Putting Packaging Reduction in Context

June 25, 2014
Packaging Technology Integrated Solutions' Shane Bertsch shares his view about reducing packaging waste and how that fits into the greater scheme of sustainable packaging.

Shane Bertsch, vice president-global packaging at consulting firm Packaging Technology Integrated Solutions, shares a view from the trenches, answering a few questions from Food Processing about reducing packaging waste and how that fits into the greater scheme of sustainable packaging. Packaging Technology Integrated Solutions, is a division of Havi Global Solutions LLC, Downers Grove, Ill.

Q: Among food processors, what are the most popular strategies for reducing packaging waste?

A: Primarily they are approaching package waste reduction by designing for efficiency through material reduction, weight reduction and unit load optimization; secondly, they are designing for recovery through, primarily, recycling.

Q: What are the pros and cons of the various strategies?

A: Positively, companies are becoming very efficient in their usage of materials, space, energy, etc. They are becoming more aware of every aspect of their product, operation and system impacts. Seeking ways to optimize in each respect improves the bottom line in addition to benefiting the environment. Negatively, designing for efficiency may push the boundaries of a well-functioning package. A great example is lightweight water bottles with low-profile closures, which often become difficult to open and use due to the lack of rigidity of the bottle. Changing materials to achieve a weight reduction or recyclability may significantly impact the barrier of a package, thus reducing the product’s shelf life, which could lead to increased food waste.

Q: Are these strategies typically directed at the retail package?

A: Companies are looking to optimize all aspects of a product and its corresponding packaging, from incoming raw materials and operational packaging waste to the stretch wrap on a pallet.

Q: What analytical tools are brand owners using to achieve waste reduction?

A: Compass and Piqet are tools commonly used in the North American market that evaluate packaging life cycle impacts, including solid waste associated with packaging designs. These two tools are available to use for a subscription service. Some brands have developed and implemented their own proprietary scorecards that assess supplier-facility waste generation and recycling metrics with an ultimate goal that the supply chain achieve “zero waste.”