Do consumers care? Sometimes. Sixty-nine percent of Americans say sustainable packaging is a priority when making food purchasing decisions…Read More >
The new container not only holds twice as many nutritional supplement capsules as the bottle it replaces, but also represents a significant source reduction...Read More >
Packages carry a lot of environmental information these days.
Do consumers care? Sometimes. Sixty-nine percent of Americans say sustainable packaging is a priority when making food purchasing decisions, according to the 2014 Cone Communications Food Issues Trend Tracker by Cone Communications (www.conecomm.com), Boston, MA.
“In terms of packaging, what consumers care most about is recyclability and to slightly less extent, recycled content,” says Katherine O’Dea, senior director of GreenBlue (www.greenblue.org), Charlottesville, VA, a sustainability nonprofit representing more than 200 member companies. “That’s what resonates most, at least at this time,” she reports. She notes, ecolabels like those certifying sustainable forest management practices are not that familiar to consumers except perhaps among members of the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability segment of the population.
However, a growing percentage of supply chain partners demand sustainability information. “There’s a lot of pressure on the supply chain,” says Barb O’Brien Brown, principal and co-founder at BrownFlynn (www.brownflynn.com), a corporate social responsibility consulting firm based in Cleveland, Ohio.
Deciding what environmental information to include on a package can be a challenge. Package real estate is limited, it’s difficult to present sustainability information simply and it’s imperative to avoid exaggerated or false claims (greenwashing). “Everyone wants simple answers, but there are no simple answers,” says Brown. “It’s going to require a combination of solutions, and certainly a lot more education is needed.”
Brand owners generally present environmental information one of three ways: as a marketing claim, a third-party-certified claim or an ecolabel. Although ecolabel might seem like a generic term, the International Organization for Standardisation (ISO, www.iso.org), Geneva, Switzerland, reserves it for its Type I Voluntary Environmental Performance Labeling, its most stringent classification. It not only certifies environmental performance, but also gauges environmental preferability. A familiar example is the EnergyStar label (www.energystar.gov), established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, DC.
The Global Ecolabelling Network (www.globalecolabelling.net) lists definitions for ISO Environmental Performance Labeling. Many brand owners opt for Type II: “informative environmental self-declaration claims.” Type III involves third-party certification and is described as “voluntary programs that provide quantified environmental data of a product, under pre-set categories of parameters set by a qualified third party and based on lifecycle assessment, and verified by that or another qualified third party.”
Selecting a certification program can be difficult. There is limited real estate on the package, and there are expenses involved in the certification process. Nevertheless, certification programs help purchasers, specifiers, retailers, governments and consumers find products they can trust. “Certification is always a good thing,” says O’Dea. “There’s a lot of skepticism. Certification would help gain trust of the consumer.”
O’Dea believes the best way to decide what environmental information to put on the package is to identify internal goals and study certification programs to understand which one best aligns with objectives. Her advice: “Do your homework to determine whether the label resonates with consumers. Certification is expensive. Understand what the label is conveying. What does it certify? Does it advance the message you want to communicate about your brand?”
Despite space limitations and cost, it might be desirable to apply for more than one certification since many programs, for example, Green Seal, (www.greenseal.org), Washington, DC; and the Marine Stewardship Council (www.msc.org), London, UK, apply to the product rather than the packaging.
Brand owners using fiber-based packaging have several certification options including Forest Stewardship Council (FSC, https://ic.fsc.org/), Bonn, Germany, the Sustainable Forest Initiative® (SFI, www.sfiprogram.org), Washington, DC, and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC, www.perc.org), Geneva, Switzerland. These ecolabels help brand owners and consumers identify products from responsibly managed forests and are recognized by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (www.wbcsd.org), Geneva, Switzerland.
In addition, FSC and PEFC are supported by the Consumer Goods Forum (www.theconsumergoodsforum.com), Paris, France, a group of 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers and other stakeholders from 70 countries and publisher of the Sustainability Activation Toolkit, a “how-to” guide to implementing sustainability-enhancing strategies. SFI and FSC also are listed in GreenBlue’s Guidelines for Sustainable Paper Products.
The 100% Recycled Paperboard symbol, frequently seen on cartons for cereal and other products, is transitioning to a certified program. The Certified 100% Recycled Paperboard (CRB) symbol began appearing on packaging during the first quarter of 2014. The CRB symbol “assures brand owners that there is zero virgin fiber or pulp in the 100% recycled paperboard,” explains Paul Schutes, executive director of the board of the 100% Recycled Paperboard Alliance (RPA-100%, www.rpa100.com), Washington, DC.
RPA-100% launched the certification program because brand owners licensing the original symbol wanted a certification program focused solely on 100% recycled paperboard because it was felt that other programs linked to forest certification protocols open the door to speculation about whether trees were used to make the paperboard. “Although we have had no issues of false claims..., we believed that the timing was right to launch this program to ensure the long-term integrity and reputation of 100% recycled paperboard,” says Schutes. The new symbol eventually will replace the original 100% recycled paperboard symbol, which debuted in 1995.
