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Key Takeaways from AMERIPEN Annual Meeting

Friday, June 7, 2019   (0 Comments)
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“Recycling is broken” is a frequently uttered phrase in the industry. However, the situations labeled as problems often present opportunities that, if dealt with effectively, could lead to benefits across the value chains. The packaging industry tends to be reactive to crises and challenges, rather than proactive. Industry does have valuable insights, and our stances don’t always mean we disagree with the concept—just the implementation. Industry needs to work collaboratively to bring forward more ideas and solutions for consideration.



Industry professionals seem to be wrestling with many common problems, whether it be contamination of collected materials, or imbalance in the supply/demand of recyclable materials but the impacts and opportunities behind these challenges differ depending on your role in the value chain. Getting stakeholders together to explore challenges from every point in the value chain—including designers and engineers—will lead to more effective, efficient solving of these pervasive challenges.



Current terms around packaging need to be clearly defined, new phrases like single use packaging do not mean the same to everyone and updates to existing terms like recycling, recyclability etc. are creating confusion. While ISO and FTC are intended to serve as legal definitions for US stakeholders, their status as defining bodies is getting lost in the global dialogue. In order to collaborate and create value, all stakeholders need to agree to the meaning of these terms, or we will not be able to effectively communicate and work with each other as we work toward greater sustainability. AMERIPEN has put forth efforts to raise awareness around these terms, but more needs to be done to harmonize meaning.



Recycling will only be successful if there are viable end markets. For example, collecting more plastics right now may not be effective if there is not an end market for this material. By focusing on end markets, we can think holistically across the packaging value chain, informing design and reducing costs.



The industry won’t progress if we don’t continue to try new things—materials, technologies, communication efforts, infrastructure, etc. R&D will help stakeholders determine areas of challenge and opportunity. We need to advance the innovation dialogue beyond just recovery infrastructure to understand how we can meet global commitment goals and design new materials and formats for packaging.



Product packaging is all too often perceived as being wasteful. This perception is dominating today’s dialogue. There is significant risk of unintended consequences if we can’t shift the dialogue towards a recognition that packaging serves a purpose and combined with recovery offers tremendous value for sustainable consumption. There’s an opportunity to collaborate on efforts to communicate these values, to impact policymaker perceptions, consumer behavior and more.



The current market challenges are dominating our discussions on needs, but if we don’t also include a perspective towards future shifts, we are repeating old patterns. Designing today for tomorrow’s recycling facility needs to consider what the future of ecommerce, consumer behavior, aging demographics and other influencing factors will do to packaging design. The packaging industry can convene more stakeholder experiences to help share projections to better inform packaging and recovery systems for the future.

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