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Sustainability leadership during Earth Month and every day
Created on 7/22/2021 8:58:04 PM

Written by Michael Graydon, CEO of Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada
Published on May 7, 2021

As we look back on Earth Month, it’s worth taking some time to consider the food, health and consumer goods industry’s sustainability efforts and the ambitious commitments guiding our work to come. The essential goods Canadians rely on every day are inextricably linked with our environment and we take great pride in supporting efforts to protect the planet we all share.

In 2019, FHCP (then FCPC) became the first Canadian industry association to endorse the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s vision for a New Plastics Economy. Since then, our engagement and commitment to keeping plastic in the economy but out of the landfills and out of the environment has only grown.

In January of this year, FHCP joined more than 40 partners across the plastics value chain in launching the Canada Plastics Pact (CPP). As a member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Plastics Pact network, the CPP is aligned behind this common global vision, with its action and solutions tailored to Canada’s unique needs and challenges.

Through the CPP, partners from leading brands to waste management companies, government institutions, and NGOs are united behind a vision for a circular economy, with an immediate focus on plastic packaging, which accounts for 47% of all plastic waste. CPP partners will work to develop, pilot, and scale innovative and bold solutions to overcome systemic barriers and achieve our vision:

  • Eliminating unnecessary or problematic plastic packaging.
  • Innovating so the plastic we do need can be safely reused, recycled, or composted.
  • Circulating all the plastic items we use to keep them in the economy and out of the environment.

Many FHCP members have committed to ensure all their packaging is recyclable, compostable, or reusable by 2025. FHCP is also engaged across the country in policy and program development to ensure packaging is appropriately recovered and does not end up in the environment.

We also consider the unique role packaging plays in keeping Canada’s food safe and reducing food waste. In particular, plastic packaging is often lighter than metal and more durable than glass, making it easier to transport and creating a lower carbon footprint in transportation from farm to store to your front door.

Too much food (58% of everything we produce) in Canada goes to waste, especially considering that 1 in 8 Canadian households suffer from food insecurity. And globally, food waste accounts for an astonishing 8% of greenhouse gas emissions, almost as much as from road transportation. Using the right packaging can have a significant impact on reducing the climate footprint associated with food waste. For example, a thin layer of plastic wrap can more than quadruple a cucumber’s shelf life.

As the pandemic made clearer than ever, plastic packaging is also critical in keeping the medicines, personal protective equipment, and consumer products safe and protected from the manufacturer to Canadians’ homes. In addition to packaging innovations, FHCP is leveraging modern technology and online tools to reduce waste - for example, by pioneering digital labels (SmartLabelTM) that put more information than could ever fit on a printed label at consumers’ fingertips. Digital labeling helps consumers find the information they want for a wide range of food, beverage, pet care, household, and personal care products. With the right support and regulatory framework, digital labeling could also support consumers’ ability to make the right self-care choices for themselves and their families without wasting time, money, and resources on excess, unnecessary packaging.

We can all work together to reduce waste and be more sustainable. Whether it’s recycling packaging in residential Blue Box programs, composting at home, leveraging online tools, or picking the right materials for the job, we can all do our part to reach our common goal: leaving our environment better than we found it.