Containers with different types of garbage near light wall. Recycling concept

How to Build Sustainability into Almost any Project

Sustainability has been an impossible topic for brands to avoid in recent years. In C-suites, production lines, packaging departments and beyond, everyone has had to think about ways to decrease the environmental impact of the business. The good news is that by keeping a handful of concepts in mind, brands can build sustainability into almost any project their packaging team tackles.

The world produces around 300 million tons of plastic waste each year, and around 60% of the plastic produced since the 1950s either made its way to a landfill or ended up polluting the natural environment, including at least 8 million tons that go into the ocean every year. The bad news is that the need for more sustainable packaging is desperate; the good news is there is a wide margin for sustainable improvement in almost all packaging.

For organizations that aren’t swayed by the purely altruistic factors, there are plenty of other drivers pushing brands toward more sustainable packaging. Research shows that consumer demand for more sustainable products continues to grow. If a brand hasn’t responded to those changing consumer preferences, chances are its competitors have. Many of the biggest consumer brands in the world have publicly committed to aggressive sustainability goals, and dozens have partnered with organizations like the Ellen Macarthur Foundation to help them reach those goals.

State governments in the U.S. are considering Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws that shift the costs of handling packaging waste back onto the companies that produce it. Maine became the first U.S. state to pass EPR legislation, and Oregon may not be far behind. Those states are decades behind governments in Europe, where Germany adopted a form of EPR in 1991. These regulations are pushing sustainable packaging from something that’s nice to have to something brands can’t afford to ignore.

Combined, these drivers are pushing the packaging industry to accelerate sustainability programs, and while it may not be the only priority guiding packaging engineers, there are a handful of considerations that can help them build sustainable improvements into their other projects.

Design with the End in Mind

Any package design project should include a life cycle analysis that carefully considers the impact of a package at each stage of its life, including:

  • Resource extraction
  • Manufacturing
  • Distribution
  • Use
  • End of life

Each of these stages offers opportunities to improve sustainability, including reducing the thickness of corrugate and other materials to make manufacturing less wasteful and decrease fuel consumption during distribution and creating packaging that can be reused instead of thrown away after a single-use. End of life may be the stage where opportunities are easiest to identify, as recyclable and compostable materials remove packaging from the waste stream entirely. Thinking about the consumer’s experience with municipal recycling systems may lead to designing packaging from a single, recyclable material or a small number of recyclable materials that separate easily, both of which make responsible disposal an easy task for the end-user.

Use Recycled Materials

As the regulatory landscape that affects packaging waste continues to evolve, many brands will be forced to use recycled materials for their packaging. In the meantime, there are still plenty of environmental advantages to using recycled materials for packaging when compared to using virgin materials. From a consumer messaging perspective, manufacturing recycled plastics produces 65-70% less greenhouse gasses than manufacturing virgin plastic. Production of one ton of recycled plastic saves 5,774-kilowatt hours of energy, 16.3 barrels of oil, 98 million BTU’s of energy, and 30 cubic yards of landfill space when compared to virgin plastic

Purchasing recycled materials drives more demand for those materials, which makes them more profitable and incentives producers of recycled materials to scale up their operations, a long-term benefit for all brands.

Avoid Common Pitfalls

Suppliers are always going to leverage messaging that highlights the best attributes of the materials they sell, but it’s important to understand what they’re selling and what their claims really mean. Messaging around “biodegradable” materials, for example, can confuse both brands and consumers. Over a long enough period, just about all materials can be considered biodegradable; cynically, one can say plastic is biodegradable if you look at it over the course of hundreds of years.

Compostable” is a much more meaningful designation, as it signifies that the material biodegrades in a specific amount of time and under well-defined conditions. Doing the research upfront allows brands to have more meaningful conversations with their suppliers about sustainable materials.

Degradable additives are another easy trap packaging for packaging departments to fall into. Suppliers will tell you these additives help materials biodegrade, but this process breaks plastics down into microplastics that can remain in the environment longer. The EU has already banned some of these additives, and other regulatory bodies are likely to follow suit.

Use Less Plastic

Packaging is a growing driver of plastic production when compared to other uses for plastic, but it’s one of the easier areas in which we can decrease use. Despite the industry’s growing efforts, only 9% of plastic ever produced has been recycled. Benefits to reducing plastic packaging waste include lower greenhouse gas emissions, decreased use of non-renewable resources and less trash going to incinerators, landfills and the natural environment.

