Award-Worthy Green Solutions
In an effort to further eliminate plastic pollution across the packaging value chain, Walmart Inc. recently joined the U.S. Plastics Pact in October at GreenBiz’s VERGE 2022 conference, in San Jose, Calif., to reveal the inaugural slate of Sustainable Packaging Innovations Award winners. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer donated the use of its recently launched Circular Connector platform to help capture innovations for the awards. The honorees cover four categories — Composting, Recycling, Refill and Reuse — with each winner spotlighting scalability, low-cost efficiencies or a customer-first proposal.
The winners were Smile Compostable Solutions for Compostability, Amcor for Recyclability, The Clorox Co. for Refill, and DeliverZero for Reuse.
Darien, Conn.-based Smile’s pods provide a convenient, sustainable solution for polypropylene plastic (PP #5) coffee pods, especially where there’s limited recycling available and food contact is present. PP #5 pods are rarely recycled, due to their small size and the need to separate the lid, filter and grounds before recycling. Smile’s pods compost whole, however, eliminating water waste from cleaning and lid disposal.
Shortly after its win, Smile signed a material sales agreement with Pod Pack International, a Baton Rouge, La.-based co-manufacturer of single-serve coffee and tea pods and cups. The company is now able to produce Smile’s commercially compostable, plant-based and carbon-neutral coffee pods that are compatible with Keurig brewers, enhancing sustainability options for Pod Pack customers.
Meanwhile, AmSky, from Zurich-based Amcor, is a breakthrough blister system innovation, free from vinyl and aluminum. AmSky is both a more sustainable alternative for the most in-demand health care packaging and designed for recycling in rigid and flexible recycling streams.
The Concentrated Refillable Cleaners, from Oakland, Calif.-based Clorox Co., are refill spray solutions. In addition to less plastic used, less weight and carbon are emitted from transport, since customers add water at home.
Reusable delivery containers from New York-based DeliverZero provide a more sustainable alternative for the takeout food industry. DeliverZero containers can be used up to 1,000 times and have a return rate of 98%.
Grocers are ushering in new efforts to reduce packaging waste through their popular store brands. For instance, Southeastern Grocers Inc. has committed to increasing sustainability for its own-brand packaging by the end of 2028. The company pledged to eliminate the use of polystyrene; make all packaging reusable, recyclable or industrially compostable; and include an average of 30% post-consumer recycled material in all packaging.
“We heard clearly that sustainable packaging is among [consumers’] top concerns, and we listened! In response, we are working with our supplier partners to establish sustainable packaging goals and meet our commitments in 2028. We strive to be the grocer people can always count on, and we mean always,” says Anthony Hucker, president and CEO of Jacksonville, Fla.-based Southeastern Grocers.
Meanwhile, independent grocery store chain New Seasons Market has already transitioned its private label Partner Brand Fresh Pasta packaging from plastic clamshells to a greener option, the Paperseal MAP tray.
Each PaperSeal MAP tray uses 91% less plastic than the fresh pasta’s previous clamshell packaging. By upgrading, the grocer eliminates more than 120,000 clamshells from the waste stream annually. The grocer plans to continue reducing operational waste from its stores, striving to achieve a 60% landfill diversion rate.
“Packaging is a complex environmental problem, and we actively work to balance the tradeoffs required to ensure food preservation while limiting unnecessary excess and waste,” says Athena Petty, senior sustainability manager at Portland, Ore.-based New Seasons. “By upgrading our Partner Brand Fresh Pasta packaging to PaperSeal MAP trays, we’re drastically reducing plastic from the waste stream and extending the shelf life of the product, combating the negative climate impacts of food waste.”
The PaperSeal MAP trays are made from FSC Certified fibers and are fully recyclable once the food-safe liner is removed. In addition to reducing material impact, the packaging extends product shelf life from 12 to 20 days.
“Consumers are increasingly more knowledgeable and interested in where the products come from and what happens to them at the end of life,” notes Karen K. Reed, global director of marketing and communications at Yakima, Wash.-based Kwik Lok Corp.
So, how can other food retailers start to implement sustainable packaging into their own operations? Reed points out that the journey is different for every retailer.
“The first step is to analyze your current packaging to see if you might already be adopting sustainable packaging options or to see if there are opportunities that are easy to implement,” she recommends. “Using science to make data-driven decisions is also important. It’s very easy to make emotional decisions, only to find out later that the science doesn’t support your decisions. Working with organizations like the Sustainable Packaging Coalition or the U.S. Plastics Pact can also provide resources and the opportunity to collaborate with others that may be working towards similar solutions.”