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SPS 2012 delves into LCA, food waste

Sustainable Packaging Symposium 2012, the second edition of the event, organized by Greener Package and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ Institute for Sustainability, held in Houston, TX, in early April focused on packaging’s role in the sustainable supply chain, including the value of the Life Cycle Assessment and on packaging as a tool for reducing food waste.

Michael Hewett, director of Environmental and Sustainability Programs, Publix Super Markets, Inc.
Michael Hewett, director of Environmental and Sustainability Programs, Publix Super Markets, Inc.

Sustainable Packaging Symposium 2012, the second edition of the event, organized by Greener Package and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ Institute for Sustainability, held in Houston, TX, in early April focused on packaging’s role in the sustainable supply chain, including the value of the Life Cycle Assessment and on packaging as a tool for reducing food waste.


Day one keynote presenter Dr. Bill Flanagan, leader of the Ecoassessment Center of Excellence for GE Global Research, began the event by enumerating for attendees the benefits of the LCA. “The LCA is a qualitative assessment,” he said. “If we are going to be making decisions, we want to be sure that we are not shifting the burden.”


He added that an LCA allows a company to:


• Focus on the areas where they can make the most impact
• Communicate fairly complex product benefits to consumers
• Foster transparency with stakeholders


Dr. Flanagan advised that the LCA should be used strategically, undertaken only for those products where it provides the most benefit. He then outlined for attendees a four-step screening process by which GE determines those products that require a full LCA. “Overall, we want to make sure we are not distracting ourselves,” he said. “We want to make real changes. We don’t want to do anything that is a barrier to innovation.”
Following Dr. Flanagan, Lauran Flanigan, a consultant with PE International, Inc., opened the “Leadership and the Sustainable Supply Chain Session” by echoing many of the keynote themes, saying, “Transparency is the new sustainability.”


“You have to know what it is you are trying to achieve before you begin,” she said. “You have to determine your vision. That will help you determine the tools you will use. You have to plan long-term.”


Day two opened with an engaging keynote by Michael Hewett, director of Environmental and Sustainability Programs, Publix Super Markets, Inc., who captured the attention of the entire room using humor and stark statistics to focus on the realities of food waste, population growth, and the challenges in providing for the huge number of people globally who are “food insecure.”


Hewett noted that the EPA estimates that post-harvest food waste in the U.S. comes to 35 million tons per year. “That means that 30 percent of what we grow is not eaten,” he said. At the same time, he quoted statistics that show that there are more than 1 billion people globally who are food insecure, or one in seven people. “In the U.S., there are 48 million or 49 million Americans who can’t get enough to eat, 14 million of which are children.”


Hewett proposed that packaging innovations that extend the shelf life of food products or ensure that they are eaten “are required to address the food waste issue.”

www.sustainablepackagingsymposium.com

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