The ASBC believes that a systems-level overhaul of how we design, use and dispose of packaging is necessary, with circularity and sustainability prioritized at its center and the ultimate goal of a zero-waste economy. This is why the ASBC Sustainable Packaging Working Group has convened to create a platform for a collaboration across public and private sector actors to meet this challenge. The following principles are the tenets that guide the recommendations and actions of the working group:
Principle 1 - Materials Circularity
The group believes that a circular economy is necessary to ensure that the Earth’s natural resources are available to meet the needs of current and future generations. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation bases circularity on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. Consistent with this principle, a well-designed packaging system should not generate waste or pollution (all packaging materials should be recovered) and all recovered materials should be kept in use (reused or recycled).
Principle 2 - Shared Responsibility
Solutions to the global waste challenge associated with product packaging are to be found in the contributions of governments, producers, materials management providers, retailers, and consumers. According to the group, no single actor can do this alone—all responsible parties must comply with the requirements of the system.
Principle 3 - Accelerating a Circular Market
The costs of a comprehensive and effective waste and materials management infrastructure should not be underestimated, however they should be understood to be small in comparison to the cost of global waste pollution. The way we, as a society, pay for what amounts to a revolutionary reinvention of a complex system of systems will differ from state to state and city to city based on local law, existing infrastructure and historical precedent.
Principle 4 - Transparency & Communication
Common understandings and expectations are crucial for mobilizing the resources necessary to confront this problem as well as enabling individuals to make sustainable decisions. At the same time, we cannot manage what we do not measure, and everything from innovation to enforcement will rely on information collection up and down the value chain of sustainable packaging.