Opinion

Today’s packaging does more than protect a product, it is a vessel designed to convey a brand’s unique story. Every customer who purchases a product sees its packaging, thus creating an opportunity for businesses to establish a perfectly controlled interaction. The right strategy will generate engagement by crafting an informational, yet emotional, story.
Standing on the platform of the Stuttgart main station – hair matted against my forehead from the long flight and following train ride, sleep in my eyes, and clutching a packet of papers bearing the familiar red stripes of the Hochschule der Medien logo – I knew things were different.
As CES wrapped up in Las Vegas at the start of 2018, and visions of all sorts of intelligent products swim in the heads of marketers and consumers, I feel the need to reflect. Packaging needs to catch up to the rest of the 21st century and undergo its own digital transformation. But is brand packaging really ready to leverage the capabilities of a smartphone?
A group of journalists over four days in late-January were given a tour of the Indonesian-based business activities of Asia Pulp & Paper, which has grown to become one of the world’s largest integrated pulp and paper entities.
Earn more business by reducing your prospect’s marketing cost by up to 75% while maintaining maximum marginsMost account executives are facing the same two print sales challenges: How do I differentiate my services when my competitors are capable of supplying the same job and how can I be competitive when there is always someone willing to print the same job for less? Although co-op marketing does not apply to every print sales situation, if your prospect is a neighborhood business that is print marketing collateral then co-op marketing offers a unique solution to this print sales challenge. What is co-op marketing?With summer now in swing, businesses that offer home services like lawn care, carpet cleaning, door and window sales, heating and air conditioning sales, eaves trough installers, roofers, driveway paving, kitchen and bathroom renovators, home improvement contractors and landscapers are getting ready for their summer marketing drive, which usually entails distributing fliers, brochures and door hangers throughout the local neighborhood. This need for marketing collateral presents an excellent opportunity for anyone in the printing industry to grow their sales and earnings.But landing these accounts is not that easy, after all, most of them are already dealing with a printer and the vast majority – a whopping 80 percent – are happy with their existing supplier. So why should any of these companies endure the risk and inconvenience of changing suppliers?  Well the fact is that in most cases they won’t, unless:You have something to offer that they can’t get from their existing supplier, You can show them how to get a better ROI, and Your quote is very competitive.Co-op marketing allows you to meet all three of these criteria. Co-op marketing simply means sharing the printing and distribution costs between two or more noncompetitive businesses. CO-OP Marketing advantages 1. It lowers your prospect’s cost   For example, the lawn care service provider is ready to invest $3,000 to print and distribute a promotional flier; the roofing company is also planning to send promotional fliers to the same target market; and so is the driveway paving service and the eaves trough installers. If only two of these businesses got together to share the cost of the flier and distribution, they could reduce their marketing costs by up to 50 percent; and if all four got together their savings could be as high as 75 percent. From a print sales perspective creating a co-op marketing program allows you to differentiate your service by telling the prospect that you can reduce their marketing costs by up to 75 percent!  2. It will increase sales    For your prospect a reduction in marketing costs means much more than just saving money; it also means an increase in sales and higher profits. For example, take any business person; a real estate agent; the owner of a lawn care service or the owner of the local pizzeria, their success requires marketing. They need to tell everyone in their neighborhood about the service or product and the more often they get their message out, the higher their sales. But small business owners have a limited marketing budget, so although they’d like to advertise more, they cannot afford it. Small business owners will welcome an idea that allows them to promote their services more often for the same cost and co-op marketing provides this opportunity. From a print sales perspective, creating a co-op marketing program allows you to differentiate your service by telling the prospect that you can share an idea that will increase their sales and gain market share.3. It makes your prospect’s marketing material more effective  Diversity increases readership. For example, a Healthcare Newsletter that included an article and ad from a dentist, a dermatologist, a chiropractor and a nutritionist would have a much higher readership then a newsletter that only focused on one of these topics. So while sharing the cost of printing and distributing a brochure, flier or door hanger will greatly reduce your prospect’s marketing cost, co-op marketing will also increase readership and, for the prospect, that means generating a higher response. From a print sales perspective, creating a co-op marketing program means that you differentiate your service by telling the prospect that you can share an idea that will increase response and make their marketing collateral more effective.While offering your prospects a co-op marketing opportunity is an extremely effective way to differentiate your services and eliminate price competition, you can maximize your sales and earnings by offering the prospect a marketing campaign instead of a single co-op distribution. For example, if you created a co-op Home Services Newsletter or Door Hanger your promotional package could include printing and distribution to 5-million homes once a month for six months. How to create a co-op marketing package 1. Select the productAny printed material can be turned into a co-op marketing program, a note pad, flier, postcard, calendar, oversized door hangers, or an 11 x 17 sheet can be turned into 4-page newsletter.      2. Select an area for distribution5,000 homes along specified postal routes, all the businesses within a target area3. Pick a theme Again, there are lots of themes to choose from, primarily depending on time of year: Home improvements, real estate, food and entertainment, health and fitness, business services, etc.4. List the different types of business that fit under your themeHome improvements: Carpet cleaning, door and window sale, heating and air conditioning sale, eaves trough installers, roofers, driveway paving, kitchen and bathroom renovators, home improvements contractors, landscapers, lawn care, plumbers and electricians. Food and entertainment: Restaurants, theatres, pubs, country clubs, caterers, wine making outlets, butchers, home delivery, bakers and even farms that sell to the public.Business services: Office cleaning, office supplies, office equipment, business insurance, car leasing, temp services, accounting, bookkeeping and computer services, courier, shipping.5. Create a prospecting listUse the phone directory and Internet to identify all the local businesses on your list. 6. Contact everyone on your listTell them about the benefits. Offer everyone exclusivity by only including one company for each service. For example if your theme was dinning you could make it exclusive by including only one Italian, one Chinese and one Mexican restaurant.
