The executive director of AMERIPEN has targeted growing membership and becoming actionable with its research on packaging-related topics as part of its future direction.
Donna Dempsey, from the American Institute for Packaging and the Environment (AMERIPEN), said it wants a leadership role in public policy as common goals include increasing recycling and diverting used packaging.
The organization encourages science-based decision making on packaging initiatives and provides guidance to policy-makers on its value and role.
It is working on a draft brochure related to ‘Produce and Food Waste’ which it expects to make public this summer.
Material neutral approach
Dempsey told FoodProductionDaily.com that a material-neutral approach gives them a better perspective as each material has benefits when housing certain products.
“It is the strength of the organisation to be material neutral and science driven,” she said.
“We are not going into cities and saying ‘we know what is best so you need to do this’, it is more like here is some new research and let us see how we can work together.
“It is an opportunity to roll out our research to targeted states and cities and the highlight is the reaction to our approach.
“We were formed to lobby and work in collaboration to create the research, talk and find out what everyone wants to do – we don’t say we know what to do in each situation.”
The organisation was formed three years ago by 10 companies, all part of other trade groups, who decided to come together to create a material neutral body to represent them.
Membership has grown to more than 30 and includes Amcor, BASF, DuPont, Ball Corp, Kraft, MWV, O-I, Sonoco, Tetra Pak, Coca-Cola, Hershey, McDonalds and PepsiCo.
The result has been first of its kind research including the survey of Packaging Materials Recovery in 100 Largest US Cities.
AMERIPEN has also published the Discover the Hidden Value of Packaging brochure and made its Product Recovery Knowledge Map (PRKM) publicly available.
When asked if people were beginning to understand the role packaging plays from transportation to at consumer level with best before dates, Dempsey said there was more awareness.
“There are a lot of people in industry who are aware but some policy makers have a way to go in education and awareness,” she said.
“When people look at packaging some see it as waste, but the needle is moving on that.
“Packaging recycling is flat but overall challenges are how to measure what is and what is not included in recyclable so you have consistent measurements.”
The organisation has technical advisory groups working with local and state Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees, paper organisations and can associations to tap into market-specific knowledge.
“We share ideas with INCPEN and EUROPEN such as what’s going on for all of us, what our member companies are doing as we share some members, if there are any initiatives we need to be aware of and so on.”
Dempsey said other organisations had wanted to advance policies identified in their research, especially around the best chance to increase recycling through pay as you throw, mandatory recycling and disposable ban options.
She described her first year at the helm of the organisation as ‘fast, furious and fun’.
“I wanted to learn something new every day and the passion and commitment of the members makes the difference in increasing recycling of used packaging and the education on recycling.”
AMERIPEN will have its Annual Meeting in June 24-27 in Arlington, Virginia.
The meeting is open to current members and the Technical Advisory Group with companies who join by mid-June also able to attend.