Walmart: Lessons learned from a commitment to packaging reduction






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Ron Sasine, Senior Director of Packaging, Private Brands, Walmart — Packaging Digest, 9/18/2013 4:16:27 PM





Ron SasineRon SasineThe results are in. Last year, we reached a goal we set back in 2007—to reduce packaging in the products we sell by 5 percent by 2013. This success was an exercise in collaboration and perseverance as we worked closely with suppliers, manufacturers and distributors to find new solutions and ultimately reach our goal. 

Achieving this milestone involved a number of multi-year initiatives to eliminate unnecessary packaging components, reduce the mass of the remaining packaging materials and optimize the performance of the packaging we use in each product category. As we worked to reduce packaging, we found that our greatest successes came when we optimized packaging. This approach not only consider the volume of the material used, but the integrity, portability, recyclability, reusability and overall life cycle of the materials we use to deliver products to our shelves safely and efficiently. The result is a more holistic approach that considers the environmental and economic impact of packaging throughout our supply chain. 

When we began our effort six years ago, the first obstacle we faced was finding a standard for measuring the amount of packaging we use and developing a procedure to track it over time. There weren’t any packaging reduction metrics commonly used across the packaging or retail industries, so we collaborated with packaging manufacturers, consumer products companies and a group of government entities and NGOs to create the Walmart Packaging Scorecard, a methodology for measuring and improving the environmental impact of the packaging we use. 

Here are just a few recent results from the grocery category:
Packaged salads: We cut plastic resin by an average of 40 percent, amounting to more than 1.2 million pounds of plastic film.
Bottled sauces: We made the packaging in a line of bottled sauces 44 percent lighter, improving our shipping efficiency.
Dairy: We reduced the amount of wood fiber used in the corrugated shipping cases for a line of dairy products by 18 percent.
Processed meat: We eliminated 26 percent of the corrugated used in shipping a line of processed meats by redesigning the shape and style of box.

As a result of these efforts, we not only reached our goal, but we were able to reduce the overall greenhouse gas impact of our packaging by an average of 9.8 percent in our Walmart U.S. stores, 9.1 percent in our Sam’s Clubs in the U.S. and 16 percent in our Walmart Canada stores. Our achievements in this area demonstrate the power of collaboration and the power of sustainability as a driver of innovation and business improvement. It’s at the heart of who we are and part of our mission to deliver everyday low prices to our customers.

With the new focus on optimization, we’ve created a framework for driving progress that can positively impact the business, cut costs, reduce waste and ensure product integrity through the entire product lifecycle—from transport to store shelves to customers’ homes.

But it doesn’t stop there. The next step in this process is the rollout of our Sustainability Index. Now being used in select categories, this index helps us evaluate packaging as one piece of the bigger puzzle of product sustainability. The index will help us keep a spotlight on those categories where packaging has been identified as an area of key environmental and market concern. At the same time, it will allow us to raise the visibility of other issues impacting supply chain sustainability and apply our size and scale to find broader solutions.

To learn more about Walmart’s global sustainability efforts, visit The Green Room.

 

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Justice is served by low-cost, compostable cushioning






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Posted by Rick Lingle, Technical Editor — Packaging Digest, 9/18/2013 11:18:57 AM





 

Justice Design Group packagingJustice Design GroupAs with any customized product, the lighting fixtures manufactured by Justice Design Group are made-to-order. So when the president and the plant manager of the California-based designer of residential and commercial lighting began considering new packaging solutions, product protection was a top priority. 

“Our products are highly customizable, which means we have to manufacture them again if they are broken in-transit,” explains Brandon Levin, president of Justice Design Group and grandson to the factory’s original founder. “While damage can be particularly costly to our business, the state of the construction and building industry means that we had to find a protective packaging solution that offered premium protection at the greatest value.” 

The company’s Sealed Air sales representative, Ann Regan, introduced Justice Design to Sealed Air’s new PakNatural loose-fill solution. Made from non-food renewable materials, PakNatural loose fill not only met his company’s criteria for product protection and value, but also offered environmental sustainability as a certified compostable packaging solution.