Strategic brainstorming, change management and printing awards at CUPMAC’s 47th annual conference CUPMAC stands for College and University Print Management Association of Canada. Its approximately 80 members, who are all managers or other key personnel of in-plant printing operations in Canadian institutions of higher learning, do not necessarily follow the same protocols that spell success in the business world. Rather, they operate in ways uniquely geared to effectively serve the specific needs of their own academic institutions and customers. At the same time, their day-to-day routines accomplish many of the same goals that have always been among printing’s loftiest – education, freedom of thought and speech, free access to information and the progress of the arts, sciences, and technology.Another remarkable aspect about CUPMAC members is that they are regularly required to devise sophisticated practical solutions to meet the unique challenges of their work. Invariably, when I speak with members, I am fascinated to learn about the latest solutions they have uncovered for printing dilemmas I’ve never even heard of before. For this reason, I was excited to facilitate a 90-minute interactive brainstorming session on the latest challenges, successes and growth strategies for academic in-plants at CUPMAC’s 47th Annual Conference, held in early June in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The conference’s relatively small size of about 40 participants enabled shop talk that was satisfyingly intense and detailed, and gave all of us an opportunity to get to know each other over the information-packed three-and-a-half-day event. Change or dieThe conference theme, The Change Imperative, emphasized CUPMAC’s focus on supporting its members at a time when print and education environments are both changing rapidly. To survive this volatility, academic in-plants must quickly keep forging new paths to ensure their products and services stay relevant, while also ensuring their printing platforms remain efficient in the face of tightening budget constraints. Among the conference’s eye-openers on managing change was a workshop called Change or Die by Scott Comber, Assistant Professor at the Rowe School of Business at Halifax’s Dalhousie University. Comber is also a leadership coach, who works with organizations to help them manage change and improve the effectiveness of their leaders, conflict resolution, ethical decision-making, and the overall quality of work life.Comber’s thesis for his Change or Die sessions derives from studies in the health-care field involving patients with heart disease who undergo bypass surgery and afterwards need to change to a healthier lifestyle for their own survival. Yet statistics show that 90 percent of these patients choose not to change. Comber believes the reason is that, although they can understand rationally and intellectually why change is necessary, they fail to grasp the need for change on an emotional level and, therefore, fail to do so.“In business, change management usually refers to new sites, new bosses, new organizational charts, new technology, new policies, or other practical measures,” explains Comber. “Most management approaches to change focus only on these externals and their results." But most managers neglect what he calls transition: The internal psychological experience of the people involved in change as they come to terms with the new situation. “Unless transition occurs, change will not be successful,” says Comber, pointing to research showing that a full 75 percent of corporate change initiatives fail.“Since research also confirms that the largest catalyst for behavioural change is emotion, you must understand that change is emotionally driven and that managing people’s internal experience is the most critical part of change leadership,” says Comber. “Accordingly, you must integrate emotion into the way you communicate with others about change to make your communications effective in engaging people and changing their behaviours.” He suggests that connecting with people on a human level right at the beginning of the change process is the most-important single thing you should do – even before addressing the subject of how the change will proceed. “All you have to lead people through the change is your relationship with them,” he advises. He also recommends that leaders’ initial communications about change should identify the brutal facts – meaning what needs to be different – or else the change will not proceed successfully, either. Aiding transitionSince change – especially endings – can often give rise to people’s negative emotions like fear, denial, frustration and anger, Comber advises leaders to acknowledge (but do not necessarily judge) any endings that must occur, including any associated conflict and emotions.Support people in dealing with their feelings about the change and recognize that some people will take longer to adjust. Only after these preliminaries is it advisable to move on to discussions identifying best practices and creating an action plan for external changes.At this stage, one of the best ways to aid someone’s transition is to empower them to become part of the decision-making process through engaging them in dialogue, answering their questions, and listening to their feedback. “Help them decide on their own parts,” advises Comber. “In most situations you can include others in this way and avoid the common mistake of not holding other people capable and assuming they won’t be able to handle it.” Once an action plan for change is determined, Comber advises it is best to move quickly and energetically to implement it, because research shows that fast, large movement actually helps people adjust better than small, gradual changes.Another effective leadership technique is to tell a story about the road to change and new beginnings in a way that gives people meaning, purpose and validation. An excellent way for leaders to achieve all these ends is by communicating progress in a way that speaks to people’s emotions by instilling hope or even joy – emotions that are far more powerful motivators than logic, facts or fear.Communicating appreciationComber says another important part of communicating about change is appreciation: “Focus on what you want more of, give energy to it, and it will grow. In other words find it, track it and fan it.