Sustainability in Packaging conference highlights key waste issues

The 3-day Smithers PIRA Sustainability in Packaging conference is wrapping up in Orlando today having highlighted some of the most contentious of the many issues in packaging and recycling today. One of the strengths of the conference is that it includes environmentalists, local government (one rep), and industry.

Among the highlights of the conference as seen by GallonDaily:

  • Consumer perspectives on packaging and the environment: clearly seeking increased recycling and packaging reduction.
  • AMPAC and others speaking on recent trends in flexible packaging: lighter weight packaging protects products more effectively but may pose recycling challenges. This session provoked some lively discussion between industry and environmental ngo’s.
  • Some innovative bio-based packaging materials, though validation of the environmental benefits of these seemed to GallonDaily to be a bit thin.
  • An entire session on marine debris, especially plastics, led to another lively discussion between environmentalists and industry, though all parties seemed to agree that the problem is real and serious.
  • Dick Lilly of Seattle Public Utilities explaining his view of Extended Producer Responsibility and how some current models fail to give sufficient control to municipalities.
  • Allen Langdon on MMBC seeking to explain the highly controversial British Columbia Extended Producer Responsibility model.

GallonDaily was surprised, but perhaps should not have been, by the number of industry speakers who showed little understanding of the environmental issues surrounding their packaging products. Different companies disagreed on appropriate solutions. Until industry develops a more coordinated position and achieves environmentalist and consumer buy-in for that material, governments will continue to set the pace for regulation of end-of-life management of packaging materials.

This is a GallonDaily report from the conference floor. The full conference program is available at http://www.sustainability-in-packaging.com/home.aspx

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