Groups Propose Standards for Sustainable Packaging

Material handling and consumer goods companies are leading worldwide efforts to define sustainable transport packaging.

The Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA) and the Consumer Goods Forum recently announced separate efforts to propose standards for sustainable transport packaging.

MHIA has joined a new subcommittee of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), ISO/ TC 122/SC 4 : “Packaging and Environment,” which is proposing environmental standards for packaging based on European and Asian guidelines. The goal of the subcommittee is to offer guidance on maintaining packaging functionality while considering environmental effects.

In December 2009, SC 4 held its first meeting in Stockholm, Sweden. The group, comprised of 70 experts from 15 nations, proposed seven standards addressing general requirements, source reduction, reuse, recycling, energy recovery, chemical recovery and organic recovery. SC 4 expects the seven standards to be approved and published by 2012.

The next meeting of the international subcommittee is slated for May 31-June 4 in Beijing, China, with another meeting set for October in Japan.

In the United States, MHIA has formed a new committee, MH10.4: “Packaging and Environment,” which serves as a technical advisory group to SC 4. MHIA is seeking industry experts to participate in seven task groups that will work on each standard.

Meanwhile, the Global Packaging Project (GPP) of the Consumer Goods Forum has approved a suggested set of common definitions and principles for sustainable packaging. Jointly chaired by Roger Zellner, director of sustainability, research, development and quality at Kraft Foods, and Sonia Raja, Tesco’s head of packaging, the GPP is a project led by retailers and consumer goods manufacturers to develop a common industry language for packaging and sustainability and outline terms for pilot projects.

“The GPP started because retailers and manufacturers wanted a consistent approach to packaging of consumer goods,” explains Raja. “We need to find a common way of measuring environmental and sustainability improvements on packaging that can be used across the world.”

The group plans to release a report in November 2010 that details principles, indicators and metrics for packaging and sustainability in real-world business environments. GPP’s definitions and principles reflect the guidelines on packaging and sustainability produced by ECR Europe and the European Organization for Packaging and the Environment. The group is adapting and testing metrics previously released by the U.S. Sustainable Packaging Coalition.

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