DuPont’s Shanna Moore on the Role of Sustainable Packaging

09.05.2011 -

Is sustainability everything when it comes to packaging? Not necessarily, says Shanna Moore, global director of Sustainability at DuPont Packaging & Industrial Polymers. The member of the Sustainable Packaging Commission points out that while sustainability is important, proper protection of the product should be the first priority.

"We cannot sacrifice proper protection for the sake of a definition of sustainable packaging ... breakage of the product inside would have far greater environmental impact than the packaging itself," she said. However, she also points out that the packaging industry is moving towards minimizing the total environmental impact of packaging.

Brandi Schuster asked Moore about trends in the industry and the road ahead.

CHEManager Europe: Sustainability is really the buzzword in the chemical industry; what exactly does it mean when it comes to packaging?

Shanna Moore: The first, most important item is that we cannot forget that packaging plays a critical role in society - that of protecting the product. We cannot sacrifice proper protection for the sake of a definition of sustainable packaging; spoilage or breakage of the product inside would have far greater environmental impact than the packaging itself. It is not sustainable if the total environmental impact of the system is increased because the product is not properly protected due to a packaging change made in the name of sustainability.

When I think about sustainability and packaging, I think of minimizing the environmental impact of the product and package. We can do that from using less packaging in the first place through use of materials that enable thinner, more light-weight structures while still protecting the product inside. It can also be accomplished via recycled or renewable materials. These usually all have a positive impact on the sustainability of the package.

What do you consider to be the main problems with non-sustainable packaging within the chemical industry?

Shanna Moore: I believe that one of the main issues is the escalation and volatility of raw material costs. With growing unrest in oil producing regions, we will continue to see shifts in raw material pricing. We have already seen significant spikes in oil prices. At the point where these petroleum-based materials become more expensive than their bio-sourced alternatives, it will be economically attractive to make a change to the more sustainable solution. It likely won't be very soon, but we must plan now so that we have alternatives.

Have you seen an increased - and honest - interest in sustainable packaging within the industry?

Shanna Moore: I have absolutely seen an interest in sustainable packaging. What is interesting is that I see companies changing to more sustainable alternatives, but they are not necessarily marketing it "on package." They are using it more from a corporate standpoint with investors, shareholders and in improving their brand reputation. In addition, most conversions to sustainable packaging actually provide a cost benefit because the packaging is more efficient, has reduced transportation costs, etc.

What are other drivers behind the interest?

Shanna Moore: There are a number of factors. For one, public corporate goals such as greenhouse gas reduction goals are driving change up the value chain. This is especially true when a retailer makes public goals and they depend on their supply chain to deliver the results. Also, many see biopolymers as the low-cost option in the future, so they are planning now to have reduced cost in the future as oil prices continue to rise.

There is also increased recognition that the packaging we are throwing in landfills has value even after it is used for product delivery. That packaging should be physically recycled if possible and if not, used for energy production. To get this going, the brand owners need to ask for more recycled content. This will drive the demand for more recycled materials.

Have you seen more chemical companies working towards developing a triple bottom line?

Shanna Moore: The chemical industry started on their journey over 20 years ago with the development of Responsible Care, which focuses on what chemical companies should be doing to reduce their footprint while delivering more societal value. The standards continue to evolve as the industry learns more, but overall I think most already have this focus and others are likely working on it.

What responsibility does the chemical industry have when it comes to sustainable packaging?

Shanna Moore:  It is up to us to develop the more sustainable monomers and polymers that will be used in sustainable packaging in addition to more sustainable approaches to packaging. We also have the responsibility to consider how we can use more sustainable packaging in the packaging of our products.

What are the latest trends in sustainable packaging?

Shanna Moore:  The easiest solution is reducing the weight packaging structures, and that has been done for many years. We may be reaching the point where that would impact the product protection and preservation. People are starting to experiment with recycled and renewable materials when there is an environmental footprint advantage.

Where do you see the market in five to 10 years?

Shanna Moore: We'll be recycling much more - especially in the U.S. and other regions where recycling rates are low. We'll also start to see broad use of renewable materials and hopefully those will primarily come from non-food sources such as cellulose or waste products.

You're a member of the executive committee of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. Can you tell us more about your involvement and what exactly the Coalition does?

Shanna Moore: The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) is a great coalition of more than 200 packaging companies. I am very proud to serve on the executive committee where we help shape the agenda of the coalition. The SPC brings the industry together providing education on relevant sustainability topics and also provides a forum for working groups to advance certain topics or industry needs. 


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