The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Disc Graphics

Disc Graphics

Sustainability

August 29, 2010

Founded in 1983, Disc Graphics is a nationally recognized green innovator in the printing and packaging industry with annual revenues of approximately $50 million. Transforming the way the pharmaceutical, health and beauty, food and vitamin industries package their products, Disc Graphics is currently in the process of developing a tree-free paper packaging option. We talked to John Rebecchi, Senior Vice President of Disc Graphics, about the importance of thinking outside the box when it comes to corporate sustainability.

What is the challenge of creating sustainable packaging for food and consumer products?

Let’s start with a definition: sustainable packaging uses materials that can be replenished in the environment, is reusable in its existing state or is readily recyclable, and at the end of its lifecycle can be naturally returned to the environment.

What we see in the food and consumer products industry are a few companies that have taken leadership positions and the rest have plateaued after achieving small incremental changes to their packaging. So the challenge is how to convince companies not to be anchored in what exists and instead consider an alternative future. We have adopted a provocative selling approach where we redesign packaging without being asked. Once you demonstrate the efficacy of the package, companies will often sit up and listen.

Why is it important for a business to have an “environmental strategy”?

Having a clearly defined strategy provides guidance for a company and its suppliers on what to work on, what to measure, and what they want to achieve. Companies that demonstrate leadership in environmental concerns often reflect leadership in other areas. According to a recent Aberdeen Group study, “Far from being philanthropic‘nice to have’, top performing organizations view sustainability as a ‘must-have’strategy for long term business viability and success.”

How have you been able to merge commerce with sustainable business practices?

When challenged to provide guidance in new package design we apply a 360-degree view of the relationship of the package to the product and its market. We advise our customers to take a holistic approach and equally weigh each aspect in balance with the next. What we find is a focus on the environment does not necessarily mean higher costs. In fact the application of “source reduction” often results in lower costs without impacting brand, value, performance or security.

Your newest packaging product, tree free paper, has the potential to alleviate our reliance on traditional wood pulp papers and lessen the need for deforestation. What can this product do for the food industry?

Let’s be clear the material is not for every package because the price points are north of current paperboard prices and supply does not match current paperboard capacity. However, for certain a market such as the fancy food or wellness products, the material provides a ready story to highlight a company’s environmental objectives. DISCover Green is principally composed of inorganic stone and small amounts of non-toxic resin, is naturally antimicrobial, conforms to FDA standards for food contact, and is water and oil resistant.

What can retailers learn from your success?

We recently met with WalMart and discussed the challenges of incorporating environmentally focused design to existing packaging. We shared our case study that outlines our “source reduction” approach that achieved a 6.25% reduction in paperboard for Equate (WalMart store brand) products and how we implemented a “reusable” shipper program that eliminated over 250,000 pounds of corrugated waste from the supply chain. Most importantly this was not just a successful environmental exercise; we also demonstrated the cost savings aspects of eco-design.

In upcoming issues, we will continue to feature interviews with companies that are taking innovative steps toward the creation of sustainable products and services. If you are interested in telling us more about what your company is doing please contact Allison Bloom at allison@foodnutritionscience.com.