While food and drink companies can reduce the amount of packaging to the minimum necessary, thus helping to improve the sustainability of their offerings and improve cost efficiency, this level of innovation is not sufficient enough to ensure a 'greener' future, claims William F Weber, VP packaging and industrial polymers at DuPont.
He was speaking at the Packaging Strategies CEO Summit in Florida yesterday, which was attended by brand owners, converters and packaging providers.
Weber is calling all players in the US packaging industry to accelerate innovation and broaden their thinking on recycling so that there is a less of a focus on just physical recycling and more of a focus on actions such as capturing the energy in packaging through waste-to-energy or the nutrient value of food and packaging through composting.
“Materials used in packaging, such as plastics, contain a great deal of their original energy; when these materials are incinerated, that energy can be unleashed to provide value for power generation.
“In a number of European countries, this is commonly done today. We would like to see an acceleration of this technology for the US,” he told FoodProductionDaily.com
In addition, Weber urged the industry to set standard measurement and reporting metrics that communicate footprint and recommended end-of-life disposal methods for packaging.
He claims that food packaging suppliers and brand owners should also support the cap-and-trade approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, whereby plants that emit more CO2 than their allocation need to buy allowances to cover the extra emissions and companies that emit less are able to sell the allowances to companies that need them.
According to Weber, collaboration among all stakeholders is crucial to develop technologies and systems for end-of-life disposal in order to drive waste from the packaging value chain.
DuPont said that its food and drink packaging portfolio enhances the sustainability of the industry through films that reduce the amount of protective packaging material used, resins that are renewably sourced and modifiers that improve the performance of biodegradable thermoplastics.
Back to school
In light of growing interest in devising sustainable, cost-efficient pack and processing solutions, academic institutions are increasingly being supported and sought after by companies and retailers to find potential operational benefits
Coca-Cola recently provided $400,000 to a US university to encourage development of new sustainable forms of packaging.
The funding will be used to support a proposed Packaging Innovation and Sustainability Centre at Michigan State University (MSU), which has been devised to focus on evaluating pack sustainability from a scientific perspective.
Packager Sealed Air also announced a similar team up last year with South Carolina-based Clemson University to create a teaching, research and service facility.
Susan Selke, acting director of MSU’s School of Packaging, said that the centre was seeking further support from other commercial groups both in terms of initial and longer-term support that it hopes could come, in part, from the beverage industry.
MSU claims the launch of the innovation centre, which will he housed at the university’s existing packaging building, will be an extension of work towards alternative packaging already undertaken at the university including new means for reducing and returning pack materials.