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Sustainable Packaging Forum 2010

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Sustainable Packaging Forum in Phoenix, Arizona. Over 300 people were in attendance representing some 270 companies to learn and share about the issues of sustainability in packaging. In a 2 day period 30 speakers presented information that was current and pertinent to the concerns of many in regards to the future of sustainability in packaging and the effects it has on our society and environment. The range was vast and the audience was thoroughly engaged.

During those 2 days I was able to snag 4 of the presenters to sit with me for brief interviews after their presentations. Posted here are those interviews and I want to thank the people involved for giving me the opportunity to ask them further questions about their concerns.

Interview #1

Ian Hanna
Director of Development
Forest Stewardship Council – US

Ian Hanna leads efforts to substantially increase the resources and capacity of the Forest Stewardship Council – US ( FSC-US)  at an economically challenging yet promising time, as FSC is experiencing unprecedented growth in the marketplace. Before joining FSC-US staff, Ian served as Director of Northwest Certified Forestry at Northwest Natural Resource Group (NNRG), a rural development non-profit, where he created programs for family woodlands certification. Prior to NNRG, Ian founded Windfall Lumber in Olympia, Wash., and he has worked for The Nature Conservancy of Washington, the Certified Forest Products Council, and the Certified Wood & Paper Association. He was also a member of the FSC-US Board of Directors from 2007-2009.

What is your biggest challenge at FSC?
In North America as a whole, supply of FSC-certified pulp and solid wood products has really hit a critical mass in the last couple years. There are over 130 million FSC-certified acres in North America. And with big new opportunities, such as the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement specifying “FSC or better” for the bulk of Canadian forests, we expect this supply to continue growing. But in specific regions – like the Southeastern United States – it can be tough to find FSC-certified pulp suppliers. This is the biggest way the packaging industry can help: Ask your suppliers for FSC-certified corrugated and other packaging. Send a demand signal.

What is your biggest point of resistance?
Companies like Home Depot, IKEA, Nike and Office Depot state a preference for FSC in their procurement policies, and the environmental community supports FSC as the gold standard of certification. But among some, there is still debate about FSC vis-a-vis other certification programs. We think the debate will subside over time, as retailers and other companies realize that FSC is the only standard to protect brand integrity and reduce risk related to use of forest products. And not only that, but highlighting other certification programs can actually increase risk with some audiences – those conscious consumers who increasingly drive brand value. To many conscious consumers, using any certification other than FSC sends a message that the retailer is following a path of least resistance. Basically, it says “our use of forest products is barely legal,” which is obviously the exact opposite of what a retailer would want.

What is the value of FSC certification to packaging manufacturers?
FSC certification is a way to differentiate your product, demonstrate alignment of values with your customers, and elevate the value of packaging in the eyes of the end consumer. And for many companies, FSC certification is a requirement to be considered as a supplier, because they have a procurement policy in place. Basically, it provides access to new market opportunities.

How does FSC bring more meaning to the package?
FSC certification sends a message that the packaging comes from a well managed forest. It imbues a range of value that conscious consumers understand: care for the planet, integrity, democratic and transparent decision making. At this point, the niche is small, but significant, since these same consumers are driving growth in demand. At FSC we have a core belief: Where we use forests, we have a responsibility to use them well. We know many consumers share this belief. And we know time is on our side. More consumers are trying to understand the impact of their purchases on the planet and on people. As they do so, they are looking at all aspects of a purchase, including the packaging. So adding meaning to the package is already important. And this importance will only grow over time.

At what rate does FSC raw material go back to regeneration in comparison to removal for product?
There is really no difference between FSC and the conventional market. Not sure this question is really all that relevant or important.

What efforts does FSC take to educate the consumer?
FSC is developing a consumer-facing education platform that will roll out over the coming year. In the past, we have engaged consumers through our retail partners, environmental nonprofits and the rest of the FSC network. We wanted to make sure the supply was in place before we pushed to increase demand. We’ll continuing working with our partners, of course, but now that we have hit a critical mass of supply, we are also ramping up our own consumer education efforts. Stay tuned for major consumer promotions next year.

Interview #2

Scott Mouw
Director
North Carolina State Recycling

Scott Mouw has 22 years of professional recycling experience, including four years as Solid Waste Director for Franklin County, N.C., and 18 years with the State of North Carolina. He supervises the State of North Carolina’s recycling program, which uses a broad range of policy, technical assistance, outreach and funding tools to increase material recovery across the state and simultaneously grow North Carolina’s economy.

Scott is a long-standing board member of the Product Stewardship Institute, the Carolina Recycling Association, NC Keep America Beautiful, and the Southeast Recycling Development Council and is involved in many activities to strengthen public and private sector networks to increase material recovery.

