A conference at Expo to dispel myths and inform on the usefulness and eco-sustainability of paper and cardboard packaging. The meeting was organized by Gifasp with the participation of Conai, Comieco and Istituto Italiano Imballaggio, but also of commentators and experts, representing the “real world” dialog with which is indispensable. And fruitful.

Cardboard boxes are “bad” because forests are cut down in order to make them. It’s a bit like saying that one shouldn’t buy bread because it requires destroying fields of grain… This witty provocation by Piero Capodieci, former president of Conai (and much more), amused the audience and deftly brought the conversation to the heart of the matter. In other words, enough with ideology and superficial judgments concerning the social role of packaging, without which, it’s worth keeping in mind, the current organization of production and consumption would fail – not to mention the food waste…
With that said, one can delve deeper into the how’s and why’s of using it, reusing it, disposing it, and also converting it…

Meeting and comparing. Such was the substance of the conference “The culture of protection and sustainability: shedding light on the role of packaging in combating food waste”, organized at Expo’s Cascina Triulza farm by the folding box manufacturers (brought together under Gifasp) in a compact, information-packed format (just over 2 hours for 18 presentations). The event’s declared objective was to share (and compare) information and evaluations of the role of packaging before ending up in the rubbish bin, and this objective was fully achieved, also thanks in part to the direct and engaged participation of industry leaders (sector institutions and important enterprises such as Box Marche, Lucaprint, Iggesund, Metsä Group…), as well as commentators and experts from various fields and involved in different areas of packaging management, use and reuse.

Technology and optimism. Emilio Albertini, newly elected president of Gifasp, opened the conference by immediately delving into the matter of eco-compatibility and the indispensability of paper and cardboard packaging, followed by Fulvia Lo Duca, former president and “mamma” of the various Gifasp events at Expo, who recounted the origins and aims of the meeting. Then a series of speakers backed up their own pro-packaging positions with data and examples.
• A passionate Piero Lironi, president of Assografici as well as the paper and graphics Federation, defined himself as a “packaging optimist”, showing, proof in hand, how R&D has made it possible to adopt ever more packaging for solving many different problems (and make it more and more functional), while at the same time reducing thickness, and therefore weight, cost and impact on the environment, just as the consumers demand.
But consumers also want attractive, smart packaging, designed and consumed with all 5 senses: vision, hearing, touch, smell… and imagination.
• Marco Sachet, director of Istituto Italiano Imballaggio and ambassador for the Ethical Packaging Charter (www.cartaeticadelpackaging.com) reviewed the features and functions that make packaging suitable for the products, processes and desires of today (“in the future we will have other desires and thus other packaging types”).
And whoever still believes that packaging represents “the” environmental problem can go have a look at the studies published on the website dedicated to EPDs (http://www.environdec.com/it).
• For her part, the head of Comieco’s Research & Development division Eliana Farotto gave clear and effective examples showing how technological advances made by the packaging industry enable better and better preservation of foods that as a result prove themselves more wholesome, without the need of preservatives and additives that compromise their quality, organoleptic integrity and nutrition.

So many ways of thinking packaging! Of the numerous other speakers that participated at the event, a few made a particularly lasting impression:
– Tonino Dominici, president of Boxmarche, focused on how an enterprise can be engaged in such a way that employees can work happy, because “a positive work environment makes for products that are good for people, a win-win transaction – if the advantage is not for both manufacturer and consumer, there is none”;
– Silvia Leoncini, food blogger and writer, listed strategies for responsible and thrifty consumption, starting from the premise: “before you buy, think about how and when you will consume that food, and try to reduce the quantity of goods”. As for packaging (long live single servings!), consider it a resource and see how valuable it really is;
– Paola Favarano, president of the AiFOS Women’s Committee and consumer/head of household, is a charismatic “inventor” of ways for creatively reusing packaging, whose lively manner acts as a foil to her highly technical knowhow, which happens to help a lot (AiFOS stands for ‘Italian Association of Workplace Safety Trainers and Operators’);
– Fabrizio Sansoni, food stylist and chef also well-known to the packaging sector, mesmerized with examples of sophisticated techniques for using packaging to help prepare meals, with major time-saving and enhanced quality. And he didn’t just talk about boiling in the bag, but “bagged” steaks on the grill and other wonders (after the conference he was surrounded by curious audience members with questions about his presentation).

Certified forests. None of the speakers should go unmentioned. All the talks offered original contributions to the event’s theme and the exchange of perspectives. These also included two major paper and cardboard producers – Iggesund and Metsä – which explained concisely and effectively what a certified forest is and why cutting and replanting trees (as the laws of many producer countries require) is a good practice for the environment.   

From a bean sprouts a package

During the Gifasp conference, Andrea Pozzo, head of Lucaprint Group’s Quality Systems, Environment and Safety division, presented the new “Crush/Fagiolo”: a packaging solution developed in a partnership between Lucaprint, Cartiera Favini and the grain and legumes producer Pedon SpA. The system is made from carton derived from a legume byproduct unfit for human consumption.
Completely sustainable and of course recyclable, it is the result of an industry partnership that is “100% Italian and involves no carbon-emitting transport”, which took six months to develop and opens new possibilities for recovering process byproducts in all sectors.
The new packaging made by Lucaprint for Pedon enables reducing the use of virgin cellulose from trees by 15% (don’t tell the paper industry…), using 30% post-consumption recycled fiber, a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (mostly CO2), and the use of 100% renewable electricity for production processes throughout the supply chain.        The message is loud and clear: partnering for the win!
Educating with theatre
During the meeting, theatre group “I Poeticanti” gave a musical performance entitled “From good eats to eating right. You try to be a product inside a packaging” to communicate with the immediacy of the theatre packaging’s fundamental functions of protection and communication. This performance served as a dress rehearsal for the one scheduled at the Expo Gate in Piazza Castello on 5 October, put together by Gifasp and Istituto Italiano Imballaggio to educate children.