The smartest, most successful people in the world don’t become successful just because they are good at what they do in the moment. They are successful because they can think several steps ahead. Whether those changes bring opportunity or challenges, such people are able to anticipate and plan for these changes with seeming clairvoyance because they are looking farther out than everyone else.

That’s one of the reasons I love this industry. It is filled with people like that. Just look at packaging. Even as printers are encouraged to expand their product offerings by venturing into this market, converters are going leaner and meaner, reducing packaging size and weight, and right-sizing both for cost and sustainability. This is why leading companies are smart by looking, not just at design and production trends, but at the end of life of these products to include recovery and recycling.  

Recently, I ran across some information about what the food service industry is doing, in particular. This piqued my interest since the perception is that these products are nearly impossible to “green” due to their composition and usage. But the industry may be doing more than we think. Coalitions are forming to help reduce the environmental impact of these products, as well as increase the ease and benefit to recovering them. Individual companies are doing their parts, as well. 

Here are three organizations working to improve recyclability and find markets for recycled and reclaimed packaging materials. Information is taken from the Food Packaging Industry website:

The Paper Recovery Alliance and Plastics Recovery Group (PRA/PRG) focuses on getting more paper and plastic food service packaging recycled or composted. It works with communities, recycling facilities, composters, and end markets to “expand recovery options” for these materials. (For more, see or read the FPI’s semi-annual newsletter, found here.)

The Foam Recycling Coalition (FRC) works to get more foam polystyrene cups and containers recycled by offering grants to communities and recycling facilities. More information may be found at

The Paper Cup Alliance (PCA) accelerates the adoption of paper cup recycling in the U.S. More information may be found at

The current list of companies participating in FPI's recovery groups can be found here and includes converters like Dart Container, CartonCraft, and Dyne-A-Pak. Let’s give all of them a hearty “Woot! Woot” and virtual fist bump. 

Not only are these efforts important for the environment, but also for preserving and expanding the market for packaging and containers going forward. The better consumers feel about consuming packaging (not in an edible sense, of course), the stronger the industry’s viability long-term. Not that packaging will ever be replaced by digital alternatives, but consumer attitudes matter, both from an industry and an individual competitive perspective. Increasingly, clients are “de-selecting” vendors based on lack of support for sustainable manufacturing.  

Individual converters are doing their part, as well. For example, I love the sustainability story of Dart Container, one of the members of the FPI recovery groups. It is doing more than talking a good game. It is putting money where its mouth is. Serious money.

  • Dart has opened a first-of-its-kind facility, Omni-Recycling, in Indianapolis, Ind., dedicated to recycling mixed bales of foam and rigid polystyrene from residential curbside recycling programs.
  • It is has invested $32 million in a new technical and innovation center on its Mason, Mich., campus. Known as The Vertical, the center develops new and improved products with a focus on sustainability.
  • In 2017, Dart switched from traditional packaging inks to natural-based INXhrc inks free of allergens, nanomaterials, fluorochemicals, fanal pigments, heavy metals, and PTFE.
  • Dart gets its employees involved, too, mobilizing them into efforts like “plogging” (the Scandanavian trend of picking up recycling while walking or jogging) and participating in the company’s Community Action Team to volunteer their time.
  • Dart has committed that each of its locations will participate in one or more cleanup events, with a goal of contributing at least 7,500 hours of community service annually by 2021.

So...let’s hear it for Dart. (“Woot! Woot!”)

No one company can do this alone. It’s going to take a broad effort by broad coalitions like those mentioned here, as well as the efforts of individual companies like Dart.

What efforts are you making?