He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign and a master’s degree and a master’s in public administration from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

With frustration in local and state government in regards to recycling, should this issue go under a national mandate?

I feel this would be politically impossible to execute especially in a short term effort. What we need to see is the states work with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) on a plan to execute such a commitment.

Should recycling be treated similarly to littering – that is, should fines be implemented for non-recycling in order to move this effort forward?

I feel it would be more considerable to offer a financial incentive for recycling efforts as the reward method does seem to be a more positive method that works.

Do you find that consumers want recycling efforts escalated or is apathy to this issue growing?

Consumers definitely want to recycle. When you put the choice in front of the public, they choose recycling every time.

Interview #3

Jason Metnick
Senior Director, Market Access & Product Labeling
Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI Inc.)

Jason Metnick is the senior director of market access and product labeling for the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI Inc.) program, a third-party forest certification system in North America. The SFI standard, one of the largest sustainable forestry certification programs in the world, is based on principles and measures that promote sustainability including measures to protect for water quality, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, species at risk and forests of exceptional conservation value.

As Senior Director for SFI Inc., Jason works directly with companies in the wood, paper and packaging supply chain including forest landowners, manufacturers, merchants, lumberyards, dealers, wholesalers, converters, printers and end users to promote the SFI program and assist with third-party forest certification and on-product labeling.

In addition to brand recognition, Jason also oversees the Office of Label Use and Licensing.  The SFI Office of Label Use and Licensing encompasses over 260 companies, universities, conservation groups and state agencies that represent close to 200 million acres (more than 68.8 million hectares) of forestland across North America.  The Office of Label Use and Licensing administers the rules and procedures for SFI on-product label usage.

Jason holds a bachelor’s of science degree in forestry from Northern Arizona University and is a member of the Society of American Foresters.  He also sits on a number of committees related to certification, labeling and claims, including the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification’s chain-of-custody committee and the Center for Resource Solutions’ Purchasers Advisory Committee. He also is a member of Walmart’s Sustainable Value Network for Wood & Paper products and chairs the ASTM task group on chain of custody.

Why should a manufacturer go to your organization on stead of say the FSI?

There will be some suppliers that are SFI certified, some that are FSC certified, and many that are dual certified.  Both SFI and FSC are great programs, and if the end result is a company wants to know the wood fiber comes from a responsible or legal source, both SFI and FSC can achieve that.

You mentioned in your presentation that there is overselling. Is there overselling to the consumer?

All SFI on-product labels have the SFI website, so a consumer or end user can gather more information on what the SFI program and that label represent.

How does SFI management measure the value of its organization and message?

SFI publishers a annual report each year that tracks the number of acres certified to the program as well as the number of new chain of custody certificates.  To view this year’s annual report, check out sfiprogram.org

What is the length of your certification process?

That can vary from applicant to applicant depending on where they are in the process and what they know and understand about it.   It can be anywhere from a month to a few months.

Interview #4

Sara Hartwell
Senior Policy Advisor
EPA Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery

Sara Hartwell is a Senior Policy Advisor in EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery.  She is an analytical chemist, focused on materials management issues.  She manages EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM), a life-cycle perspective tool for estimating the energy conservation and greenhouse gas emissions reduction benefits of five alternative materials management scenarios.  She developed a derivative tool, the individual Waste Reduction Model (iWARM), a consumer-facing life-cycle perspective tool for estimating the energy conservation benefits of recycling, rather than landfilling, individual products.

Sara is on the Executive Committee of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and the Steering Committee for Walmart’s Packaging Sustainable Value network.  Currently, much of her work is focused on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) discussions with state governments and producers of consumer packaged goods.

What progress has the EPA seen in the management of waste in the last 5 years and what caused them?

Recycling rates have increased and there has been gains in some of the materials collected. Also we have to realize that with more people contributing to waste pick up and recycling efforts comes more waste.

How informed does the EPA feel today’s consumers are on the subject of waste, recycling and composting?

Interest is there and it flows outward through the media to consumers regarding all the mentions and references to “Going Green”. Clearly there is interest in this subject and consumers always need access to recycling as they know it is a positive for the environment without a huge financial investment.

Do you feel that the consumer is effectively educated on package recycling?

Simply put, there is always room for improvement in this regard.

What should retailers and manufacturers be doing to communicate to consumers about recycling?

Retailers, brand owners and package manufacturers should work together to communicate the importance and value of recycling together in some sort of proactive way. This is something they need need to do as a group effort.

So there you have four different speakers with views that are reflective of the efforts and concerns today in paper packaging material harvesting, recycling and waste management. Our interest now is to see how the recipients of the conference take with them the information presented and in what ways they implement their discoveries.

To learn more about our packaging efforts and offerings at Combined Technologies, Inc. go to http://www.ctipack.com



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