CHICAGO — It’s hard to mention packaging without the word “sustainable” in front of it, especially at Pack Expo International, where sustainable packaging was a thread that weaved throughout show.

Nearly every facet of packaging, from materials to machinery to energy usage, was addressed during the packaging processing tradeshow taking place Oct. 23-26. It’s an issue that’s top of mind for consumers, but it’s also important to industry leaders as well.

Riccardo Cavanna, owner of Cavanna Packaging and president of UCIMA, a manufacturing industry association in Italy, spoke to attendees on the company’s sustainability goals, as well as his personal views on the importance of sustainable packaging.

“To be honest, I’m not here as chairman of Cavanna, and I’m not here as president of UCIMA,” he said. “I’m here as a father of two daughters who is worried about the future — who is worried about the fact that in recent years, we have found more plastic in the ocean than fish.”

Cavanna shared seven key considerations for creating balance for packaging that protects its products as well as the planet.

Issues such as cost of materials and the cost of energy required to produce them, responsible use of resources, education for the end consumer, circular economy, a global policy development, ethics and the direct impact on natural resources are top of mind for Cavanna’s approach to sustainable packaging.

With Cavanna Packaging research shows that50% of packaging on supermarket shelves are made with flexible materials — and flowwrap packaging is able to transport, preserve and protect up to 60 times its weight — the key for this global company is to increase the use of flexible flowwrap materials and reduce the use of plastic.

“A different way is possible,” Cavanna said. “My personal wish is to create a community that will come together and play a key role to change the sustainability situation and to realize a better world.”


“My personal wish is to create a community that will come together and play a key role to change the sustainability situation and to realize a better world.” —Riccardo Cavana | chairman | Cavanna Packaging


Also during the show, Pierre Pienaar, president of the World Packaging Organization (WPO), addressed packaging’s role in sustainability on a global level, especially when sustainability is a subjective concept that varies depending on a host of factors.

“’Sustainability’ is a difficult word for many people,” Pienaar said. “If you ask someone off the street to explain what sustainability means, you’ll get a variety of answers depending on who you ask.”

Creating change starts with creating simple, easy actions for consumers. Sustainable packaging design can empower consumers to make a conscious choice to recycle.

“We need to ensure that the message is clear and that we bring opportunities in a way that people can easily understand it in a meaningful way and make a difference in their own homes,” Pienaar said. “From our perspective at the WPO — from a science and technology perspective — we need to ensure that the materials we are using are able to be recycled.”

WPO recently launched a global recycling guideline that has been translated into several languages to ensure people in several regions of the world can identify common sustainability best practices to achieve a more objective global view of sustainability.

From displays in the Pack to the Future exhibit to baker attendees walking the show floor, sustainability in packaging was at the forefront of the show.

The Pack Expo International Green Program broke down all partners, vendors and exhibitors that were focused on sustainability, including education tracks, green-focused innovation displays, vendors focusing on sustainability and more — including the McCormick place, the event venue.