Sustainable Packaging

TC Transcontinental Packaging / Emily Williams

November 30, 2022 Cory Connors Season 2 Episode 155
Sustainable Packaging
TC Transcontinental Packaging / Emily Williams
Show Notes Transcript

https://tctranscontinental.com/en-us/packaging

emily.williams@tc.tc

https://www.linkedin.com/in/emily-williams-7778bb13/

Are you ready for higher PCR content? 
How can you package cheese sustainably? 
Where can we recycle flexible films? 

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https://ororapackagingsolutions.com/

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I'm here to help you make your packaging more sustainable! Reach out today and I'll get back to you asap.

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Cory Connors:

Welcome to sustainable packaging with Cory Connors. Today's guest is Emily Williams, the sustainability and innovation partnerships leader at TC packaging. Hi Emily. Hi, how are you? I'm good. Thanks. Good. That's quite a title you have. I'm very impressed with the amount of

Emily Williams:

words. It's a lot of words. It's one word less than the title I had at my previous. And I used to joke when I would go to events and speak and they would go through introductions and people would be like my God, that title. Right. Yeah. And I used to say that if you printed it out and stood up vertically, it'd be taller than I am.

Cory Connors:

yeah. Its a lot worse. Well, I think it's, it's interesting how sustainability has brought about a whole new line. Career opportunities. Mm-hmm it has which, which is wonderful. But it's, it's people just aren't sure what to call things. So that's yes. That's fair. Seems to be very inaccurate to what you do. yeah. And

Emily Williams:

the role I had before this one, I worked for a coding supplier and I was the. Global growth platform leader for their circular economy platform. yeah. So even more words. And and that was a role that was created. Yeah, of course I was put in it. Right. And then when I, when TC found me and I interviewed for this role, this is a new to TC. Also, so again, with a, a new role and a new title and, and you see that a lot in sustainability roles. I think the titles are always a little bit different. Yep. So yes. Yeah. The interesting space that way.

Cory Connors:

Absolutely. And I agree. They're just not sure this is new. What do we let's come up with a name for that. Ask the marketing. What, what should we call this? but tell us a little bit about your background. Sounds like you've been in sustainability for a.

Emily Williams:

Yeah. So I'm an engineer by education. I have a bachelor's in a master's degree in chemical engineering. Out of my master's degree, I actually worked for a venture capitalist funded startup for a couple years, two and a half years. And that was doing Reverse osmosis membrane technology. So it was like deep bench science hardcore. So that's where the, the nerd cred comes from. You've earned

Cory Connors:

your name

Emily Williams:

stripes. Huh? Mm-hmm . Yeah. And so from then, from there, I went to Michael min where I was a product development engineer for around three years and then transitioned into a marketing role as the platform leader for their circular economy platform. And so they provide water based coats into the packaging industry. When I started with them, I was mostly formulating or designing products for composable or recyclable paper packaging. Oh, wow. And so that was kind of my foray into the sustainability space. One of my big projects was on designing compostable, codings, and started asking lots of questions about what does it mean for coding to be compostable? And people couldn't answer them internally cuz it was new and people didn't know. So I started asking some of our material suppliers, the same questions and I was asking questions that were complex enough where she was like the, the regulatory person at the material supplier was like, you know what. Just join the ASTM committee. And that was like gateway drug . Yeah. Was joining the ASTM committee. And then I ended up on some other committees and I started attending like sustainable Packaging coalition events or some of Smith's Pira events. And started talking about what it means to be compostable at some of these events and getting into what it means for fiber articles in particular, while I was there to be recyclable as. That kind of naturally foray into the platform leadership role there where we kind of adjusted the strategy, created a circular economy platform and they needed someone to lead it. And so I did that. So I, I existed as like this liaison kind of thing between commercial and technical So it was technically in the marketing department. but worked very closely with R and D in terms of like here's, what's coming down from the market desire point of view. And how can we do this from an R and D point of view and managed a lot of external relationships with relevant organizations? Like the biodegradable products Institute is a good example. So that kind of foray into this role with TC where so TC is a converter of flexible plastic packaging. So I'm now on the plastic side and Michael man produced some products for flexible plastics as well. So I had some familiarity from that point of view, but TC converts these articles in a variety of, of consumer packaging spaces. And so my role here is within R and D. Within our sustainability and innovation group, and it's all about how can I make our products more circular and a lot that is working with external groups, participating in a lot of the organizations I already did, including some new ones leveraging partnerships and relationships, whatever it takes to try and make our products more circular.