“Conversely, do not focus on problems, because if you focus on the negative, it will actually grow. Instead think in terms of the changes you want to see. As a small example, if employee lateness is a problem, track people who arrive on time and appreciate them. Rather than focusing on the problem, get people galvanized on a positive future marked by early arrivals.”Your expression of appreciation should be timely, convey thanks and include an all-important impact statement explaining the positive results of what you are appreciating. “It’s the impact message that actually changes behaviours by helping people understand how their contribution counts,” Comber explains. “During change people must do things they normally don’t have to do, so it’s important to appreciate their extra efforts.” It is not necessary to acknowledge each person individually, however. You can also do it through collective events like awards presentations or ice cream days.Comber adds that effective change leaders also need to cultivate their own skills at communicating with others about the ambiguity and volatility of information and situations. Likely, as plans progress, they will need to find constructive ways to address such unforeseen developments as delays and unanticipated consequences. Adding local colour and national awardsHalifax is one of Canada’s most-historic cities when it comes to printing. The country’s first newspaper, the Halifax Gazette, was first published there in 1752. The city also became home to Margaret Draper, a Loyalist from Boston, Massachusetts, considered Canada’s first female printer, who arrived in Halifax at the start of the American Revolution with her business partner John Howe, dragging a wooden printing press along with them.With a population today of 413,710, six universities and three colleges, Halifax seems to be experiencing a building boom, to judge by the number of cranes and construction sites in evidence in June. The CUPMAC conference took full advantage of local tourism by offering attendees optional nearby sightseeing on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, including visits to the famously scenic fishing villages of Peggy’s Cove and Lunenburg (the latter being one of only two North American UNESCO Heritage Sites). The fact that modern Halifax has become a gastronomic wonderland was reflected both in excellent meals at the conference hotel and several supplier-sponsored dinner outings to fine local restaurants.The awards dinner at the conference was memorable for its impressive venue: The Garrison Room in the North Magazine of the Halifax Citadel, a British fort established in 1749 and Canada’s most visited National Historic Site, according to Fodors.com. The occasion marked the first ever presentation of the annual CUPMAC Awards, a new source of lifeblood for members, who depend for their existence on the acknowledgement of their value by the bureaucracy and teaching departments of the institutions they serve. This clientele, consisting of administrators and academics, may have no concept of the expertise and benefits provided by their school’s printing in-plant and may in fact find it easier to farm the whole operation out to an external facility-management supplier if they seriously fail to understand its importance. Hence the requirement on all CUPMAC members to keep their institutions constantly aware of the unique and valuable services their in-plant provides.The newly created awards program gives members a way to generate just this kind of vital internal recognition and marketing, explains Sean Kehler, Supervisor, Print & Logistics Services, Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, British Columbia. He laughs when recounting that his appointment to the Awards Committee of one, charged with implementing the program, came while he was taking a break from the room where CUPMAC’s 2013 annual meeting was being held in conjunction with the association’s 2013 conference in Whistler, British Columbia. (He was present, however, when he was elected the association’s new President at CUPMAC’s 2014 annual meeting in Halifax.)In organizing the awards, Kehler elected to incorporate a number of distinctive features; for instance, wall plaques are awarded as prizes instead of trophies to save space on desks and shelves. The plaques are made in the city hosting both the annual conference and awards presentation ceremony to further involve the locale in the awards. All samples entered in CUPMAC’s five categories of Production Awards are displayed at the annual conference and judged by all members in attendance. A further five categories, called Impression Awards, are determined by CUPMAC’s executive team to recognize special achievements. The Impression Awards include: Collaborative Service, working with another unit to achieve a goal; Green Service, changes in operations impacting recyclable, renewable and sustainable environmental resources or communicating the in-plant’s green efforts to customers; Accelerated Service, an extreme production deadline; Distinctive Service, continuing daily production while achieving innovative goals for growth through such drastic measures as new equipment installs, plant moves or reorganization; and Hall of Fame induction, exemplifying the highest standards of service to an institution along with contributions to CUPMAC and the in-plant community as a whole.Although printing in-plants in institutions of higher learning vary greatly in size and complexity, Kehler explains the Impression Awards make it possible for even CUPMAC’s smallest members with only one or two staff to gain recognition:  “Impression Awards are for something you accomplished in the trenches without ever necessarily producing a showy printed piece. Everyone can enter a good story or two about how they overcame a difficult challenge to achieve a special accomplishment.”During judging, CUPMAC’s members and executive assess entries following detailed criteria set out on a judging sheet compiled by Kehler, then cast their votes accordingly. Another friendly, collaborative touch is that, after receiving an award, each winner then turns around and acts as the presenter for the next one.