All 12 RPA-100% member recycled paperboard mills completed third-party audits in December 2013 and now market certified 100% recycled paperboard.
More packaging-related certification programs are on the horizon. According to an October 15, 2013, posting in Packaging Strategies’ PS Extra, The Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a program of GreenBlue, is working on its own recognition mark. It’s scheduled to pilot in 2015 in preparation for a 2016 launch.
For non-certified environmental messages, statements should be backed by data. To avoid misleading or false claims, follow guidance in the Green Claims Guide (www.gov.uk/government/publications/green-claims-guidance), published by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs in the U.K. or the Green Guides published by the Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C.
Another potentially helpful resource, draft guidelines proposed by EPA, address key characteristics of environmental standards and ecolabels, including the credibility of the development process and the effectiveness of the criteria for environmental performance. The Draft Guidelines for Product Environmental Performance Standards and Ecolabels for Voluntary Use in Federal Procurement (www.epa.gov/epp/draftGuidelines/) are designed to help federal purchasing decision makers use existing non-governmental product environmental performance standards and ecolabels and are flexible enough for use in many product categories. “These guidelines will make it easier for federal purchasers to meet the existing goal of 95% sustainable purchases while spurring consumers and the private sector to use and demand safer and greener products,” concludes Jim Jones, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.
The EPA’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program website (www.epa.gov/epp/) provides additional guidance and resources on product environmental standards. A wide variety of related links on voluntary standards can be found on www.epa.gov/greenerproducts/related/index.html.
A Green Products Compilation Tool (http://sftool.gov/GreenProcurement), created by the General Services Administration, Washington, DC, helps vendors and procurement officers understand federal procurement requirements for products.
For brand owners working on reducing waste to landfills, UL Environment (www.ul.com/environment), a business of UL, Northbrook, IL, validates waste diversion claims. Companies that achieve a landfill diversion rate of 100% qualify for the Zero Waste to Landfill validation. Companies that achieve a diversion rate of 98% or greater qualify for the Virtually Zero Waste to Landfill validation. A diversion rate of 80% or greater qualifies for a Landfill Waste Diversion validation.
A two-part UL-led audit, which includes document evaluation and on-site visits, is required to earn a claim validation mark. Facilities whose landfill waste diversion claims have been validated by UL Environment are audited annually and featured in UL Environment’s Sustainable Product Database.
Contamination by compostable plastic has little effect on the mechanical properties of recycled polyethylene at levels up to 10%.
Data reported in a Meta Study, The Behaviour of Bioplastic Films in Mechanical Recycling Systems, published by European Bioplastics, Berlin, Germany, is based on independent studies by the Institute for Bioplastics and Biocomposites (University of Applied Arts and Sciences Hannover), Hannover, Germany; the Italian National Packaging Consortium (CONAI), Milan, Italy; and the company BIOTEC, Emmerich am Rhein, Germany.
“Studies and field trials have demonstrated that in the uneventful case a small fraction of compostable plastics ends up in the PE recycle stream, this does in no way negatively impact the quality of the recycling stream,” says François de Bie, chairman of European Bioplastics, Berlin, Germany.Back to Top >
Juice Plus+, Memphis, TN, celebrates 20th anniversary with a larger, lightweighted high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bottle and flip-top dispensing closure with embossed logo. The new container not only holds twice as many nutritional supplement capsules as the bottle it replaces, but also represents a significant source reduction since it weighs 24 grams. With the previous bottle, it would take two containers with a weight of 32 grams to achieve the same product count. In seven years, the new bottle design will save more than 1,000,000 pounds of HDPE resin. The larger bottle also reduces the number of bottles per carton, boosting shipping efficiencies and further reducing waste.
Bottle and closure are supplied by TricorBraun, St. Louis, MO. The Nutra Gen II closure is made by Weatherchem, Twinsburg, Ohio.Back to Top >
A committee, established by the Reusable Packaging Association, Arlington, VA, is working on sanitation standards and guidelines for reusable plastic containers (RPCs) used in the food supply chain. The RPC Food Safety Standards Committee is considering input from RPC providers, retailers, growers and shippers.
“The reusables industry already has rigorous cleaning and testing protocols that meet or exceed accepted standards, and these have proven to be highly effective,” says Paul Pederson, committee chairman and director of Food Safety & Compliance, IFCO Systems US, LLC, Tampa, FL. “However, we want to establish common and public standards that will further increase confidence in the sanitation and food safety of RPCs.”
