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Setting the Stage! Foodservice Packaging & FPI

During FPI’s Spring Meeting earlier this month, one of our sessions included speakers from several California-based environmental groups, including As You Sow, California Product Stewardship Council, California Resource Recycling Association and Californians Against Waste. It was the first time these folks had been invited to an FPI meeting, so I took the occasion to provide them – and FPI’s newest members – with an introduction to our industry’s long history, and FPI’s role since we were established over 80 years ago. I thought it was a pretty good overview and worth repeating. Here’s a transcript of my comments…

 

         

Foodservice packaging was invented in the early 1900s to protect public health and sanitation. Single-use cups replaced the common drinking cup, playing a role in eradicating many communicable diseases of the day. Our industry’s role in helping to provide foods and beverages in a safe and sanitary manner is just as important today.

Over the years, we’ve seen the industry grow, with new products and new materials designed to meet the needs of restaurants, cafeterias, coffee shops and other eating and drinking establishments. We have never seen so many foodservice packaging options as we do today, and we hope that the free market that encourages competition and drives innovation continues for many years to come.

However, with that growth have come challenges for the industry. But with each challenge, the industry and its association has seen opportunities.

For the packaging industry – and not just foodservice packaging, which is, after all, less than six percent of all packaging – the greatest challenge and opportunity for action is the management of valuable resources.

Advancements like lightweighting and use of recycled content have meant a reduction in the amount of raw materials we use, whether paper, plastic or aluminum, to make our packaging. But, that only goes so far.

What can we do to make sure consumers can recycle or compost our products? Or send them to an energy recovery facility? And, perhaps more importantly, how do we educate consumers so they don’t toss our products out their car windows, on the sidewalks or on the beaches. Our industry has taken these challenges very seriously.

While many companies have pursued their own individual efforts to address these challenges, there is a role for the industry’s association, as well.

FPI’s Paper Recovery Alliance and Plastics Recovery Group have been dedicated to overcoming the barriers that hamper increased recovery of our products. We knew when we started this project back in 2011 that it would be a long journey. After all, developing an economically-viable and sustainable recovery system is a complex challenge with many facets, issues and partners. By the end of this year, we will have invested one million dollars in this project, and the companies involved – raw material suppliers, packaging converters and foodservice brands – should be recognized for their dedication.

While we’ve been hard at work for several years on the recovery challenge, FPI is also considering what role we can – and should – play in reducing litter and marine debris. Since research shows that the vast majority of litter happens as a direct result of consumer behavior, how do we influence that behavior? How do we convince that quick service restaurant customer to recycle or compost that cup or container instead of tossing it out a window? We’re talking now to Keep America Beautiful about just this topic. We’re also participating in the EPA’s Trash Free Waters program, which has brought together various packaging organizations and local officials to discuss potential projects.

Because the challenges we face today are not unique to foodservice packaging, we often work in concert with many allies. In addition to our long-time friends like the American Chemistry Council, the American Forest and Paper Association and the National Restaurant Association, we’ve expanded our network to include folks like the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Biodegradable Products Institute, US Composting Council and numerous others.

We are extending our collective hand to several new organizations, with whom we have had little or no interaction. But, hopefully, that is beginning to change.

We hope to identify common goals and areas of potential collaboration with these organizations to achieve these goals.

Those were the comments that set the stage for the speakers’ presentations and subsequent discussion in California. Now the real work begins. Stay tuned for progress as it happens!

Posted By Lynn M. Dyer (President) | 5/13/2014 2:33:42 PM
 

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