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unPACKed Podcast: Sustainability Finds Its Home at PACK EXPO Las Vegas

Listen as Fuseneo's Brent Lindberg teases what PACK EXPO Las Vegas' ”Taking it to the Streets” Sustainability Central is all about.

Sustainability Central is a new, must-see destination at PACK EXPO Las Vegas, curated by Fuseneo. The area’s goal is to help guide attendees and exhibitors alike through a complete understanding of how to achieve packaging sustainability. Brent Lindberg from Fuseneo breaks down the six key areas — design, materials, recovery, logistics, manufacturing, and analytics — while also giving us a taste of what the ”Taking it to the Streets” Sustainability Central theme is all about.

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Transcript

Sean Riley:

So with all the fancy introductions out of the way, welcome to the podcast, Brent.

Brent Lindberg:

Well, thank you very much.

Sean Riley:

The pleasure is all ours.

Brent Lindberg:

No, Sean, it's mine.

Sean Riley:

All right. We can't fight for the next 15 minutes, so I will let you take the pleasure out of this one.

PACK EXPO; it's going to feature a new exhibit. They're calling it Sustainability Central, and it has a sustainability education stage, and the reason why you're here is because it's curated by Fuseneo. I guess my first question to kick this off is how did Fuseneo get involved in Sustainability Central, and basically how is your vast expertise going to contribute to this stage?

Brent Lindberg:

PMMI had reached out to a number of different parties to curate this and interviewed us and went through the process. But this combination of our design and creative expertise, plus our depth of packaging and our understanding of manufacturing and all these different processes, and the fact that we at the end of the day are really processing material agnostic, that was what really led to us being the choice for curating this, and we're super honored to do it.

Sean Riley:

With that in mind, sustainability is a berry, very broad topic and it covers so many different facets and so many different layers. So I guess when you guys are first tasked with this challenge, how do you take such a broad idea and broad area and tackle setting up an exhibit to ensure that everything that we need to have covered is going to be covered?

Brent Lindberg:

Yeah. It's a super daunting task. Sustainability is something that's really woven into the DNA of Fuseneo. A lot of work that we do is helping brands make more sustainable decisions. We talk about sustainability as steps. It isn't this you've arrived; it's this constant progress of making improvements, and it can look a lot of different ways.

So the task with this Sustainability Central was not really setting a path. It wasn't setting a specific goal that helped brands get to that goal, but it's helping brands understand all of these options and steps that they can take, all these new materials, processes, research, things that are happening out there so that they can make better decisions.

Sean Riley:

We're whittling it down and getting less 30,000 foot view. I guess how are we going to tie sustainability into the packaging and processing? How are you going to make that connection where it's not just use less water, use less plastic, things of that nature? How are you going to whittle down to that granular level?

Brent Lindberg:

What we did was we really looked across this entire landscape of the types of participants that are coming into PACK EXPO, the attendees. Who is it that comes? What are the types of brands? Who from these brands are showing up? The different types of materials companies. There's really just people from all over the spectrum. And so who's coming and what are the types of things that they would want to learn about or understand what's new? That's how we set it.

So we put together this really cool advisory board of people from throughout the industry. There are retailers and converters and material suppliers, equipments. There's really everything. We put together this panel to help guide all these different topics. Ultimately, we landed with these six different pillars; design, material, manufacturing, logistics, recovery and analytics, are those six pillars.

So we're setting this up in really six segments. So if you're coming in to just learn about materials, you can go into this materials segment. If you're coming in to learn more about how do I measure and analyze LCAs and carbon measure, all this kind of stuff that's happening, how do I do that? So we've really tried to segment it so that it's approachable and not just some big messy spiderweb.

Sean Riley:

That's an interesting way of breaking it down. What a lot of people don't know about PACK EXPO and I always find fascinating is a good portion, I want to say almost half, and it might be more than that, and I hope I'm not misquoting, of people that attend are attending for the first time. They're people that were making grandma's cookies and have now decided that we want to try to make this a bigger project and not just something we're having around the neighborhood. We want to try to sell these. We want to get machinery for this.

I'm at the show looking for that, and I wander into Sustainability Central, and I'm familiar with the term, but what am I going to experience? What am I going to see? What am I going to learn if I'm that person as well as I'm a person from Coke or Pepsi that's there that knows a lot of these things already, but they want to learn a little bit more about sustainability?

So I guess you have two different people. You have a bunch of different people that are going to be bopping in there.

Brent Lindberg:

Yeah, and even the challenge of ones that are super experienced. Or even if they're at a big multinational, they may be brand new. You've got people from all these different spectrums.

So rather than try and take people through one specific track, we've broken it into vignettes. It's going to be about presenting. So, "Hey, here's a new material." Just really breaking it down and getting a little bit deeper. There's still deeper that you can go. And we encourage people, if they're learning about some of these things that are new, whether it's something on the logistics side, hey, learn a little bit about it here and then go super deep with this company, the brand, whoever is doing this thing.

So this is really an introduction to a lot of these things. We're not going crazy high level, but we're also not going deep into the weeds. We're trying to cover a pretty broad base here in the middle.

