The word “sustainability” has many meanings, but to young executives across the supply chain, it means opportunities to connect and solve common problems. “The problems that arise in the converting stage of a package’s life cycle are different than the problems that arise during the product manufacturing and filling stage or the collection, sorting, and reprocessing stages,” explains Geoff Hebert, business analyst at packaging manufacturer Hart Industries. “Any opportunity that we have, as a supply chain, to communicate and discuss possible solutions … that is absolutely essential for productivity and sustainability moving forward.”

He and other panelists will share their stories of challenges and potential breakthroughs at Creating a Sustainable Future: The Role of Recyclers and Our Industry, an ISRI2022 session presented by ISRI’s Young Executives Council. The session runs from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. PST on Thursday, Mach 24, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. Moderator Darrell Fleming-Kendall, executive director of RIOS™, will be joined by Hebert; Sabrina Dixon-Ridges, packaging manufacturer Sonoco’s global sustainability manager, strategic business alignment; and Arnold Bowers, senior director for sustainability resource management at ENGIE Impact, a sustainability consulting firm.

The panel will focus on the role of recycling in an ever-changing world that continues to see consumption increase. The discussion will address how can recyclers most effectively engage with manufacturers to better understand the material pipeline, to influence research and development (R&D), and to understand consumer behavior. The panel also will consider what a push toward sustainability looks like, and how recyclers as a link in the circular economy can minimize the inputs of energy, resources, and more to ensure they are maximizing benefit for the supply chain.

Fleming-Kendall says he’s encouraged that companies are allowing their thought leaders to openly discuss collaborations for the good of multiple industries. “What kind of opportunities do companies … have to consult with average recyclers as they’re going through their R&D process in order to say that what the lab says is recyclable is actually, practically recyclable?” he asks. “Based on our initial conversations, I’m really excited about where it’s going to go.”

Dixon-Ridges says the openness mirrors a growing realization that questions of sustainability affect many participants in all stages of manufacturing. “I am looking forward to sharing the Sonoco approach to improving product sustainability and advancing recyclability,” she says. “Our three-pronged approach is a balance of developing new products, leveraging existing infrastructure, and partnering with key associations and stakeholders. It’s important to explore the role of product recyclability and how end-of-life solutions impact overall carbon footprint. It’s also important to weigh package performance, shelf life, shelf presence, and product integrity alongside recyclability to create the optimal solution.”

The Young Executives Panel Series started in 2018, and typically draw standing-room-only audiences. This year, the room will be packed with young visionaries seeking ways to put the recycling industry on the forefront of resource management. Join them in Breakers H-I at the Mandalay Bay!

Photo courtesy of Storyblocks.






Dan Hockensmith

Dan Hockensmith

I'm a native Ohioan who since 2014 has called Maryland home. My background includes print, broadcast, and digital journalism; government contracting; and marketing communications.