Undoubtedly the big challenge for label industry suppliers, label converters and even end-users is that this continuing raft of proposals and initiatives has all now become part of the global climate change debate. Indeed, maybe now part of the problem.
Consumer and ‘green’ groups are pressing for certain things, but perhaps do not always consider the commercial issues faced by converters and packers. The EU, national governments and local or state authorities are introducing legislation or proposing alternatives – to reduce or eliminate landfill, promote home recycling, reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, encourage bio-fuels, raise revenues and encourage improved resources management.
But where and when did all this focus on the environment, climate change, green issues and sustainability begin?
THE IMPACT OF HUMANS ON THE ENVIRONMENT
The first warnings about global climate change and its link to the activities of man can be traced back to the 1970s. However, at this time it was more concerned about the earth cooling and the threat of a new ice age.
By the late 1970s and early 1980s, there were new concerns about possible man-made climate change – this time related to global warming – and the impact of chlorine from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) destroying the ozone layer and creating a huge hole through which dangerous ultraviolet light could penetrate (indeed in 1987 some 100 countries agreed to take action to reduce CFCs). By 1988 there was an increasing awareness that ‘global warming’ was due to what had become known as the ‘greenhouse effect.’
Also in 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the UN. Its purpose was to assess scientific evidence relating to human-induced climate change.
By 1989 governments around the world realized that damaging CFC gases had to be replaced with environmentally friendly alternatives (Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, 1989).
Then, the IPCC’s first report, published in 1990, confidently stated that emissions resulting from human activity were substantially increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (CO2, methane, CFCs and nitrous oxide) and that these were responsible for over half the enhanced greenhouse effect that the earth was experiencing.
In 1991, the European Commission published a strategy to limit carbon dioxide emissions. This proposed legislation on climate change, renewable energy, recycling of waste, limits on carbon dioxide emissions – plus proposals for introducing carbon taxes. By 1992, all signatory governments to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change had agreed to voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Following this first voluntary agreement, at the Kyoto Conference in 1997, a Protocol was agreed to stabilize greenhouse gases to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels. Later came an EU Landfill Directive, in 1999, which set out measures to reduce the land-filling of rubbish in favor of recycling or incineration.
This directive established a waste hierarchy – which has subsequently become adapted by organizations (such as Avery Dennison) in the label industry as a framework to prioritize initiatives from an environmental perspective. This can be seen in Fig 1.1.
Figure 1.1 - Shows the waste hierarchy framework set out in the EU Directive on Waste Management and how this applies to the label industry. Proprietary information courtesy of Avery Dennison
Further EU measures followed in 2007, with the European Commission looking to reduce the EU’s carbon dioxide emissions, to produce 20 percent of energy from renewable resources, to obtain 10 percent of transport fuels from bio-fuels, and to the banning of conventional incandescent light bulbs. In the same year the IPCC produced its Fourth Assessment Report on climate warming and the role of human activity. More recently, there was the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December 2009.
1920-1940 Period of rising global temperature
1940-1970 Average temperatures across the globe decline
1972-1973 First warnings about global climate change – the world was dangerously cooling
1975 Threat of a new ice age. Suggestions that this might be due to the activities of man
1979 Global surface temperatures move upwards again
1986 Chlorine from CFCs said to be destroying ozone layer and causing global temperatures to rise
1987 100 countries take action to reduce CFCs. Increasing interest in the effects of CO. levels
1988 Increasing awareness of 'global warming' due to ‘greenhouse effect' Establishment of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to assess scientific evidence for human-induced climate change
1989 Climate Action Network formed to co-ordinate campaigning on global warming issues
1990 IPCC's first report published. Confident that increased CO. was responsible for over half the enhanced ‘greenhouse effect'
1991 European Commission publishes 'Community Strategy to limit Carbon Dioxide emissions’. Proposed template for legislation on climate change – including renewable energy, recycling of waste, limits on CO. emissions, plus proposal to impose new carbon taxes 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) signed. All signatory governments to voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions
1995 IPCC's second report endorses explanations for global warming
1997 Kyoto Conference agrees Protocol to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gases to 5.2% below 1990 levels
1999 EU produces Landfill Directive – designed to phase out landfilling of rubbish in favor or recycling or incineration
2006 Al Gore produces documentary film 'An Inconvenient Truth' – claims we have ten years to avert a major catastrophe.Stern Review on 'The Economics of Climate Change' report launched by Tony Blair – claims we have ten years to save the planet
2007 European Council agrees new package of measures to fight climate change – reduction of EU's carbon dioxide emissions: measures to include 20% of energy from renewable resources, 10% of transport fuel from bio-fuels, conventional incandescent light bulbs to be banned IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report announced – climate warming caused by human activity
2009 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen
Accord document that was subsequently issued recognized that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of the present time and that actions should be taken to keep any temperature increases to below 2°C. This document, however, is not legally binding and does not contain any legally binding commitments for reducing CO2 emissions.
