My green crystal ball reveals five aspects to keep tabs on.

By Bob Lilienfeld, guest columnist and Editor, The ULS Report

It’s almost the New Year, so it’s time for a little sustainable packaging prognostication. Here are my predictions regarding key issues and trends:

Energy Recovery– With Waste Management moving from building landfills to mining them, energy recovery (i.e, “waste to energy”) from food scraps, paper and plastic will finally start being broadly accepted. This is especially good news for the plastics industry, since energy recovery is technically a form of recycling. It’s also great news for food retailers, since about 50% of their waste is agricultural. Now, it will hit the recyclable column and make a huge contribution to their zero waste initiatives.

Biopolymers– Growing awareness that compostability and biodegradability are largely technical labels, rather than actual recycling options, will put a damper on biopolymer growth.  There will also be a growing list of states looking to legislate and regulate the use of these terms. Consumer backlash is also possible.

Bob Lilienfeld

Extended Package/Producer Responsibility – With increased acceptance of energy recovery as a recycling option, EPR pressures should begin to decline. This is very much in line with the history of the German Green Dot program. Once energy recovery options were added to less-than-hoped-for results within traditional recycling methodologies, Klaus Toepfer and the Ministry of the Environment declared success.

Waste Reduction– As the material-neutral AMERIPEN organization ramps up its efforts, it will do what the material-focused trade associations can’t: promote the fact that sustainable packaging -- regardless of whether it is paper, plastic, glass or metal -- reduces waste by insuring that the products it contains are stored, transported, distributed, and consumed efficiently.

Value Chain Perspective– I wrote about this in a previous column, touting ITW’s Sustainable Packaging Group as a pioneer in the quest to deliver large scale, value chain-wide material and energy savings. Look for other industry leaders, like Sealed Air, to follow. It just makes good business sense.

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