Event Review, WMSBF News

Review: December Meeting on Sustainability in Packaging

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West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum’s December membership meeting was a joint meeting with the International Institute of Packaging at Kendall College of Art & Design. Meeting presented by Disher Design and Steelcase.

A panel of local packaging experts will discuss key challenges and opportunities for sustainability in packaging:

Dustin Heiler, Global Environmental Sustainability Specialist, Steelcase, Inc.
“It shouldn’t be two to three times more expensive, and it’s got to perform the same way or better. Better performance can justify more costs. Then with the environmental side, if you’re working with a new material, you have to consider what the price is today vs. what it will be in the future, if the material has not yet scaled, it will cost two to three more times to start.”

Thad Cummings, Founding Partner, My Green Michigan
“To be blunt everyone asks the cost question, that’s not the obstacle, we we actually save people money. The obstacles are politics and contracts.”

Tyler Prince, Packaging Engineering Manager, KTM Industries, Inc.
“There are things that are actually working and sustainable that people don’t know about. There is always a cost limitation with going green. But it’s getting there. Once everyone realizes that we need to go int this direction that is when it’s going to pick up steam.”

Cimberly Weir, Assistant Director, Center for Packaging Innovation and Sustainability, Michigan State University
“It’s a piece of a whole value chain, you’re not going to go to the store and put cheese or shampoo in your hand and walk out. You need a package. You should be looking at the entire package and how you can reduce the whole footprint from start to end use…

“The biggest opportunity is education, we understand sustainability and the implications it has if done correctly. Now the mom making decisions at the grocery store, how are you going to get her to purchase the more sustainable package? I think education of the every-day consumer, I think that is really where the power is.”

Pat Laurie, Packaging Engineering Manager, Bissell Homecare, Inc.
“Go back to the product. Trying to work with our product engineers, than we don’t have to use that much processin. Try to work together as teams. We’re all familiar with the mushroom foam that Steelcase has used, we’re using another material made out of waste straw from rice materials; tried using returnable packaging, just couldn’t make the economics work…

“My package goes with the consumer, my goal is to have that package stay with the consumer…imagine a little tote that stays with the consume? Packaging could be a sales tool. But the marketing department says I can’t do it: Costs too much…

“What Walmart asks for we give them. They go in cycles: every 10 years, when they’re hot on the environment everyone gets hot. Hopefully that’s coming around again soon.”

Cindy Doman, Senior Packaging Engineer, Herman Miller
“We spend most of our weeks trying to come up with new reusable packaging. It also improves ergonomics.  There are some economics that come into play; part of that is you have to get the material in.  If your supplier is far enough way, it’s harder to send that packaging back…

“I have to ditto about education. You have to start early, in the schools, have to challenge them. Pop and water bottles become coats, that kind of thing….

“We generally start out with what are we going to save dollar-wise. It’s ‘Who handles this?’ ‘How are we going to keep up with truck?’ ‘Can we reduce warehousing? Can it be recycled? Can it be easily separated and recycled?’ There is x amount in labor and transportation, it kind of all becomes one nice package.”