To summarize these various key climate change and environmental actions, a timeline table showing some of the key environmental milestones of the past 100 years can be seen in Fig. 1.2.
Figure 1.2 - Timeline outlining recent climate change history
With all these new areas of legislation, standards and pressures relating to the environment, waste, sustainability, carbon emissions, energy usage and so on, it is not surprising that the world’s major brand owners, retailers, packaging groups – as well as label industry suppliers and converters – have been working towards a more environmentally friendly and sustainable future.
The fact that there had been a global recession during the latter part of 2009 and 2010 further encouraged brand and retail groups to enhance their green credentials and perhaps use them as an opportunity to maintain margins by reducing the amount of packaging used, by being concerned about the amount of packaging and label waste generated, through conserving energy, and by reducing distribution and handling costs – and in turn by putting pressure on their packaging and label suppliers.
Certainly the best label companies want to comply with all these growing legislation and customer requirements, but also need to protect their own business and margins. In any case, which requirement do they comply with this month, or next year – particularly if their business is supplying on a global basis? Paper, film and labelstock suppliers, ink manufacturers and chemical companies are looking at a rather different and bigger picture: how to better manage resources and provide sustainable materials that will ensure their future.
Put together, the number of different schemes and on-pack logos to which converters can become accredited for meeting various environmental legislative, industry and customer requirements is now extensive. Just consider some of the main ones which are shown in Figure 1.3.
Figure 1.3 - Some of the key environmental schemes and logos now found in the global label industry
This list is far from exhaustive: there are other label or product logos that can be used, as well as variations of the logos shown. Work with or become certified for too many of the environmental labeling schemes, and it becomes a challenge to fit all the logos onto the label – and still fit in all the legally required product, manufacturer, barcode and safety information. There is also the potential to use QR codes for extended content information regarding sustainability, but again, these would need to be fitted into the label format.
A GLOBAL ISO STANDARD
Talk to some of the major global brand owner and retail groups about what quality, sustainability, waste or environmental requirements they expect from their label and packaging suppliers and there is beginning to be some consensus. They increasingly expect their suppliers to have ISO 9000 as a starting point. Then to have or be working towards attaining ISO 14001 accreditation (or an equivalent) in the near future and, in the food/supermarket sector, to also have the – increasingly international – BRC Global Standard (see below) accreditation.
ISO 9000 quality registration has already long been a necessity for many label converters to do business worldwide. Similarly, the ISO 14000 series of environmental standards are expected to become (indeed are already becoming) a primary requirement for doing business in many regions or industries – such as packaging and labels. So what are they about? The latest series of ISO 14000 standards are designed to cover:
Environmental management systems
Environmental performance evaluation
Environmental aspects in product standards
Figure 1.4 - The ISO 14000 family of standards for environmental management
Typically, ISO 14001 requires an environmental policy to be in existence within a (packaging or label) company, fully supported by senior management, and available to customers, staff and the public. This policy sets out the company’s compliance with current environmental legislation and also stresses a commitment to continuous improvement. Like ISO 9000 before it, an Environmental Management System requires a periodic audit to ensure that it is effective, meets specified goals and continues to perform in accordance with all the appropriate and relevant legislation, regulations and standards.
The other standard now increasingly common in the retail supplier field is the BRC/IOP Global Standard – Packaging and Packaging Materials.
Originally created by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) to establish a standard for the supply of packaging and packaging materials for the UK food industry, this standard’s publication has been rapidly adopted by major retailers, packaging and label businesses around the world.