There are many ways to decrease the amount of plastic used in packaging, including decreasing the thickness of plastic packaging, designing plastic packaging to be reusable and using more sustainable alternatives.

Consulate A Sustainability Expert

Knowledge about technologies, materials, tools and regulations around sustainability is constantly evolving and it can be difficult to keep up with the latest information. An expert who focuses on sustainability can help demystify advances in the field. They’re also likely to have insight into what competitors and brands in other industries are doing to make progress against their sustainability goals and know what’s working and what isn’t. A true sustainability expert can provide a strategy tailored to meet a brand’s unique packaging needs and a set of clear, actionable steps to meet sustainability goals. Adept Group’s sustainability experts can help your brand conduct an audit and identify projects that will make the most meaningful impact toward your sustainability goals.

No matter where your brand is in its sustainability journey, Adept Group can help you accelerate progress toward your goals. If you’re looking for help building a strategy or advancing toward existing sustainability goals, get in touch. We can help.

sustainability progress

The Value of a Sustainability Audit

While many companies have used sustainability influencers like the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and the Ellen McArthur Foundation to determine what areas they wanted to focus on to improve their sustainable operations, measuring their progress toward goals like designing for recovery, eliminating unfavorable materials and increasing recycling can be complicated.

Many companies have multiple divisions, several packaging lines, and thousands of different SKUs that require unique packaging. Many companies that have goals set, have vague targets and an undefined path to achieve those goals. Not to mention, determining how sustainable each type of packaging and component is and what actions need to be taken to make those sustainable is a big job. To accomplish this, companies can leverage a sustainability audit.

A sustainability audit is a tool that allows companies to evaluate their sustainability goals and objectives, stage-gate progress toward those goals and objectives, and determine what actions will result in significant progress toward those goals.

These are the steps we take to help our clients get to an informed place to make decisions about what project comes next:


If this position sounds familiar, you’re interested in evaluating your progress or you’d like to identify quick wins to help you move the needle toward your goals, contact us!

Factory worker wearing hairnet and hygienic gloves preparing fresh food packages for distribution and market sale.

7 Ps to a Successful Line Trial

This article includes steps to aid in the preparation and the execution of a trial that will guarantee a successful and conclusive test. When preparing for a trial, it is important to identify the 7 Ps: Purpose, Packaging, Product, Plant, People, Papers, and the Plan.


Defining the problem and determining its scope provides the purpose and goals of the packaging trial.
• Is there a new product being commercialized?
• Are there consumer complaints?
• Is there a more sustainable option?
• Are there shelf-life failures?
• Are we seeing damage to the packaging prior to ship or during distribution?


When evaluating what to test in a packaging trial, consider the primary, secondary, and tertiary packaging. The trial should not be limited to only the materials touching the product. Considering all of the packaging components allows you to think outside of the box when an issue arises or
avoid those issues in the first place.


The Product is the item we are protecting and will be key in identifying problems on the line.
• Identify the product, its unique needs, and its life cycle.
• Identify the product, unique product needs, and its life cycle.
• Can the product be stored prior to the trial?
• Will the product be transported on a refrigerated truck or temperature-controlled transport?


It is important to thoroughly review the manufacturing site to evaluate any unique conditions that might impact the packaging.
• Is this a co-manufacturer or a plant owned by the company?
• Which plants are currently running the product?
• Are the warehouse and manufacturing site connected?
• Do all plants that will run the product have similar equipment?


The team involved with the trial is just as significant as the packaging being tested. Understanding who will need to approve the test plan and results makes the trial process more efficient. A distribution list typically includes the plant manager, quality control, and product development, as
well as any cross-functional team members that may need to approve samples or results.


Packaging needs a thorough and well-defined documentation process to provide cohesion and keep the trial process on track. Sample documentation includes:
• A Design Brief
• Trial Request Forms
• HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points)
• Labels/Packaging for Samples


The trial plan encompasses all other essential items in the preparation list. The plan should outline the other essential considerations for the trial, including the purpose, plant location, and details about the product such as its weight and all sizes in scope for the trial. The purpose should be stated concisely, but thoroughly cover the goals and what packaging will be evaluated during the trial.

Planning Your Trial

Focusing on the 7 Ps allows you to adequately prepare for your trial and enables damage reduction and associated costs. This helps to eliminate packaging-related recalls, optimize the distribution cycle and ensure the consumer receives the product in good condition.

Working with a team like Adept to help you execute your trial has numerous benefits, such as a proven methodology, reduced interruptions or refocusing of attention for the internal team, and proven results. If you’d like more detailed information on this topic, check out our recently published white paper on the topic.