Cory Connors:

That's really excellent. I I've worked with Michael min products since I was 18 years old. Cause I worked, I worked at Weyerhaeuser making boxes, so that mm-hmm, that name? I remember having to roll the 55 gallon barrel over to the press as a, as a youngster and Read the word, Michael man, and thought, oh, what is this? So now I feel like we're kindred spirits here in the world of packaging. so tell me about I want to talk a little bit about the Ellen MacArthur foundation mm-hmm can you talk about how TC has connected with what they're doing and how is that joined?

Emily Williams:

Yeah. So TC is a company decided to sign the Ellen MacArthur pledge. So therefore we abide by what their sustainable packaging goals are. You know, there's a lot of different choices that a company can make out there in terms of whether to join the plastics pact or the Ellen MacArthur foundation. But they all very similar goals. They all have 20, 25. And in some cases, 2030 targets towards making all of the packaging that a producer or a brand is making or selling to be reusable, recyclable, compostable, containing PCR content. All those goals exist within these different foundations. So we chose Al MacArthur and accordingly we are committed to making our packaging recyclable or compost. And, or targeting 10% PCR content by 2025 across like our total product portfolio.

Cory Connors:

those are big goals and they're lofty goals. I like to hear them. Yep. They're lofty goals. You know, people often will push back on me and say, well, oh, come. 5% PCR or 10% PCR is not very much mm-hmm well, it is. It's a lot, it's a lot. When we look at the, the grand scope of, how many tons of materials are, is this location using mm-hmm the numbers are astronomical and when we can interject 10% recycled material from post-consumer recycled, which is mm-hmm, the most difficult to get back. Yep. It's very impressive. So, well,

Emily Williams:

Yeah, , it's a tough goal. It's a big goal and it's a tough goal. But obviously we're the endeavor and we're all kind of in the same boat, trying to get there together within the industry space. That's it,

Cory Connors:

we're all here together doing our thing. I'm I'm really working to get the word out that, Hey, this is possible. We can do things that are positive towards sustainability. And I know people like you that are very impressive and are actually doing the things that are making the large changes. So we appreciate what you're doing. Thank you. Yeah. Well,

Emily Williams:

if we try, well, I talk about it a lot. It's our utter in the labs and the plants that are the actual doers. I feel like a lot of what I do is talk so,

Cory Connors:

but that's okay. They they need you, you need them. Mm-hmm we have to, we have to talk about what they're doing and , And they have to do what they're doing. So , it all works together. I wanna talk about speaking of labs, , I saw that you have a new recycling lab coming soon. Mm-hmm , what's, what's that all about? Can you, can you talk about it?

Emily Williams:

Yeah. So one of the things that TCS doing, that's really cool. And, and one of the things that really attracted me to them when I was in the process of interviewing for this role was that they're really. The best way to put it is they're putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to their sustainability goals. They've invested in a lot of internal infrastructure to try and, and get us there faster. So we have this Astra lab center in our Manasha location and the Astra lab. It's super cool. If you ever wanna see it, , we love to give tours of it. We love to show it up, cause it is really cool.

Cory Connors:

Where

Emily Williams:

is. It's in Manasha Wisconsin.

Cory Connors:

Oh, Wisconsin.

Emily Williams:

Okay. Mm-hmm good. Old packaging country up in

Cory Connors:

Wisconsin. Yep. Mm-hmm lots of cheese. I, I like it. Yeah. Lots

Emily Williams:

of cheese. That's a very important business to us too. Yeah. But we've, we've built in this Astro lab. We have a compost lab, so we have built this lab in order to do testing for compostable packaging, to be in importance with the regulations that are out there. We actually just got approval for, from der. Yep. So we're on, we're on DCI's. Which means that we should be available for use for companies. Non-customer based companies for testing their products for compostability. And we are also building a recycling lab because a big focus for obviously if it's not gonna be compostable, we'd like to make it recyclable. And it depends on the application as to which one makes the most sense for your product. And so we've built a recycling lab that's in progress. And the intention of that lab is to be able to do the appropriate testing, to verify that materials meet APR, critical guidance.

