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Interview with WPO

We caught up with Nerida Kelton, Vice President Sustainability & Save Food of WPO who will be presenting at next month's  conference. 
Read on to hear her thoughts on the trends, challenges and opportunities currently within the sustainable packaging industry, and why people should be attending the Sustainability in Packaging Asia conference. 

Q. You are going to be delivering a presentation on "Global Circular & Sustainable Packaging Design including best practice examples", why do you think this is an important topic now?
As natural resources are rapidly diminishing, pollution and GHG emissions worsen, oceans and waterways are filling up with packaging waste and integral ecosystems are becoming irreparably damaged, the world has been put on notice that the time for talk is over
The time has come to rethink the way packaging is designed. This is an exciting time to take bold moves and rethink every aspect of how packaging is designed, used and ultimately provide long-lasting environmental value.  The change is being driven by consumers who want to see circular packaging that has designed out waste, is reusable, incorporates recycled content, is truly recyclable and all unnecessary packaging and problematic materials are eliminated.

Q. What do you think will be the biggest challenges to packaging sustainability in the next 12-24 months? How is your company/organization dealing with this challenge?
The WPO has over 64 member countries across the globe so the challenges and barriers differ by region, but at the end of the day everyone is trying to lower their environmental impacts; through packaging and product. The most important aspect is that we need to ensure that packaging designers and engineers across the world are designing out waste at the start, moving to recyclable and recoverable materials in the regions that the product is sold in, minimising single use plastic wherever possible and ensuring that there is a shift towards mono materials for appropriate products. We need to ensure that the packaging is designed sustainably from the start.

Q. What does your company/organization hope to achieve over the next 5 years with regards to the future of packaging industry?
Helping our members to better understand how to design packaging that is more circular and sustainable is the number one objective for the Sustainability Portfolio. The WPO have also developed tools to help guide packaging designers and engineers that are available for everyone to use. This includes the Global Packaging Design for Recycling Guide which is now available in multiple languages and the first 21x Country Waste Stream Mapping Guides that determine country-specific recyclability for all materials.
The WPO (World Packaging Organisation –, in conjunction with FH Campus Wien University of Applied Sciences, Austria, Circular Analytics and ECR Community, have launched the 21x countries 'Waste Stream Mapping Guides' as the second stage of the Global Packaging Design for Recycling Guide program. The countries contemplated are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States of America.
Design for recycling is part of a circular product design and represents an important basis for holistic sustainability assessment. Circular Design is only effective when the relevant collection, sorting and recycling streams exist. From the mapping of the Waste Streams we can better determine technically recyclable packaging types in countries across the world.”
In order to be able to apply recyclable packaging design, a certain fundamental knowledge of sorting and recycling processes is necessary. Packaging must, therefore, be suitable for state-of-the-art sorting and recycling processes in addition to its basic functions (e.g., storage, transport, product protection, product presentation and convenience).”
The Waste Stream Mapping Guides are essential global decision-making tools that will enable anyone to access current information on technically recyclable packaging across the world. They will help those involved in the development of packaging to not only plan in accordance with regional technical recyclability, but to also improve the design at the start to meet the regional requirements, or limitations, for collection, sorting, recovery and recyclability. Using these tools at the start of an NPD process will also bring significant opportunities to eliminate non-recyclable packaging before it is placed on the market.
The Waste Stream Mapping Guides also come with a ‘How to Use Guide’ for the Global Packaging Design for Recycling Guide so that they can be used hand-in-hand when packaging is being designed. These guides will also be extremely useful to assist companies who are exporting their products and are unsure as to what is technically recyclable, conditionally recyclable or non-recyclable in the country in which the product will be sold. This information will help them to meet the packaging design parameters for that country to ensure recyclability.”
The 21x Country Waste Stream Mapping Guides and the How to Use Guide are now available on the WPO website
The project team is currently working on the next round of Country Waste Stream Mapping Guides, which will also be made available in 2022.

Q. As consumers and end-users continue to push for more sustainable/greener solutions, what do you think is the biggest concern regarding packaging?
The most important concern from the WPO's perspective is about having a science-driven discussion that provides a balanced approach to designing packaging that is not only fit-for-purpose but also offers the lowest environmental impact possible. Encouraging the use of Lifecycle Assessment is also very important when re-designing packaging to be more sustainable and circular, to ensure that the selected packaging is the right choice for the product and its value chain.

Q. What do you think will be some of the most interesting advancements in materials or packaging types in the near future?
There are so many and this is an exciting time for the industry. Incorporating Recycled Content into packaging is critical to ensure that the packaging is circular by design, moving to reusable and refillable packaging, shifting to mono materials and also renewable materials are standouts at the moment.
Q. What sort of partnerships and collaborations do you think will be necessary to drive the industry forward on sustainability?
Everyone needs to collaborate from the beginning. From materials suppliers, to converters, to manufacturers and end users. Everyone has a role to play.

Q. Why do you feel it's important for companies to attend the Sustainability in Packaging Asia?  Sustainable and Circular Packaging design is not a 'trend', it is the way that packaging must be designed so having events like this are important to have collaborative open discussions that enable attendees to learn from others across the globe.

Q. What are you most looking forward to about attending the Sustainability in Packaging Asia 2022 conference?
Learning about all of the new packaging innovations that are available