Sustainability Defined, Dr. I-Hwa Lee, Technical Fellow
In previous years, I could stand on the show floor and, without taking a single step, point out at least five companies with the word “sustainable” plastered on their booths. That’s not the case this year. It’s not that companies are no longer interested in sustainability, quite the opposite actually. Companies are just moving away from the “sustainability” umbrella and are focusing on selling the specific sustainable functions of their offerings in terms of higher yield (generates less waste), lower material costs, better recyclability. It is no longer enough to just claim to be sustainable because customers want to know how. So, companies are interpreting and defining sustainability by themselves. They are reducing materials while increasing functionality. They are looking to natural resources for answers to their material needs. They are also changing their messaging to reflect that: “40% less materials” and “made with plant-based bio-PET”. They are showing how traditional structures can be better recycled (e.g., MAP tray with barrier film that is now peelable so that the tray can be recycled). Sustainability is valued by companies to the extent that it also allows them to show their customers how to be more productive or how to save money.
Companies’ focus on sustainability looks to be long-lasting. Respondents to DuPont’s recent survey on future packaging trends said that sustainability will become a dominant trend in the packaging industry in future years.
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