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Retail Packaging Workshop Tackles Packaging in the Waste Stream

Friday, September 05, 2014   (0 Comments)
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Tukwila, WA – On Thursday, August 28, 2014 at Bunzl’s Distribution Center in Sumner, WA, over 60 recycling and waste professionals attended Washington State Recycling Association’s (WSRA) August Washington Recycles Every Day (WRED) event, “Upstream: The Story of Retail Packaging.” 

Packaging constitutes as much as one-third of the non-industrial solid waste stream in the United States, and the recycling industry is often unable to advance technologies and systems for the collection, sorting and reprocessing of packaging materials quickly enough to keep up with the vast array of new containers emerging in the waste stream. This educational workshop brought together members of Washington’s recycling and packaging industries to begin a dialogue about how packaging is sourced, how consumer behaviors drive the types of plastics and packaging used, and how some retailers, manufacturers and policymakers are working to change the norms and standards of the future. 


The workshop began with a presentation from Susan Thoman, Vice President of Corporate Development at Cedar Grove, and Nicole Bartruff, Vice President of Packaging at Willis Marketing, who gave an overview of how a packaging sales company and composting manufacturer came together to discuss and solve the challenges of packaging throughout the waste stream. With representatives from each level of the supply chain in the room, the tone was set for a day of collaboration and understanding around packaging.

Phil Bjornson, Sales Professional at Bunzl, followed with an overview of Bunzl’s history and went into detail behind why so many different kinds of packaging exist. He explained that packaging has to be tailored to the individual product, and with so many products in the marketplace, an abundance of packaging inevitably follows. 

Terry Grill, Director of Sustainability for the Americas at SealedAir/Cryovac, then described the role of human safety and food preservation in retail packing. To ensure people don’t get sick when eating a certain product, she explained, it must be properly packaged for the various life phases it will go through before it hits the kitchen table. On the other hand, since the average family wastes 25 percent of the food they purchase in the United States, food packaging needs to be able to prolong the life of the food that it holds. According to Grill, 60 percent of food that is wasted can be prevented with proper packaging.

Following the morning’s presentations, attendees toured Bunzl’s 260,000 square foot warehouse that turns its shelves 13 times per year, and visited with packaging vendors for a hands-on presentation of the various types of packaging found in the food industry. 


The event wrapped up with a tour of the Deli, Bakery, and Produce departments of Auburn store of Northwest supermarket chain Haggen, and an overview of the company’s sustainable history from Director of Food Service, Cheryl-Ann Jones.

“Municipal participants left with an understanding of the importance of food preservation and food safety, and were unaware of the challenges faced by retailers who are increasing their take-out options while convenience continues to be of paramount importance in our culture,” Thoman said. 

“On the other hand, packaging distributors walked away with an understanding of some of the solid waste misconceptions regarding the ‘recycling arrows’ on plastics, and about many of the limitations on markets and recycling.”

This event was sponsored by Cedar Grove Packaging, WNA, NatureWorks LLC and Willis Marketing, Inc.

To view photos from this event, please visit WSRA’s Facebook page. For more information on future WRED events, please go to Registration is now open for the last WRED event of the summer, the Future of Fiber II, which will take place on September 19, 2014 at Nippon Paper Mill in Port Angeles, WA.

The Washington State Recycling Association, formed in 1976, provides leadership, networking, advocacy and education to foster the expansion, diversity and economic vitality of recycling in support of sustainable resource management. WSRA “Washington Recycles Every Day” (WRED) events provide business connections and education throughout the local recycling industry. Additional events are planned around the state during the summer. Contact Washington State Recycling Association, 206-244-0311,



 Washington State Recycling Association | 545 Andover Park W, Ste 209, Tukwila, WA 98188 | 206.244.0311 |

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