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Sustainable Packaging—Part 1

By: Jeff Falk
Posted: June 5, 2007, from the June 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

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“We took their challenge very seriously, and scoured the U.S. for eco-friendly materials,” said Droppo. “We partnered with a paper mill that only produced environmentally friendly cover and text stocks for commercial printing, but they never had a paper board grade made for packaging. We worked rigorously with the mill, and tested different batches of .018 pt board to printability, convertibility, strength, etc. In the end, we developed a .018 paperboard that is Forestry Stewardship Certified [FSC], comprised of 50% post consumer waste [PCW] and made with wind power.”

The resulting packaging was a success for Estée Lauder’s line, and proved to be the catalyst for a new business model.
“Because of our volumes of research into environmentally friendly materials, FSC and wind power, we really started to look at our business in a more environmentally friendly manner,” said Droppo. “Every day at Curtis, we raise the bar to explore ways of performing a task in the most eco-friendly manner.”

Time, according to the company, was the biggest challenge. Because sustainable packaging is relatively uncharted territory, the shift required a great deal of research and education. Recognizing that sustainable packaging practices are evolving, Curtis joined the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), allowing the company to be on the forefront of sustainable issues, such as materials, design guidelines and legislation.

When Curtis Packaging made the announcement that it was shifting all of its energy needs to renewable energy in August 2006, it became one of the first printing and packaging companies in North America to be both FSC certified and wholly dependent on renewable energy.

The timing was also fortuitous, coinciding with Wal-Mart’s announcement regarding its short- and long-term sustainability initiatives (see Keeping Score), which placed heavy media attention on the issue. “In many cases, people were reading about the paradigm shift to sustainability for the first time,” said Droppo. “This only created more energy and enthusiasm.”