 

Hundreds of SKUs

With more than 250 different shapes and 30-plus different finishes, Justice Design fixtures are sold through a network of approximately 1,500 distributors in the U.S. and Canada that display and stock the product. The business requires a packaging solution that will protect the company’s unique and fragile ceramic light fixtures as they are shipped across the U.S. and Canada.

Before, Justice Design used an interlocking corrugated solution for blocking and bracing the fragile products. “We found that our employees had a hard time handling the previous packaging solution, which required them to wear gloves for protection against the sharp edges of the interlocking pieces,” says Levin. “We already had an existing relationship with Sealed Air from the installation of PackTiger paper packaging systems that create paper cushions for blocking and bracing our retail-facing boxed items during shipping. When [Regan] approached us about a new sustainable loose-fill solution that could reduce our costs, we told her to bring it in for testing.”

“We found that PakNatural loose fill was the best fit for their products and operations for a number of reasons,” adds Regan. “The fixtures have a lot of curves and pressure points, and this product can easily get into those areas to protect and support them.”

“I’ve described Sealed Air’s PakNatural loose fill as the ‘next generation of packaging peanuts,'” remarks Levin. “It does a great job preventing our products from moving around in the box and is lighter than the interlocking corrugate material we were using before. On top of that, the product is environmentally sustainable, which is increasingly important to many of the architects and designers we’re working with.”

 

Solution shines in tests 

The Justice Design Group conducted initial drop tests internally and then sent product to Sealed Air’s Packaging Design Center in City of Industry, CA, for additional drop and vibration tests. From there, Regan worked with the local Unisource Worldwide representative to perform drop tests and cost analyses, the results of which were presented to Levin.

After two to three months of tests, Justice Design began integrating the solution slowly into its shipping by the end of 2011. It continued to track shipments to ensure the new material was protecting their products. By the beginning of 2012, the company completely switched over to Sealed Air cushioning products.

Changes were minimal because Justice Design’s packaging operations were already set up for loose-fill packaging in the form of two overhead supply bladders, which hold approximately 60 cubic feet of PakNatural loose fill. When packing fixtures, employees first fill the boxes with about two inches of material dispensed from a bladder. Once the product is added, the remaining space is filled with at least another two inches of material before the case is tape-sealed for shipment. 

“Depending on demand, our packaging operations will pack 300 to 900 packages a day,” explains Justice Design’s plant manager Natividad Urrutia. “While demand isn’t highly seasonal, shipments do tend to pick up in the spring and again around October.” She notes that the supply bladders are refilled about twice a day. 

Urrutia reports a positive employee reaction to the changeover: “The old solution involved a machine that would fold the interlocking corrugate material, and employees reported that it was very noisy when packaging a particularly large item. Now they no longer have to wear gloves.”

The external reaction to the changeover was positive as well. “Our shipping partners are very favorable to Sealed Air packaging solutions from an insurance standpoint,” says Levin. “We included cards in our boxes to educate our customers about the new solution and the sustainable characteristics as a compostable material. 

“It can be difficult to get all of our products packaged and shipped from the West Coast to the East Coast in one piece, so we’ve been very impressed by the performance. The fact that Sealed Air’s PakNatural loose fill is an affordable, sustainable material that can keep our costs down by maintaining low claims rates and reducing the weight of our shipments is huge to us.”

 

Sealed Air Corp., 800-648-9093
www.sealedair.com

 

Unisource Worldwide, 800-864-7687
www.unisourceworldwide.com

 

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Walmart highlights Sustainability Index progress






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Posted by Rick Lingle, Technical Editor — Packaging Digest, 9/16/2013 5:17:57 PM





 

Walmart logoIn front of an audience of associates, suppliers and nonprofit organizations at its Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting, Walmart highlighted on Sept. 12 its progress with the Sustainability Index, a measurement system used to track the environmental impact of products. The company also outlined key initiatives where it can use its size and scale to help address “hot spots” and accelerate progress in supply-chain sustainability.

