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Ohio’s Journey to Sustainable Food Packaging

sustainable food packaging

The Sustainable Food Packaging Initiative (SFPI) has been diligently engaged in the mission of developing Ohio as a world leader in innovative sustainable food packaging and circularity.

It’s been a busy few years for a hub of packaging professionals that came together to see what collaboration could produce, which all started with a laminated paperboard conundrum in bacon packaging. This group included those with packaging and materials know-how, with access to emerging technologies and applied science. In a nutshell, they understand packaging challenges from various angels and contribute their expertise.

Questions Driving the sustainable food packaging conversation

If we ask this simple question, “what should a package do?” we might land on protecting and advertising as two top functions that all food producers need from a package.

Yet we might have left simple behind as today the questions dive deep into the sustainable nature of packaging design and materials.

  • Is the packaging in line with stated values and goals? 
  • Can the impact of the packaging be calculated, verified and communicated?
  • Is there a bona fide end-of-life plan for the packaging entering the waste stream?
  • How is legislation and other external pressures guiding packaging decisions?   

And transitioning is a great verb to describe the direction that packaging is taking at this moment.

Collaboration is the key

As shared earlier, this was initiated by looking at the problem of a coated paper bacon board and wanting to move to a fully recyclable alternative. One motivating factor was the 14% trim waste generated in the board production. So what one company had been looking to solve for decades came together in around nine months of concerted effort. And trim waste is now recycled back into material production, rather than landfilled. 

Collaboration is evident in the various technologies that are being accessed, including the lightweighting of materials with the injection of gasses into plastic production. Opportunities also exist for collaboration in a new R&D center opening in Washington Court, in SW Ohio, with the Plastilene Group’s investment in production scale equipment available for product development. Use-inspired research is contributing too, with the Ohio State University’s Alternative Materials lab showing how discarded waste materials, such as coffee grounds, can offer sustainable and bio-derived raw ingredients in packaging production.

“We are on to something here. A model for how to approach problem-solving in food packaging transformation.” – Dan Hutcheson, SFPI Visionary

As Dan Hutcheson (a driving force behind the formation of the Sustainable Food Packaging Initiative) would share, this collaboration could be a model for approaching problem-solving in food packaging transformation.

It’s an ecosystem

Future posts from SFPI will highlight products that are delivering on challenging questions like:

Can we push the boundaries of material performance?

Can we substitute problematic materials in packaging?

Is there a market for these ideas? 

(Wait till you see the bread bag that could be game changing in food preservation!)

The work of SFPI to date has shown that innovation has no place in isolation. The members have been open to advancing packaging solutions by communicating and sharing freely and creating an ecosystem that is generating and exchanging value to the complex nature of today’s packaging

What’s Next for sustainable food packaging?

This initiative will have an Ohio-focus, with Ohio packaging manufacturers finding innovative solutions for Ohio food producers, keeping supply near, and tapping into the leading edge research coming from Ohio labs.

We will share further stories on the assessment, redesign and building out of products that will lead to the transformation of food packaging. That is the excitement around SFPI, around materials and production and solutions. CIFT will be out there, making connections with Ohio food producers and sharing this story of collaboration and inviting others to join and asking….

What solutions are out there for transitioning your packaging? Let SFPI think them through with you.

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