Certification to the standard verifies technical performance, aids manufacturers’ fulfillment of legal obligations (including environment and waste), and helps provide protection to the consumer.
Put together, ISO 9000, the ISO 14000 series and the BRC/IOP Global Standard are becoming a core basis by which increasing numbers of global label and packaging buyers are judging their suppliers’ competence and commitment to quality, to the environment, to the fulfillment of legal obligations and to consumer protection.
Undoubtedly there will be converters who say that meeting all these global standards is just an additional cost to them. Yet there is already plenty of evidence from converters that have implemented ISO 14001 and/or the BRC/IOP Global Standard that they have been able to significantly reduce materials (substrates and inks) wastage, improved their manufacturing efficiency and reduced downtime, helped their customers to reduce or lightweight their packaging or labels, created a better partnership with customers in solving joint environmental problems, and found new solutions for, say, label matrix waste disposal and reuse in fuel efficient energy (pellets) or building materials. In short, meeting the standards is proving to be a good, cost-effective business decision.
NORTH AMERICAN INITIATIVE FOR NARROW WEB CONVERTERS
While not setting out to replace the ISO 14000 environmental standard (which covers all industries), the TLMI has developed a Label Initiative For the Environment (LIFE) specifically for the narrow web printing industry which provides a standard that addresses clean production technologies, minimizes waste, targets improvements in water and air pollutants – all of which reduce greenhouse gases.
Initially all TLMI members have access to LIFE certification, with the TLMI board also looking to the standard eventually becoming a global barometer for environmental accountability for the narrow web printing sector.
To assist its members in the evaluation and improvement of their environmental performance, TLMI has developed a scorecard which enables members to evaluate four categories or requirements:
Energy and greenhouse gas
Product design and environmentally preferred materials
These requirements are modeled on the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) guidelines.
The scorecard enables TLMI members and their customers to evaluate performance characteristics that are most relevant to their particular company or product life cycle. The aim is for members to earn the seal of LIFE by submitting to third party verification. The verification process used with the scorecard was developed from auditing and verification from other industry standards and management systems, such as ISO 14001.
The key differences between the ISO 14001 and LIFE certification programs are that some aspects of the latter are much more specific to the label printing industry. Within the ISO scheme, converters will document their materials and energy usage, for example, and try to reduce them, although they will not be pushed heavily. LIFE, however, is a continuous improvement process, with the converter striving to get better in all aspects of the program. The converter will have to think more about the printing process.
In that respect it may be a more acceptable process for some converters to achieve LIFE certification rather than ISO 14001 accreditation. A few now have both.
EUROPEAN INITIATIVES AND SCHEMES
An EC Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste set out to harmonize national measures to prevent or reduce the impact of packaging (including labels) on the environment in EC-member states and third countries, and to prevent the production of packaging waste going to disposal through reuse, recycling and other forms of recovery. The directive also meant that European self-adhesive converters – and converter matrix, edge trim and liner waste – came under the microscope.
To offer converters a strategy for dealing with this waste, an educational module was compiled for FINAT by UK-based 4impression. It encourages converters and their customers to take advantage of an industry-wide recycling scheme for the collection of liner waste which is then shipped to processors who re-pulp it and use it to produce paper towels at little or no cost to the end-user.
The module also emphasized that ‘the development of well-managed 'green' policies will become vital to company growth as environmental concerns permeate society and that management could use the policies as a marketing tool’.
The module also stated that each year Europe produces over 300,000 tons of liner waste and more than 200,000 tons of trimming, set-up and matrix waste.
FINAT also recently joined forces with other global associations to further endorse the industry’s commitment to a more sustainable and environmentally responsible future.
In a follow-up to that commitment, FINAT has strongly welcomed the initiative taken by Cycle4Green Ltd (C4G). C4G creates a sustainable solution for spent release liner materials in a closed-loop, Europe-based recycling system. According to FINAT, sustainability is the priority on the label buyers’ agenda today. The label industry is keen to streamline its business and manufacturing process and wants to deliver sustainable solutions to its customer that can contribute to cost reduction and improved profitability.
To help meet changing label industry and customer recycling targets, and work towards the continued reduction of label waste, FINAT is fully supporting on-going industry measures to further reduce the environmental impact of labels, and establish a platform to connect end-users and label printers with C4G and other relevant solutions.
