Sam’s Club executive addresses sustainable packaging at L&NW webinar

Published December 4, 2007
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Label & Narrow Web produced a webinar last week on “Green Labeling: What Converters Should Know About Sustainability”, an event that featured experts from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and from Sam’s Club, an arm of Wal-Mart.

The webinar was sponsored by UPM Raflatac. Jouko Lähepelto, senior vice president of the Americas for the company, gave some statistics about climate change and the effects it will have on our planet. He also discussed the challenges associated with creating a sustainable environment. He introduced participants to UPM ProFi, a new construction material made of label waste. He believes UPM ProFi provides the industry with an environmentally sound alternative for the disposal of matrix and liner waste.

Anne Johnson, director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, explained that problems caused by the lack of sustainability aren’t just environmental. She cited social unrest, higher product costs, larger economic impacts, and health concerns as other issues.

The future is a concern, according to Johnson, because areas of the world that haven’t had a large impact on resources in the past are trying to bring their quality of life to the levels of citizens in North America. Johnson said that as Asian countries, which have large populations, increase their use of natural resources, the environmental impact will be huge. China has already overtaken the US in greenhouse gas emissions.

Johnson believes packaging has become a focus for sustainability because it uses a significant amount of materials and has a relatively short life cycle. She said that instead of looking at the production philosophy of take, make and waste, companies should have more of a cycle in mind where products are manufactured, used and materials come back to be reused.

Amy Zettlemoyer-Lazar, Sam’s Club director of packaging and co-manager of Wal-Mart’s Sustainable Value Network, spoke about Wal-Mart’s plans for sustainability. The company has a well known scorecard that will begin measuring the sustainability performance of its suppliers early in 2008. She shared the goals: to be 100 percent populated with active items by February 1, 2008, have a 5 percent reduction of packaging by 2013 and have $3.4 billion in cost savings by 2013.

According to Zettlemoyer-Lazar, Wal-Mart’s scorecard has several components, including material health and safety, product to package ratio, cube utilization (the product volume divided by total selling unit volume), transportation, recycled content, recovery value, renewable energy, and innovation.

The webinar is available for viewing and listening through the Label & Narrow Web web site.

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