If you need help conducting a successful line trial, contact us.


Adept Leadership: International Women’s Day

Diversity has been a pillar of Adept since its inception. Women make up 71% of our leadership. Our associates speak 6 native languages and hail from nearly every corner of the world. Our diverse experiences, backgrounds and perspectives play a significant role in our success.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we interviewed 5 of our fierce female leaders who champion the values of Adept Group.

Hasanna Birdsong, Managing Director

What does gender equality look like in our company and on our leadership team?

Gender equality goes beyond representation at Adept. Gender equality means that everyone has the same access to opportunities, rewards and resources. Our compensation and opportunities for advancement are both reflective of that.

Have you ever been in a situation that made you think that ‘women’ and ‘power’ are two incompatible concepts?

I’ve been fortunate to have worked with organizations that embraced the concept of women as leaders. I’ve worked with organizations that purposefully sought out women to diversify their leadership teams to do so.

What is the best advice you’ve been given about being a leader?

Being a leader is about showing up and doing your best even when you don’t have all the answers. It’s important to know your limitations and identify a team that can cover your blind spots.

I’ve always surrounded myself with people who were better than me at certain things so that together we could deliver exceptional work. At Adept I learn from the people I work with every day.

How does our team leverage diversity as one of our strengths?

Our diversity in experience has led to our ability to develop different strengths. As a team, we have people who excel at innovation and conceptual or futuristic thinking.  There is a time and a place for all of those things. We are learning who we can call on when the need arises for different ways of thinking and designing solutions for the challenges we face.

Why do you do what you do? What is your “why”?

Whether it’s people, a team or a company, I love to be a part of growing things. I do what I do because I get to be a part of that process. Growth comes from learning. The opportunity to teach and learn right alongside the talented leaders I work with is a privilege. I consider myself very lucky!

Angela Connell, Director of Human Resources

What does gender equality look like in our company and on our leadership team?

Gender equality in our company and on our leadership team is removing all barriers and creating equal opportunities for everyone in the company!

Have you ever been in a situation that made you think that ‘women’ and ‘power’ are two incompatible concepts?

I have been fortunate that I have always worked in companies and with leaders who empowered me. As a mother, I have never felt insecure about those two concepts until the pandemic. As the primary caregiver in my family, it is easy to think you are not worthy of power when you are running homeschool and your career simultaneously. In our company, we have been so fortunate that as a team, both men and women, we have an understanding and appreciation that this is not normal and these two concepts should be completely compatible. 

What is the best advice you’ve been given about being a leader?
  • Always consider the team and company when making decisions. 
  • Find out what each member of the team’s strengths are and help them grow based on those strengths. 
  • Be honest! Saying you have to get back to someone is better than giving your team false information. 
How does our team leverage diversity as one of our strengths?

Our diversity has led to our company being able to grow in different areas of the business and with different contacts within the industries we serve. The diversity in the skills of the team creates an internal network for our entire company to lean on one another when any individual is doing something new within a project. 

Why do you do what you do? What is your “why”?

I love people and I love helping them succeed in what they want to do within their career! I also love being part of the change that helps a company grow and become a better place to work!

Cindy Diamse, Director of Food, Beverage and CPG

What does gender equality look like in our company and on our leadership team?

Our company has always had a fairly decent gender mix – whether as leaders or engineers. I have always appreciated the mix since engineering can typically be a male-dominated field. Today, our leadership team includes more females than males, but not intentionally – we selected our leaders based on strength, experience, and potential…and it just happened to land with a higher percentage of women! 

Have you ever been in a situation that made you think that ‘women’ and ‘power’ are two incompatible concepts?

These days, no. Today, women are as powerful as ever and taking on more leadership roles. We have a woman vice president! What else can I say?  

What is the best advice you’ve been given about being a leader?

Be authentic and be accessible. 

How does our team leverage diversity as one of our strengths?

We have diversity in all aspects – knowledge, ethnicity, experience…we bring all of these to the table, and it outputs only the optimal solutions to our clients. Each one of us appreciates and values one another’s diversity and we each incorporate it into our everyday ways of working – making us a strong and successful team.

Why do you do what you do? What is your “why”?

Whether in a personal or professional situation, I love tying the right people together and making sure everyone benefits! It gives me such satisfaction to see all parties happy at the end of the day.

Jessica Southerland, Director of Staffing

What does gender equality look like in our company and on our leadership team?

