Reports estimate that 33 percent of all food produced worldwide is wasted. Sustainable packaging practices are one step in the right direction, and adhesives suppliers help make that happen. Although they represent less than 3 percent of total packaging costs, adhesives play a critical role in creating sustainable packaging.

Below, Shawn Lee, global marketing manager, packaging solutions at H.B. Fuller, talks about how adhesives reduce food waste and further sustainability efforts, and why flimsy labels are bad for everyone.

FE: How do adhesives enable sustainable packaging that reduces food waste?

Shawn Lee:The right adhesive can advance sustainability goals and overcome multiple challenges. Take specialized adhesives. They are designed for less absorbent recycled material and can eliminate reduced grip or penetration issues, allowing companies to use more sustainable packaging materials.

The use of adhesives also decreases food waste by providing permeability, or barriers, to gases or moisture. Adhesives have historically provided significant heat and cold resistance for storage of produce and frozen foods as well, from processed to protein.

FE: How can manufacturers avoid piecemeal solutions, which address one problem but ignore or even create problems in another area?

Lee:To avoid piecemeal solutions, there must be a systems approach to packaging materials and processes. This includes identifying adhesives as a major contributing factor to success. While adhesives are only a small fraction of the overall packaging materials, they can have a significant impact on the sustainability and efficacy of packaging.

For example, thinner plastic beverage bottles may reduce material costs, but if you can’t make their labels stick to the flimsy plastic container, then you’ve created a whole new set of problems.

Testing before final production can also limit piecemeal solutions. Manufacturers can test substrates and/or application equipment on pilot scales at facilities, such as our Packaging Center of Excellence.

FE: What are global food and beverage companies doing to improve their sustainability?

Lee:Corporate sustainability initiatives have become increasingly popular. The biggest initiative is in the rigid packaging reduction related to corrugate reduction. Most recently, Coca-Cola developed its PlantBottle technology, which replaces some of the petroleum-derived PET in beverage bottles with material from renewable plant sources.

For more information: Kimberlee Sinclair, H.B. Fuller,,