Strong member interest in Working Group meetingsIn fact, so many attendees arrived for the Packaging and Consumers WG meeting, which was the first, the meeting had to reconvene in a larger room.
One of the primary benefits of involvement in WGs has to be the opportunity for greater levels of collaboration between members. But in the case of Packaging and Consumers, where should that international collaboration be focused?
Chairing the meeting, primary contact for the group Virpi Korhonen of PTR, Finland, presented research carried out among WG members which indicated that ‘consumer perception and preference for packaging sustainability’ was the most favored area for collaboration. ‘Research methodologies for creating consumer-dominant design briefs’ also received strong support.
In a statement relayed to the group by Korhonen, Javier Zabeleta of ITENE, Spain, highlighted the paradox that, even though the importance of a consumer focus was better understood than ever, the number of Symposium papers relating to ‘packaging and consumers’ appeared to have shrunk. “It seems that consumer/user researchers are not finding a home in IAPRI,” his statement read. “How do we solve this?” He proposed a group discussion on this basis.
What also became clear is that there are significant opportunities for co-operation between WGs. Korhonen noted the scale of the EU’s ActInPak active & intelligent packaging project, commenting: “I feel consumers are more willing and ready to accept these types of packaging, especially if there’s a food waste benefit.”
The starting point for the Sustainable Packaging WG discussion, led by chair Carlos Diaz of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in the US was China’s ‘Green Sword’ ban on imported recyclables, imposed in the summer of 2018. “Is this a challenge or an opportunity for packaging?” he asked.
The impact of the changes in China has served to underline the global scale of these issues. But as Diaz put it: “While this is a global problem, it seems that the solutions have to be local. Shipping trash around the world won’t be an option.”
Other group members in the meeting highlighted examples where global or universal solutions were not necessarily the best answer. Rafael Auras of Michigan State University (MSU) said: “With chemical recycling [of plastics], you have to be careful about promoting something universally when you can’t really be sure about it.”
Additional areas touched on in a wide-ranging debate included the variable quality of recyclate, even of commonly-recycled materials such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET), often depending on how and where the feedstock is collected. The need to educate not only consumers but also governments, and the role that organizations such as Ameripen and Incpen played in this, was also discussed.
Like Korhonen, chair of the Active & Intelligent (A&I) Packaging WG Selçuk Yildirim opened the meeting by underlining the significance of the EU’s ActInPak project, which finishes this year, and the role that the WG can play in helping to sustain this extensive network of experts (many of whom are among IAPRI’s membership) and further develop some of its activities.
He contrasted the large amount of R&D which has been carried out in this area (and not, by any means, only under the auspices of ActInPak) with the small number of A&I products which have found their way on to the market.
The meeting highlighted the wide range of consumer attitudes towards A&I packaging around the world - even to something as basic as modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) - as well as questions about how these solutions should be communicated, to what extent consumers should pay for them, and what impact A&I materials might have on recycling. The vexed theme of retailer opposition to opportunities for consumer ‘cherry-picking’ was also raised.
Another interesting area is the way in which A&I packaging (typically viewed as a cost), such as an oxygen scavenger, may allow other packing line processes to be speeded up and/or simplified.
The Distribution Packaging WG met with Vincent Rouillard chairing. The first order of business was his desire to have someone take over the chair. Vincent has chaired for many years and feels it is time for a change. The members were asked to contact Vincent or Secretary General Church if interested. Rouillard stated that it is a good time to review the mission of the working group and will start that process with the members via online.
Next was a presentation by Brian O’Banion from ISTA regarding their plan to develop a new “Distribution Environment Data Collection Program” with the primary goal of expanding our distribution environment data resources. ISTA will use the “Distribution Environment Data Collection Program” to expand their distribution environment data resources. This data will then be leveraged to improve current testing protocols, add new testing protocols, and create a world-class data repository that can be leveraged by ISTA, and its members, to better model distribution locally, nationally, and internationally. O’Banion that through both directly funded research and industry collaboration, ISTA will obtain atmospheric, vibration, storage and handling data that meets their established data collection standards for five prioritized global distribution routes. This data will then be developed and implemented into ISTA test procedures as deemed appropriate by the ISTA Testing Council and Technical Division Board. He explained that working group members could participate with voluntary data or via making proposals on ISTA’s various upcoming RFP’s. There was some extended discussion regarding the topic relative to interpreting data, the possibility of some form of route rating system.
Cristina Guzman said that she is encouraging e-commerce as a major topic in next year’s World Conference in Monterrey, Mexico and is interested in finding a member or non-member subject matter expert as a keynote speaker.