical, ecological packaging. Are you one of them? If so, look at these suggestions for keeping both sides of the equation in line...


We’re drowning in plastic packaging waste, according to some sources, and need to act now to fix it. Should we boost recycling rates? Develop non-plastic alternatives? Educate consumers on the many valuable aspects of plastic packaging? Yes, yes...


As the anti-plastics movement steamrolls across the globe, many consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs) are shying away from plastic packaging. Are they leading or following consumers? Exclusive research reveals that consumers expect brand owners...


The Coca-Cola Co., as part of its sustainable packaging focus, recently proved that plastic fished from waterways and plucked from beaches can be recycled into bottles suitable for soft drinks.

The company last month announced production of...


Henkel and masterbatch producer Ampacet have joined forces to develop a recyclable black plastic. The carbon-free black plastic alternative enables containers to be recyclable more readily than previously possible in conventional recycling streams...


San Francisco is often the poster child of compostable packaging. Polystyrene is banned, and restaurants are required to use compostable or recyclable containers and utensils. With supportive regulations, savvy consumers and access to composting...


The automotive industry has led technological transformations in the past. As international attention turns towards sustainability—with the threat of climate change pressing down on all nations, regardless of the politics behind the notion—the...


Looking for sustainable packaging options or ideas for foods and beverages? Good news! A lot has been happening in this area lately—from the introduction of a recyclable aluminum cup designed to replace disposable plastic to a blueprint from...


Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) has announced that it’s switching the carriers on its multipacks from shrink wrap to paperboard to reduce packaging waste. CCEP estimates this change in its beverage packaging will remove about 4,000 metric tons...


Plastic waste is becoming a more pressing concern for today’s consumers than it has ever been in the past. Research tells us that an average of eight million metric tons of plastic waste...


TC Transcontinental Packaging helps brands rewrite their flexible packaging story using recyclable and compostable materials.

 

Packaging professionals and many more millions of people outside this dynamic market know well the...

What’s new with Loop’s reusable packaging initiative?

Such a daring initiative, the new Loop shopping platform is all about reusable/refillable packaging. In June, TerraCycle CEO and Loop inventor Tom Szaky enthralled a standing-room-only audience during EastPack 2019 with his insights into the...


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....

Tuesday, February 11, 2020 to Thursday, February 13, 2020

Swap ideas, add to your knowledge, and meet new business partners at the West Coast's largest packaging trade show.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020 to Thursday, February 13, 2020

Where medtech engineers and executives from across the globe converge before going on to change the lives of patients.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020 to Thursday, February 13, 2020

Engineers and executives can see live demos of the latest automation and robotics technologies, including robotic accessories, motion control devices, automation software and Industry 4.0 solutions.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020 to Thursday, June 11, 2020

The region's premier packaging event connects professionals from companies like PepsiCo, Pepperidge Farms, and Mars with suppliers offering the latest packaging technologies, including a range of automation solutions, from semi-automatic equipment to...

Tuesday, June 9, 2020 to Thursday, June 11, 2020

The east coast's largest medtech event offers professionals from companies such as Abbott, Boston Scientific, and Johnson & Johnson a chance to see the latest technologies and solutions in biocompatible materials, components, assembly, contract...

Tuesday, June 9, 2020 to Thursday, June 11, 2020

Engineers and executives can see live demos of the latest automation and robotics technologies, including robotic accessories, motion control devices, automation software and Industry 4.0 solutions.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020 to Thursday, October 8, 2020

Packaging professionals can find solutions to upgrade operations and source new technologies. Get an insider's look at the latest industry products.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020 to Thursday, October 29, 2020

See solutions from across the entire concept-to-market product cycle. Everything medical, design, and manufacturing converges and intersects here with sustainable packaging and plastics, robotics and automation, and 3D printing and IoT.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020 to Thursday, October 29, 2020

Medtech engineers and innovators who need to solve tricky challenges can discover solutions in sustainable plastics, smart packaging, biocompatible materials, 3D printing, and IIoT.