New Tool: ProSource
Checkout our packaging and processing solutions finder, ProSource.
Start Your Search

Revived IoPP Committee Envisions Sustainable Packaging Community

We at The Institute of Packaging Professionals have the good fortune of having a front-row seat to the many ways the great minds in our industry collaborate and adeptly solve complex problems.

Jane Chase 0270 Edit 2

I can’t think of a more here-and-now, multi-faceted challenge than packaging sustainability (some call it responsibility) and the need to advance and grow a circular economy within our industry.

In some ways, significant progress has been made with regard to sustainability, but much work remains. What has become clear is that earlier siloed efforts within individual companies, while well-intentioned, aren’t enough. We need to work together.

A huge step in that direction is taking shape with the re-kick-off of IoPP’s Sustainable Packaging Technical Committee (SPTC). One of eight technical committees within IoPP, this group was first launched in 2007. Among its initial tasks were the creation of subgroups that functioned as working platforms for different areas of involvement in sustainable packaging—including consensus around definitions, metrics and building a knowledge base around issues. The SPTC, over time, fell dormant as members cycled out, and for others, the daily responsibilities consumed more of their time at their “day jobs.”

But discussion around the need for a functioning committee never stopped. As sustainability and recycling continue to evolve, from collaborative approaches to the emergence of new bio-based materials to regulatory standards, our industry needs to keep the energy and momentum going. We need to make it better focused among collaborators and innovative thinkers. That’s what the SPTC intends to do.

And now that social responsibility around packaging is much more prominent in their jobs than it might have been 15 years ago, we’re very optimistic that sustained engagement in the SPTC will be possible so the committee can do great things.

Communicate, educate

The SPTC’s aim is to communicate and educate professionals on all aspects of current and emerging issues related to sustainable packaging. The new leadership team consists of Mike Ross, Global R&D Packaging Leader, Food Solutions and Team Leader–Rigid Plastics Sustainability, Unilever; Patrick Keenan, Associate Packaging Principal Engineer, General Mills; Steve Carter, Manager Packaging R&D, Treehouse Foods; and Eric Gassaway, Head of Sustainability, TricorBraun.

The leadership team has developed a list of relevant topics and is looking for input from our members. This input will help us identify where to concentrate effort so IoPP may create a library of training and learning modules.

Ross explains his interest in getting involved with the SPTC: “Packaging has become increasingly scrutinized for the presence of used packaging in the environment. It is important to understand, however, that what the world does not have a packaging problem. What it has is a litter issue. All that material can be collected and put into circular economic systems that can turn what people call waste into an unexploited valuable resource.”

The vast makeup of IoPP’s membership means inherently that the SPTC’s objectives touch all packaging segments. IoPP members work across many products, from food and beverage to medical devices to chemical packaging. They use all forms of packaging and materials. This diversity will ensure that challenges and solutions are thoroughly discussed from all segments and perspectives.

Topics identified for initial discussion include:
• Definitions of sustainability and a description of the circular economy

• Business topics around the Triple Bottom Line framework and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) principles

• Packaging’s impact on climate, Life Cycle Assessment, Life Cycle Inventory, and carbon credits

• Bio/compost—materials and end-of-life

• Recycling—definitions, Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) issues, mechanical and chemical considerations, recyclable versus recycled

• Labeling—Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Green Guides, How-2-Recycle, and other topics

• Regulation—Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), PCR mandates

Collaboration is key

As Ross aptly notes, success will require the entire industry and eco-system partners to work together to create a circular economy. It takes a community—consumers will not look at sustainability in terms of competitive advantage but instead will demand that it be a minimum requirement to sell products into the market. How will we as an industry respond?

Are you interested in lending your time and voice to the SPTC? Membership in IoPP is a requirement to participate. If interested in contributing content or joining, let us know at

Let’s move forward together on a meaningful sustainable packaging dialogue.

The author, Jane Chase, is the Executive Director of the Institute of Packaging Professionals. In addition to being a Certified Packaging Professional Lifetime and an IoPP Fellow, she is a member of the Packaging & Processing Hall of Fame. For more information on IoPP, visit

Test Your Smarts
Take Packaging World's sustainability quiz to prove your knowledge!
Take Quiz
Test Your Smarts
Discover Our Content Hub
Access Packaging World's free educational content library!
Unlock Learning Here
Discover Our Content Hub