By Chris Mitchell
In the summer of 2019, my 5-year-old twin daughters were playing on a recreational soccer team and I was fortunate enough to be their coach. Every Saturday morning was a struggle to get out of the house, but one weekend we made it to a game, seemingly, without a hitch. The girls had their breakfast, dressed in their uniform, and the car was loaded in record time, and as we pulled into the park I looked over at my wife and said, “I feel like we are forgetting something.”
As we pulled the team together to go over the last-minute game assignments for a certain victory, I looked up at my wife, who had a horrified look on her face and was mouthing in silence – “SNACKS!” Yes, it was our turn to provide snacks for the team and we totally blanked! I’m sure some of you have experienced this same horror, snacks are a BIG DEAL. Thankfully, there was a grocery store nearby and my wife was able to make it back just in time for post-game refreshments – crisis averted!
As I picked up the last of the garbage and made my way to the trash bin, I looked down and noticed I had 4 full bags of plastic waste destined for the landfill.
Feeling thankful for the access to and convenience of the essential post-game snacks, we collected all the juice boxes, snack wrappers, and plastic take-away bags. Picking up the last of the garbage and made my way to the trash bin, I looked down and noticed I had 4 full bags of plastic waste destined for the landfill. As a career packaging professional who has been working in sustainability for over a decade, it was both embarrassing and a trigger moment. While grateful for having a quick and easy way to save our good family name, I realized the cultural dependance we all have for convenient solutions is increasing the need for plastic-based solutions which are ultimately destined for the landfill.
We all want the best for our kids and future generations; that is why my wife sacrificed watching the game of the year so the team could enjoy a few post-game moments and create memories with their families. The convenience and portability of the packaging allowed those moments to be salvaged but there is an opportunity with the packaging and the materials used.
Throughout my career, particularly over the past decade, I have worked with brands and converters toward more sustainable solutions for their packaged products. Every company views sustainability a little differently, some brands are laser focused on carbon emissions and others on designing an alternate end-of-life, but all would agree that no matter the focus, creating more sustainable solutions is the goal.
Over the years there have been several common themes that as a material supplier are meaningful for development and product manufacturing and are the basis for our sustainability programs and policies at Dunn Paper. We have created guiding principles that serve as the foundation for our company, not just our sustainability programs, and meet the changing needs of packaging and processing paper: Sourcing, Aligning, Functioning and Protecting.
Raw materials at Dunn Paper are a key area of focus. Sourcing our products in a sustainable supply chain is of utmost importance; the fiber/pulp we source to make our specialty paper and tissue products are, in many cases, certified to meet global sustainability standards. Additionally, Dunn Paper has an unmatched recycled fiber program that further enhances our commitment to sustainable sourcing.
Product development is a strategic initiative at Dunn Paper and our pipeline of new products is aligned with the needs and wants of the segments we serve. Keeping up with market trends and developing innovative customer specific projects is how we are “Making Tomorrow’s Paper Today.”
Functionality is critical to sustainability which is why all our current products and developments are designed with function in mind. A product that meets all the environmental attributes but sacrifices function is not a sustainable product. At Dunn, we are focused on both. First, making sure our paper meets the functional requirements and secondly, meeting the desired environmental benefits.
Protection has taken on a whole new meaning in our current environment so developing products that strip out traditional chemistry and using bio-based alternatives is a major focus for Dunn Paper. We have broken paper making down to the fundamental elements of water and fiber then rebuilt the products using safe, bio-based chemistry and removed harmful elements such as fluorinated chemicals (PFAS). Additionally, we are exploring other protective elements, like antimicrobials, to add an extra layer of protection and give our consumers that peace of mind.
My personal vision is to replay that same soccer scenario in years to come with my grandchildren, with the biggest difference being the packaged products shared in the post-game celebration made from safe, functional renewable materials and have an alternate end-of-life. At Dunn, we are looking for other collaborative partners that have a similar or shared vision to ours. Together, we can change packaging in a meaningful way without sacrificing convenience and allow Moms to continue saving the day!