Cory Connors:

I like that. And I like what you said about it depends on what the product is. Mm-hmm and what the usage is. To see , which direction should we go here? Yeah., maybe, maybe a, a, a flexible film covered in cheese and residue. Isn't the most recyclable material

Emily Williams:

and, well, actually, what's really interesting. It's really interesting. You should pick that as a target because yeah. We actually think that'd make a great candidate for recyclable packaging, cuz it does really well in plastic. Okay. And it as much residue behind as you'd think it. Oh,

Cory Connors:

we've done the math. So to, I was thinking like, like squeeze cheese or something like that. Oh, cheese. That might be a

Emily Williams:

little . Yeah. Shred and cheese. Yeah. Shred and cheese leaves a lot residue behind, then you think squeeze cheese, whatever. But yeah, I talk, I spend a lot of time either talking with customers or interested partners about talking about right tool for the right job. Is the phrase that I always use, that you really have to think on a holistic perspective of what are my sustainability goals for this, this package that I'm trying to make? Is it am I trying to improve it from an admissions perspective? Am I trying to improve it from an end of life perspective? Is it both? What's gonna be. Where is it likely to end up, how does it get into the hands of consumers? You kind of, it's a whole picture discussion in order to help guide someone to the right packaging choice for their material. Right.

Cory Connors:

Do you think the store drop off is a good option for the recyclable flexible film?

Emily Williams:

I do. I mean, , for the simple reason, one of it's the only option that we have in the United States for collecting film products. But if you look at, I think it was in 2017 or 2018 that green, blue, the sustainable packaging coalition in green blue put out a report on how the drop off program was doing. And at the time it was collecting some 200, some odd million pounds a year. I think of packaging material, which is 200 plus million pounds material that didn't end up in land. Right. And it's grown since then. I believe, I think they're working on doing another report to analyze the progress of it and the end markets for it. I have spoken to some of the end market users of these materials. I've toured one. I've seen TREX in person back, which is super cool. And I highly recommend going to see it if you can. You know, there's legitimate end users out there who want these materials, including us. We have a recycling center where we're trying to recycle film to make PCR content, to put back in our film. And we're doing that and we need more material. So there, the demand. Almost outstrips what the drop off program is capable of providing. So if anything, the drop off program needs to get bigger and grow . There needs to be more materials put into it. There needs to be better consumer understanding of how to properly dispose of their materials into it. So, yeah, I think it's a great option in part it's what we've got, but in part, because it's, it's working. We just need to be bigger much like any of our recycling recovery programs, we just, we need more.

Cory Connors:

Yes. And that's gonna be a real problem here as extended producer responsibility takes effect. Yeah. People are gonna be clamoring for recycled materials in particular plastics. Mm-hmm I had, I had Trex on the on this podcast and it was an amazing episode talking about. The billions of pounds of plastic they've recycled and their operation is crazy. Yeah. A lot of people don't know that they also recycle used wood and they grind it up and they put it in with the plastic and, and their water system is all circular. So they're not using lots of water. It's wonderful, absolutely impressive. But what I was excited to know about is there are other alternatives to the store, dropoff and companies like Ridgewell mm-hmm and Recyclops are starting to take off. Yes. And other municipalities are catching up and saying, Hey. We can recycle this stuff too. Yes. Be because it's becoming more valuable to companies like you and TRX mm-hmm and other companies. So I, I hope that we are right. yeah. And

Emily Williams:

the dream would be, the dream would be curbside, right? I mean, the dream is curbside collection of flexible plastics and that MERF would be able to sort we'd have perfs even be able to sort them out. I mean, I've, I've got a friend, a former coworker that works at rum keen. I've had this conversation with him and his comment has always been, you know, When the demand is there and it justifies the economics of us sorting it, we'll sort it. And we'll pick it and we'll bail it. The challenge of sorting it and picking it and bailing it part be it's a tricky stream to work with because of all the materials involved.

