We have been so impressed with what wonderful ideas people have to improve the packaging, both intermediate and primary packaging for consumer products. Last week we had a chance to see more at WalMart’s Packaging Sustainable Vendor Network conference.This conference enables WalMart and Sam’s Club vendors to see new ideas and products that will help them make their operations more sustainable and green.
While we were one of the few machinery companies there, there is a lot going on in plastics and in substitutions that enable easier recycling. MA Industries had recyclable paper strapping that is strong enough to replace plastic strap. Malnove had a pour spout for chipboard boxes that replaces metal with a recyclable cardboard rugged enough for the job. There were companies demonstrating plastics that are plant based and ones that compostable. Some were actually both. Coca Cola talked about their new plant bottle which fits in the PET recycling stream while using some plant-based plastic.
We had interesting conversations about wrapping alternatives and showed how much material one form of wrap uses vs. another. We embrace those discussions, even if we do not always reach agreement.
One area that continues to confuse us is the compostable plastic market. The terms Compostable is used freely but not always clearly. We encourage our customers to understand what it means. Compostable in an industrial composting facility means this plastic needs a high temperature in order to break down. It means that the consumer and its local waste station needs to find the one of the 26 industrial composting facilities in the United States to deposit their compostable plastic. It also requires the consumer and its transfer station knowing and caring that they have that plastic in the first place.
Compostable can also mean home compostable. Yes, there are home compostable plastics. Those can go into your home composter because they degrade at the lower temperatures home composting uses.
It still remains to engage the consumer, so they can do their part. This sample above shows how one product contains information for the consumer to use so that the packaging can be reused or composted. This is the first step in consumer engagement for a post consumer re-use world.
We hope that all come away with ideas to engage their own operations and the consumer in minimizing packaging and its impact on solid waste.