Marc Kullberg, Technical Sales Representative for Mica, attended the Smithers Pira Sustainability in Packaging US event in Chicago, IL March 4-6th. Below are his key takeaways and observations from the event.
The common theme of the Sustainability in Packaging event was "We Can't Do it Alone". To solve the waste issue with packaging, especially plastic packaging, companies are going to have to work together. Large companies like PepsiCo are joining consortiums, alliances, and partnerships to accomplish the goal of creating a circular economy where packaging is not a waste product but is Recycled, Reused, or completely biodegrades.
Common concerns due to plastic packaging waste include ocean debris, low recycling rates of most packaging materials, and constant pressure from consumers for a solution...yesterday. Most large companies are joining recycling partnerships and sustainability alliances and setting sustainability goals for the near future, but is that enough?
There was a presentation and white paper given on Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality's Material Management Program. This presentation focused on how the environmental impact as a whole is important, not just the individual attributes such as recyclable, biodegradable, compostable or re-useable. The environmental impact of packaging is dependent upon the entire life cycle from beginning to end. The life cycle assessment reviews “the compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs and the potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout its life cycle.” For example, in reusable packaging, the amount of energy that will be used for washing and sterilizing a food container before re-use will have to be considered in the life-cycle assessment. In this study, the washing cycle had a more negative impact on the environment than a plastic package.
As an industry, we still have a long way to go until we have a tangible solution that will make both industry professionals and consumers happy, but studies like the one done by Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality gives me hope that we are addressing the correct concerns and moving in the right direction.
What is your company doing to combat waste that ends up in landfills or the ocean? We would love to hear from you. Send us an email.
About Mica Corporation
Mica Corporation manufactures and globally supplies water-based, environmentally responsible products that offer adhesion or other properties to plastic, metal, and paper surfaces in continuous web applications.