Canada-based packaging organization PAC NEXT is producing The Ultimate Packaging Optimization Course, scheduled October 15 at TerraCycle’s Trenton, New Jersey facility.
Alan Blake, executive director of PAC NEXT, told FoodProductiondaily the course is designed to give packaging professionals a big-picture view of the design and execution process.
“The course takes a very pragmatic look at the huge challenges of optimizing package design across the entire value chain from initial design through to the packaging’s next life,” he said. “Then, we add in the excitement and uncertainty of a diverse waste management infrastructure, the increasing trend for on-line retailing, and the opportunity for innovative technology to reduce food waste.”
The one-day course will consist of four separate workshops, each tackling a different area. The first part will lay out the reasons for optimization, the second will focus on designing for recovery and recycling, the third designing for optimal waste reduction, and the final component will touch upon bringing all the pieces together.
Blake said class leaders will discuss the tools necessary to develop a system for managing and tracking the packaging programs in their operations. Also, he said, attendees will benefit from getting together to discuss packaging challenges and techniques with each other.
“It presents a great opportunity to meet fellow packaging pros and to brainstorm as a group optimization solutions for current packaging executions,” he said.
Blake said packaging optimization is crucial because it helps food firms and brand owners make the most of their resources, and maximize a product’s overall sustainability.
“Packaging optimization is important because it emphasizes the need to design the package optimally for the entire value chain from raw materials, through manufacturing, transportation, in-home use and next life,” he said. “This is compared to just focussing on one aspect of the design and the watch-out of not taking account of potential unforeseen consequences (e.g. lightweighting) that lead to increased package damages and product loss.”
Finding a balance
A key goal of optimization, Blake said, is finding the best balance between the various goals of a package—shelf presence, sustainability, cost, and more.
“There are many parameters that have to be taken into account to ensure a package performs as designed—from the fundamentals of protecting the product, to easy and convenient access and dispensing of the product, and appropriate next life, preferably re-use, recycle, or energy recovery rather than landfill or incineration,” he said.
Blake added one challenge in the journey toward optimized packaging is fulfilling the need to better inform decision makers, brand owners, package designers on developers on design requirements to optimize for recycling.
“We must engage stakeholders across the value chain so they talk about what needs to be true to minimize the environmental footprint of a package throughout its life cycle,” he said. “Then, perhaps we can avoid the frustrating discussion about why a package is recyclable but cannot actually be recycled.”
The session will touch upon ways packaging can be engineered to prevent food waste. Class presenters will cover technologies such as modified atmosphere packaging, anti-microbial and anti-fungal additives, and the materials’ potential impact on increasing shelf life and preventing product loss; and present case studies from different brand owners.