SustPack17 – A Picture Perfect Setting for Embracing Sustainability

Jointly organized by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) and Smithers Pira, SustPack 2017 took place from April 24-26 in Scottsdale, AZ. Nearly 500 sustainable packaging experts attended the event which was centered around the Inputs, Outputs, and Impacts of Packaging in Supply Chain Sustainability with a program focusing on a wide variety of session topics such as Sourcing Sustainably, Mainstreaming Biopolymers, the intersection of alternative technologies and packaging; Factoring in Sustainable Packaging in the E-Commerce Channel and Packaging for Food waste mitigation.

It was a picture-perfect setting for sustainability inspiration, learning, and networking.

Compostable packaging research reveals stunning potential

Charlotte Dreizen, Project Associate at GreenBlue presented the results of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition research which was conducted to uncover the impact that compostable packaging has in increasing diversion of food scraps. If a meaningful amount of additional food is captured when compostable food packaging is used, this could create a more convincing case for using compostable packaging.

The study in late 2016, was completed by GreenBlue, sponsored in part by Eco-Products. The waste characterizations took place at the Charlottesville, VA City Market, an evening concert at Jiffy Lube Live Pavilion in Bristow, VA, the FarmAid festival in the same Bristow, VA location, as well as Roots Natural Kitchen, a quick-service restaurant in Charlottesville, VA, and a national grocery chain with foodservice operations. From the results, a convincing case for compostable packaging in increasing landfill diversion rates has been made!

“Our Value of Compostable Packaging research revealed stunning potential for compostable packaging to deliver food scraps to organics bins,” said Dreizen. “While we initially anticipated that front-of-house compostables would be comprised of maybe 20% food by weight, our waste characterizations at five different foodservice operations showed that the proportion of food to packaging ranged from a minimum of 34% and a maximum of 88% based on venue. Frankly, it blew us away. And, really underscores the opportunity for composters to gain an important source of feedstock while minimizing contamination.”

SPC Innovator Awards

A highlight on Monday night, April 24, was the 2017 SPC Innovator Awards when the sustainable packaging community celebrated industry achievements. Organized by the SPC, the competition recognized outstanding ideas, efforts and achievements in sustainability and packaging.

One winner received an award in each of the competition’s four categories: Outstanding Person; Packaging Innovation; Outcome of a Partnership; and Breakthrough Process.  Congratulations to the winners who were:

  • Outstanding Person: Chad Kreye, senior packaging engineer, Target
  • Packaging Innovation: CleanFlake Solution from Avery Dennison
  • Outcome of a Partnership: Hefty Energy Bag program partnership between The Dow Chemical Co., Reynolds Consumer Products, First Star Recycling, ConAgra Brands, Recyclebank and Systech Environmental Corp.
  • Breakthrough Process: Keurig Green Mountain materials recovery facility (MRF) Flow Study Methodology

 

Sustainability inspiration

There was much inspiration to be had during the presentations, including from Kim Carswell, Group Manager, Owned Brands Packaging at Target, who described Target’s sustainability journey. The company takes a holistic approach to sustainability and has defined five clear sustainable packaging goals. “Embrace sustainability as part of innovation,” Carswell said. “Be stubborn on your vision but flexible on your journey,” she added, cautioning that, “Great things never came from comfort zones.”

Jennifer Idol, Owner at The Underwater Designer, and the first woman to dive in all 50 states, gave a thought-provoking presentation on the trash, much of it plastic, that chokes our waterways. She described the dark side of Alaska, saying, “I saw trash in every body of water.”

On a positive note, Idol described how OceanPositive is “doing something with what already exists” by making swimwear using recycled nylon from “Ghost” fishing nets, abandoned by fishing vessels after snagging on reefs and wrecks. These “Ghost Nets” continue to fish, often ensnaring marine life and posing a hazard to divers. The Ghost Fishing Project enlists teams of divers to remove these nets and bring them to the surface, where they are recycled.

Frustration free packaging

On a topic that resonated with attendees, Kim Houchens, Director of WW Packaging Sustainability Amazon, and her colleague Brent Nelson, Senior Manager of WW Packaging (CPEX), Sustainability, described how Amazon.com is working with manufacturers to box products in Certified Frustration-Free Packaging, which reduces the overall amount of packing materials used.

Amazon Certified Frustration-Free Packaging is recyclable and comes without excess packaging materials, saving a substantial amount of packaging. The product inside is the same, and everything is included in the Certified Frustration-Free Packaging that would be in the original manufacturer’s packaging.

 

Thank you!

Thank you to Nina Goodrich, SPC and Smithers Pira for making each SustPack event better than the last. We learned much. We made new friends. Most of all, we came away inspired.