Investors are becoming “proactive” to take action against new plastics

However, assessing the environmental impact of switching to new materials is not that easy, said a packaging industry representative who spoke at the conference.

David Clark, vice president of sustainability at packaging giant Amcor Ltd., pointed to the Pew Charitable Trust’s Breaking the Plastic Wave report for 2020, which said switching to paper packaging would put more of a strain on forests.

“When you look at replacing plastics with other materials, everyone is [of them] has an impact, ”said Clark. “The Pew report said that if we followed their guidelines to use more paper packaging, I believe it would put 11 percent more pressure on forests around the world to make enough paper for the packaging.

Still, he said, Amcor puts “a lot of effort” into developing new packaging. This includes reusable packaging models that have had some success, as well as packaging that is compostable or recyclable.

But he also said it was unclear how much of the current packaging could easily be changed.

“If you look at the grocery store and what people put in their shopping carts, how much of it is really being reused,” he said. “The same goes for compostability. We’re making some compostable packaging, we certainly see opportunities, but we don’t see a shift in wholesale.”

Packaging must fundamentally protect its product and keep it fresh, he said.

“There will be several levers that we will have to pull,” said Clark. “Plastics have proven to be a great packaging material to solve everything but this end-of-life problem.”

Data will also be crucial for investors when evaluating a move to plastics, said Morgan Stanley’s Thompson, because at this point it is more difficult than evaluating investments on their greenhouse gas impact.

“I think the investing community has really come together around carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and has a common goal when we think about climate change,” said Thompson. “But I think we as an industry really need to think holistically about how we measure and track plastic waste and look for progress.”

She said organizations like the Ellen MacArthur Foundation had worked hard to create a common language and metrics for the problem.

However, she said investors want information on topics such as single-use plastic revenue, reusable, take-back programs, and diversification of raw material sources.

“I think there is a lot of great, great data out there that can still be used to make smart decisions, but there is also a lot of data in this area that can be standardized and brought to market to enable the next wave of investment decision making “, she said.

Comments are closed.