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Conference Explores Sustainable Packaging Trends

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In its sixth edition, the annual sustainability in packaging conference sponsored by packaging digest and pira intl. Demonstrates the evolution of sustainability in the packaging segment.this years conference, held march 1214 in orlando, fl, highlighted sustainable packaging developments and the latest advances in the science of sustainability. In summing up the event, conference chairman john kalkowski, editorial director of packaging digest, urged delegates to innovate, demonstrate and collaboratethe three major themes developed in presentations throughout the conference.

 Innovate sustainability and innovation go handinhand. Attendees heard many ideas about sustainable packaging innovation during the conference. Speaker tony knoerzer, vp advanced research, food packaging at pepsico, advised listeners to fail early and move on to the next idea. Lars lundquist, packaging and environment expert at nestlé, said there is plenty of drive and innovation in sustainable packaging, but whats lacking is direction.

 Confused consumers end up doing nothing about packaging. And its not about reducing packaging its about optimizing. The risk of underpacking is higher than overpacking because of the product waste generated, he says. Lundquist also said that gen3 of bioplasticsthose that adapt nonfood sources such as wood, agricultural waste and droughtresistant plasticsalgae for packaging applicationsare still far away from commercialization. The holdup the chemistry often uses more energy to produce the material than it saves.

Concern about feedstock sourcingfor bioplastics and for clean recycled contentcame up several times by different people. One solution discussed was closedloop systems. In trying to sell your sustainable packaging innovation internally, randy boeller, packaging engineering manager with hewlett packard, shared a tip that works for him. When two or more departments are involved in a decision especially a contrary one, like spending more in procurement but saving more in logistics, go up the corporate organization chart to find the single executive who is responsible for both departments to get needed changes made. He cited a successful example of this at hp, where they fixed their internal policy so that purchasing agents are no longer evaluated just on how much they save on purchase prices.

Demonstrate theres a lot more science involved in packaging sustainability nowand thats a good thing. Alan blake, associate director corporate packaging development sustainability at procter & gamble, gave an overview of the global protocol on sustainable packaging 2.0, that provides comprehensive metrics from which users can pick and choose depending on product and project. Lifecycle assessment was a major topic.lundquist explained how nestlé uses lca at the packaging concept phase employing piqet packaging impact quick evaluation tool. They have superusers who train others how to use the online tool. With training, nestle users can do an assessment in about 30 min, he says. But are all lca tools created equal tony kingsbury, dow executive in residence at the haas school of business, uc berkeley, did a study comparing five different toolscompass, gabi, simapro, sustainable minds and the walmart packaging scorecardand found that results vary widely, even when the data is the same. Still, ed socci, r&d director, advanced research div. At pepsico, suggested packagers use lca as an improvement tool. "aspirationally, where can we get to" all the right data in the world will take you nowhere, though,

 if your customers think it leads you to a wrong decision. Harry epstein, vp innovation, havi global solutions, warned, "science doesnt win the day when it comes to consumer perception." so whats a packaging designer to do, asked an audience member, if an lca tool tells you to make one improvement, but that isnt the best from a consumer perception view p&gs blake replied "communicate and educateor dont make the change." take concentrates, for example. In the u.s., consumers expect a financial incentive, according to will archer, manager of global sustainability at sc johnson. The company recently expanded its portfolio of concentrated cleaners. Archer said companies need to communicate what the sustainable packaging savings mean to consumers, using a familiar point of reference for comparison. Libby bernick, vp, terrachoice, challenged attendees on effective communications. "if we cant communicate our eco improvements to consumers in an easy way, what have we done" she also said that consumers are interested in greener products, but their motivation is what really matters.

 Learn why they are interested and deliver on that, she suggests. Collaborate many recent successes in sustainable packaging development have been built through partnerships between brand owners and suppliers. Pepsicos knoerzer explained that creating value in the supply chain today requires shared knowledge and a coordinated strategy which usually involves exclusive features or services. Brand owners are able to rapidly move on innovation with suppliers they trust. Knoerzer also advised attendees invest in what you need to knowwith the right horsepower. "if you think knowledge is expensive, try ignorance." and dont get stuck protecting intellectual property but never getting around to using it.

Scott vitters, general manager of the plantbottle packaging platform at the cocacola co., shared a secret to their success sharing. The idea was that development of the technology would accelerate which would also drive down costs if the supply chain could see the market for plantbottle was bigger than coke. So the company has decided to partner with other trusted brandssuch as heinz ketchupto expand use of plantbottles and get the word out quicker. It seems to be working. Heinz had two million hits in the first month on the qr code educating consumers on its plantbottle. During the q&a, someone asked about lessons learned. Vitters responded with, "in any partnership, ensure there is clarity on goals, expectations, value return." hps boeller added that the size of a supplier doesnt necessarily matter when deciding to partner with them or not. Smaller companies can sometimes act quicker, he says. Jeff wayman, director of worldwide supply chain management for mcdonalds corp., said, "ditto. Ive worked with small and big suppliers. If they are focused, aligned and understand your business, value them and partner with them." it helps, too, for packagers to try to learn about the upstream and downstream links in the supply chain. During the q&a in "a world without waste" track where several speakers mentioned challenges with the recycling process, attendee susan collins, executive director of the container recycling institute, reminded the audience and speaker panel that packaging people know as much about the recycling business as recyclers know about packaging. Getting all stakeholders in a room talking is key to finding workable solutions.

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