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Exclusive Interview With Mark Bond Of Sustana

Q. What are some of the most interesting and/or innovative solutions that are currently influencing the specialty papers industry?

At Sustana Fiber, we promote and apply sustainable manufacturing and business practices to deliver premium, eco-friendly recycled fibers to customers across North America. One such product is EnviroLife, 100 percent post-consumer recycled fiber in North America that is FDA-compliant for use in direct food contact packaging under all conditions of use.

We work with supply chain partners who use our fibers to make packaging as part of a larger closed loop solution. At Sustana Fiber, we spend a lot of time with our partners to help determine what is recyclable, incorporate recycled content into new packaging, and help them get their materials back inside the loop to help build a sustainable supply chain that leads to sustainable manufacturing—in line with our vision of creating a closed-loop fiber future.

Q. What industry topics are getting the most attention at this time? How are these factors influencing the future of specialty papers?

Today’s consumers are more issue-driven than ever before. They are looking for brands who support their core values -- and one of their top concerns is the environment. In fact, studies have shown customers are aligning with brands who promote sustainability more than ever.

As a result, many consumers have been looking to businesses to step up and are choosing to support brands that offer sustainable practices. This is also where we have seen a lot of success with companies making changes in the supply chain to meet their sustainability goals and align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by incorporating recycled content into paper based food grade packaging.

As consumers become more aware and demanding transparency into supply chain decisions, simply being “recyclable” is no longer enough. True efficiency is achieved only when products are able to be recovered, recycled and turned into new products that are sold on the market, and recycled again. GreenBiz’s recent report highlights how companies are embracing a circular economy— that’s where companies like Sustana Fiber come in - we partner with companies to help create a closed loop and more sustainable supply chain.

Q. What does Sustana hope to achieve over the next 5 years with regards to sustainable solutions?

There’s been an . The U.S. is in the midst of an increasingly sophisticated and urgent conversation about environmental damage from single-use plastics and containers. The EPA reported Americans generate more waste than people in any other country in the world. Containers and packaging make up the largest portion, or about 30 percent, of the municipal solid waste we generate. Packaging is one of the highest impact ways brands can demonstrate their commitment to the environment to patrons - it’s our first impression interacting with a product – there’s a ton of opportunity there. Our goal over the next 5 years to increase the use of recycled content in paper based food grade packaging – creating circular, sustainable future.

This provides food service brands a sustainable package to serve customers with environmentally-friendly paper cups, cartons, food wraps, and food containers. Our low environmental impact helps companies meet the growing consumer demand for more sustainable products. When it comes to packaging, how it’s created, where it originates and where it will go next have become just as important as looks and function.

Q. Which emerging technologies or new product developments have the potential to become industry game changers?

Technology plays a big role in this. It takes very particular technology and innovations in machinery to make recycling certain items – like paper cups and cartons – possible. Especially when it comes to the poly liner. Sustana Fiber has continuously invested in equipment and technology to allow for the recycling of single-use paper cups and cartons efficiently, effectively at scale, by separating the interior poly lining of cups. We are always looking for new products our customers can make using recycled material -- such as cartons, aseptic packaging, ice cream and popcorn tubs, etc. This is an exciting time to be in this space.

For example, at Sustana Fiber, we were part of a supply chain to create a paper cup made from 32 percent recycled fiber -- much higher than the average 10 percent that’s seen in most cups. Forbes highlighted in a recent article that an estimated 60 billion single-use containers, such as coffee cups, end up in landfills each year. However, the article goes on to explain how innovation is meeting this troubling challenge head on. Forbes even points out that a paper cup made with 32 percent EnviroLife™ recycled fiber, is indistinguishable from a typical non-recycled paper cup.

Q. Your presentation at this year’s Specialty Papers US conference will discuss the development of a sustainable, circular supply chain. Why is it important for others in your industry to hear this message? What are some of the key take-aways?

Implementing sustainable practices can add to brands overall value. Consumers want a company’s sustainability efforts to be obvious and visible to them. And they are putting their money behind it. Studies are increasingly showing consumers will leave a brand based on values and global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods. Across the board, they are demanding eco-friendly business practices, and sustainable packaging demonstrates a deeper level of commitment —one that is tangible and that customers can literally hold in their hands, like packaging. We partner to focus on the materials used in creating them to ensure they have a small environmental footprint.

We also worked on an innovative collaboration between Sustana Fiber, Starbucks, and other supply chain partners, to demonstrate that Starbucks cups could be recycled and turned into new cups. This proof of concept project was called our Cup to Cup: Closing the Loop partnership project. Collaboration is key and partnerships like this can help pave the way for future innovations