Sharing stories is one of the most – if not the most – innate forms of communication; the retelling of experiences and narratives as a means of inspiring thought-provoking perspectives, teaching life lessons and connecting people.
“Humans build culture – and, by extension, brands – primarily through telling stories. That’s how we make sense of the world and of ourselves: Storytelling. It’s innate. And since the dawn of capitalism, we’ve been telling stories to sell ourselves and our brands too,” said Peter Grossman of Quora in an August 2018 interview with Forbes.
I do a lot of speaking events these days. I’m actually writing this article from an empty little airport in Brainerd, Minnesota. I just presented a session on Direct Mail at AIGA Design Camp. The event draws hundreds of designers every year to the charming and rustic Grand View Lodge and Resort. I’m on my way home, and I finally have some time on my hands as I wait for my flight. No more nerves It’s almost hard to remember back when I used to get nervous – crazy nervous – before an event. I would fret about it for weeks, breaking into cold sweats and wishing desperately to be on the other side of it and on my way home. That was 10 years ago. These days I barely have a butterfly in my stomach before I hit the stage. I don’t know if it’s all of my Fold Factory video work over the past few years, or if it’s the frequency in which I speak to crowds, large and small, or if it’s just the confidence that comes with really knowing your content, but it’s gotten a lot easier – and a lot more fun, thankfully. It also helps that the printing industry is quite welcoming in general. I also find comfort in knowing that often the audience includes people who watch my videos and appreciate my work. They show up excited and ready to learn. Eureka! Printers are finally getting it I have seen a lot of changes over the years. Although there are still some printers out there who see themselves as “just the printer,” more and more I’m seeing printers who are getting deeply involved in creating a top-notch learning experience for their customers. It has taken a while, but printers are finally realizing that they can stay top of mind and build relationships if they bring valuable learning experiences to their customers and if they can be seen as a team member, and a provider of solutions (for print and other forms of media), rather than as a place to print stuff. The other driver seems to be the inability to get face time with customers these days. Events become the draw, and the opportunity to show off their skills and remind customers of their capabilities and willingness to help. Printers are starting to pull out all the stops for their events, creating a “designerly” experience for their customers with engaging and creative event invitations and following through with a cool venue, fun goodie bags, large-format event signage, often hors d’oevres or a meal and drinks, and an enlightening presentation filled with valuable information that addresses the challenges their customers face. Printers have finally realized that their customers really do not want to sit on a folding chair in a windowless room of a print facility to watch a PowerPoint presentation. They are learning to create an experience that their customers will want to attend, and that investment is really paying off for them. One great example of this movement was billed as the printForum, hosted by Rider Dickerson in Chicago in September, during PRINT 13. They put together a day of speakers and I was this year’s luncheon keynote. In addition to the lunch, there was a vendor reception with lots of great materials to take with you, and great content. They had a few hundred in attendance. Within the past few weeks in Atlanta, Prographics and Standard Press each hosted fabulous educational events that brought in crowds of 150-plus. Choose the right topic, and not only do these events draw a crowd they draw a big crowd – a quality crowd that is not just there for a free lunch and the tchotchke. As a matter of fact, these people come early, they take lots of notes and even photograph the slides with their smartphones. They stay late to ask questions, too. It’s pretty amazing. I do a lot of events for Sappi Fine Paper. I speak on my own or with the amazing Daniel Dejan, Sappi’s North American ETC Print/Creative Manager. I’m on my second big project with Sappi after providing the content for Standard #4: Scoring and Folding a few years back. We recently collaborated on a new Sappi direct-mail publication called ACT NOW! and Daniel and I have been touring to share information about how to create mail that performs. We were in New York City at the Art Directors Club in early October and we actually had a waiting list, because registration was at capacity. Almost 200 were there that night. If you would like to see us present live, or get a free copy of the publication, contact your Sappi rep to learn more. Breaking new ground This summer, I crossed into the world of online education. I gave two live, 90-minute presentations on creativeLIVE.com – one session was on direct mail, the other was on creative folded solutions. It was fun, and a little scary and everything in-between. Even my parents were watching me from their little desktop computer in Rochester, New York – yikes! I was in Seattle in a studio with producers, camera operators and hosts. Questions came in live from the online chat rooms, and there was