I’m so fortunate to be a part of such a diverse team at Adept. Having Associates and Leaders from dozens of cultures and heritages enables us to be well rounded organization.

Have you ever been in a situation that made you think that ‘women’ and ‘power’ are two incompatible concepts?

I had this experience with previous employers, but at Adept, my opinions and beliefs on how this organization can grow and continue to be great are always considered, and often asked for. It’s such an honor for a company to recognize their associates’ opinions and thoughts as we continue to grow.  

What is the best advice you’ve been given about being a leader?

Leadership is about taking care of the people that are a part of the team. We are all respected and recognized for our hard work and efforts to delightfully please our clients. If we take care of our people, everything else that comes with success follows.

How does our team leverage diversity as one of our strengths?

Having this diversity allows us the ability to include perspectives and ideas not only for our clients, but our internal goals and objectives, giving us a wide view of how to approach a program and deliver above and beyond what is being requested.

Why do you do what you do? What is your “why”?

I love interacting with all of the associates within the company, especially hearing their challenges and their thought process to work through those obstacles. I enjoy assisting them with growth and development and supporting them through the course of their professional career. There is so much reward when an associate is placed in a position that empowers them to learn, challenge themselves, and be a part of the client’s solution for packaging support.

Jessica Bargilione, Director of Marketing

What does gender equality look like in our company and on our leadership team?

Since I started at Adept, building a diverse team has always been a priority because leadership has always recognized the strength that comes from different experiences, beliefs and perspectives. Though unintentional, our leadership team is predominantly female. We’ve chosen both our leadership team and our employees based on a skill set that extends beyond expertise and experience, but accounts for commitment, versatility and drive to put our clients and company first.

Have you ever been in a situation that made you think that ‘women’ and ‘power’ are two incompatible concepts?

I remember being 8 years old playing little league. As the only girl in the league, some of the parents didn’t feel I belonged there. They were discussing my ineptitude due to my gender, as my older, much less restrained sister turned around and suggested, “you didn’t seem to have a problem with her being a girl until she struck out your grandson.” The chatter about me not being skilled enough to play ended there. I’ve been fortunate throughout my life and career to be part of a family, as well as several teams and groups that believe achievement comes from ability and drive, rather than gender.

What is the best advice you’ve been given about being a leader?

Surround yourself with the right people. Empower them with the culture, tools and resources to be successful, then get out of the way.

How does our team leverage diversity as one of our strengths?

We have brilliant associates from all over the globe that have different backgrounds, skillsets and experiences. One of the greatest strengths as a company is our ability to lean on one another to solve problems, develop new ideas and leverage our diverse perspectives to deliver creative solutions.

Why do you do what you do? What is your “why”?

To enable people to tap into their strengths and empower understanding through establishing the right connections; whether through education, communication or experience.

Beverage bottles conveyorSM

Serialization Adds Value Beyond Compliance for Food and Beverage Companies

Serialization is a word synonymous with compliance, but the value it can add to a supply chain extends far beyond following the rules. While the Pharmaceutical industry has been unveiling the benefits for several years, the Food and Beverage industry is just starting to recognize the possibilities that become available when implementing a serialization solution.

The following infographic highlights some of the different business areas that serialization solutions can impact and improve business operations, and add overall value to the supply chain.

If you’re interested in finding out how serialization might be able to benefit your company, contact us, our digital team looks forward to the challenge.


Hasanna NEW

Announcing: Hasanna Birdsong, New Managing Director of Adept Group

We’re delighted to announce the appointment of Hasanna Birdsong to Managing Director for the Adept Group LLC with the responsibility to lead and manage the company.

With more than 20 years of business development experience, including over ten years of executive level leadership and strategic development, Hasanna is the perfect person for the job.  

As a natural leader, she excels at making connections and finding and empowering the natural talent in the people around her.  

Prior to Adept, Hasanna built and ran the sales and marketing practice for the Azzur Group, a professional services company focused on providing their life science clients solutions from Discovery to Delivery™.  In addition to her leadership experience at Azzur, Hasanna established a sales consulting company where she served companies in the professional development, healthcare and life sciences, and financial services industries.

Hasanna joined Adept a year ago as the VP of Sales and has proven her strengths as a growth-oriented leader, taking on increasing responsibilities, driving growth throughout each practice and setting the standard for excellence within the company.   

“We are primed to continue our positive momentum and growth,” said Prateek Lal, founder of Adept Group. “Hasanna has played an integral part in making key decisions throughout the organization since she came on board and she’s well positioned to succeed as managing director of the company.”

