Highlighting Seattle Resource Recovery and Packaging End of Life Management

Resource recovery and revalorization seems to be just about the hottest topic in the packaging sustainability community these days. It’s hard to pick up any packaging publication – print or online – without some reference to the need to expand packaging recyclability, and the opportunities and challenges involved. GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition made sure to emphasize this important topic as we developed the agenda for our 2014 Spring Conference, with tours and sessions that highlight the newest developments in resource recovery and end of life management.

The Pacific Northwest region leads the country in recycling and composting. We recently talked with Conference speaker, Dick Lilly, Manager for Waste Prevention and Product Stewardship at Seattle Public Utilities, about Seattle’s cutting edge sustainability efforts, specifically its composting and recycling efforts. Seattle is the first U.S. city to require that all single-use food service packaging be either compostable or recyclable, helping the city move toward its goal of a zero waste future. Lilly explained that in this shift to using all compostable or recyclable packaging, the city holds meetings with restaurants and manufacturers regularly to discuss what does and doesn’t work, and what needs to happen to make these regulations more successful. “One things that I would applaud about the restaurant industry is that they have been tremendously innovative and have made a great effort to come up with new products. The industry has changed dramatically in terms of the products made today that will help restaurants move in the direction of more compostables or reusables and less disposables,” said Lilly.

Cedar Grove CompostSeattle’s policies, and the ways in which businesses have transformed to meet regulations, will offer attendees an unmatched opportunity to see some of the most innovative developments in r esource recovery in action today. Some of the tours we have planned that take advantage of Seattle innovation include a tour of the Cedar Grove compost facility with a stop at the  Compostable Packaging Expo at the University of Washington, a special behind the scenes tour of zero-waste-to-landfill Safeco Field, and a visit to Waste Management’s Cascade Recycling Center.

Beyond tours, there are a number of sessions involving packaging end of life management. The sessions range in scope from city to county to national, from the packaging we find in our sports arenas to the packaging we find in Earth’s oceans, and from innovative waste management legislation and regulations to the latest in package design for recovery and consumer education about recyclability.

Among sessions to check out, Lilly pointed out Allen Langdon’s, Managing Director of Multi-Material British Columbia (MMBC) on extended producer responsibility (EPR) in Canada as one that will be particularly informative. “I’m interested to hear more from Allen Langdon on how they’re rolling out the product stewardship program in British Columbia,” said Lilly. “It’s very interesting to us in the packaging industry, as it has the potential to change a lot about how packaging will be collected for recycling. Who is paying for it; who should be paying for it? EPR asks a lot of important questions, and with the industry changing, Langdon’s presentation is an important one to attend.”  Waste Management Cascade Recycling

Check out the list of speakers for these and other SPC Spring Conference sessions – it reads like a Who’s Who in packaging recovery – and plan to join the resource recovery conversation in Seattle! Until then, if you want to extend the conversation and tell us what you’re most interested in when it comes to resource recovery, please connect with me on Twitter @KatherineOdea. I’d love to chat!

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