The initiative is driven in part by retail supporters of reusables who need documented guidelines to share with members of their supply chains. Currently, the RPC providers and cleaning services follow their own sanitation and food safety standards. Their practices are not made public and likely vary by provider. The three major providers of RPCs (IFCO Systems; Tosca Ltd., Green Bay, WI; and Polymer Logistics, Riverside, CA) are represented on the committee, will work to determine best practices and then agree to follow them in order to increase food safety.
Other committee members include Brisbane, Australia-based ORYX Automation, which has a North American office in San Francisco, CA, and Label and Bar Code, Inc., Springfield, OR. More companies are expected to join as the work gets under way. For more information, visit www.reusables.org.Back to Top >
DoubleGreen™ COEX 10-liter polyethylene (PE) jerry can from Greif, Delaware, OH, will receive a 2014 Manufacturing Leadership Award in Sustainability in June at the 10th Annual Manufacturing Leadership Summit hosted by Frost & Sullivan, San Antonio, TX. Made from feedstock derived from sugarcane, renewable content exceeds 50%. A stackable design eliminates the need for transport packaging. Shipping directly on pallets reduces inventory management costs, eliminates the need to print a duplicate label and optimizes the recycling process.
Produced in Brazil and used in a closed-loop agribusiness application, the container is estimated to reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 1,390 tons. The elimination of transport packaging is estimated to save 3,643 trees and prevent 23 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. In addition, since the DoubleGreen container is already UN-certified, end-users don’t have to manage or pay for the UN Certification process. For more information, visit http://mlawards.gilcommunity.com/, www.mlcouncil.com, or www.greif.com.Back to Top >
Ice Water Springs, Toronto, Ontario, launches green-tinted 15-liter water cooler bottle made of 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET). The water will be available under the Arrowhead brand name with distribution beginning in major retail chains in western Canada, near the source of the Arrowhead spring water.
Green color allows Ice River Springs to recycle green PET bottles it receives from municipal recycling systems. The beverage company’s in-house recycling operation sorts containers, purifies recyclate and produces certified food-grade rPET. “Few companies need the green plastic that we collect from our recycling operation,” says Jamie Gott, CEO of Ice River Springs. “We have launched Arrowhead water in green bottles to make use of this plastic and take it out of landfills,” he explains.Back to Top >
Efforts to increase access to carton recycling to 73 of the 100 largest U.S. cities and more than 48% of U.S. households win the Carton Council of North America, Vernon Hills, IL, a 2013 First-Place National Award from Keep America Beautiful, Stamford, CT.
“We recently reached a new milestone in increasing access to carton recycling, bringing the total number of U.S. households with access to more than 56.6 million,” reports Jason Pelz, vice president of recycling projects for the Carton Council of North America and vice president, environment at Tetra Pak North America, Vernon Hills, IL. “That’s a 165% increase in access since our efforts began in 2009,” he concludes. For more information, visit www.recyclecartons.com.Back to Top >
EVOK polystyrene (PS) foam trays from Cascades, Kingsey Falls, Quebec, contain 25% recycled content. Exceldor, Lévis, Quebec, began using the trays for its poultry products in February 2014. Designed to hold meats, poultry, fish and seafood, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables, the tray has achieved a UL Environment claim validation for its recycled content.
“By incorporating 25% of recycled PS into our products, we have reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20% compared with our traditional PS foam trays,” reports Luc Langevin, president and chief operating officer of Cascades Specialty Products Group.
The transition to the recycled-content trays will allow Exceldor to reduce annual GHG emissions by close to 37 tonnes, or the equivalent of the yearly emissions produced by 15 compact cars. For more information, visit www.cascades.com.Back to Top >
Rigid plastics like yogurt cups and grocery store clamshells are not accepted in many curbside collection programs. However, James City County, Virginia, and three other Virginia municipalities will begin accepting this type of packaging in July 2014.
The change was made after a study showed when households were asked to recycle all of their rigid plastics, the entire quantity of recyclables went up by 20% with polypropylene (PP) and non-bottle PET making up the majority of the increase. PET bottles, which are already included in the program, also saw a substantial bump. In addition, there was no significant increase in non-recyclable materials.
The Virginia Public Service Authority, which manages curbside collection for the four municipalities, led the initiative with support from Printpack, Atlanta, GA, which operates a rigid plastic packaging plant in James City County, plus the Rigid Plastics Packaging Group, an affiliate of the Society of the Plastics Industry, Washington, DC.Back to Top >
EcoSkin™ label formulations from Printpack, Atlanta, GA, float during the recycling process to prevent labels from contaminating recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET). For example, one EcoSkin substrate offers a density below 0.97, 94% to 98% removal in infrared sorting, up to 60% shrink and a cost comparable to PET glycol label substrates.
In addition to ensuring compatibility with recycling, EcoSkin™ offers the potential for source reduction and a lower environmental footprint, without compromising performance or increasing material cost. With a shrink percentage of 60%, EcoSkin substrates conform to many container shapes and sizes and offer excellent performance in printing and high-speed application.Back to Top >