Sustainable Packaging Working Group holds virtual meeting

Chaired by Carlos Diaz of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and Sandeep Kulkarni of consultancy KoolEarth Solutions, and including participants from around the world, the meeting launched straight into an examination of which emerging technologies in packaging sustainability are likely to become mainstream.
As Diaz noted: “Recently, sustainability has been driven by the search for solutions around plastics.” Kulkarni pointed out that coronavirus had potentially added to some of the environmental problems, with single-use masks now added to ‘single-use’ ocean plastics.
Diaz went on to question the extent to which paper, glass and metal were being called upon to step up into applications traditionally dominated by plastics. “When it comes to paper bags, as opposed to plastics, for shopping, there used to be no doubt about the outcome in terms of carbon footprint,” said Diaz. “But now the focus is on end-of-life.”
The September 18 Zoom meeting also addressed issues such as the role of bioplastics, particularly polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), in the light of Danimer’s interest in the material, scalability and the availability of home and industrial composting.
 A lively debate centred around the evolving and future role of the various chemical recycling technologies, tied up as it is with the functionality of monolayer as opposed to multilayer barrier packaging and the corresponding capabilities of mechanical recycling.
Rafael Auras of Michigan State University (MSU) reflected the assessments of many on the call, when he said: “All of these technologies are likely to be part of the solution, but none of them will solve the sustainability problem on its own.”