a small in-studio audience, too. The events were free for anyone to watch on the day of the event, and now theses sessions are available in the creativeLIVE store. It was a fabulous experience. I am actually invited back to creativeLIVE this December. The cool thing about that event was that it was a bridge for me. creativeLIVE’s audience is different than the groups I usually present to. There are lots of creative entrepreneurs, photographers, people who have creative careers, and even those that are just sharpening their skills or hobbyists. Audience observations What I’m seeing is that there is a real hunger for meaningful information in the industry (and in any industry, I imagine). For example, although there is so much potential for mail and digital print combined with other forms of media for a true cross-channel marketing experience, the how is very overwhelming for people who used to be able to buy a mailing list, send a mail-piece, count responses and repeat. For people who are just starting their careers, there is a critical foundation of practical knowledge that just is not taught in academia. There is a lot of confusion over acquiring, gathering and managing of data, and understanding how to leverage it. There is confusion about what can and cannot be done with mail from a format perspective, and how to avoid costly mistakes while staying creative and engaging. There is discovery in learning about the strategic side of the process – the written word and the positioning of the offer, which is eye-opening for people. It’s also a challenge to cover mail requirements without putting an audience to sleep. It can be done, however (wink, wink). Audiences want an information-packed, in-person or online experience that fits their schedule and is respectful of their time. It needs to be in an accessible format or in a comfortable venue. They love having something tangible to take with them – for future reference, and for proof to their coworkers that they were not shopping or napping during the hours they were away. Audiences want people who are easy to listen to, can answer questions, and provide solutions. They do not want to be overwhelmed with details and dry, overly wordy PowerPoint slides. More visuals, fewer words, lots of examples, powerful statistics and case studies will do the trick. That’s the formula. Advice for a successful event My advice to everyone who wants to put on an outstanding event is to talk to your customers and identify the pain points they have and the topics they want to learn about. Focus on a few (or even one) high-quality events per year and bring in speakers that will engage and educate the crowd. Whether it’s me, or another experienced speaker from the industry, it’s great to bring attendees someone they would not otherwise have easy access to. When it comes to marketing, do not just send an email blast – market the heck out of the event. Give it a catchy name, show off your skills with a well-designed invitation and maybe offer an easy online registration process. Have your sales team follow up with their customers to remind them to attend and to build excitement. Keep the quality and the energy up from the moment the invitation goes out to the moment the event is over and the last person leaves. The worst events are the ones where the intentions are good, but the details are overlooked, the momentum fades, and the corners are cut. Think of it like a wedding: Put together the best event you can for the audience size that you can afford. If you cannot afford to do a high-quality event for 150 people, then try for a high-quality event targeting your 50 best customers. I hope this is helpful to everyone. I’ll see you on the road! Trish Witkowski is Chief Folding Fanatic at the foldfactory.com community. Contact Trish at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
2018 wrapped up great for industrial markets — process, discrete and hybrids. While growth will be strong in pockets, my personal advice for companies would be to prepare for an overall soft 2019. This is primarily driven by factors such as geopolitical uncertainty, market volatility, widening skill gaps, and dynamic shifts in demand models.
Digital printing’s introduction sparked colossal change, but it is a drop in the big blue ocean compared to what’s on the horizon. Digital graphics printing, functional printing, and 3D structural printing are the future of printing – covering everything from smart packaging to on-demand manufacturing – and the benefits will be felt across our society.
It’s true that the digital age has transformed many of our daily tasks and with the proliferation of smartphone apps and voice-activated assistants, it’s easy to think that print is becoming obsolete. However, those working in the industry know the opposite is true and early-movers across Canada are already reaping the benefits.
According to a 2018 Keypoint Intelligence-InfoTrends survey, 70 percent of consumers choose to receive their most essential communications, such as statements and bills, in print. Contrary to popular belief, in today’s hyper-digital age, the printing industry is still active.
In our previous blog, The flexible packaging shift, we touched on the rising popularity of short run jobs is an accepted reality in practically all facets of the print industry. However, advances in technology that deliver them efficiently and profitably are still vital — particularly in the flexible packaging sector.