 

“We’ve reached an acceleration point where we are moving from measurement to results. We’re starting to really drive progress with the Index,” Walmart president and CEO Mike Duke says. “This is about trust and value. Using less energy, greener chemicals, fewer fertilizers and more recycled materials – all of this – is the right thing to do for the planet and it’s right for our customers and our business.”

 

As of today, the Index has been rolled out across 200 product categories, and to more than 1,000 suppliers. By the end of this year, Walmart expects the Index will expand to include more than 300 product categories and as many as 5,000 suppliers.

 

Consistent growth


Since the Index rolled out broadly to Walmart product categories in August 2012, it has shown a consistent trend of improved product sustainability. For example, Walmart’s general merchandise department has improved its Index product sustainability score by an average of 20 percent; grocery department by an average of 12 percent; and consumables and health and wellness by an average of 6 percent.

 

“With the Sustainability Index, Walmart is applying the science and research that we’ve developed to create a more sustainable supply chain globally,” says Kara Hurst, CEO of The Sustainability Consortium. “We’re excited about the significant progress Walmart and its suppliers are making and value their partnership with us to address big issues and drive real social and environmental change.”

 

Based on the insights and data from the Index, Walmart has been working with suppliers, nonprofits, industry experts and government to develop and implement solutions that address critical “hot spots” and opportunities across the global supply chain. As part of the progress update at today’s meeting, executives, merchants and suppliers shared progress on five major initiatives underway:

 

Increasing the Use of Recycled Materials. More than 29 million tons of valuable plastics are sent to landfills every year in the U.S. at a cost of about $6.6 billion annually. Walmart aims to grow both the supply and demand for recycled plastics so they can be diverted from landfill and get a second life. The company is working with cities to increase plastic recycling and with suppliers to increase the use of recycled content and make packaging more recyclable. Changes in packaging are already being implemented in product categories such as beverage, over-the-counter drugs, dairy creamers and berry containers.

Earlier this week, Walmart and Sam’s Club also announced a smartphone trade-in program in the U.S. that goes into effect on Sept. 21. The company will not send these trade-ins to landfills, domestically or internationally, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of smartphones from landfills annually.

 

Offering Products with Greener Chemicals. Walmart provided an overview of its new Consumables Chemicals initiative, describing how it is working with suppliers to reduce or eliminate the use of priority chemicals used in consumables products in favor of greener alternatives. It will begin with household cleaning, personal care, beauty and cosmetic products, asking suppliers to transition to greener substitutes for priority chemicals.

 

In addition, starting in Jan. 2014, Walmart will begin to label its private brand cleaning products in accordance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended Design for the Environment (DfE) Safer Product Labeling program, and will continue to assess the applicability of DfE as Walmart expands it to broader product areas.

Reducing Fertilizer Use in Agriculture. Walmart is requiring suppliers who use commodity grains, such as corn, wheat and soy in their products, to develop a fertilizer optimization plan that outlines clear goals to improve performance based on Index research.

Improving Energy Efficiency. The Index has uncovered the importance of energy efficiency in several product categories, such as televisions, plastic toys, small appliances and greeting cards. By working with suppliers to improve energy efficiency through the supply chain of these products, Index energy scores have already improved 23 percent in general merchandise categories. Walmart is now providing tools for suppliers to help track and reduce the energy used to produce these products.

 

Source: Walmart

 

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Sustainability in Packaging 2014 event set for March






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Posted by Rick Lingle, Technical Editor — Packaging Digest, 8/27/2013 10:13:47 AM





 

 

 

Sustainable Packaging 2014 logo

 

Smithers Pira, in association with Packaging Digest and Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News, will be returning to Orlando, FL, in March 2014 for the 8th annual Sustainability in Packaging conference and exhibition. This year’s event will take place March 5-7, 2014, at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld. More than 300 leaders in the sustainability and packaging supply chains are expected to come together to discuss the opportunities, challenges and solutions that will lead to packaging innovations that improve sustainability and the bottom line.