The European Parliament and the Council have also been working towards an European ECO-Label, as well as introducing an Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) – a voluntary management tool for companies and other organizations to evaluate, report and improve their environmental performance. Again based on ISO 14001, the latest revision to EMAS included establishing a sectoral approach to promoting best practice in environment management and in extending EMAS to non-EU countries.
The revision also includes elements to strengthen compliance with environmental legislation and reinforced environmental reporting, as well as using core performance indicators to report on energy efficiency, material efficiency, water, waste, emissions and biodiversity.
Both the European Eco-Label and EMAS schemes will be voluntary.
OTHER ENVIRONMENTAL STANDARDS
If converters, suppliers or the industry’s customers wish to go even further in enhancing their sustainability, recycling and packaging focus, then they might decide to look at or implement, for example, BS 8900, which focuses on developing ways of working that do not produce negative environmental effects or impossibly high costs for those involved. Issues such as climate change, energy and waste are just a few of the areas of concern.
Similarly, if biodegradability and composting of packaging and label materials is an issue, then BS EN 13432 might be of further assistance. This standard sets out the requirements for packaging recoverable through composting and biodegradation: organic recovery of used packaging is one of several recovery options within the overall lifecycle of packaging.
In North America – and increasingly on a global basis – there has also been a growing requirement to obtain Forest Stewardship Council/Sustainable Forestry Initiative certification and the associated Chain of Custody certification which guarantees the path taken by raw materials from the forest to the consumer. Certified label printers are eligible for on-product certification label use.
Environment and sustainability issues are certainly not going to disappear: they will only become more prevalent around the world. Even the Chinese government has introduced far-reaching legislation requiring all product packaging materials to be recyclable, degradable or recoverable, while some plastic materials are to be banned altogether. Package light-weighting and reduction will become mandatory; research into materials and technology is to be incentivized; waste recovery and recycling systems are to be established; transport and storage of recyclable and recycled materials are to be regulated. A whole range of penalties for infringement are also specified.
It would be possible to go on and look at what each particular country or region is doing with regards to the environment. Certainly any label or packaging converter who has a global customer base will have already faced differing requirements. Yet they all have most elements in common.
Brand owners, governments, industry suppliers, etc, are generally all working towards common requirements, although they may be implemented in slightly different ways. However, they can all generally be implemented through ISO 14001 . a standard that can incorporate local, regional, national or international requirements – or in tandem with or alongside the LIFE certification scheme, which is specifically orientated to the self-adhesive industry. EMAS can also be sectoral (i.e. self-adhesive orientated) in application.
LEADING INDUSTRY SUPPLIERS AND CONVERTERS MAKE STRIDES
While many in the label industry are still looking at the need to become greener and more sustainable, most of the leading industry suppliers have already obtained ISO 14001, as have many of the major international label converting groups.
Certainly, the leading labelstock and self-adhesive laminate manufacturers now work to ISO 14001, with many of them having FSC and PEFC certification as well. Indeed, most European paper mills are now certified to ISO 14001. Key label-related companies with the ISO standard in some or all of their plants include Avery Dennison, UPM Raflatac, Ahlstrom Paper, Ritrama, Sappi Paper, 3M, Jujo Thermal, Torraspapel, Boise Label & Release, Stora Enso, Sun Chemical, RUCO, HP Indigo, BASF, FFEI, and Hanita Coatings, as well as worldwide converter groups such as Spear (US), Pemera (Australia), Skanem (Europe), Denny Bros (UK), Mercian Labels (UK), Etifix (Germany), Metro Label Group (US), McCourt Label
(US) and Grand Rapids Label (US) – which also has LIFE certification. Many other national label converters and European converters also now have ISO 14001.
Put together, ISO 14001 has now become the dominant standard currently used globally at the leading edge of the label industry.
In addition, some of the main European label paper making groups, such as Stora Enso, UPM Kymmene, Sappi and Torraspapel, also have EMAS accreditation in a number of their plants.
In terms of LIFE certification, the leading converter proponents have included Multi-Color Corporation, Smyth Companies, Spear Europa, ITW Labels, W S Packaging Group, Yerecic Label, Label World, Grand Rapids Label Company and I.D. Images. UPM Raflatac, Channeled Resources Group and Mitsubishi Polyester Film have also obtained certification.
