Canada’s food and produce industry is a diversified one, ranging from large retailers to small firms producing goods for local markets. All collectively face the challenge of reducing the impact of plastics packaging on our shared environment. The development of industry-guiding packaging decision making tools provides both strategic and tactical resources to make the most sustainable packaging choices given the current and emerging packaging technologies and the state of waste management and recycling systems in Canada.
Spearheaded by Canada’s Produce Industry
Since 2019, the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s Packaging Working Group has been leading efforts to advance the adoption of sustainable packaging options for Canada’s produce industry. Thru a combination of information products, industry seminars and ongoing efforts to share industry best practices, the CPMA’s Packaging Working Group has helped shape the conversation around sustainable packaging for fresh produce. Building on this work, the CPMA’s Packaging Working Group identified the need for packaging decision-making tools to further assist the produce industry in their pursuits for sustainable packaging solutions. This Guide is the response to this need.
Supported by Agriculture & Agrifood Canada
The development of this Guide is supported by Agriculture & Agrifood Canada thru the Canadian Agricultural Strategic Priorities Program. The Canadian Agricultural Strategic Priorities Program (CASPP) supports the Canadian agricultural sector’s participation in the Government of Canada’s growth and policy objectives, by investing in the sector’s design, development and implementation of tools and strategies to respond to and seize opportunities created by these objectives.
In the case of this Guide, the benefits to the Canadian agriculture, agri-food and agri-products sector includes increasing environmental sustainability, strategic planning and capacity building, and helping address emerging issues.
Enabled by Strategic Partners
Sustainable packaging challenges are not unique to Canada’s fresh produce sector. Many sectors across the Canadian economy face similar challenges in identifying and adopting sustainable packaging solutions. Consequently, the CPMA’s packaging working group reached out to key food-sector partners, notably Food and Beverage Canada, who supports this work thru their members.
In addition, leading plastics sector stakeholders such as the Canada Plastics Pact, and industry leading consultancies such as PAC Global provide strategic advice and support in regards to the current state of the plastics ecosystem in Canada.
How this Guide was Developed
Led by the CPMA’s Plastics Packaging Working Group, this Guide was shaped and informed thru direct input from the leading food and produce industry stakeholders. Industry Advisory Groups with insights on the major packaging categories provided guidance in the development and refinement of the tools provided.
To develop and deliver resources, by March 2024, that will guide and support Canada’s food and produce industry decision-making to improve the sustainability of food packaging.
Core Guiding Principles
To ensure that each individual packaging decision making tool provides both high value and ease of use to food and produce industry stakeholders, the following core guiding principles were established to guide their development.
Effective User Experience
To produce value-added packaging decision making, a strong focus on user experience is critical. Consequently, the tools were shaped to ensure that they are action-oriented, practical, and easy-to-use.
Given the prominence of relevant information from across the plastics ecosystem, the roadmaps were developed by way of a process of co-curation, the ‘co’ being the network of project participants offering feedback and useful information during their development. Together participants prioritized what and how to curate the most relevant information, avoiding “reinventing the wheel” wherever possible.
The tools are designed to help users in their decision making process. Given every business context is unique, the tools are not a prescription for every packaging sustainability decision but rather provide guidance and direction as to what the users should consider as they assess various packaging options.
The CPMA’s strategic plan recognizes, values, and supports the use of sound science and fact-based information in its information products. To support the development of the packaging roadmaps based on sound science, this work references two key frameworks:
- The Sustainable Packaging Research, Information and Networking Group (SPRING) Sustainability Roadmap (www.springpack.net/roadmap) and
- The Ellen MacArthur’s Upstream Innovation Guide to Packaging Solutions.