 

Planned sessions at Sustainability in Packaging include key sustainability and innovation trends around flexible packaging for better end of life scenarios; success stories and developments in fiber packaging; sustainable packaging sourcing security; and developments in extended producer responsibility. This year’s program will include a number of new topics including marine debris case studies and policy; sustainability in frozen and the cold chain; and an investor’s forum (Shark Tank) to find the next great idea in sustainable packaging.

 

“Sustainability in Packaging 2014 is on track to deliver our most comprehensive discussion ever, with more real life case studies than ever before,” says Barbara Fowler, conference director at Smithers Pira. “Our advisory board – including Alan Blake, Consultant – Packaging & Sustainability, Alan Blake Consulting and Executive Director, PAC Next; Laura Rowell, Director, Sustainable Packaging, Sonoco Packaging; Lisa Pierce, Executive Editor, Packaging Digest; Saskia van Gendt, Captain Planet, Method; Jeff Loth, Senior Manager, Packaging Engineering, Microsoft and Betsy Dorn, Director, USA Consulting, Reclay StewardEdge – have been hard at work recruiting brand owners, converters and packaging innovators to share their latest triumphs and challenges with an eye to creating truly sustainable and profitable packaging.”

 

“Because of the expertise of each board member, we are able to develop an agenda that tackles hot topics from a variety of perspectives,” said Pierce. “Not only is there something for everyone on the program, but it’s the right ‘something.’ This conference looks at a holistic view of how packaging sustainability impacts business and presents specific solutions, year after year.”

 

Sponsorship and exhibition opportunities are available. America’s best known consumer brands, materials suppliers and packaging converters and manufacturers will be in attendance to focus on the ongoing sustainability challenge and the latest packaging innovations. Contact Heather Adams at 207-781-9632 about crafting a custom-designed sponsorship or exhibition package.

For more information about Sustainability in Packaging 2014 or to attend, visit www.sustainability-in-packaging.com.

 

About Smithers Pira
Smithers Pira is the worldwide authority on packaging, paper and print industry supply chains. Established in 1930, the company provides strategic and technical consulting, testing, intelligence and events to help clients gain market insights, identify opportunities, evaluate product performance and manage compliance. For more information, visit www.smitherspira.com.

 

 







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Summary version of recycling design guides unveiled






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Posted by Rick Lingle, Technical Editor — Packaging Digest, 8/26/2013 4:08:50 PM





 

APR guideThe Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, the leading trade organization representing the plastics recycling industry in North America, has published an executive summary version of their recyclability design guides for packaging and containers.

 

Steve Alexander, APR’s executive director, stated that while the organization has published its Design
Guides for the past 14 years, recently many non-technical audiences, consumer product companies, marketing and brand managers, as well as packaging design experts have expressed the need for a quick reference summary version of the guidelines.

 

“As one of its core missions, APR has always sought to provide packaging designers with specific information to allow for informed decisions,” says Alexander. For the past 14 years, the APR Recyclability Guidelines, which are based on actual industry experience, have provided that guidance to industry. These guidelines describe how a package design might impact conventional mechanical plastics recycling systems, be improved to avoid recycling problems, and be optimized to make plastic packages more compatible with current recycling systems.

 

P&G: Focus is on the most common items

 

Steve Sikra, Procter & Gamble’s global leader for packaging material science & technology, and a member of the APR board of directors, adds that “the APR Design for Recyclability Guidelines Executive Summary has been prepared by the APR as a quick reference tool for package designers, engineers, brand managers, and decision makers. It is focused on the most commonly reclaimed post-consumer packaging items: PET, polyethylene, and polypropylene bottles and containers. It contains key points to consider from the APR Design for Recyclability Guidelines.”

 

Alexander points out that the summary version of the guidelines will help to provide a broader audience with an understanding of how the technical aspects of container and packaging design will have an impact on the ability of the package or product to be recycled. “Recyclers tend to be the last to know about the impact of a new product or package design on the ability of the package to be recycled. Hopefully, this summary will help a broader audience consider the downstream implications of the recyclability of a package during the conceptual development stage.”