While most converters seeking to achieve environmental credentials will probably look to ISO 14001, LIFE or EMAS, one leading label converter, Spear, has found success with its own SpearEarth Environmental Management System, modeled after Lean Six Sigma. Spear, a beverage-focused pressure sensitive label specialist, has used its lean manufacturing strength to drive environmental change – as well as increase its bottom line – by tackling key areas such as solid waste reduction, matrix recycling, materials development, supply chain efficiency and external validation.
As can be seen, there is more than one route that the label industry can, and does, take to improve its environmental management systems and performance – ISO 14001, LIFE, Lean Six Sigma, EMAS, or maybe just an internal management team project.
The specific company’s choice will depend on what it feels it can achieve, who its customers are and what they demand, what schemes its suppliers have, the size and location(s) of the company, the skills of the management and employees, what existing standards or accreditation it uses (ISO 9001, Lean Six Sigma, etc,). The important thing is that they are taking action.
WHAT ARE THE BIG GLOBAL RETAILERS AND BRANDS DOING?
There can be little doubt that Walmart and Marks & Spencer have largely driven the ethical agenda of global and national retailers and that this agenda has been dominated by environmental issues, so it is worth looking at these two global brands in more detail.
Marks & Spencer – a UK and international retail group – has undoubtedly been the proactive leader: it has appeared in many positive news items and maintains a remarkably low level of demands (negative news items). Walmart, the largest retailer in the world, is more of a reactive leader, having been the target of critical campaigns for many years. However, in 2006 the company started an impressive move towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
From the bottom (Walmart) and from the top (Marks & Spencer) of the rankings, the two companies have been setting the pace for the whole retail sector. Those companies which are neither proactive nor reactive are tending to be left behind as the industry continues to move forward.
The retail industry has sensibly improved its environmental reputation after years of criticism due to labor issues within supply chains, particularly in terms of: carbon footprint, green or ‘Eco Options’ labels on products; eco-textile clothing lines; and CO2 emissions cuts in stores or supply chains.
Marks & Spencer’s ‘eco-plan’, for example, includes going carbon neutral, pushing suppliers to improve sustainability, employing a Packaging Scorecard; reducing the use of conventional plastic bags; and selling environmentally responsible products.
Marks & Spencer launched its Plan A environmental scheme in January 2007. In this plan, it started to use more recycled content in its packaging, and was aiming for its recycling of food packaging to rise from 68 percent to almost 90 percent if there is a wider range of plastics recycling facilities available, as well as extending its on-pack recycling logos to its clothing and home packaging in 2008.
At the end of 2009, Marks & Spencer revealed that it had achieved 39 of the 100 targets set out in its flagship Plan A as the program to reduce its environmental impact reached the halfway stage. The company also revealed that 91 percent of its packaging was now recyclable, depending on local authority collections, and that overall packaging had reduced by an average of 15 percent per item sold – compared to a target to reduce the use of non-glass packaging by 25 percent. Other green energy achievements have included improving store efficiency by 10 percent by cutting energy consumption from 67.9kw hours per square foot in 2006/07 to 61.4kw hours per square foot.
Marks & Spencer has also been awarded the Carbon Trust Standard in recognition for its efforts to reduce its carbon footprint through its Plan A.
Walmart, meanwhile, first began trialing a packaging (and labeling) scorecard scheme in February 2007 as part of its plans to cut packaging across its global supply chain by 5 percent before 2013. The composition of the scorecard, which was also introduced in Walmart’s UK Asda stores from early 2009, requires suppliers of packaged goods to submit data on their packaging and its environmental performance, including the percentages of greenhouse gases, material value, product/package ratio, transportation, recycled content, recovery value, renewable energy and innovation.
Their Supplier Sustainability Assessment document runs to some 33 pages and includes sections on energy and climate, material efficiency, nature and resources, people and community.
As for FMCG giant Procter & Gamble, it has pledged to use only renewable or recyclable materials in its packaging and labels and is aiming to drop all petroleum-based virgin plastic as part of a wide-ranging sustainability agenda. In its 2010 Sustainability Overview, Cincinatti-based P&G laid out plans for packaging alongside ambitious waste, energy and transportation targets. Already, since 2007, the company’s lightweighting programs have led to some 300,000 tons of packaging materials being saved.
