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5 ways companies are making packaging more sustainable

<p>Clearer labeling and using life cycle tools to identify hotspots for improvement are just part of the effort.&nbsp;</p>

This week in Tampa, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition's annual Fall Members Meeting and Sustainable Packaging Forum showcased efforts across the supply chain, from sourcing to end-of-life or recovery. The conversation centered on the many ways companies are working to make packaging more sustainable. These five methods stood out.

1. Take a life cycle approach

Sustainable packaging is more than a single metric or strategy; it is a life cycle approach that focuses on consumption and emission factors starting with initial design and continuing through end of life. Using life cycle assessment can identify hotspots for improvement in a package and prevent shifting the burden of a packaging's impacts.

At the Fall Members Meeting, GreenBlue announced the release of COMPASS v3.0, a simplified life cycle assessment tool that allows companies to compare packaging options. The latest version of COMPASS (Comparative Packaging Assessment) presents the largest addition to the tool to date, with the inclusion of transport, or tertiary, packaging to round out its assessment.

2. Consider the package and product relationship

You can't have one without the other. Packaging delivers products, prevents spoilage and communicates essential information to consumers. A package that is not right for the product might result in product spoilage or over-packaging.

Companies are focused on correct sizing and material selection to best fit and deliver their products in the most efficient way.

3. Choose effective sustainability labeling and marketing

Effectively communicating sustainability is an important part of developing sustainable packaging, especially to ensure consumers understand how to treat a package at its end-of-life.

Companies are looking for ways to make meaningful and accurate claims that resonate with consumers. This includes clearly communicating recyclability and sourcing information. Companies are going beyond compliance with the Federal Trade Commission's Green Guides to employing claims that drive action and positive consumer response, and to help ensure that packages are treated in a way that increases recovery.

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) is harnessing this trend through its How2Recycle label and Meaningful Marketing Claims leadership committee projects. The How2Recycle label was created to provide consistent and transparent on-package recycling information to consumers, in order to better communicate what can be done with a package at its end of life. The program has 19 participating companies, four of which were announced as new participants at the Fall Members Meeting.

4. Get creative

Experts across all levels of the packaging industry are getting creative in their work to make packaging more sustainable and also in looking for their next innovation. At the members meeting and forum, industry experts shared some ways they are working to bring sustainable packaging to the next level at their companies and organizations. Attendees heard a wide range of ideas, such as research on removing full body shrink labels, biomaterials, sourcing and new opportunities for end-of-life solutions.

5. Talk with others

Companies are increasingly collaborating with NGOs, industry associations, working groups and other companies to come up with new ideas in packaging sustainability. Conversation involves connecting actors throughout the supply chain to work together to solve problems through research and sharing best practices, which is at the heart of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. By bringing companies, educational institutions and government agencies together in one place this week, the SPC and the Sustainable Packaging Forum were able to get this diverse set of actors to start talking about the new frontier of sustainable packaging.

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