 

APR will present a web seminar Thursday, September 19th at 1:00 pm EST explaining how to utilize this valuable tool to aid in the design process when considering the recyclability of a bottle or container. Please visit https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/443533447537141504 to register for this informative webinar.

Please visit http://www.plasticsrecycling.org/technical-resources/apr-design-for-recyclabilityguidelines to download a copy of the Executive Summary as well as the full version of the Design guideline.

 

Source: The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR)

 

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Shrink films






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posted by Kari Embree, Senior Digital Content Editor — Packaging Digest, 8/26/2013 10:57:52 AM





 


Bemis TITAN

 

Bemis Performance Packaging, a leading supplier of flexible packaging and labeling solutions, announces the launch of Bemis TITAN brand beverage shrink films and shrink labels. Bemis TITAN shrink films and labels are designed to enhance beverage packaging quality, efficiency and brand appeal using Bemis’s advanced polyethylene shrink technology. The films create vibrant, sustainable shrink multi-packs that replace corrugate, paperboard or plastic rings, while the colorful, form-fitting labels deliver brand advantage for everything from uniform rounds to contoured shapes.

 

Multi-packs made with Bemis TITAN shrink films reduce material weight by 50 percent and decrease packaging costs up to 30 percent compared to paperboard. Packagers can calculate the bottom-line impact of switching to environmentally responsible, printed multi-pack shrink films using the Bemis “green calculator” found at BemisPerformancePackaging.com/Calc. The calculator provides a quick snapshot of CO2 emission reduction; labor hours saved in material handling; and the number of trucks that could be taken off the road by replacing paperboard with lightweight shrink film. Space-saving Bemis TITAN shrink films and labels are more efficient throughout the supply chain, whether reducing deliveries to consumer goods producers, maximizing warehouse space or eliminating costly disposal of paper-based products for retailers.

 

A leader in helping brands transition to lightweight, high-strength, visually compelling shrink packaging, Bemis works closely with customers to develop solutions that optimize Bemis TITAN shrink technology for their individual applications. The result is cost-effective, protective packaging with stunning shelf appeal that connects with consumers. 


Bemis TITAN Shrink Films & Shrink Labels 2-2-2-2

The Bemis TITAN offering includes line extensions that help brands further differentiate and promote their beverage products. Examples include shrink film multi-packs with optional handles in various configurations; tight-fitting, high-shrink roll-fed labels; Bemis WavePack corrugate-free multi-packs, Bemis PerfPack tear-away multi-packs; and many more. Packagers can learn more by visiting the newly launched BemisPerformancePackaging.com. The new website provides user-friendly resources to address packaging challenges and create brand advantages with the latest in packaging innovations.

Representing quality, strength, integrity and value, Bemis TITAN shrink films and labels will be on display at Pack Expo in Las Vegas, NV, September 23-25, 2013, in Booth #C-558.

 

Source: Bemis Performance Packaging

 

 

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Packaging environmental claims–still a challenge for many






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posted by Kari Embree, Senior Digital Content Editor — Packaging Digest, 8/23/2013 12:05:29 PM





A few months back, I read an article in Packaging Digest about consumers taking responsibility for “green actions.” After citing some statistics about how a “record-high 71 percent of Americans” are “buying with an eye toward green,” the article went on to talk about some of the challenges consumers have in following through on their intent. At least 33 percent indicated that inadequate resources, “such as recycle bins or community access,” were preventing them from following through. An even greater number-60 percent-indicated that they find the environmental terms companies use in their product advertising or package messaging misleading or confusing. 

That got me thinking about the on-package messaging audits we’ve done, particularly around recyclability. Here are common mistakes we’ve found, and why the messaging is misleading or just plain incorrect.