Alongside P&G’s packaging target, key goals revealed in its latest Sustainability Overview include: zero waste to landfill from either P&G or its consumers; designing products that are both attractive to consumers and that maximize available resources; all P&G manufacturing plants to be powered with 100 percent renewable energy; as well as additional packaging reduction.
In 2010, P&G also announced the launch of its Supplier Environmental Sustainability Scorecard and rating process to measure and improve the environmental performance if its key suppliers. This scorecard assesses P&G supplier’s environmental footprint and encourages continued improvement by measuring energy use, water use, waste disposal, and greenhouse gas emissions on a year-to-year basis.
Another example of a global brand targeting its environmental performance is United Biscuits, whose brands include Penguin, KP Nuts, Twiglets, Jaffa Cakes and Hula Hoops. The company is aiming for zero landfill waste and a total packaging waste reduction of 20 percent by 2015. It has also reduced packaging by seven percent since 2003, while more than 80 percent by weight of all the company’s packaging is recyclable.
Further emphasis of the impact of sustainability comes from a recent research report by Pike Research, which indicates that retailers are increasingly getting more involved in sustainability, saying ‘their suppliers will need to respond and take the issue seriously’. The report also states ‘the sustainable packaging industry is growing faster than the overall packaging industry and that eco-friendly packaging will double in revenues between 2009 and 2014’.
Increasingly, brands have been opting for eco-friendly packaging to reduce their carbon footprint, being more responsible in materials selection, using more recyclable materials, looking at materials reduction and light-weighting and how best to attain packaging sustainability. In short, brand owners need to become more efficient, increase their profitability and lower their environmental footprint.
Most recently, targets for waste reduction appear to be moving from weight to resource efficiency and carbon reduction. In the UK for example, Wrap (Waste & Resources Action Programme) secured many brand and retailer signatories to the second phase of the Courtaulds Commitment (CC2), an agreement aimed at improving resource efficiency and reducing the carbon and wider environmental impact of the grocery retail sector.
Within this scheme, the carbon impact measurement is to be based on an estimate of the carbon impact of the (packaging and label) materials, effective recyclability and recycled content.
In January 2010 the Global Packaging Project (GPP) was established, in which the world’s biggest brands and packaging groups united to develop a common language of definitions, which they saw as a first step towards putting an end to long-running arguments on packaging’s environmental, social and economic impact. The Global Packaging Project is targeted at ‘finding a common way of measuring environmental and sustainability improvements in packaging that can be used across the world’. Initial members of the Global Packaging Project can be seen in Fig. 1.5.
Figure 1.5 - Members of the Global Packaging Project
The GPP met in Toronto in early 2010 to approve definitions which could be the first step in putting an end to long-running arguments on packaging’s environmental, social and economic impact. The GPP has been piloting this new common language of definitions to measure the sustainability of packaging with the aim of finding a common way of measuring environmental and sustainability improvements on packaging that can be used across the world.
Many other examples of the actions being taken by global brand owners and retail groups, and how they and their suppliers are benefitting, have now been documented.
The label industry has been working hard over the past few years to develop the right products and solutions, but now needs to communicate these better to their existing and potential customers worldwide.
SUSTAINABILITY – WORKING TOWARDS GLOBAL STANDARDS
While everybody seems to be talking about sustainability and sustainable packaging, there is still disagreement, ignorance and confusion globally as to defining what sustainable packaging actually is, according to a recent European report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The report also highlighted that sustainability had moved from being a niche issue to a core consideration among senior executives in the European packaging sector.
