By LYNN M. DYER
Food Packaging Institute
THE VALUE OF NEUTRALITY
The Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) is the material-neutral trade association representing the interests of the foodservice packaging industry in North America. Whether the cup, container, wrap, etc. is made of aluminum, paper, plastic or you name the next material, FPI is there to advocate for it. It’s a challenging tight rope to walk, but I think we do a pretty good job.
Since 2011, I have had the privilege of serving on AMERIPEN’s Technical Advisory Group to, according to AMERIPEN’s website, “provide guidance and research that expands and enhances the knowledge base of the packaging industry.” When asked specifically what expertise I could bring to AMERIPEN, I responded “a material-neutral approach to the issues.”
AMERIPEN was formed because companies recognized that the packaging industry needed to speak with one voice. There’s an association for everything, and certainly that’s true no matter what the material and product. These other associations bring tremendous value to their members, but sometimes a different approach is needed.
For example, when we look to legislative or regulatory challenges, I think we’ll unfortunately continue to see product or material attacks. Consider single-use bags: the original target was plastic bags, but it’s rare these days to see a proposal that just bans plastic bags. Instead, it’s a ban on plastic, a fee on paper and the encouragement to use reusable bags. These attacks are based on a belief that these options are better for the environment. Whether that is true can be debated, but in the end it’s government intrusion in the marketplace that limits choices and penalizes retailers and their customers.
We’ve seen the targets multiply as legislators and regulators look to achieve ambitious zero waste goals, rightly diverting valuable materials from landfills to recycling, composting and energy recovery options. But, with these valiant efforts have brought discussions about how this could be done – and by whom.
This has led us to the topic du jour: extended producer responsibility (EPR). Existing EPR programs have been on very specific items like mattresses, paints, sharps and tires. What we’ve seen to date related to EPR for packaging has been directed to all packaging, not just one material or one product. EPR may be the broadest threat to packaging so far.
And, to address that broad multi-material, multi-product threat, we’ll need to have one voice – and a neutral one, at that. AMERIPEN is positioned to lead the packaging industry with its neutral stance.
Given the variety of interests within the packaging industry, we won’t always agree, but I think we can agree that we want long-term success and growth for all packaging, and yes, the smart recovery of it.
Let’s figure out how we can work together to make that happen.
Note: The conclusions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and/or the Foodservice Packaging Institute. They do not necessarily reflect the views of AMERIPEN, its members, or affiliates.