By: Bill McCool
Last week, we headed to Boston for the members-only Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) conference, and like the fashion brand and their iconic hip-dad-jacket from the 80s, there was a lot to love.
Attendees had the opportunity to tour Converse HQ, the Harpoon Brewery and Kuering Green Mountain and see what they’re doing around sustainable packaging, but also the Billerica Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) where visitors got to see just how their recycled materials are collected—and rejected.
But that’s not all— there were numerous panels around renewable and reusable materials, presentations on how businesses can make a case for sustainability and reducing plastic waste, and discussions on the health of our oceans.
Here are some of the best things we saw at SPC Boston.
Essentials of Sustainable Packaging
Plenty of brands want to go sustainable. You can’t throw a rock these days without hearing about how giants like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s are trying to use renewable or recycled materials in their packaging. While every major brand seems to be saying they’re going to go fully sustainable by 2030, transitioning to the right packaging can be difficult.
That’s why SPC has introduced the Essentials of Sustainable Packaging, online and in-person training classes for brands that want, “an opportunity to bring a company’s entire staff up to a common level of understanding about how sustainability relates to packaging.” These classes not only make a compelling argument for large brands and startups to advocate for sustainable packaging, but they also show you how to design for optimization and recycling recovery.
You go to a conference, and you want some high-end swag. We totally get it.
Well, every SPC attendee received one of Cupanion’s latest bottles from their Ocean collection. Made of the unbreakable glass-like Tritan, this water bottle is BPA-free and is dishwasher safe. But the real selling point is their app experience. Download the Cupanion Fill It Forward app, and every time you scan the Fill It Forward tag when refilling your bottle, a cup of clean water is given to someone in need. Working alongside WaterAid, they’ve now given out nearly 3 million cups of water to those in communities who need access to clean water, hygiene, and sanitation. Even better? 20 fills, and you’ve already offset the creation of the bottle.
“Recycling isn’t a service.”
This was said by Dylan de Thomas of The Recycling Partnership, a national nonprofit looking to improve our recycling streams. In general, taxpayers need to stop complaining about how much recycling costs as there is an intrinsic value in collecting these materials as they are essentially feedstock for an entire industry.
One would think that sitting in on a panel of recycling experts and waste management types would be about as exciting as watching competitive yogurt eating, but if you take a look at the abysmal numbers behind our recycling rates, you’ll realize that there is a real crisis happening.
It’s 100% voluntary for consumers to learn how to manage their trash, and while consumers need to do more in educating themselves on recycling within their own municipality, brands and designers also need to step up and bring waste management streams into the conversation in order to create more closed-loop systems.
During a reception at the New England Aquarium, conference goers had an opportunity to tour the Tara, a research schooner that has been navigating the oceans for more than a decade. Tara recently wrapped up a mission where they crisscrossed the Pacific for two years examining the coral reef and the effects of plastic waste on our oceans. Though docked, lifejackets were discouraged, but boat shoes and a hefty dose of Christopher Cross were definitely fair game on the aluminum boat.
Tara’s Executive Director Romain Troublé also spoke at the conference on a special panel about plastic waste in the ocean and shared some of their findings, like that bacteria can stick to plastic and spread toxins or that few bioplastics are degradable in seawater. Even more painful to hear was that plastic is literally everywhere in the ocean and that it’s not all just floating around in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Bill McCool is a writer and editor based out of Los Angeles. Though new to the world of design, he has always been a storyteller by trade and he seeks to inspire and cultivate a sense of awe with the work and artists he profiles. When he’s not winning over his daughters with the art of the Dad joke, he is usually working on a pilot, watching the Phillies, or cooking an elaborate meal for his wife.
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