Cory Connors:

A hundred percent and at waste expo, you'll see equipment that can do it. And it's exciting to see, but it's an investment and you're right. It's so are we cart before the horse or what are we doing? You know, which we need to invest in this material, in this equipment so that we can get these materials back and reuse them and, or, or repurpose them, whatever the case may be. Yeah. Well said. Yeah. let's talk about this. I noticed a as a material on your website called the verte, did I say that right? The ver yeah, the verte is that Wolf real French. green. Yeah. Yeah. Mm-hmm and yeah. So puts it all.

Emily Williams:

So that is our sustainable product line, really? That is we have VVE products that are containing PCR that are recyclable and that are compostable. And if you ever catch us at a trade show or an event, we'll have samples on hand that you can sniff touch. Like, well, maybe not like, but. in person you can check out. Sure. But yeah, so that's, we're constantly growing our product line. In some cases, those intersect, in some cases you can have something that's designed for ready, recycle, meaning it's all PE and it has some PCR content in it. So, you know, trying to combine as much of that as we can. But yeah, that's our sustainable product line. We're really proud.

Cory Connors:

will that be the line that has the 10% PCR eventually mm-hmm

Emily Williams:

yeah. Our PCR products. We have PCR products on the market now especially in like our shrank film business and in of our other, our other formats, but yeah, we have PCR out there now as we work towards that 10% goal. So yeah, that's, that's where those products are available.

Cory Connors:

And you have facilities all over the country. If I recall we

Emily Williams:

do, we are a north American based company, so we originated in Canada as a printer, largest printer in Canada. And the company has grown considerably via acquisition over the years, been around for around 40 years. And in recent years they purchased coves in the America. And that was kind of the foray into flexible packaging. So we have facilities all over in, in Canada. We've got on the Eastern side, we've got printer facilities, converting facilities, recycling facilities, and some blown film capability. And then throughout the us, we've got different converting capabilities. It's scattered at different plants. Midwest Eastern out west, I think we have 26 total. Manufacturing sites, maybe

Cory Connors:

I'm very impressed with that. And it seems to be lots of packaging companies are consolidating mm-hmm and have consolidated over the last decade. It just, it makes sense that yeah, we can, we can do this on a larger scale. To reduce freights and things like that. So. Excellent. So what's what's next for you? You, you going to any events or sustainable packaging coalition event coming up in Atlanta event?

Emily Williams:

Yeah, you there, so, yeah. So you said this will probably not air until December, but yeah, I will at the SPC event in October and Atlanta see all of our friends in the industry there, we will be pack expo, TCS, gonna have a nice big booth at pack expo. And I'll give you the location, but this will air after that. So it probably doesn't matter

Cory Connors:

to say, well, sure. It it's always helpful Chicago, right? I'll be, I'll be. Yeah.

Emily Williams:

So it's in Chicago and we're Lakeside upper is where our booth is eight. Seven is what I was told, but yeah, the marketing guy say is like, make sure you have the location. yeah.

Cory Connors:

87, 25. Is that what you said? 87 0 5 87 0 5. Okay. Mm-hmm well, if I can get it edited and posted before then, I, I will. So that, that will. we'll be there. What's the best way for people to get in touch with you?

Emily Williams:

Ooh. There's a variety of ways. You can always email me just emily.Williams@tc.tc, which is really nice and easy to remember. Yeah. Or find me on LinkedIn message me on LinkedIn. I like most people, my age have one or two phones attached me times, so right. You message me on LinkedIn. I will likely respond pretty much immediately. You can catch me on.

Cory Connors:

LinkedIn ensure is a great platform for communication mm-hmm and I, I really appreciate it. Definitely. Yeah. It's super handy. Well, thank you so much, Emily. I I'd like to thank Landsberg Orora for sponsoring this podcast. If you're listening, make sure you subscribe. So you don't miss the next episode and give us a review. We appreciate that. Thank you, Emily. Yeah. Thank you.