Hasanna’s values are aligned with Adept Group’s core values.  She is passionate about her own personal and professional growth and the growth of the team.  Her philosophy for success radiates in all she does: “Surround yourself with exceptional people, give them the tools and resources they need to be successful and then get out of the way.”  It’s that philosophy that will lead Adept Group to become the global leader of outsourced packaging solutions.

We’re excited to take this journey with Hasanna leading the way.


The Adept Group delivers best in class consulting, talent, digital and value optimization solutions for the packaging world. With specialized teams focused on each of those areas, Adept Group has assembled the top experts in the packaging industry to help companies reduce risk, increase speed to market, optimize cost, and transform the value of packaging. 


California Mandates Postconsumer Recycled Content

Bill AB 793, signed by the California Governor in September 2020, makes California the first US state to require beverage containers to use a set amount of recycled plastic.

This new mandate aims to take a critical step toward a circular economy while giving beverage companies benchmarks to hit until requiring 50% recycled content in 2030.

We’ve developed an infographic to answer the main questions regarding the new legislation.


Designing Packaging for Distribution

3 Crucial Considerations for Designing a Packaging Strategy for Distribution

Determining what will happen to packages during distribution is a complex task requiring a variety of skills and experience. A trial-and-error approach is never optimal so it is important to evaluate all possible variables that may negatively impact a packaging strategy and develop a process-driven methodology to avoid rework and expensive mistakes.

This article offers an overview of three crucial factors often overlooked when designing a packaging strategy for distribution.

Understanding Your Distribution Environment

Mapping the logistics network from the manufacturer to the point of sales and all points of contact in between should be the first step of packaging design for distribution.

Three important factors are often analyzed too superficially:

Reconsider Product Design

Experience shows that distribution damages are drastically reduced if packaging engineers are involved early in the design of a product. If a product is damaged during either testing or a real shipment, packaging is the first thing engineers usually look to improve. A new material, improved dunnage, or a different container are all tempting options to try to solve the problem quickly. However, a distribution failure can also reveal a weakness in product design. For example, if a corner is too sharp or the selected material does not offer sufficient resistance to fatigue.

Offsetting such structural weaknesses by changing the packaging strategy may come at a high cost and it could be cheaper to start over and re-design the product, especially in the long term.

Product designers and packaging engineers should work together rather than in silos.

Do Not Underestimate Environmental Factors

Compression, vibration, and shock are the most observed factors in packaging distribution testing. While these are surely aspects to be taken into consideration, the environment is often a silent killer.

For example, the stacking strength of a corrugated box can be reduced by as much as 20% if the relative humidity goes from 0% (dry) to 50%. Similar results apply for fatigue and other structural properties. Heat can increase ductility in polymers or increase the viscosity of water-based inks, causing smearing of the artwork.

If transportation happens across different climate zones, taking environment into consideration is a must for a solid distribution strategy.

Think Ahead when Selecting Primary Packages

There is usually a bias toward primary packaging when allocating investments on a packaging strategy for a given product. The reason is simple: the primary package is seen as way to deliver a brand’s value proposition. In contrast, secondary/tertiary packaging are perceived as pure means of transportation with little value for consumers. This approach can lead to critical distribution failures.

A primary package designed to go into a specific RFC may not fit well into a different corrugated box or a shrink bundle. Structural integrity, dunnage and headspace are all variables that may play a role and are difficult or expensive to adapt on-the-go.

Thinking about all levels of the packaging hierarchy up front makes packaging design more efficient as well as cost-effective.

Scalability Considerations

In addition to selecting a package that is robust enough to protect the product throughout the distribution environment, one factor that often gets overlooked during package design is scalability.

Though an effective packaging strategy should work given the current outlook of a business (existing volumes, clients, distribution channels etc.), it is also important to take future scenarios into consideration.

Is the business projected to grow sharply in the next five years? Is it expanding to new geographic areas around the globe? Will other products or handling technologies be added to the current portfolio? These are all important questions to ask at the beginning of the design phase to avoid the pitfalls of a short-sighted packaging strategy.

Here are few examples:

  • An increase in volume of product shipped may lead to the necessity of stacking products with an additional layer in the warehouse. This may ultimately lead to static compression failures if not adequately planned for.
  • Shifting from LTL to FTL may require a different unitization strategy (e.g. stacking more boxes per pallet requires more robust shrink wrap).
  • Adding a new client from a tropical country can lead to distribution failures from humidity and heat, as described earlier.

