Sustainable Packaging Resources

Oct 02, 2007
Volume 31, Issue 10

Hallie Forcinio
When it comes to designing and sourcing sustainable packaging, there are no simple answers. Sustainable packaging depends on a complex interaction of environmental, social, and economic considerations, which are influenced by geography and other factors such as renewability, compostability, biodegradability, weight, and performance.

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition

Fortunately, a number of organizations are at work in this area and can provide guidance. The Sustainable Packaging Coaltion (Charlottesburg, VA,, an organization with about 150 members drawn primarily from packaging producers and consumer products companies, has published Design Guidelines for Sustainable Packaging. It also provides members with environmental technical briefs describing the environmental impacts related to the production, use, and disposal/reuse/recycling of packaging materials. In addition, the group collects and disseminates sustainable packaging success stories, publishes a newsletter, and hosts an annual conference. It also is developing the next generation of the MERGE package design screening software. The MERGE software rates package designs according to seven criteria and provides an immediate comparison.

Optimized package design

Several firms provide software to optimize package design and pallet patterns to improve cube efficiency, ensure appropriate stacking strength, and optimize truck loading. Optimizing package size and shape from concept to primary package through shipper, intermediate pack, and pallet stacking can cut packaging and transportation costs as much as 20% (Tops Pro package design and palletization software, TOPS Engineering Corp., Richardson, TX,; Cape Pack software, Cape Systems, Inc., Allen, TX,


Other resources include the Sustainable Packaging Alliance (Melbourne, Australia,, Waste & Resources Action Programme (London, UK,, Industry Council for Packaging & the Environment (Reading, Berkshire, UK,, Sustainable Packaging Task Group of the Institute of Packaging Professionals (Naperville, IL,, Biodegradable Products Institute (New York, NY,, Natural Resources Defense Council (New York, NY,, School of Packaging at Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI,, Clemson University (Clemson, SC,, Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI, and the Forest Stewardship Council (Bonn, Germany,

Research and reports

Finally, a number of references provide guidance to help expedite the development of sustainable packaging (Sustainability & Sustainable Packaging study and Understanding & Executing Sustainability Initiatives & Sustainable Packaging Programs study, Packaging Strategies, West Chester, PA,; Future of Global Markets for Biodegradable Packaging report, Pira International Ltd., Leatherhead, Surrey, UK,

Hallie Forcinio is Pharmaceutical Technology's Packaging Forum editor, 4708 Morningside Drive, Cleveland, OH 44109, tel. 216.351.5824, fax 216.351.5684,

Click here for the full story, "Packagers Pursue Sustainability."

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