By Bob Lilienfeld, guest columnist and Editor, The ULS ReportThe formation of AMERIPEN can uniquely benefit the entire industry.
Almost 17 years ago I wrote an essay for The New York Times, debunking a number of environmental myths, among them the one in which packaging is considered to be America’s largest solid waste issue. In doing so, I also had to debunk the myth that recycling would solve all of our environmental problems.
I borrowed an old Japanese saying to make my point: To a person with a hammer, all problems look like a nail. We were trying to use one tool in our impact mitigation toolbox to solve all of our environmental dilemmas. It doesn’t work that way.
I’m happy to say that the packaging industry is finally waking up to this fact. There’s a new organization in town and it’s called AMERIPEN, which stands for the American Institute for Packaging and the Environment. What makes AMERIPEN unique is the fact that it includes not just CPGs and converters, but material suppliers of all stripes – plastic resin producers, paper and paperboard manufacturers, metal can fabricators, and glass makers. It also includes many of their trade associations and a variety of NGOs, academic institutions and government organizations – all working together to understand and promote the environmental, economic and social benefits of packaging.
What a concept!
What makes me most excited is the growing awareness that packaging decisions must start at the top of the value chain and be based upon the answers to two simple questions:
- What is the specific application and
- What must the proposed packaging accomplish?
This approach means that rather than diluting resources to fight each other, the various materials advocates can combine their resources to effectively raise the perception of the entire industry. What’s more, doing so should lead to a very important conclusion: In the world of sustainable packaging, different materials have strengths and weaknesses that can only be accurately assessed at the application level.
In other words, the discussion regarding whether glass or plastic is more sustainable is moot. The real question becomes: for this particular application, which material or combination of materials will provide maximum product value with minimal economic and environmental waste?
I’m excited to be helping AMERIPEN stretch its strategic marketing and communications wings. I have been very impressed with the professionalism, integrity, and collaborative spirit of its members. If you’re not a member, please drop by www.ameripen.org and consider joining. The entire industry will benefit.
Robert M. Lilienfeld is a Fox TV environmental commentator and Editor of The ULS (Use Less Stuff) Report, a newsletter dedicated to conserving resources and reducing waste. Along with Dr. William J. Rathje, he co-authored the book Use Less Stuff: Environmental Solutions for Who We Really Are and the 1995 landmark New York Times Op-Ed piece entitled Six Enviro-Myths. His website is Use-less-stuff.com