Novi, Mich. — Becoming more sustainable is about more than just replacing materials, according to Grey Parker, principal and CEO of design firm Sundberg-Ferar.
It's also about industry partnerships, learning to take a more comprehensive approach to issues, supply chains, waste management, understanding policy and being proactive.
Parker was part of a panel at the Injection Molding & Design Expo, held Sept. 20-21 in Novi, that discussed how to make injection molding more sustainable. The event was organized by Crain Communications Inc., the publisher of Plastics News, and Applied Market Information, the publisher of Injection World and Plastics Recycling World.
John Manderfield, innovation and design fellow at Altium Packaging, agreed with Parker that plastics processors need to be more proactive to boost their use of post-consumer resins.
"We are starting to see some brands wanted to take the required 25 percent [post-consumer content in packaging] all the way up to 100 percent to be a little bit more proactive, and that causes us to step up and really respond," Manderfield said.
A main topic that came up during the discussion was surrounding education for post-consumer materials and what recycling can mean.
Michael Evans, vice president of North American operations at Amcor, said sustainability often comes down to messaging. That can mean incorporating new, innovative ways of using post-consumer materials or educating young consumers on what happens after they recycle something.
Parker agreed, adding that helping consumers understand materials and recycling can have result in beneficial changes in behavior. He sees education as a priority.
"I think what's human behavior can start with awareness and driving the demand through marketing systems," Parker said. "The antiquated recycling mark is probably a major topic that needs to be revisited, addressing the points awareness around the post-consumer content."
Susan Kozora, director of advanced materials engineering at International Automotive Components, shared a story about how her company was able to make a change to an automotive headliner that ended up saving a lot of waste that previously went to landfill.
Kozora said her team is focused on ways to use recycled materials, implement closed-loop recycling systems and reduce the company's carbon footprint.
"That's the first step. What everything means and how you get there, and are we all using the same methods?" Kozora said.