Last month, Glen Gudino, Flexible Packaging’s publisher, and I had a chat with Dennis Calamusa, president and CEO of Alliedflex. It was a wide-ranging discussion that at one point turned toward the topic of a circular economy. Dennis reminded us that flexible packaging’s reduced material usage, smaller footprint and lighter weight are already more beneficial to the environment than other forms of packaging, but the industry is still pushing hard to become circular. He, kind of rhetorically, asked us how the industry would be tested once flexible effectively does introduce a circular economy.
It was a question that I thought about for a while afterward, especially since this issue highlights the industry’s strides toward a circular economy as its greatest innovation. The answer I eventually came to sounds like the witch trial scene in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail: What’s next after sustainability? More sustainability!
You might be asking, “Didn’t you just say last month that even you get worn down by all the sustainability talk?” Yes. Yes, I did. But just because we may get tired of talking about it doesn’t mean it’s going to go away, even after packaging becomes circular. The focus will instead shift to the manufacturing process and facility operations.
While creating a circular economy is good for the planet and a brand’s image with consumers, how much direct benefit does it have for those along the supply chain? While those with sustainable products can use them to stand apart, market saturation will level the playing field.
A more sustainable approach to operations, however, can produce direct benefits through reductions in energy and water consumption, which translates to saving money. Eric Hanrahan shares one example of how this is possible in this issue. Additionally, and I alluded to this last month, a proactive approach to sustainable operations could be even more attractive to CPGs should there come a time when they’ll be held financially accountable for the environmental impacts of all facets of their products.
That’s what I think. Admittedly, I’m no futurist and I could very well be letting my past life covering the built environment affect my judgment. So, what do you think is next? I’d love to hear from you.