From budgetary challenges to societal shifts, the changing face of the print and graphic communications industry is affected by a wide variety of external forces. APTech spoke with Print 18 speaker and veteran designer Daniel Dejan, Print Creative Manager for North America at Sappi Paper, about what he sees as the biggest hurdles today’s print professionals must overcome and how to move forward into a profitable future.
Inside the offices of Schnellpressenfabrik AG, Heidelberg frustration not seen since the firm’s founding in 1850, filled the hallways of power. A new crop of young executives grew impatient with their boss, Herbert Sternberg. The year was 1961. Heidelberg Druckmaschinen, as the company would soon be renamed, had never entered the offset field. Sternberg was stubborn and believed the future would always be letterpress. After all, Heidelberg was sitting on top in this key sector.
Epochal comedian George Carlin once discussed how the English language had expanded to create pointless new vocabulary. Carlin recounted how during the First World War, many servicemen suffered from shell-shock. During the second Great War, this morphed into battle fatigue. Finally after the first Gulf war, a newly penned description was wrestled out of dictionaries and we now refer to it as PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder. The argument was why bother? Shell-shock provided a clear straight-forward description of mental suffering afflicting many who fought wars or experienced horrific events — and it’s a whole lot shorter. Who needs yet another acronym? Sometimes you need to step back and keep it simple.
Decades ago our company represented Brandtjen & Kluge stampers and embossing presses in Canada. The Kluge platen press, based on patents dating back to 1860, has managed to outlast everyone, including original inventors George Gordon and Chandler & Price. During the 1960s as letterpress quickly disappeared from printing plants, Kluge, who made its name in 1919 with an automatic platen feeder device, refused to go quietly and embarked on a road of re-engineering the iconic Gordon platen and re-emerged in the specialty segment long utilized but starving for a better and easier way of production — hot foil stamping and embossing.
In the sleepy Ohio town of Niles, brothers Alfred and Charles Harris owned a small jewellery store. The year was 1890 and after several blunders, including an ill-fated attempt inventing an automatic nail-feeder, both swore off any more financial fiascos. The 1972 book The Harris Story tells us what happened next. It seems Charles couldn’t help himself when he got to talking to the next-door neighbour — the owner of the Niles Independent newspaper. Mr. Smith boasted he had just purchased a new state-of-the-art cylinder printing press that was still fed by a boy.
Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 bestseller Outliers garnered worldwide attention, posing the argument that successful people needed more than brains, ambition, hustle and hard work to reach the top. Gladwell reasoned they also needed luck. Using various examples such as Bill Gates’ access to a university computer or the Beatles 10,000+ hours of practice, Gladwell postulated that luck combined with serendipity played a key role in one’s success.
If you take a drive west from the city of Quebec and cross the St. Lawrence River, you come across an unusual site. Two bridges come into view. The Quebec Bridge (Pont de Quebec) is starkly dissonant from its neighbour only 200 metres to the east. Completed in 1919, it’s a massive steel truss structure with a tragic past. Today it remains the largest cantilever bridge in the world.
Contrary to a widespread myth, forest harvesting is not synonymous with deforestation and doesn’t threaten the sustainability of Canadian forests, which are, in fact, under-harvested, according to a new report released by independent public policy think tank The Montreal Economic Institute (MEI).
It was once said, “Don’t reinvent the wheel – just realign it.” As print customers increasingly seek to improve their environmental footprint and their company’s social responsibility ranking, relevant information can be gleaned from other sectors’ sustainability efforts.
