The ‘cost’ of using sustainable packaging
Each year, Zero Waste Week, from September 6 to 10, raises awareness amongst individuals, businesses, organizations, schools, universities and community groups to reduce landfill waste, save money and preserve resources.
According to the Zero Waste Alliance, Zero Waste is a philosophy where no trash is sent to landfills and incinerators, and “all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use”.
I spoke to Morgan Wyatt, PhD, founder of Greenlid, about sustainable packaging options for the food processing industry. Here’s an excerpt from that interview.
What is Greenlid? What do they offer F&B processors?
MW: Greenlid offers completely compostable solutions for food packaging that are not just certified compostable, but have also been designed and approved by compost facilities themselves. At Greenlid’s core, we are driven by the notion of the responsible producer, which we define is someone who cares what goes into their product, how long it lives, and where it ends up at the end of its life. We are founded by scientists and entrepreneurs, so when we work with F&B processors we not only try to provide compostable, sustainable options, but sometimes even improve current practices for production efficiency, customer appeal and safety. Being at the forefront of compostable technologies allows Greenlid to bring imagination to packaging solutions from natural materials and moulded fibre to even recycled plastic where compostable materials aren’t always suitable.
Given a ban on single-use plastic is coming up, how can F&B processors adopt more sustainable packaging solutions without hurting their bottom line?
MW: The shift to compostable and/or sustainable packaging is coming, and consumers are expecting these changes. The costs are continually coming down as volume is shifted from single-use plastics into more sustainable materials. As a result of the impending ban, Greenlid has been scaling at a rapid pace including plans for local production in next six-12 months to provide the best pricing and options in Canada and North America.
What is the financial cost of using sustainable packaging products?
MW: We believe there will be a financial cost to not switching early to sustainable packaging in the long-term rather than a short-term financial cost now. Loss of market share, consumer perspective and sales can be attributed to companies who wait and allow competitors to implement sustainable packaging during these transitional times. When bans come into place, it can, at a minimum, take six-12 months to develop and implement a truly sustainable packaging change
What challenges are you facing when selling your products to private label producers?
MW: Cost is often a question, but we have had a lot of success working with companies who have long-term visions of sustainability and profit. However, the other issues can be the cost to adapt current machinery or change equipment to allow for the use of non-plastic products. We have mitigated this however, as we usually work backward with our partners by first seeing their equipment and process and developing products that do not require large capital investments.
What is the level of awareness among F&B processors about sustainable packaging options available in the market?
MW: There has been a lot of green-washing and miscommunication from previous manufacturers of packaging around compostable and sustainable materials which makes it very difficult to navigate for many processors. The launch of compostable plastics has confused the market into thinking they are compostable, whereas there are no facilities in Canada that accept compostable plastics in their curbside programs. Further, compostable plastics interfere with the recycling stream so we are creating even more plastic when we are trying to reduce it. Our advice is if it looks like plastic, and is not easily recyclable like PET plastic bottles, then likely we are not solving the problem. Other areas include multi-layer and multi-material style box ‘recyclable’ packaging. You can imagine how difficult these are to recycle compared to single plastic sources like bottles. Also, there are nuances to additives in products to provide certain specifications, such as the addition of PFAs (Teflon-like molecules) to many moulded fibre products to provide leak-proofness, which are now linked to cancer. We try to educate our customers first then allow them to make the right decisions with all the knowledge.