 

• A variety of brands of pump-dispensing hand soap bottles display the Möbius loop (or chasing arrows) on the bottle component of the packaging. These packages are typically a polyethylene (PET) bottle and a polypropylene (PP) closure with a pump assembly that includes metal parts. Use of the Möbius loop on the bottle provides only part of the information the consumer requires. Indeed, more than 60 percent of the population (the percentage required by the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides to make a recyclability claim) have access to recycle both PET bottles and non-bottle rigid plastic items. However, since the pump has metal parts that cause problems in plastic reprocessing, the PP closure with its pump assembly is not recyclable and should be labeled as such.

 

• Most grocery stores today sell pre-washed, pre-cut vegetables in plastic bags. Many of these bags display the resin identification code (RIC) No.4 with its chasing arrows. Using a RIC in this manner constitutes a “widely recycled” claim since a majority of consumers believe the RIC is a recycling symbol. While low-density PET No.4 bags are recyclable, the message is misleading. It suggests curbside collection, which is only available to about 20 percent of the population. LDPE bags need to be dropped off at retail stores for recycling, so the packaging needs to clarify that. An appropriate label would be the Möbius loop (not the RIC) prominently displayed with the words “store drop-off.”

 

• Chewing gum is regularly sold in multipacks consisting of a small paper carton containing the individually paper- and foil-wrapped sticks of gum and sealed with a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) overwrap. The most common labeling found on these packages is a No.3 RIC, indicating PVC and constituting a “widely recycled” claim. Virtually none of the U.S. population has access to PVC film recycling, so the labeling is incorrect.

 

Additionally, since the label is on the outer packaging component, most consumers infer that it applies to all of the packaging components, which is also misleading. To facilitate proper disposal of this type of packaging, all of the components should be labeled. The plastic overwrap and foil wrapper should have a Möbius loop with a red slash through it, indicating that they fall into the “not yet recycled” category. The paper wrapper (if separate from the foil wrapper) should carry the Möbius loop, as should the paper carton. Common mistakes like these are a primary reason GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition, with input from its member companies, created the How2Recycle Label. The label is designed to help brand owners provide clear and consistent recyclability guidance to consumers for each component of a product’s packaging. 

Author Katherine O’Dea is senior director of innovation and advisory services for GreenBlue. For more information about GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition, visit www.sustainablepackaging.org.

 

 

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Does cosmetic packaging need a makeover?






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posted by Kari Embree, Senior Digital Content Editor — Packaging Digest, 8/23/2013 10:15:00 AM





 

 

Sustainable Cosmetics Summit

 

Cosmetic companies are making slow progress in reducing their packaging footprints. Although the cosmetics industry has become preoccupied with green initiatives, few steps have been made to tackle the environmental impact of packaging.

Organic Monitor (www.organicmonitor.com) research finds most developments are occurring in ecodesign, with many brands reducing packaging materials by changing design structures. The Brazilian company Natura Brasil is a frontrunner in sustainable design. Its recent launch of its mass market SOU brand epitomises the packaging trend. SOU skin care products are housed in flexible packaging that have 70 percent less plastic than rigid plastic containers of the same volume.

As will be shown at upcoming editions of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit (www.sustainablecosmeticssummit.com), most changes in packaging design are only leading to an incremental decrease in packaging materials. In some cases, any ecological benefits from less packaging material are offset by higher unit sales. More radical solutions involving materials are necessary to make significant changes to the packaging impact of cosmetic products.

Relatively few developments are occurring in packaging materials. Although some cosmetic brands are experimenting with sustainable materials like bamboo and wood, plastic packaging still prevails. High raw material costs and inadequate waste disposal methods give plastic packaging a very high environmental footprint. According to the OECD, packaging comprises over half of all household waste in developed countries, with plastics having most effect in landfill.

Plant-based plastics, once hailed because of their biodegradable nature, have yet to make headway in cosmetic applications. Some companies like Procter & Gamble are using hybrid polymers to overcome the limitations of bioplastics. Its Pantene Pro-V Nature Fusion packaging is mainly made from biopolymers sourced from sugar cane.