Sean Riley:

And when you say that they're going to interact with these companies, I assume it's not going to be this heavy sales pitch from those companies saying, "This is what you need to use."

Brent Lindberg:

No, it's absolutely not at all a sales pitch. The way that we're going out and curating this information, it's super neutral. These brands aren't going to be in the booth. We're going to be putting out samples of things, information, these interactive displays, all this stuff, but you're not going to have the salespeople around. You're not going to have all that. You can just go and learn at your own pace, and if you want to go interact with the brand, go do that.

The way that we're even getting this information from them says, "Hey, this is not a sales pitch." We're filtering everything that comes through. We want a neutral approach. This isn't about... Let's say plastics. This isn't plastics bashing, plastics praising. This is, hey, here's a cool new material. Here's a cool new process. From an equipment standpoint, what's happening in energy savings and things like that? It's really about being super, super neutral and approachable.

Sean Riley:

Okay, I like that. That will not scare people away that are listening to this, which is the last thing we want to do.

Brent Lindberg:

No. Rather, we're really hoping that people stay for a while and have fun. We're creating a number of interactive components with universities. There's going to be games and activities and things that you can do inside of this whole experience.

I mentioned the university piece. We've got at this point, I don't know, maybe half a dozen different universities, from Clemson, Cal Poly, UW Stout, RIT, Indiana State, MSU, all these different universities are coming in to present the research that they're doing and these types of projects and programs that are happening. There's going to be some cool composting research and demonstrations that are happening. There's just all sorts of really neat information that we think the university's going to bring and the students are going to help host the booth as well.

Sean Riley:

Oh, that's awesome. Because I know, again, that's another big PMMI PACK EXPO thing is involving the students in it, the next generation workforce. And they, to be honest, are the generation that's most passionate about sustainability and passionate about protecting this rock we all live on. So that's good that they're going to be deeply involved in leading people through this because they're probably, as they're coming up and doing the research are sort of the emerging experts on a lot of this and what is working and what hasn't worked in the past sort of trial and error. So I'm glad to see that the universities are going to be involved.

Brent Lindberg:

Yeah. We just felt like they were a pretty neutral party. They're not selling anything, right?

Sean Riley:

No, absolutely.

Brent Lindberg:

They're educating students and doing their own research. Yeah, so we felt like students would really be a good approach.

So they're going to be some of our city guides. Sustainability Central; it's kind of a central park in the middle of a city. And so we've got this whole city vibe that we're going to be doing.

Sean Riley:

Love it.

Brent Lindberg:

Yeah, it's going to be super fun.

Sean Riley:

That's really cool.

There also has to be a financial end to this. Are there any other organizations that have committed to being featured within the exhibit?

Brent Lindberg:

We're still working through some of the featured ones. There's a lot of organizations that have, again, been curating and gathering content from, whether that's Dow; they'll show some of the materials likely that they're rolling out. Or companies like Flock and Logistics Tech, materials like Poptech. There's a number of different brands that are going to be featured. I'm excited about all the different types of companies from machinery companies... Yeah, it's a really cool mix.

Sean Riley:

That's good. That's what I like to hear. Glad it is a mix of, we have the big companies, we have some middle companies, we have some up and comers that are bringing materials and ideas to the forefront that are sort of the next gen things that people are interested in using.

Brent Lindberg:

I would almost promise... and there's going to be somebody who's like, "I'm going to prove you wrong." I would almost promise there's going to be something within this space that everybody has never seen before.

Sean Riley:

Very cool.

Brent Lindberg:

There's going to be such a breadth of stuff there.

Sean Riley:

I'm going to hold you to that. I know some experts and I'm going to make sure.

Brent Lindberg:

Yeah. See, that's why I said. You're going to find that stump to chump.

Sean Riley:

Stump to chump; I like that.

Speaking of things that people don't know, that's a nice segue to the Sustainability stage. What do you guys have in mind there? What kind of education? What kind of topics you might want to tease out that people are going to want to stop by, sit down, take a load off and hear some great education?

Brent Lindberg:

Yeah. We're lining up a whole host of different speakers from talking about conducting LCAs through manufacturing efficiencies, load optimization, engaging consumers in recycling. There's design stuff. There are some case studies around packaging principles. There's going to be a whole host of great speakers that are going to be talking on a myriad of topics from all of these pillars.

Sean Riley:

And it's not just sustainability 101. It's not just the high level. It's going to be some high-level stuff. It's going to be some mid. It's going to be some things that are going to be really groundbreaking. It's going to be pretty diverse?

Brent Lindberg:

Yeah. We want people to walk away from both the speaking and the whole exhibit itself both inspired and informed, but also we want them to walk away with action steps. We want them to walk away with something that they can go do or some small step that they can go take within their own organization. Yeah, we are trying to keep it really action oriented and getting in with practical information.

Sean Riley:

Love it. Things they can take back and actually use in their business, which is what we are looking for.

Well, I can't thank you enough, Brent, for coming on here and taking time. I know you're a busy guy, so I appreciate you taking time out of the day. We appreciate you taking time out of the day to talk about this. We appreciate you doing this at PACK EXPO for us. So I just want to thank you again for coming on here, Brent

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