However, the groundwork for a number of sustainable packaging regulations and initiatives has now been laid and these are expected to be enacted by the end of 2012 – in turn requiring increasing numbers of brand owners, packaging groups and label converters to print recyclable logos. Actions are also be taken to develop international sustainable packaging standards and definitions (most likely based on current European values) and so create a more ‘globally harmonized approach’. Suggested sustainable packaging definitions should include:
Considered and effective reduction in weight and volume
Reduction in waste to landfill through recyclability, reusability or degradability
Reduction in air and water emissions
Extended shelf life and reduced damage and contamination
Effective communication of product to consumers
One of the organizations at the forefront of developing international standards for sustainable packaging is ISO. Likely to be based on existing packaging and environment standards developed by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), in turn linked to the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, ISO has proposed that six standards be developed to deal with:
A further standard will set out the requirements for their use. The aim is to create a ‘globally harmonized approach’ that will provide a reference point for other regional or local initiatives. Approval for the ISO standard – designated ISO 14021 – is expected in the spring of 2012.
In the UK, a recycling label scheme was launched in the spring of 2009 by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
The OPRL (On-Pack Recycling Label) scheme is designed to clear up the confusion around what packaging can and cannot be recycled. It provides customers with standardized information on packaging recyclability with a single, industry-supported label, thereby replacing the potentially bewildering range of symbols previously used. WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) provides technical support and monitors the correct use of the label, as well as reviewing changes in local authorities' recycling capabilities which will determine the labeling category each packaging material falls into.
Figure 1.6 - BRC recycling label designed to increase recycling rates
The new on-pack recycling label has three categories depending on how likely it is that a customer's local authority will accept specific packaging materials for recycling: ‘Widely recycled’; ‘Check local recycling’; and ‘Not currently recycled’. The on-pack label is designed to increase recycling rates by telling customers how likely it is that a particular piece of packaging can be recycled in the area where they live.
To date, well over 100 companies have signed up to the new, universal on-pack recycling label. Most of the UK grocery retail by turnover is currently participating, as well as a large proportion of non-food retailers.
In the US and Canada, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) has created an on-pack label targeted at an increased recycling rate and reach.
This is being developed around the framework of the ISO 14021 standard and the Federal Trade Commission Green Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims.
The British Retail Consortium’s universal on-pack recycling label scheme (outlined above) is being used as a model to create a workable system.
CRADLE TO CRADLE CERTIFICATION
Cradle to Cradle Certification is a scheme which provides a label company with a means to tangibly and credibly measure achievement in environmentally-intelligent design, and also helps customers purchase and specify products that are pursuing a broader definition of quality.
This means using environmentally safe and healthy materials; design for material reutilization such as recycling or composting; the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency; efficient use of water, maximum water quality associated with production; and instituting strategies for social responsibility.
Figure 1.7 - Cradle to cradle certification - a multi-attribute eco label
Cradle to Cradle Certification is effectively a multi-attribute eco-label that assesses a product’s safety to humans and the environment and design for future life cycles. Unlike single-attribute eco-labels, the certification program takes a comprehensive approach to evaluating the sustainability of a product and the practices employed in its manufacture.
The Green Products Innovation Institute (GPII) will gradually assume management and further development of the Cradle to Cradle Certification (C2C) protocols of product life cycle analysis that were created by William McDonough and Michael Braungart of McDonough Braungart. To date, some 100 companies have engaged in the Cradle to Cradle process, and 300 products currently carry the certification.
CONSUMER ACTION AND REQUIREMENTS
It’s not just brand owners, retailers, industry suppliers and converters looking for the world to become ‘greener’. There are many ‘green’ related organizations, such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund, now involved, while consumers are also pressing for further action to protect the environment.
In one recent example, nearly three quarters of consumers indicated that they would like to see carbon labels on all food products. According to new research carried out in the UK, almost three quarters of shoppers surveyed said that clearer carbon labeling would help them think 'green'.
However, the survey also highlighted that there was a lot of confusion among consumers, who ‘simply don't understand what a carbon footprint actually communicates’.
The survey highlighted that consumers needed more information about carbon footprinting so that they can compare carbon footprint labels. A further issue was that carbon footprint labeling was currently voluntary, with some brand owners doing it and some not. In another research study, just a quarter of consumers were aware of renewable materials in packaging and even fewer had heard of FSC.
There are also consumer initiatives which have been introduced by some of the leading global consumer products manufacturers. Coca-Cola, for example, formed a special recycling division in November 2006 . Coca-Cola Recycling LLC . to develop cost-effective recycling systems for packaging materials including plastic, aluminum, cardboard and plastic film and, to this end, the company has established centralized recycling centers throughout the US and in other countries worldwide. It also invested in curb-side collection companies in a scheme that has seen recycling rates for plastic bottles shooting up to reach as high as 90 percent.