Nowhere is the environmental impact of packaging more obvious than at a waste and recycling plant. So last fall, when the Regional Municipality of Peel announced an expansion of its Blue Box Recycling Program, I visited the Peel Integrated Waste Management Facility – the largest plant of its kind in Canada, situated on a 16-hectare site in Brampton, Ontario – to clarify which types of packaging have recently become recyclable. I also got the scoop directly from Kevin Mehlenbacher and Karyn Hogan, both professionals at the Waste Management Division of Peel’s Public Works Department, on how printers can know that the packaging they produce is environmentally sustainable.   The Peel plant serves the Cities of Brampton and Mississauga and the Town of Caledon, comprising a total of some 330,000 households and 80,000 multi-residential units. The plant houses a waste transfer station (to transfer black-bagged garbage from collection trucks onto long-haul trailers destined for a landfill site), a massive organics composting operation (to process kitchen organics collected via curbside Green Bins and yard waste), and a single-stream Material Recovery Facility (MRF, the recycling part of the operation), with a capacity to process 130,000 tonnes of recyclable material collected from curbside Blue Boxes annually. The term “single stream” means that households mix together in the Blue Boxes all recyclable items, including packaging made of paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum, steel, and plastics; then this mixture is carried by collection trucks to the plant for sorting.Kevin Mehlenbacher, Specialist, Waste Collection and Processing, explains that, after the collection trucks drop the mixed recyclables off at MRF’s tipping floor, a front-end loader pushes them onto two inclined conveyor belts that transport them through a sequence of machinery and rooms for mechanical and manual sorting. In mechanical sorting, appliances like screens, magnets and air jets are used to sort the recyclables into individual streams, each consisting of one type of material. This process is aided by some 120 temporary workers, divided into two eight-hour shifts, who help sort the recyclables as they speed by on the fast-moving conveyor belts and remove any stray objects that would contaminate the sorted materials. Finally, two balers form each of the sorted materials into bales, which are shipped out to secondary markets via transport trucks. Newly recyclable itemsMehlenbacher explains Peel has now expanded the list of items that can be recycled via its Blue Box Program to include all mixed rigid plastics, such as:• Clear clamshell packaging used for fruits, vegetables and bakery products,• Large clear plastic tubs, lids and trays used for salads, cakes, delicatessen foods and cooked chickens,• Clear plastic egg cartons,• Take-out containers and microwaveable trays,• Garden nursery pots, cells, trays and flats,• Plastic vitamin and prescription bottles, and• Thermoform blister packaging. Other major Canadian cities and municipalities, including Calgary, Durham, Halifax, Halton, Hamilton, London, Niagara, Ottawa, Toronto and York, also recycle these items, which formerly had to be captured from the Peel MRF’s post-recycled waste by reprocessing at another recycling facility. Mehlenbacher says Peel’s waste composition audits indicate that processing these mixed rigid plastics at the MRF will capture an additional 1,600 to 2,100 tonnes of plastic per year – another of the continuous positive steps Peel is making towards its goal of recycling 70 percent of its waste by 2016. The processing of the additional plastics has cost Peel around $3,107,500 in capital improvements to the MRF’s sorting equipment, plus about an additional $330,000 annually for increased operating costs. Likely Peel will recover half of the capital-improvement costs from the Continuous Improvement Fund, a partnership program of Waste Diversion Ontario, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the City of Toronto and Stewardship Ontario to improve Ontario’s municipal Blue Box Programs. Markets for recycled materialsMehlenbacher says the MRF typically sends out 15 to 20 trailers of recovered materials a day, bound for destinations that vary in distance from a few blocks away to as far as China. “China is a growing economy, so they are looking for raw materials,” he says. “For example, if our local newsprint recycling facility is not able to take the full amount we generate, we send the surplus to Quebec, the States, or overseas.” He reports that the sale of recycled materials earns $10 to $15 million in annual revenues which help offset the MRF’s other waste-management costs.Karyn Hogan, Specialist, Waste Reduction and Reuse, explains that, besides improving the MRF’s recycling rate, another main reason why Peel has recently added mixed rigid plastics to its Blue Box Program is that staff finally found a secondary market for these materials.  She says access to end-markets often determines which materials a municipality can recycle, and the search is complicated by the fact that municipalities must compete with manufacturers as vendors to the same markets.  Mehlenbacher adds that these markets lead to the conversion of recycled materials into an almost infinite variety of consumer goods: “For instance, 240 plastic jugs can be remade into one plastic Muskoka chair.  Nine 2-litre pop bottles make one extra-large polyester t-shirt.” Better-informed consumersIn conjunction with expanding its Blue Box Program, Peel has recently collaborated with the Cities of Toronto and Hamilton and the Regional Municipalities of Durham, Halton, Niagara and York (collectively all forming an area known as The Golden Horseshoe) on a public-awareness campaign called Recycle More. Two-thirds funded by Stewardship Ontario and the Waste Diversion Ontario Continuous Improvement Fund, this $600,000 campaign delivered the message that additional mixed rigid plastic packaging items can now be recycled to nearly seven million Ontario consumers via print media and radio, internet and billboard advertising launched between September and November 2013.  