If there was a color trend at NPE2012, green took home the prize.
Exhibitor after exhibitor seemed to showcase some type of sustainable product, process, and outlook with the usages of green carpets, signage, and plenty of green marketing material.
Shanna Moore, DuPont's director of global sustainability, called sustainability the current "phrase du jour" for the plastic packaging industry.
"If you walk down these halls, you see 'green that' and 'eco this,'" she said. "But there must be transparency behind the sustainable claims."
Moore said some companies could be guilty of jumping on the sustainable bandwagon, when in reality some of the claims might be considered greenwashing.
In order to make genuine progress toward sustainable manufacturing and to eliminate greenwashing, claims must be credible and fact-based, she said.
Moore called packaging the "silent hero" that enables society to have healthy and safe food. As a result, the industry can't afford to sacrifice proper protecting in the packaging for the sake of claiming sustainability. Instead, companies should look to adopting sustainable policies based on science-based decisions that still ensure proper packaging.
"When done right, sustainability is good business," Moore said.
If NPE2012 is any indication, it appears the push for sustainability in packaging is here to stay.
PET producer DAK Americas is known for its red and black color scheme.
However, at NPE2012, the company was all green, as its booth featured a green theme, along with all of its marketing material and handouts.
DAK Americas' vp of resin Jon McNaull said sustainability has become part of the company's overall strategy.
"We are not talking about marketing hype," he said. "But tangible actions to help reduce energy consumption, along with looking into biobased raw materials."
DAK Americas has established an R&D initiative to integrate PCR into its product offerings including resins and fibers.
The company established a partnership with Shaw Industries to create Clear Path Recycling, LLC, a joint venture to produce Recycled PET (RPET) from post-consumer PET bottles and containers. The RPET will, in turn, be used by DAK and Shaw in their polyester-based products. When fully operational, Clear Path will recycle more than 280 million pounds of PET bottles annually.
DAK Americas has an objective to achieve a zero landfill policy by 2016. From 2009 to 2011, the company reduced waste going to landfill by about 85%.
"It's an ambitious target, but we can already see progress," McNaull said.
John Maxwell, vp of sales for Octal, said third-party validation is key when it comes to promoting sustainable practices.
Octal became one of the first in the industry to track and publicly disclose the company's waste, water, and carbon footprint as well as an in-depth product-level carbon footprint.
Octal reports voluntarily and annually to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), to the GreenerPackage.com database, and it has also conducted a product level carbon footprint analysis for DPET. It was found that Octal's DPET process uses 67% less energy and has a 25% lower carbon footprint than traditional PET manufacturing.
"If there is a question about how sustainable our process is, third-party validation allows us to educate and show the facts," he said.