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Bill McDonough and Waste Management Want to Kill Packaging Waste

Ever injured yourself trying to open clamshell packaging? These annoying plastic-sealed packs cover everything from batteries to electronics and are designed to eliminate theft with the unfortunate side benefit of being nearly impossible to open. Those packages not only cause deep frustration and occasional pain for consumers, they are extremely wasteful since they are impossible to recycle or reuse once you finally get them open.

Eco-Rockstar Bill McDonough  and Waste Management want to change all that with a new partnership designed to minimize packaging waste throughout supply chains.

McDonough announced the launch of the Sustainable Innovation Collaborative at Sustainable Brands 2013. The goal of the collective is to help companies lower the packaging waste in their supply chains and repurpose the waste that does make it through.

Waste Management calls itself "North America's leading provider of integrated environmental solutions," with is a very fancy way of saying that they pick up and process trash, compost and recycling. So why does a garbage company prefer the moniker "integrated environmental solutions provider?" And why the heck do they care about packaging waste in supply chains? Landfills are expensive - and if materials can be recovered, sorted and resold - that liability becomes an asset.

Bill McDonough is the author of the famous book Cradle to Cradle, a leading thinker on design for sustainability, creator of the C2C product certification and Principal at the consultancy MBDC.

Said McDonough from the stage, "In [my new book] Upcycle we talk about everything as food. we don't even use the word "waste" anymore because when you hear the word waste, you think about waste. So we just eliminated the concept of waste. Everything is food for something else."

Now McDonough and Waste Management are teaming up to take that concept out to companies large and small. The Sustainable Innovation Collaborative will focus on packaging and product design for recyclability, ecology and human health. Said McDonough, “Designing up from the dumpster is one reason why I am personally very excited to launch the Sustainable Innovation Collaborative with Waste Management. Working together, we will use the tools of design, science and principled business practices in collaboration with manufacturers, retailers, distributors, consumers and recyclers of products and packaging to profitably work toward eliminating the very concept of waste.”

That's all well and good, but what does it actually mean in terms of practical solutions? McDonough's team was quick to provide me with examples. One comes from sustainability darling Method, the eco-cleaning product company now owned by Ecover. MBDC worked closely with the company to develop packaging that includes 100 percent recycled contend and designed to be recycled at end-of-use. The firm also created a packaging process for Method designed for minimal impacts.

They also pointed out that packaging is a part of the Cradle 2 Cradle certification, so every product gets certified has some attention paid to packaging.

The new effort with Waste Management will allow both firms to engage more brands - even those that are not quite ready to get the C2C certification.

Read more and watch the video from SB13 here.

[Image credit:  caterina, Flickr]

Jen Boynton headshotJen Boynton

Jen Boynton is the former Editor-in-Chief of TriplePundit. She has an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School and has helped organizations including SAP, PwC and Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. She is based in San Diego, California. When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA (court appointed special advocate) for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.

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