If a business is planning to expand in the next five years, now is the most convenient time to take corrective actions and avoid costly packaging strategy changes along the way.

Involve Customers and Carriers Early

Testing is an effective way of predicting the performance of packaging in its distribution environment. Amazon, for example, has developed its own testing methodology and technology to drastically reduce damages due to transportation. Amazon suggests that its packaging selector reduced product damage rates by a staggering 24%.

While this technology is proprietary to Amazon, the methodology behind it is something other companies can learn from. Unless products are shipped through a heavily regulated channel, a solid testing strategy should be developed by the packaging design team. Even if your testing is based on standards developed by organizations like ISTA, it is important to involve customers and carriers early in the design process.

The key factor that businesses tend to miss is that testing is done in a lab, while products are shipped in the real world. How roughly will the product be handled by humans? What is the maximum temperature that will be reached inside a container? What is the vibration profile that most accurately mirrors the one of a specific distribution mode? While the packaging design team can surely answer these questions with estimated values, the feedback from customers and carriers is a crucial step that will help you avoid costly mistakes.

Moreover, retrieving real world information on distribution channels can be made automatic with supply chain visibility tools. This technology uses sensors to monitor packages during transportation by collecting real time data such as temperature, humidity, shock, light and location. This provides packaging engineers with accurate data on which they can build a successful distribution strategy.

To summarize, it is important that the packaging design team leaves the lab often to get a firsthand view of what happens to the packages at all touchpoints along the supply chain. They’re likely to discover surprises that lab testing won’t reveal.


It is always difficult to predict what will happen to packages as they move through the supply chain and experience increased hazards. Incorporating these three concepts early in the design of a distribution strategy is a simple but effective way to avoid unwanted and expensive blunders.

In order to ensure your package will arrive at its destination intact, leverage experts who have knowledge of regulatory standards, package validation and distribution qualification to avoid wasting critical time or experiencing expensive pitfalls.

If you need assistance with developing packaging for your distribution environment, our engineers have extensive experience and are ready to help. Contact Us.

If you need more in-depth information about developing packaging for distribution, check out our resource library, which includes a variety of infographics and white papers that offer valuable information on the topic.

Automated packaging process line with two machines

6 Essential Steps to Packaging Machinery Validation

As technology continues to evolve, new faster, cleaner, smarter packaging machinery is always being developed. When companies invest in new machinery, it is up to them to make it work, and work consistently. Validation is a critical means to that end.

The Purpose of Validation

The purpose of packaging equipment validation is to establish a baseline for a packaging process. This work is documented and referenced throughout the life of the machine. Not only is it a requirement for regulated products, but it is also an effective means for troubleshooting errors in packaging lines.

Many industries use a formal validation process, while others are less regulated and can simplify the process down to an informal visual inspection. In the end, the amount of testing required will be dictated by the corporate standards and quality systems that regulate each business.

Steps to Validating Packaging Machinery

For the more regulated industries, some of the steps in a packaging validation process include:

By validating packaging machinery, businesses can be assured of consistent, successful packaging performance. If you need assistance with validating your packaging machinery, contact us.


Evaluating the Feasibility of Switching to Compostable Packaging

Awareness of compostable packaging has grown significantly in recent years. One of the driving factors of this growth is the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy, which set a goal that all plastic packaging be 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. While many consumers are familiar with the reuse model, dating back to the days of the milk man, and recycling, with curbside recycling access continuing to grow, composting is a new concept that is not familiar to many people.

Understanding the Definition of Compostable Packaging

One of the main challenges with compostable packaging is developing a thorough understanding of the definition. To provide background on what is considered compostable packaging here is an excerpt from Compostable Packaging, A Greener Approach to Packaging Materials, An Adept Packaging White Paper.

Compostable packaging, or more specifically, compostable plastic, is defined by the ASTM (American Society for Testing & Materials) as “capable of undergoing biological decomposition in a compost site as part of an available program, such that the plastic is not visually distinguishable and breaks down to carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass, at a rate consistent with known compostable materials (e.g. cellulose) and leaves no toxic residue.”

According to World Centric, to be considered compostable plastic, there are three characteristics it must meet three conditions: 

  1. Biodegradable – in order for a material to be considered biodegradable, it must break down into carbon dioxide, water, biomass at the same rate as cellulose (paper).
  2. Disintegrable – the material is disintegrable if it is indistinguishable in compost; it must not be visible or needed to be screened out
  3. Free of Eco-toxicity – a material is considered free of eco-toxicity if the biodegradation does not produce any toxic material and the compost can support plant growth. 

