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Episode 104: A Closer Look Inside Flexible Packaging

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In this episode of NothingWasted!, we chat with Jonathan Quinn, e-commerce packaging market manager at NOVA Chemicals. NOVA Chemicals develops and manufactures chemicals and plastic resins that are designed to make everyday life healthier, easier, and safer.

We spoke with Quinn about the impact of COVID-19 on e-commerce packaging, the importance of collaboration, his work with the Flexible Packaging Association and more.

Here’s a glimpse into the discussion:

Waste360: How did you got started in the packaging industry?

Quinn: I grew up around the flexible-packaging industry because my dad was the president and CEO of a couple of packaging companies. I have pictures of me and a box of resin when I was two; I was in the lab doing elongation testing when I was five, because that was the cool thing to do, or at least I thought. So, growing up, I had the goal to one day work in a corner office next to my dad. I went to Clemson and majored in packaging and business. In my early career, I mainly worked with major brands and CPGs on the food-packaging side of the conversations. And then I found my way to NOVA, where I’ve been for about five years, and have been on the marketing and market-development side.

Waste360: I know e-commerce packaging is a big part of your role now. What impact has COVID had?

Quinn: There’s been tremendous growth in e-commerce on a global basis. And if you look at North America, e-commerce now accounts for 21% of retail. Heading into 2020, it was around 11%. So, virtually doubling over the course of the pandemic. It’s exciting to see how things are starting to transform in the industry and how e-commerce goes to the next level in enabling the sustainability conversation; that is the opportunity. We really need to focus and make sure we’re optimizing the packaging and the packaging experience to reduce the environmental impact.

Waste360: Do you think this growth will be sustained?

Quinn: What really created that significant increase in e-commerce is the traditional consumer in that 55+ demographic, who hadn’t been a religious buyer of e-commerce or a subscriber to sites like Amazon. And that demographic is one that was probably most affected by the pandemic. Now that they’ve seen the benefits that e-commerce provides, and they’ve built trust in those products, those subscribers are going to stay.

We’ve also done research — which we started three years ago — on consumer perceptions about plastic packaging, whether they are seeing the benefits, and what their desires are around incorporating recycled materials, etc. There’s been a significant shift in consumers seeing the benefits of plastic packaging — and a virtual doubling in all age and income categories as far as e-commerce usage.  

Waste360: When you are working on a new type of material or packaging, do you ever pull in recyclers to discuss and explore what might work best?

Quinn: Yes, NOVA has been doing a lot of collaborative work with the entire value stream. One of the key things is that we are now partners in is bringing PCR materials to the market. And there are a lot of other things going on behind the scenes, and if listeners have interest in exploring how they could work with a material producer, those are conversations I’m sure we would be interested in having. Collaboration and partnership is really what’s going to get us progressing in the direction we need.

Read transcript here.


TAGS: Plastics
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