Unilever is one of the few companies considering a packaging overhaul to address its environmental footprint. The Anglo-Dutch multinational introduced a new ‘compressed’ can for a number of its deodorant brands earlier this year. The deodorant cans are about a third smaller, reducing packaging material costs as well as transportation costs. However, few companies have managed to innovate with green packaging.

 

There are also calls for the cosmetics industry to take some responsibility for waste management. In Brazil, the cosmetics association ABIHPEC is working with municipal agencies to collect and recycle packaging waste. In the US, Tom’s of Maine has partnered with Teracycle to collect its packaging waste and use it in new product applications. A closed loop system whereby waste is used as raw materials is considered the way forward for many cosmetic brands taking the green road.

Sustainable packaging is a focal theme of the upcoming Latin American and European editions of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit. Discussion topics include environmental impact of packaging, ecodesign innovations, novel packaging materials, bioplastics in cosmetics, and green packaging success stories; papers will be given by Natura Brasil, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Arkema, Selerant, Aptar, ABIHPEC and other organizations involved in sustainability.

 

Source: Organic Monitor

 

 

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Study shows efficient crop use for bioplastics






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Posted by Rick Lingle, Technical Editor — Packaging Digest, 8/12/2013 6:04:03 PM





 

EuBP Land Use 500

 

The nova-Institute has recently published a paper on agricultural feedstock use in industrial applications shedding light on the controversial public debate surrounding the industrial use of food crops or so-called first generation feedstock. The core finding asserts that efficiency and sustainability assessed on a case-by-case basis should be the sole criteria in judging the choice of feedstock used. The institute further stresses that the real issue is land availability for growing biomass for different purposes.

 

The paper refers to studies asserting that, even after satisfying food demand of a rapidly growing world population, enough arable land would remain available for purposes other than food production. The best usage of these areas is achieved by considering the land-efficiency of different crops. Studies show that many food crops are more land-efficient than non-food crops. According to the paper, they require less land to produce the same amount of e.g., fermentable sugar (commonly used in biotechnology processes) than non-food crops or so-called second generation feedstock, e.g., lignocelluloses.


Crops could be reallocated to food use in crisis

 

“Efficiency and sustainability should be the leading criteria when selecting renewable feedstock for industrial purposes, such as the production of Bioplastics,” says Hasso von Pogrell, Managing Director of European Bioplastics, embracing the paper as a welcome contribution to the discussion. “If the industry was to neglect the use of first generation feedstock at this point in time, it would do a disservice to society and the environment. In addition to being currently more efficient, the use of food-crops for industrial purposes has the major advantage that,

in times of food crisis, these crops could be reallocated to food use.”

 

Fact: 0.006 percent of land used for bioplastics

 

European Bioplastics is in favor of promoting the use of second or even third generation feedstock for industrial purposes. However, as long as food crops continue in many cases to represent the most efficient feedstock by far, discrediting their use would be misguided and a step in the wrong direction in achieving the European Commission sustainability targets. “This often very emotional discussion needs to be steered into a more fact based direction”, continues von Pogrell. “Only two percent of the global agricultural area is actually used to grow feedstock for material production and only 0.006 percent is used in the production of bioplastics, compared to 98 percent used for food, feed and as pastures.”

 

These findings echo the conclusion of a study recently published by the World Bank, according to which an increase in food prices is largely influenced by the oil price. Biofuels and, by extension, bioplastics play a negligible factor here. The study looked at food commodities such as corn, wheat, rice, soybeans and palm oil and compared commodity prices to energy prices, exchange rates, interest rates, inflation, income and a stocks-to-use ratio to determine which of these drivers had the most impact on food prices.

 

For more information, refer to the European Bioplastics’ “facts & figures” brochure by clicking here.

And/or ownload nova-Institute paper : Food or non-food: Which agricultural feedstock are best for industrial uses?

 

European Bioplastics is the European association representing the interests of the industry along the complete bioplastics‘ value chain. Its members produce, refine and distribute bioplastics i.e., plastics that are either biobased, biodegradable, or both.

 

Source: European Bioplastics.

 

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