Evaluation of Compostable Certification

Compostable packaging can be a great alternative for materials such as laminate plastic films, which do not have many end-of-life options today outside of landfill and incineration, but when assessing compostable packaging there are several factors that need to be considered, including:

  • The composting certification
  • On pack consumer communication
  • Supply chain of the package
  • Likelihood that it will make it to a composting facility

Compostable Certification Process

The certification process depends on several factors, including which country the package will be sold in and whether it is designed to be composted in an industrial facility or a home composting environment.

According to Compostable Packaging, A Greener Approach to Packaging Materials, in order to determine that a material is compostable, there are certain tests that the material must pass. Some institutions have defined either the standards or the methods to perform these tests, such as:

Commonly, to receive the assessment and certification, there are independent certification bodies that help with this process, such as:

  • DIN Certco (German Institute of Standardization, Germany)
  • AFOR (Association for Organics Recycling, UK)
  • Keurmerkinstituut (Certification Institute, Netherlands)
  • COBRO (Packaging Research Institute, Poland)
  • ABA (Australasian Bioplastics Association, Australia)
  • Vinçotte (Accredited Inspection and Certification Organization, Belgium)
  • Jätelaito-syhdistys (Solid Waste Association, Finland)
  • Certiquality/CIC (Composting and Biogas Association, Italy)
  • Avfall Norge (Waste Management and Recycling Association, Norway)
  • BPI (Biodegradable Products Institute, USA)
  • BNQ (Bureau de Normalisation du Québec, Canada)
  • JBPA (Japan BioPlastics Association, Japan)

Ensuring your package is engineered using certified compostable material and can still function to protect your product is one step in determining the feasibility of using compostable packaging.  

Consumer Communication for End of Life

Another challenge that companies face when implementing compostable packaging is lack the of consumer education surrounding it. Consumer communication is important when it comes to packaging, no matter what end-of-life scenario the package was designed for. If the package is disposed of incorrectly, it defeats the purpose of the intended design and provides no added value. Due to the fact that many consumers are unfamiliar with composting, it is best to provide as much information as possible.

 In the case of composting, completing the certification process will provide options of what graphic, instructions, and claims can be made on pack.

For example, the US BPI has a standardized logo that also aligns with the How 2 Compost labeling program from GreenBlue, the creators of How 2 Recycle. While in Europe, the TUV certification labels are widely recognized by consumers. Including resources that make it easy to find the nearest industrial composting facility or instructions for composting at home is also useful to promote correct end-of-life disposal.

Access to composting facilities

Not only does the consumer need to be aware of how to properly dispose of the package, but in the case of composting they also need to have access to an industrial composting facility that accepts packaging or have their own home composting setup. Not all industrial composting facilities are created equal; they range from accepting green waste, food waste, compostable packaging or all the above. GreenBlue has created an interactive map that highlights US composting facilities and the type(s) of material they accept.

Some companies utilize compostable packaging for products that have a defined supply chain, such as products being sold in sports stadiums where you can influence the collection systems put into place. The Green Sports Alliance is an organization that works in this space and promotes zero waste at facilities they partner with.

Determining your consumer’s access to these facilities or ability to influence collection systems determines the ability of your consumer to correctly dispose of the packaging. Without access to these facilities, a consumer doesn’t have the tools needed to compost the packaging.

Assessing if Compostable Packaging is Right for You

Considering compostable packaging can be a complex process to take on, given the need for certified material, education for consumers and access to composting facilities for end of life. By considering the factors noted here, companies can make a determination if the foundation is in place to take the next steps and what can and cannot be achieved by making the change to compostable packaging.

If you’re considering switching to compostable packaging or want to have a discussion about if compostable packaging is an option, our experts would be happy to help. Contact us.

Olive oil factory, Olive Production

EU Tethered Bottle Caps Regulation- Challenges and Solutions

In an attempt to reduce the amount of plastic that leaks out of the recycling system, the EU is imposing a new regulation for single use plastics. Part of that regulation, Article 6, requires companies to redesign all plastic containers up to 3 liters that use a plastic closure to ensure that closure is tethered to the bottle and cannot be detached.

This ambitious regulation is causing a stir in the Beverage industry. While the goals of Article 6 are aimed at reducing plastic deposited into marine environments, many are questioning if they’re realistic. Let’s take a look at the goals vs challenges of this 2024 regulation.


