I don’t know about you, but with a big family and friends gathering over the holidays, the question “What do you do, again?” comes up. I answer, and the inquiry ends, as people don’t quite understand the role of packaging.

This year, sitting around the dinner table on Christmas Day, I was challenged. “Why isn’t more being done to get rid of plastics?” “What are the manufacturers actually doing, as we see the constant images of plastics on beaches …”

These questions didn’t have a good enough answer — for removing plastics that aren’t recyclable, or as one brought up, the use of boxes by way of ecommerce — isn’t shifting fast enough for consumers. This is because they don’t actually SEE the changes being made, of PET plastics becoming recyclable, lightweighting and right-boxing so large boxes aren’t used for small items through online purchasing platforms.

I explained as best I could, and then the conversation turned to rubber tires. And why there are so many tires that go to waste. We could grind them down, use them for roads — “They do that in Arizona I think.” Not being a wealth of knowledge on tires, I brought up that perhaps it is due to the negative digits up here in Northern Michigan. I was then asked if I could get that to happen, to try it.

Now there was some wine and fancy drinks at the table, but I was amazed at how some of these familiar faces don’t seem to understand what we do, how we do it and why it doesn’t — voilà! — change overnight. This, however is an “aha” moment: why consumer packaged goods companies and their suppliers must let consumers know on product labeling that the bottle they are purchasing can be recycled, the aluminum soup can is BPA-free and that even some labels are removable for recycling.

I realized that it is no easy task to convince people that packaging professionals are doing their due diligence to change these issues for a healthier environment. And that honestly, consumers push the changes that are currently happening. I believe, just by nature, that consumer skepticism will continue. After all, nobody knew about the bisphenol A in can liners, or that plastic shopping bags would be seen as a no-no and shoppers would bring their own fabric bags into stores.

So we are technically the scape goats. And that is OK, because we know that we are moving forward on advances in sustainable inks, plant-based packaging materials — and the machinery that allows for faster changeover with higher production speeds, less downtime and more flexible equipment.

While flipping through this issue, stop at “Latest Packagng Innovations Changing the Rules” on page 22, and “OEE and a Multi-Metric Approach” on page 33.

I hope you enjoy this issue. And hey, about those tires …