Because for decades most major Canadian municipalities have operated recycling programs and published their own marketing collateral, including Websites with intricate instructions on how to dispose of various types of waste, the environmental issues associated with packaging have been public concerns for a long time in Canada. But Recycle More and the continued efforts of municipalities and other environmental groups are helping to make today’s consumers even more environmentally knowledgeable than they were in the past. So in an effort to keep up with ever increasing public expectations, environmental sustainability continues to be a bigger driver of innovation than ever before in packaging design.Consumers have also learned recently that a compostable label or symbol on a product is not necessarily a true indicator of environmental friendliness: Last year in widely publicized incidents, food giants Frito Lay (a division of PepsiCo) and Kraft Canada introduced experimental compostable packages, then pulled them off the shelves of Canadian retail outlets. Frito Lay’s was a bag made mainly from polylactic acid for SunChips and Kraft’s was an “Earth Pack” bottle made of tapioca starch and bamboo for Dentyne, Trident, and Clorets gum.  The main reason for these recalls was that, despite the compostability claim advertised on the packages, based solely on laboratory testing, the packages failed to break down in Canadian municipal composting facilities. (Consumers also complained that the chips bag was too noisy.) The composting limitations of these packages meant they would end up contaminating not only Green Bin but also Blue Box Programs since, as Hogan explains, plant-based packaging materials are currently not recyclable because secondary markets are not interested in buying them. She suggests that a better outcome might occur if packaging producers would consult municipalities and markets to determine the parameters of their waste handling and reprocessing facilities before bringing a new package to market. This precaution would be a better alternative than being publicly embarrassed after the fact and could save a lot of wasted time and resources, says Hogan.Like municipally untested compostability claims, another potentially misleading message for consumers comes from the recycling symbol with a number inside found on many plastic items that are not actually recyclable.  In fact, the number is only used to identify what type of plastic resin the item is made of, and does not necessarily mean the item is recyclable in municipal Blue Box Programs.Size also matters: Hogan says certain items, such as plastic drinking straws and coffee pods for use with single-serving coffee makers like Keurig, Nespresso, and Tassimo are too small to be sorted because they fall through the MRF’s sorting screens. She reports that Peel’s composting facility is currently testing the compostability claim of a plant-based coffee pod that has recently been put on the market. “One of the hardest things about my job is trying to keep up with all the changing material types, since every day manufacturers make something new. Usually we’re the last to learn about these new packaging products,” says Hogan. Mixed resin challengesAnother factor that thwarts recycling is the combination of many different types of plastic resins in a single package. For instance, because take-out coffee and soft-drink cups typically contain layers of plastic and paper fibre, they cannot be either composted or recycled and must go in the garbage in Peel. Increasingly, Hogan notes, traditional glass bottles, metal cans and paperboard cartons are being replaced by flexible pouches composed of several layers of different plastic resins which are neither recyclable nor reusable. By contrast, she says traditional cartons and glass jars can usually be recycled and reused indefinitely. Despite these practical realities, the trend to convert from rigid to flexible packaging continues to grow. One presentation during the February 2013 International Converting Exhibition, ICE USA 2013, estimated that the global flexible packaging market, valued at $71 billion in 2011, will grow by around five percent a year, reaching $90 billion in 2016.  It also predicted that North America will be one of the world’s two top regional markets with 25 percent share. (The other is Central/East Asia with 24 percent share.)  Reasons for this forecasted growth include the myriad of new plastic films and closure mechanisms for flexible packaging that are being introduced into the market.  The combination of laminated plastic layers used in most flexible pouches and bags is also popular because it can be custom designed to suit specific products and retailers. Generally, flexible packaging also allows more of the entire surface area to be printed than rigid packaging, allowing more space for product promotion. Some flexible packaging also demonstrates superior resistance to damage or defacement during handling, resulting in fewer customer complaints and product returns, and less staff time spent cleaning up broken packages. Additionally, flexible packaging weighs less and takes up less room than rigid packaging, resulting in reduced shelf and storage space, as well as lower transportation costs. Package life cycle assessment Ironically, environmental arguments are regularly used to persuade packagers to convert to flexible packaging, since it sometimes takes considerably less energy to produce in contrast to some types of rigid packaging. Additionally, flexible packaging’s relative compactness, which allows for more product per shipment, creates a proportional reduction in carbon dioxide emissions that makes the package environmentally friendly in a different way from the ability to compost or recycle it. Many environmental packaging experts suggest that a complete life cycle assessment, taking into account each aspect of how the package is designed, produced, shipped and disposed of by the consumer, is needed to determine to what extent any package is environmentally sustainable.Nevertheless, since the end of a package’s life cycle is Hogan’s specialty, she would like to see legislation place more responsibility on packagers to design for both recyclability and compostability. When Peel staff lead waste-plant tours or in-school presentations to students from packaging courses at colleges and universities or industry associations, they urge their audiences to think more about both outcomes when creating their designs. “Find out if municipalities can compost it. Or find out not only if their MRFs can sort it, but also if an end market for it exists.“We’ve already invested a huge amount of taxpayers’ money to purchase the infrastructure and equipment to process waste. New packaging needs to work with the existing system, or else the only way we will be able to recycle or compost it is to spend a lot more money to expand the facility again with expensive new equipment.”

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