Conveyor with bottles filled with milk products

Elements of a Successful Reusable Packaging Program

The topic of reusable packaging programs has been widely discussed in recent years, but in practice, efforts have barely scratched the surface of its true potential. Executed properly, reusable packaging provides benefits ranging from increased sustainability and improved productivity to increased product quality and, perhaps most importantly, cost savings. Well-integrated reusable packaging programs help industries optimize the use of critical resources and minimize the waste associated with traditional packaging methods.

Applications for Reusables

Many packaging elements throughout the supply chain can be converted from single-use materials to reusables. Everyday items used in the manufacturing, packaging and distribution of goods, including durable handheld and bulk containers, pallets, shipping racks and dunnage, are often made for single-use or limited-use applications, but brand owners can find a lot of value in converting them to reusable items.

Reusable packaging can be used for shipping both inbound goods such as raw materials and outbound finished goods. While they are in the manufacturing facility, goods can be transported from one department or stage of the manufacturing process to another in durable packaging that lasts for many cycles before it needs to be replaced. Recyclable materials can be returned in reusable containers and replacement parts and other after-market goods can be distributed in reusable packaging that customers return for repeated use.

Planning for Reusability

The first step to a successful reusable packaging program is a thoroughly researched and well thought out plan. Brand owners need to solicit input from customers to find the best opportunities to incorporate reusable packaging downstream. Thorough analysis of current packaging systems provides opportunities to identify ways in which reusables will generate cost savings, and a well-researched list of suppliers will reveal sources to produce the items and materials you’ll need to implement a reusable packaging process throughout the supply chain.

Designing Reusable Solutions

While the planning stage provides an important overview of the process used to convert to reusable packaging materials, packaging engineers and sourcing experts need to adhere to a diligent design process to create a successful program. The new system must be designed for consistency with existing standards, such as pallet size, as well as take into account logistic needs. Equally as important, the new reusable system must provide protection for components that is on par with or better than traditional packaging to earn buy-in from stakeholders. Perhaps most importantly, reusable solutions must integrate seamlessly with the customer’s supply chain for the program to succeed.

While those considerations are integral to buy-in from external stakeholders, design needs to account for additional considerations for internal stakeholders to understand reusables’ value. A successful program must balance durability with weight and easy of handling to control costs and ensure reusable solutions last long enough to generate savings. The new system must comply with health & safety standards and free up space that was previously used to store traditional packaging components for productive use. To prevent loss, an integrate a tracking system that monitors the location of reusable packaging as it moves through the supply chain can be incorporated. This allows for creation of a plan for storing the physical elements of the reusable program at each stop along the supply chain.

Prototyping and Testing

Because implementing reusable packaging involves an overhaul of so many pieces of your packaging process, it is important to make sure every element integrates seamlessly within the system before implementation. For this reason, a thorough testing process involving prototypes of each physical element is integral to the process. Many of the same suppliers identified during the planning stages can be leveraged to produce prototypes.

When it comes to package testing, there are a variety of options to consider. Consulting engineers and other high-level technical experts with knowledge of the product and its distribution provides valuable input to narrow down the list of standards to use for packaging tests. Testing standards that apply to reusable packaging include:

  • ISTA-3A: Packaged-Products for Parcel Delivery Shipment
  • ISTA-3B: Packaged-Products for Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) Shipment
  • ASTM D7386-16: Single Pack Performance Test
  • ASTM D4169-09: Performance Testing of Shipping Containers and Systems
  • FedEx 6A: Packaging Testing Under 150 Lbs.


Once the planning, design, and testing are completed and approved, a well-executed integration process will ensure the reusable packaging program gets off to a successful start, which is important for the longevity of the program. Proper introduction of the new reusable solution is also valuable to ensure that everyone who will handle the reusable packaging understands the new system. This will encourage correct use of the system, so that reusable items can circulate properly and return to their starting point after they are used.

Completing the transition from single-use packaging solutions to a true reusable packaging program can be a complicated process requiring a high level of input from technical experts. For brand owners who lack the resources or the manpower to complete the transition, Adept Packaging can help. Our team of Loop-certified packaging engineers have guided many brands through the transition. Our global network of suppliers enables our engineers to design, develop and qualify innovative reusable packaging solutions. Additionally, our sustainability team collaborates with our value optimization team to analyze opportunities for cost savings via transitioning to reusable packaging. They build the plans, design the details, manage the prototyping and testing process, and oversee integration to provide a smooth transition to a reusable packaging program that will save on costs and increase a brand’s sustainability efforts.

If you’re interested in talking to our experts, contact us! We’d love to hear from you.