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Food and Drink Companies Expect to Cut Packaging 19%

Food, beverage and consumer product makers expect that they will have eliminated four billion pounds of packaging waste nationwide between 2005 and 2020, according to two surveys conducted for the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA).

GMA said the reduction represents a 19 percent cut in the reporting companies’ average U.S. packaging weight.

The surveys (pdf) by McKinsey & Company and Georgetown Economic Services, found that the companies have already avoided 1.5 billion pounds of packaging waste since 2005, including 800 million pounds of plastic and more than 500 million pounds of paper. Firms answering the GMA survey said they achieved the 2005-2010 reductions through more than 180 distinct improvement initiatives, including packaging redesigns and increased use of recyclable materials.

No single product category dominated the packaging improvements, the GMA said.

“In eliminating this packaging from the supply chain, we are reducing a significant volume of waste that would otherwise end up in landfills, but the benefits go far beyond that.  Companies are reporting that packaging improvements are also enabling them to ship more units per truckload, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve resources such as water and energy,” GMA senior director of energy and environmental policy John Shanahan said.

The four billion pound packaging reduction would avoid carbon emissions equivalent to that released annually by 815,000 cars or 363,000 homes, the GMA said.

In other packaging news, MeadWestvaco Corp. (MWV) has announced that its Mebane, N.C. packaging plant has received Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Chain of Custody certification. The facility is already certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

MWV said that the dual third-party validations of its fiber sourcing practices help assure consumers of the company’s responsible environmental stewardship, and also ensures an economic supply of certified paperboard.

MWV’s community development and land management group manages forestlands owned by the company, and these all meet internationally recognized forest certification standards, the company said.

The Mebane plant supplies printed packaging materials to leading global pharmaceutical companies.

“These certifications are valued in the healthcare marketplace, where our business is truly global and where serving public needs is the central focus of our customers,” said Ted Lithgow, Ph.D., chief science officer of MWV Healthcare. “Stakeholders want assurance that stewardship is practiced and applied to health care solutions, and such certifications help indicate responsible partnership.”

MWV supplies packaging to companies in the healthcare, beauty and personal care, food, beverage, home and garden, tobacco, and commercial print industries. The company’s businesses also include consumer and office products, and specialty chemicals. MWV has 19,000 employees in 30 countries.

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