Packaging experts point out three more fundamentals to sustainability in addition to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

by Rick Lingle, Editor in Chief

An easy-to-remember mantra for sustainability strategies has long been the 3 Rs:
  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Recycle
I have discovered that there are more, in fact twice as many.

During a fall interview, H.J. Heinz Co.’s Michael Okoroafor, VP, Global Packaging Innovation and Execution, told me of a 4th R that Heinz follows related to sustainability: Renew, as in PlantBottle technology and other renewable materials Heinz uses for ketchup and other products.

“Depending on which product we’re delivering, we leverage some or all of [the Rs],” he said.

In a December interview, ConAgra Foods’ Gail Tavill, VP, Sustainable Development, told me of a 5th R: Remove. "Isn’t that just an extreme form of Reduce?" I asked.
“No, remove is a whole different strategy,” she responded. “We’ve had situations where we removed overwraps or bits of packaging that were unnecessary. Renew is an interesting one for me, one that has to be very thoughtfully considered such as when you move to a renewable material from something else.”
Now that we were up to 5 Rs, I figured that should cover things.

Well, it did for about a month, until I had an early 2012 chitchat with bioplastics expert Jeff Timm of Timm Consulting (www.linkedin.com/in/jefftimm). As we talked about bioplastics and sustainability, I casually mentioned with admittedly a small feeling of accomplishment that I had learned there were now 5 Rs. Timm responded that he had come across a 6th: Replace, which of course means substituting one material or structure for another. Replace requires different strategy and tactics versus the other five.

Thus, as of this article, there are now unofficially six Rs; if you know of any more, please email me at lingler@bnpmedia.com so we can all keep up to date.