20 June 2012
Less not always more in packaging: PAC/Walmart conference panelists
TORONTO—When it comes to packaging, less is not always more.

The PAC/Walmart Sustainable Packaging Conference was held in Toronto yesterday, and while the bulk of the conversation was about reduction (Walmart Canada is looking to shed five per cent of product packaging by the end of 2013), some panelists pointed out less is not always more practical when it comes to packaging.

Packaging is all about balance, noted Shelly Kiroff, vice president of Homelines (home/electronics) for Walmart Canada. "There's a minimum amount of packaging required to prevent damages," she said, noting "less (packaging) may be good for the environment, but you'll get more defect returns."

Ron Cotterman, vice president of sustainability for Sealed Air (supplier of various types of packaging including for food) added later during the session that packaging is only "10 per cent of the energy in the food supply chain" and "it often saves more resources than it consumes by protecting products."

Over-packaging, of course, leads to higher impact to the environment and the bottom line, Kiroff added.

The talk also centred around challenges regarding the recycling of certain packages, including sealed cases of water bottles with a cardboard backing. Geoff Rathbone, vice president of resource recovery for Progressive Waste Solutions, said better design would be beneficial in this case. "A serrated top on the water bottle packaging would allow consumers to separate corrugated cardboard from the package," he said. "Together, they're garbage."

Also in attendance was Adam Gendell, project manager for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, which is developing the Design for Recycling Guide to benefit package designers. The downloadable PDF, which is due out later this summer, will be free for SPC members, he said.

While the designer is partly responsible for making sure packaging can be recycled, said Gendell, "the recycler should try to meet [the designer] halfway," through making sure the local design community knows what materials can be recycled.

Meanwhile, Shelley Broader, chief executive officer of Walmart Canada, said investing in being green in the past wasn't always good for business, but that's changing with peoples' attitudes. "More and more customers are concerned about the packaging," she said. "Consumers are getting savvier. How creative we get in packaging is imperative to sales."
— Jeff Hayward
1. Miles says:
25 June 2012 at 2:33 PM
Custom packaging is a complex issue that is being scrutinized by the public for producing waste. People are starting to settle for weaker, more green packaging that doesn't protect the product as well. The problem is that these people are not looking at the amount of energy that goes into producing green packaging and how expensive it is to make. We need to find ways to make green packaging more efficient and cost effective in order to start stepping in the proper direction.
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