Mar 29, 2012 • By

The power of packaging

From the first moment a product is dreamed up, the design and type of packaging for it quickly becomes part of the process too.

Experts from all different parts of the sustainable product supply chain – packaging engineers, chemical engineers, manufacturers and their retailers, to name a few – will be in Houston next week for the 2012 Sustainable Packaging Symposium.

The two-day event provides a unique educational experience focusing on packaging as a critical value to the sustainable product supply chain.

As the director of sustainability for the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), Meghan Stasz works with the food, beverage and consumer products industries on matters of environmental sustainability.

We had a chance to chat with Stasz, who also is one of the co-chairs of next week’s symposium.

What will the Sustainable Packaging Symposium cover?

Stasz: The event itself is a really broad range of sustainable packaging topics – everything from what defines or what makes a sustainable package on down to what are some ways we can use packaging to reduce waste. It also includes things like what are retailers looking for, as we think about and design our packaging and some of the ways that retailers are seeing our packaging interact at the point of sale.

How important is the design of a package to sustainability?

Stasz: It’s incredibly important. When we think about sustainable packaging, I like to think about optimized packaging. Obviously, packaging serves a really important role in our industry, which is to protect the product itself, to get that product to the consumer intact and fresh and in a way that it was meant to be delivered. When we, as a consumer product sector, look at how we are designing our packaging, we really want to think about optimizing that packaging – making it recyclable or as lightweight as possible in order for it to still do its job.

Are you seeing progress?

Stasz: Absolutely! We have seen tremendous progress in this industry, and I can’t highlight enough how much our work on packaging really demonstrates our whole industry’s commitment to environmental sustainability. Packaging is obviously a piece of a much bigger issue. On packaging alone, GMA did a survey of our members and found that between 2005 and 2020, our sector either already has or plans to reduce packaging waste by 4 billion pounds. That’s a lot!

Are consumers taking notice?

Stasz: I think it depends on your consumer, because consumers are looking for different things. I think, for the most part, consumers want to feel that our industry is both continuing to derive safe, healthy and nutritious products and also get them to the consumer in as environmentally sensitive way as possible.

I think the big takeaway from this [symposium] is that this is a group of experts … coming together to really talk about how to make big, further improvements in our packaging, and that’s an exciting two days … It’s a fascinating topic to think about all the innovation and ingenuity that’s going into re-thinking our packaging and how can we make it even better.

Editor’s note: You can read more of Stasz’s views on sustainability in this article from “Greener Package.”