Happy Earth Week!Tempo Plastics
This year it seems Plastics, and especially plastic packaging has been in the news frequently. Unfortunately, the media has not always painted Plastics in a favourable light, and at times may spread a little misinformation.
Fortunately, I am able to attend many behind-the-scenes conferences and facilities working on our waste stream issues. This year more than ever I am encouraged by the quality of understanding from all stakeholders in the packaging supply chain and the important role our government will play towards a viable long-term solution.
Back in February, I was invited to a workshop held by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the environment (CCME). The discussion was structured around The Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste. Not only was I able to give my input from the perspective of a manufacturer, but I also got to hear the challenges that the rest of the value chain had with the product we produce. Without having to read all the papers and sit in the conferences for days I will tell you that the main action that most of us at these discussions brought forward, was harmonization of recycling materials collected across all of the municipalities throughout the province and eventually the country.
Although this might sound like a simple thing to do and has proven to be effective in other countries, the vast landscape with diverse infrastructure and population densities, Canada’s greatest assets, is also our biggest hurdle. Saying that Toronto should treat its waste and accept the exact same things as (pick any small rural town in Ontario) is not totally feasible. Now put Toronto, our largest city, versus an Island municipality on the East or West coast of Canada and the spectrum of differences gets even wider. I’m not saying it’s impossible; I’m trying to give some scope to the challenge in front of us.
What can we do about this? My personal opinion is incremental change. We are at a “Chicken or the Egg” crossroads in the evolution of waste management. In order to get products in the blue bin, or some other collection stream like Return to Depot programs, there needs to be a long-term, economically viable end market to accept that material. In order to develop markets, there needs to be a significant amount of materials that are getting collected. So what do you think is likely to come first?
In my opinion, and if you read what the CCME’s top strategy, Product Design is where the circular economy for Plastics begins (Have a look at the video for a brief understanding of the term circular economy) . Although multi-layer laminated pouches and rollstock show great environmental benefits through a life cycle analysis, there are new materials that can address the one Achilles heel of multi-layer laminations, which is the question, what do we do when we are done with them? The more packaging, we can move from #7 to #2 and #4 will promote a transition from a linear to a circular economy for plastics. At the start many recyclable packages will likely end up in landfill, we would be building the supply which will create a demand for those materials and make their value to be reused in some way. I am not totally sure at what point the stream of plastics will divert from landfill to other more valuable end life possibilities, but it is at this point, with our current infrastructure, likely the best solution.
If you haven’t seen it already I would like to offer you a sample of our newest line of Guilt Free Packaging called HarmonyPack. Offered in a single or multi-layer lamination, the HarmonyPack pouch or rollstock packaging solution offers full HD Graphics and barrier if needed for shelf-stable products. As a member of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, HarmonyPack is certified to use the how2recycle logo. A big part of this transition is educating consumers as to what their options are with the package they are using at the time of disposal.
In a linear economy we have one goal, drive costs down to remain competitive. Moving to a circular economy changes this goal to having the least environmental impact as possible by keeping resources in the value chain as long as possible. To achieve this goal certain concessions must be made to traditional linear thinking. In our case while developing HarmonyPack we have made investments in our manufacturing equipment to have a marketable product that works. In the process we have actually decreased our efficiencies and run rates. This has not been done for the sake of increasing our profits obviously, but rather because we feel it is the Right thing to do. We are committed to moving in this direction and In time we will improve our processes to become more cost competitive with our traditional packaging solutions.
I understand that a pessimist has a problem for every solution, and our HarmonyPack line is already in its third evolution and will be improving again likely by the end of this year. If you or your company are on the same page as we are to make a positive change for our planet, let’s start small. Reach out to us today and lets plan a pathway to success together.
Happy Tempo Earth Week,
VP Marketing and Product Development