The moves in the US came as part of the company’s worldwide efforts to increase the recycling of its bottles, including investments in recycling facilities in Switzerland, Mexico, Austria and the Philippines.
In the UK, Coca-Cola is involved with WRAP in the recycling of PET plastic bottles back into food-grade plastics. UK initiatives have included ‘Talent from Trash’, which offers clubs in the Football League funding for youth development depending on how many fans they get to pledge to recycle, which aims to increase recycling rates of all materials locally in return for cash prizes. They have also introduced a festival recycling initiative, which in 2010 collected some 92,340 PET bottles and saved 162 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
These schemes are all part of Cola-Cola’s aim to develop wider plans for encouraging consumer recycling.
In a similar initiative, Pepsi is also challenging its customers to reduce, reuse and recycle as part of a company-wide goal to reduce water usage by 20 percent, energy usage by 20 percent and fuel consumption by 25 percent by 2015. This initiative . the Pepsi Eco Challenge . is based on recycling and the environment and Pepsi is making aggressive steps to place its new campaign at the forefront of agenda. The Eco Challenge consists of three aspects the company is committed to uphold and educate customers on: energy, water and packaging.
Another global company, Starbucks, is currently using New York City as a testing ground for recycling its ubiquitous coffee cups. If successful, it could mean the three billion cups it uses each year could go to recycling bins instead of landfills.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
By now it must be obvious to everyone in the label and packaging fields that the issues of sustainability, environment and waste are only going to intensify in the coming months and years.
The solid waste legislation passed in 2010 by the Brazilian Government, for example, is one of the most far reaching in the world and has put release liner waste under particular pressure. In this legislation, liner is seen as ‘the new villain of the piece’, according to one leading Brazilian converter. It can no longer be landfilled or incinerated and must be collected and recycled. Other countries are looking a similar legislation.
Those converters already working towards or have implemented ISO 14001, LIFE or EMAS, who achieve environmental management certification, or can meet relevant customer environmental, CoC or scorecard compliance schemes and are at the forefront of recycling their label and liner waste, are undoubtedly at the leading edge of this global revolution which is aiming for a cleaner, safer and healthier world. They are also best placed to obtain new business in this fast-changing world of increasingly demanding environmental issues.
Perhaps it is too easy to say that many countries or regional groupings are generating their own requirements for environmental improvement, and that the converter could decide to wait until the issues become clearer before taking action. But by then it might be too late for those converters who find some of their accounts slipping away because they are unable to comply with new environmental demands. At least a single international standard – perhaps the ISO 14000 series – would perhaps ensure that there are no regional conflicts between regional or country interpretations of good environmental practice. In any case, ISO 14000 is easily adapted to take into account any regional or local variations or requirements, or work in tandem with LIFE or EMAS.
There is no opt-out choice for label and packaging converters. They have to go forward and meet international environmental standards, develop more sustainable ways of working, find new materials and solutions, change the way in which they manage their business and handle and dispose of waste.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?
Environment and sustainability will become the biggest issue for the label industry over the next few years
There is a need for better guidelines for converters on meeting environment and sustainability issues
More work is needed to resolve end-user challenges – standards, rationalization of logos/schemes, etc
Greater involvement/liaison by the label industry in global and national groups working on environmental and sustainability issues
These challenges will need to be resolved for the label industry to move forward and build agreed environment and sustainability policies into global environmental management schemes. Even today, label converters need to be developing and implementing their own environmental management and audit systems based on sound practice.
The structures shown and amplified throughout this series can be used as a framework for working within and helping to obtain ISO 14001 certification, LIFE certification, or incorporating other initiatives such as the FINAT recycling scheme, FSC, PEFC, Carbon Trust, etc, and understanding how they all link together with a common aim.
It should be remembered that a label converter’s strategy for growth and profitability is also compatible with its environmental strategy. They both aim to reduce waste, reduce energy, become more sustainable, cut costs, and minimize handling and shipping operations. They both make good business sense.
A guide to a general environmental management policy that converters may adopt is set out below.
Figure 1.8 - General environmental management principles by which a converter may choose to operate