How to reduce your packaging impact with the future in mind with Jason Goode.
Welcome to Episode 23 of the Enterprise Excellence Podcast. It is such a pleasure to have Mr Jason Goode on the episode today. Jason has specialised in packaging technology and has worked for many of our largest organisations across many industries. He is also a director of the Australian Packaging Covenant (APCO), which helps us (Australians) reach impact reduction targets. We know that packaging is a significant challenge in our world. It has a considerable carbon footprint and is a significant pollutant and contributes to challenges now and for future generations. Jason has dedicated his career to improving packaging and reducing the impact it has on our world.
Jason almost fell into his area of expertise - packaging technology, as there are no university degrees offered in Australia in this field. One of the job's perks is interacting with a great cross-section of the organisation you work for: sales, marketing, production, factories and suppliers. Ultimately packaging has to work well, carry information and sell the product. Think of a world without packaging: we can't get rid of packaging, but there are certainly ways that we must all do better.
There is currently an estimated 20-30% global food production wastage, with current land use. Considering this, we may be able to feed 30% more of the world's population without increasing land production and use, provided quality of food is guaranteed. How can we save that estimated waste to feed the world's population? Consumers also need to understand how to check their food quality. Use-bys and best before on labels help, as well as newer advancements in food spoilage technology.
The development of sustainable packaging goals in Australia sets the foundation for how to look at packaging. So what are the goals? The 2025 targets set by the Australian Government are:
100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging.
70% of plastic packaging is being recycled or composted.
50% of average recycled content included in packaging (revised from 30% in 2020).
The phase-out of problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics packaging. As a community, we need to change our behaviours around our use of convenient disposable plastic packaging.
Anyone looking to do more about packaging improvement (we all need to!) should focus firstly on education and learning. Jason spoke about this initial challenge - how to educate consumers. The Australian Recycling Label (ARL) has significantly helped with this. Clear symbols on labels inform consumers where to dispose of each piece of packaging included in/on their purchased item. When we are looking at a package, and standing in front of a bin, how can we ensure we choose the correct disposal system? The label is straightforward to follow! My family use it all of the time.
The key for producers is to find the right balance of packaging - not overly specked, or too little that the item is damaged. And easy for the consumer to know how to dispose of it. How can they get this, right?
Unfortunately, there is no one correct format, no silver bullet. Consumers need to accept the packaging to buy the item and are ideally a significant part of the planned packaging change journey. Jason provided an example of pasta sauce. Say the producer of pasta sauce wants to introduce a more sustainable packaging. His advice is don't change the whole range all at once. Instead, slowly bring in one or two of the products with the new packaging, and set them among the older packaging until consumers can accept the change. Jason went on to talk about branding and catching the consumer's eye.
So, understand the product's whole life cycle, your consumer needs, and the options for a gradual change or the campaign for a more radical change? Have a broad lens for the change journey and work with your supplier, marketing, sales, production teams.
The Australian Government want us to be using 100% recyclable packaging formats. There is no preference on the type, provided that products are protected, consumers can interact with it, and it is recyclable. Glass, steel, aluminium are all highly recycled and plastics, although we think of them as dirty, when sorted correctly are actually highly reusable. Jason believes that investment will go across the whole supply chain. See this quote from Jason (video - change journey)
Jason talks about the circular economy.
How do we enable consumers to identify products made from recycled materials and give them a choice? To use virgin materials, or choose the recycled counterpart, and understand why they made that choice. The recycling capacity in Australia needs to be dramatically scaled to compete with virgin material manufacturing. What is the benefit? That we create a society that is sustainable and does not exploit the infinite resources of this planet. There is not an endless resource, so we cannot continue to increase our consumption.
There is no effort that is too small. Every person and every company has the responsibility to improve and adapt to change. Collective action drives change: consistent messages and standardised approaches.
There are excellent resources available to help us re-educate and change our habits:
APCO (join their newsletter) https://apco.org.au/
Australian Institute of Packaging http://aipack.com.au
Planet Ark https://planetark.org
Jason mentioned that there are other international organisations and that experts are globally employed. The Interpack conference, held in Germany every three years. Over his visits, there has been significant growth around bio-plastics, like from trees, or cellulose. He mentioned how this conference brings the world together to learn and discuss packaging. Interpack is an excellent forum through which global change in packaging is possible.
Moving forward, Jason is focused on his continuing work with APCO to help improve outcomes with packaging. He is focussed on helping to create a common global standard for packaging communication, data and education. This would provide for better consumer experience and streamline global supply chains. He has recently discovered the importance of getting your hands dirty to learn about sustainability in packaging. He values taking clients wishing to change their packaging on site visits to the many different parts of the supply chain. Seeing it in action is motivating and inspiring. Being in lockdown in Melbourne, Australia has made this aspect difficult and highlighted it's significance for Jason.
It was such a pleasure to have Jason on the show. He is doing so much for our environment holistically when considering packaging waste and its benefits with food protection and extended food life. Everyone should listen to this episode, as we are all users or consumers of packaging and need to adapt quickly to help create a better future.
Jason’s Profile: linkedin.com/in/jason-goode-414278184
My key takeaways from this episode with Jason are:
1. Considering all the aspects of packaging
2. Becoming educated & Making the right choices as a consumer and user
3. The win win economically and environmentally through improving approaches to packaging.
Education is the key to every one of these points. Packaging has always been something many of us have not thought about, we buy and consume products with little thought about the packaging they come in. Education can be achieved through organisations in our countries such as APCO, also through understanding the different labelling approaches to make it easy for consumers to make informed decisions. There is a challenge if you live in a country that does not have a labelling standard that is simple and fast to understand and make the right choice.
Jason mentioned during the Podcast case examples where organisations were using packaging that was over specified for the products needs. The ability of companies to move to more environmentally friendly packaging and packaging approaches that potentially saves costs and helps the environment. This again requires us to stay educated and continuously improve our approaches with packaging and circulating packaging.
03:36min So, yeah, I'm a strong believer in information, in data, and correctly analysing that.
03:54min The environmental side of things...yeah, when you start to see a lot of packaging thrown out of car windows and littered on beaches, again you ask the question well, why? It is a really interesting one for packaging, because yes it is seen, it is visible, however, what isn't seen is the benefit that we're seeing from it as well from saving food spoilage.
08:04min and that's really what the sustainable packaging goals, developed through APCO are all about. Is having that right level of expertise so that you question what is possible.
12:02min There's an education piece and an acceptance piece by consumers that, well why is it so heavily packaged? And I think we see that now, that people at times are getting frustrated when they get something home, and think, "whoa, all this wasted packaging". You know, people are really taking note of how much they are seeing there.
video 16:41min a lot of companies when they're doing branding, particularly master branding, they talk about more of an evolution of the brand rather than a revolution of the brand. Because if you really make a massive shift quickly, then you can disenfranchise your customers.
19:06min ok, so I'm using 8-10 times the weight of packaging. Is it a good thing to switch to cardboard, which is recyclable? But it still takes a lot of energy to make, and it still uses chemicals in pulp production, or do I leave it in plastic, and increase consumer awareness of how to recycle the plastic instead? Hard to find that balance and know what exactly is the right answer.
20:26min so, the RedCycle program through our major retailers. A great example where that material is being turned, not into food packaging or even packaging at all. Being turned into large, structural plastic items that, in many cases, are more durable than their timber counterpart.