At the beginning of October sustainability professionals from the US as well as from around the world gathered in Charlotte, NC, for the SPC Advance Conference, a GreenBlue / Sustainable Packaging Coalition members only plus guests event. The program included an excellent array of speakers, informative panel discussions, interesting workshops as well as tours.
“SPC Advance is an amazing opportunity to gather different members of industry, academia, and government together to share perspectives, knowledge, and insight into sustainability,” said GreenBlue and Sustainable Packaging Coalition Executive Director, Nina Goodrich. “We are delighted to continue the conversation around sustainable packaging improvements and see how our members are progressing in this area.”
It was indeed both an amazing event and opportunity. Below are nine take-aways and quotes that particularly resonated with the Tipa team that participated in the event:
- Domtar President and CEO John Williams emphasized the crucial role integrity plays in crafting a sustainable corporate sustainability platform, and the importance of truth when telling the corporate sustainability story. With social media’s far reaching impact, false or undocumented claims can prove to be devastating .
- According to Kathleen Sayler, Assistant Director of the EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, 44% of the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from products and packaging. An astounding $11,402,020,357 of packaging is wasted in the U.S. per year. As a result within their sustainable packaging priority, the EPA identifies three critical action areas:
- Convene and foster partnerships around infrastructure development
- Work with Federal Agencies as Strategic Partners
- Research, Data and Policies for Packaging
- Kathleen Sayler also shared that currently in the U.S. over 30% of edible food goes to waste resulting in significant social, economic and environmental costs, and it is estimated that Americans waste 141 trillion calories of food annually at a cost of over $161 billion dollars. Food production accounts for 50% of land use, 80% of freshwater consumption, and 10% of total energy use in the United States. Food, when disposed, is a large contributor to the 18% of total methane emissions that come from landfills each year. As a result, under the sustainable food management priority, the EPA identifies four critical action areas:
- Convene and support partnerships around infrastructure development for alternatives to landfill disposal of wasted food.
- Promote opportunities across food life cycle to reduce wasted food from landfills, with preference for approaches higher on EPA food recovery hierarchy.
- Food Recovery Summit & Future Conferences.
- Improve and standardize measurement of wasted food.
- Walmart Senior Sustainability Manager, Ashley Hall, said that customers should not have to choose between products that they can afford and products that are better for them and the environment. She emphasized Walmart’s focus on selling products in recyclable packaging, and stated that the company has made packaging made with recycled content a priority.
- When it comes to FTC Compliance and Substantiating Data, based on the presentation of Laura Koss, Assistant Director of the Federal Trade Commission, the governmental perspective can be summarized as:
- Be as specific as possible.
- Make environmental claims clear and prominent.
- Don’t make qualifications about those claims only in asterisks and in tiny print.
- Be honest about what your product represents and does not represent.
- In the FTC’s eyes, it’s all about what a “reasonable consumer” might think about an on-package claim.
- Referring to waste management approaches that under perform in meeting the recovery needs of the changing waste stream, Al Metauro, President & CEO of Cascades Recovery, Inc. said, “Doing the same things and expecting a different outcome is insanity.”
- “Packaging is a gateway to our consumers,” stated Kim Carswell, Group Manager at Target, in an eloquent description of how a brand owner could view packaging. She continued saying that Target likes to give consumers alternative options for the products’ and packaging’s end-of-life instead of the materials having to go to landfill, and that Target is constantly asking how its designs influence end-of-life.
- Amy Duquette, Sustainability Project Manager at HAVI Global Solutions, which represents the packaging department of McDonald’s, said that packaging is the consumer’s last experience with the brand, and that experience should be as positive as possible. Through mechanics such as the How2Recyle Label, brands can empower consumers to do the right thing, in this case recycle packaging.
- During the discussion about the Circular Economy Technology And Innovation, Kim Carswell of Target commented, “Bio polymers move packaging closer to petroleum independence as part of our move to a circular economy.”
SPC Advance walked the talk when it came to sustainability best practices with a source-separated five-bin recycling system was used at the conference. In addition, the event hotel, the Omni , contracted with Earth Farms for food waste collection so there was no extra carbon footprint for the compost destination!