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Episode 182: The Package Deal: Innovations and the Latest Thinking in Sustainable Packaging

In the latest episode of NothingWasted!, you will enjoy The Package Deal: Innovations and the Latest Thinking in Sustainable Packaging. The discussion centered on how, every day, businesses, consumers, and the waste-and-recycling industry are continuing to grapple with big questions and concerns related to packaging. Thus, the need to implement sustainable—and creative—solutions is increasing.

Liz Bothwell

February 13, 2023

In the latest episode of NothingWasted!, you will enjoy The Package Deal: Innovations and the Latest Thinking in Sustainable Packaging.

The discussion centered on how, every day, businesses, consumers, and the waste-and-recycling industry are continuing to grapple with big questions and concerns related to packaging. Thus, the need to implement sustainable—and creative—solutions is increasing.

The panelists discussed the latest thinking and innovations in this area including the role of blockchain and waste-to-crude; how Uber-style recycling companies are picking up the slack of local municipalities; how plastic continues to fit into the puzzle; and why it is a not a good idea to shift packaging-related responsibilities to the consumer.

The panelists were: Cory Connors, Sustainable Packaging Consultant at Landsberg; Evelio Mattos, Sustainable Structural Packaging Designer and Host of “Package Design Unboxd,” and Adam Peek, SVP, Sales at Meyers. The session was moderated by Jonathan Quinn from Pregis.

Here is a sneak peek into the conversation:

Q: What key trends are you seeing in sustainable packaging, and why do you believe they have staying power?

Mattos: What I’m seeing from brands is a lot of discussion around carbon neutrality or being able to present how much carbon it took to produce a package. This is the early stage, but a lot of it is tied to 2025 and that threshold brands are focusing on. [Hand in hand with that] is consumer education.

Connors: I think the feverish goal of today is [reducing the amount of excess packaging that is being used]. Nike just announced their one-box program, so instead of shipping you two boxes with your shoes, they’re shipping you one box—and it was 50 million tons, or something ridiculous, the amount that will be pulled out of the system, or unneeded to be used. One company, one idea, one 50% reduction in corrugated. That’s the kind of thing we’d like to see more of, and I think we will see more of. It can be simple things that save companies and consumers money, [in addition to the reduction in corrugated].

Peek: The innovation from my perspective is availability of materials has become an interesting innovation topic. The supply chain crisis is very real. We’re trying to keep availability of materials to keep the shelves stocked.

Q: How do we improve the flexible packaging recycling stream?

Mattos: I’m on the design side pushing away from plastics and into paper. But when we look at the costs of going from plastics to paper, and the value that plastics can bring in different areas, you’re like, ‘okay, there’s plenty of room for both these materials to play.’ But consumers picture recycling and waste in a way that we know is not a reality: ‘I’ll take my flexible films to the grocery store, and they’ll be turned into, like, Trex.’ But the loop is not so simple. We can help brands shift to mono materials and promote processing that handles some of these more complex things.

Connors: Make it so the consumer understands the options after using a product. If we don’t tell them how to do it, they will never to it. And if we don’t give them some incentive on why, they won’t do it. Hopefully eventually there will be a national deposit system.

Peek: My answer is ‘just be honest.’ The other day I had a coffee bag that said ‘60% compostable, 40% polyethylene.’ That means 0% compostable; what are you trying to do here? Stop pretending to be something that you’re not. We need to be clear and honest in our communication on packaging, and we need to be clear in this industry when we sell to customers.

The session wrapped up with an audience Q&A. Listen to the full recording here.

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About the Author(s)

Liz Bothwell

Head of Content & Marketing, Waste360

Liz Bothwell is head of content and marketing for Waste360, proud host of the NothingWasted! Podcast, and ghostwrites for others to keep her skills sharp and creative juices flowing. She loves family, football, her French bulldogs, and telling stories that can help to make the world a more sustainable place.

Follow her on Linkedin or Twitter

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