New book addresses excess waste through packaging redesign
Cover of Szaky's new book

New book addresses excess waste through packaging redesign

The book aims to be a primer on packaging for a circular economy.

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February 7, 2019
Edited by Theresa Cottom

Scott Cassel, the chief executive officer and founder of Product Stewardship Institute (PSI), Boston, has joined forces with Tom Szaky, the founder and CEO of the Trenton, New Jersey-based waste solutions company TerraCycle, on the mission to eliminate waste. The two worked together on Szaky’s recently released fourth book, The Future of Packaging: From Linear to Circular, to offer a roadmap out of the the pileup of excessive waste through packaging redesign.

More than 50 million tons of packaging and paper products are disposed of in the U.S. each year, representing a missed opportunity to recover valuable resources, PSI says. For over a decade, PSI says it has sought circular solutions by bringing stakeholders together to advance product stewardship for packaging with a focus on producer responsibility. PSI says Cassel's chapter in The Future of Packaging dives deeper into the rationale behind this approach and the benefits to be gained from holding brand owners responsible for reducing the impacts of their packaging choices.

"By sharing diverse perspectives from governments, brand owners and waste management firms, this book powerfully transforms the issues we've avoided into ones we are motivated to tackle head-on," Cassel says. "My chapter calls for a paradigm shift in producer responsibility, placing waste and materials management in the hands of the producer as an asset, not a burden."

Designed to be a primer on packaging design for the circular economy, The Future of Packaging integrates perspectives from Szaky and 15 innovators in sustainability - including government leaders, corporations and international waste management experts - to create a guide that PSI says can help everyone from a small startup to a large corporation move towards a future of growth with less waste.

The co-authors for The Future of Packaging: From Linear to Circular are:

  • Attila Turos, the former lead of the Future of Production Initiative at World Economic Forum
  • Christine "Christie" Todd Whitman, the former governor of New Jersey and former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Jean-Marc Boursier, the group senior executive vice president of finance and recycling recovery in Northern Europe for SUEZ
  • Scott Cassel, the founder and CEO of Product Stewardship Institute and president of Global Product Stewardship Council
  • Stephen Sikra, the global lead for packaging material science and technology at Procter & Gamble
  • Ron Gonen, the cofounder and managing partner of Closed Loop Partners and cofounder and former CEO of Recyclebank
  • Michael Manna, the founder and managing director of organic recycling solutions
  • Chris Daly, the chief sustainability officer of PepsiCo Western Europe
  • Lisa McTigue Pierce, the executive editor of Packaging Digest
  • Tony Dunnage, the group director of manufacturing sustainability with Unilever
  • KoAnn Skrzyniarz, the founder and CEO of Sustainable Life Media and Sustainable Brands
  • Raphael Bemporad and Liz Schroeter Courtney of BBMG
  • Virginie Helias, the vice president of global sustainability at Procter & Gamble
  • Lisa Jennings, the vice president of global hair acceleration at Procter & Gamble

"Acknowledging the tall order of changing course away from climate catastrophe means addressing it from several angles," Szaky says. "I have had the privilege to co-author this book with the best minds in the global packaging movement—folks who have been championing this new frame of thinking for decades. Together, they provide the tools for anyone, consumer to corporation, interested in innovating upwards out of this mess and into abundance."

Called "a crash course for designing for the circular economy" by Unilever CEO Paul Polman, The Future of Packaging contextualizes the historical and economic factors that spurred modern society's "business as usual" preoccupation with disposability, explains the current state of manufacturing, recycling, and resource management and encourages critical thinking about the true function of packaging.

Topics include the evolution of plastic and recommendations and "watch-outs" for producing and consuming in the circular economy. For instance, biodegradable and bio-based plastics may not be as sustainable as marketed, black plastics are typically non-recyclable, and though lighter in weight, packaging such as pouches and cartons also take a toll on the planet.

To learn more about PSI's work to advance producer responsibility for packaging and paper products, visit www.productstewardship.us/Packaging.