Food Packaging
Is packaging waste off the radar?

March 3, 2004
/ Print / Reprints /
ShareMore
/ Text Size+
While source reduction and recycling programs have advanced elsewhere, U.S. efforts to reduce packaging waste are stuck on hold.

Earth Day observations still net piles of aluminum cans and other recyclables, but everyday efforts lag considerably. Source Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc.
In the not-too-distant past, food and beverage firms assumed it was just a matter of time before they faced a mandate to reduce packaging materials in landfills or pay stiff fines. They're still waiting, and the debris keeps piling up.

In 1960, Americans generated 2.7 lbs. of garbage per capita per day, exclusive of industrial and mining waste, according to the U.S. EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. Despite the subsequent start of the environmental movement, the figure rose to 3.7 lbs. by 1990 and 4.5 lbs. by 2000, when total tonnage reached 232 million, almost triple the amount from 40 years earlier.

Industry attempts to address the problem have enjoyed limited success. Eight years ago, DuPont Teijin Films launched a program in which packing materials, film waste, wooden pallets and "pretty much anything we send out" is picked up from customers' plants and brought to sorting depots operated by Greenpak, according to Ronald S. Auberger, manager of DuPont's returnable program. Positive cash flow is generated for DuPont, Greenpak and the customer, but selling the program is an uphill battle, Auberger says. With management ranks being thinned, finding a champion within client organizations can be difficult, he says.

Advocacy groups like the Container Recycling Institute (CRI) believe deposit laws are the most effective way to reverse the escalation in bottles, cans and other beverage containers that end up in landfills. Two years ago, Hawaii became the tenth state with a deposit-law. In Michigan, where a 10 cents per container deposit has been in effect since the 1970s, 95 percent of beverage containers are redeemed, according to Jenny Gitlitz, CRI's research director.

"We get criticized for targeting less than 5 percent of the waste stream, but recycling has to start somewhere," Gitlitz says. Based on figures from industry groups, recycling efforts are losing ground: only 31 percent of soft-drink containers were returned in 2002, down from 46 percent in 1995, and the "wasting rate" of PET resins equaled 2 billion lbs. in 2002, a fivefold increase in 10 years.

Environmental stewardship can be effective, as the Anheuser-Busch Recycling Corp. has demonstrated. The unit of the St. Louis brewery recycles 750 million lbs. of aluminum a year, more than the parent uses to package its beer. In addition, engineering design changes in 2002 shaved 1.3 million lbs. from the aluminum the corporation used for its cans. Other changes trimmed 10.5 million lbs. of paperboard used.

Besides aluminum, A-B recycles almost 4 billion lbs. of plastics, glass, wood and other materials. Those efforts and other environmental programs were cited by the Keep America Beautiful organization in bestowing its Vision for America Award last fall to A-B.

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Food Engineering Magazine.

Recent Articles by Kevin Higgins, Senior Editor

You must login or register in order to post a comment.

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

Fabulous Food Plant: Paramount Citrus

Learn more about this fabulous food plant in Food Engineering's article, found here.

Podcasts

Burns & McDonnell project manager RJ Hope and senior project engineer Justin Hamilton discuss the distinctions between Food Safety and Food Defense as well as the implications for food manufacturers of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
More Podcasts

What was your favorite part of FA&M 2014?

View Results Poll Archive

THE MAGAZINE

Food Engineering Magazine

Food engineering magazine 2014 april cover

2014 April

Catch a preview of the Powder and Bulk Show in this April 2014 edition of Food Engineering. Also, be sure to check out a coffee stick making a real stir and a major advancement in the the pet food industry.
Table Of Contents Subscribe

THE FOOD ENGINEERING STORE

Food-Authentication-Flyer-(.gif
Food Authentication Using Bioorganic Molecules

This text provides critical tools and data needed to augment routine food analysis and enhance food safety by aiding in the detection of counterfeit, and potentially deleterious, foods.

More Products

Clear Seas Research

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.

Food Master

Food Master Cover 2014Food Master 2014 is now available!

 

Where the buying process begins in the food and beverage manufacturing market. 

Visit www.foodmaster.com to learn more.

STAY CONNECTED

FE recent tweets

facebook_40.pngtwitter_40px.pngyoutube_40px.pnglinkedin_40px.png