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Sustainable Packaging Progress in 2008

Sustainable packaging resources for greener carbon footprint of packaged goods

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Optimizing Packaging Design

Optimizing packaging materials, reducing shipping weight and cube, and increasing packaging cubic densities can lead to significant savings. While there may be minimal material savings in direct packaging costs, it can have a multiplier effect on the cost of transportation, handling and storage. A change in packaging can create a ripple effect throughout the supply chain producing efficiency gains, dramatic cost-savings and reduced energy consumption.

Sustainable packaging:

  1. Is beneficial, safe & healthy for individuals and communities throughout its life cycle;
  2. Meets market criteria for performance and cost;
  3. Is sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy;
  4. Maximizes the use of renewable or recycled source materials;
  5. Is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices;
  6. Is made from materials healthy in all probable end of life scenarios;
  7. Is physically designed to optimize materials and energy;
  8. Is effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial cradle to cradle cycles.

The criteria presented here blend broad sustainability objectives with business considerations and strategies that address the environmental concerns related to the life cycle of packaging. These criteria relate to the activities of our membership and define the areas in which we actively seek to encourage transformation, innovation and optimization. We believe that by successfully addressing these criteria, packaging can be transformed into a cradle to cradle flow of packaging materials in a system that is economically robust and provides benefit throughout the life cycle—a sustainable packaging system.

SOURCE: Sustainable Packaging Coalition

Whether it's called sustainable packaging, green packaging, biodegradable packaging, or natural packaging, there is a growing consumer demand for sustainable products. There is also a growing sense of urgency from product manufacturers - especially consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs) - to develop sustainable business practices based on the increasingly limited availability of traditional packaging materials.

Many packaging savings and reductions have already been achieved. Beverage cans are much lighter than they were 10 years ago, and most use recycled aluminum. Deodorants are sold without containers now. Shipping boxes contain large percentages of recycled fiber. McDonald's has been steadily reducing the amount of virgin paper and plastic in the boxes that hold its fries and the lids that top its coffee cups.

In spite of sustainable packaging becoming more mainstream (i.e. more major brand owners using sustainable materials for their packaging), finding sustainable solutions to meet consumer demands and corporate citizenship objectives is still a daunting challenge for packaging professionals.

The Packaging Summit Expo and Conference
May 13-15, 2008
Donald Stephens Convetion Center,
Rosemont, IL

Treeless Paper

Distant Village Packaging

Distant Village Packaging is focused on sustainable "presentation" packaging for small to medium businesses (e.g., Boxes for Chocolates, Trade Show Bags, Gift Boxes for Gourmet Foods, Jewlery, Bath/Body, etc). They use recycled, reclaimed, and abundant/renewable materials to make fine packaging. Our sustainable business practice reaches into environmental, economic, and community efforts. Distant Village Packaging is focused on serving businesses with custom specialty packaging. Most of their packaging is carefully made by hand using sustainable resources and methods – reinforcing the quality of their clients' products. Many clients create hand-made products and believe their packaging should be nothing less than the same quality of their own products – and that is exactly what we strive to provide for them. Custom designed hand-made packaging.

"Full Circle Sustainability" is about managing the process for a win-win scenario, says Rich Cohen, CEO, Distant Village Packaging.

Industry Standards by Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart sustainability scorecard

15% will be based on Greenhouse Gas (GHG)/CO2 per ton of Production
15% will be based on Material Value
15% will be based on Product/Package Ratio
15% will be based on Cube Utilization
10% will be based on Transportation
10% will be based on Recycled Content
10% will be based on Recovery Value
5% will be based on Renewable Energy
5% will be based on Innovation


It’s likely that you’ll soon have to comply with your customers’ sustainability initiatives as well as your own. That's the case if you provide products for the Wal-Mart chain of retail outlets.

Wal-Mart has taken a "lifecycle approach" to packaging with objectives covering reduction in waste and renewable energy. Nine weighted parameters of Wal-Mart's sustainability scorecard are measured for their prospective and current vendors.

Wal-Mart has told its buyers that, starting in 2008, they should consider the packaging scores when choosing among various products for its Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores. Matt Kistler, Vice President - Package and Product Innovations, Sam's Club Wal-Mart

Part of the challenge in rolling out greener products is informing customers about changes that affect their perception of savings. Wal-Mart's April 2008 "Earth Month" promotion is highlighting its greener products and informing customers how making better choices, especially on a large scale, can cause a difference. Wal-Mart is featuring more than 50 products in stores and 500 online, from transitional cotton shirts to mulch made from rubber to Clorox Green Works products.

The majority of Wal-Mart's environmental footprint comes from suppliers. The company has direct control on about 8 percent of its footprint, with the remaining 92 percent coming from its supply chain.

To green its supply chain the company launched a it's "Wal-Mart Packaging Scorecard" in 2007 . By filling in information about products' packaging, suppliers are rated and find out their rank in relation to peers. Kistler said Wal-Mart works with suppliers, telling them what they can do to improve and let them know what other suppliers have done to reduce packaging.

One vendor, Nestlé Waters North America, which owns Poland Spring, Deer Park and other brands, said it has saved 20 million pounds, or 9 million kilograms, of paper in the past five years by using narrower labels on many bottles. They also switched to clear caps that are more easily recycled. And it is rolling out newly designed bottles that are amont the lightest water bottles around. Next step...reduce water in bottles, but until the demand subsides, these incremental steps can be lessons on innovative ways to reduce raw material usage!

Transportation is a large part of Wal-Mart's carbon impact due to carrying all these packaged products thousands of miles from suppliers to regional warehouses to retail stores. Some of its recent and coming programs are with its fleet--one of the largest in the world. Although the company is planning to start rolling out hybrid trucks in April, 2008, it's already made its fleet 20% more efficient than in 2005 by designing aerodynamic trucks and using auxiliary power units (APU) that turn off the engine but not the heating, cooling and lights.

The Live Better Index

Introduced in April 2007, Wal-Mart's Sustainability Index tracks five everyday products to serve as nationwide trend indicators of products and attitudes surrounding environmental issues. The products were selected because consumers can make a conscious decision to purchase them for their environmentally friendly and cost-saving benefits versus conventional versions. We know consumers have the power to make a difference!

Sustainable Packaging Coalition

Environmental Defense, which was instrumental in getting McDonald's to give up Styrofoam clamshell-shaped packages in 1991, devised a calculator that enables package designers to compare the weight, recycled content and performance traits of about 20 materials. The tool was adopted by GreenBlue, a nonprofit research institute that operates the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. The Environmental Protection Agency has given GreenBlue a grant of $150,000 to further refine the tool.

"Packaging offers major opportunities for reducing energy use and greenhouse gases, and for saving the $4 billion worth of materials that now ends up in landfills," said Matt Hale, director of the agency's Office of Solid Waste.

IoPP Sustainable Packaging Task Group (SPTG)

The Sustainable Packaging Task Group, is part of the Institute of Packaging Professionals. Formed in 2007, the subgroup has created three sub-groups to methodically build professional resources for their members and the industry:
  • Definitions - Starting with SPC definitions, it will drill down on implementing definitions and develop a consensus.
  • Metrics - It will review and bring together existing metrics and gain an understanding of them. The community needs to know everything that is out there.
  • Education - It will build a knowledge base on sustainability, covering definitions and state-of-the-art for sustainability issues.

Design Guidelines Available Online


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