What Does Sustainability Mean?

By Cara Bommarito, sustainability manager, RadTech

Sustainability – a word often used in all sectors from finance to retail and everything in between. While sustainability is extremely important, the meaning is not always clear and can be interpreted differently depending on who you talk to. Recently, there have been two panels on sustainability within the energy curable sector. Each panel brought a different take away on how sustainability is understood.

At RadTech 2022, there was an insightful panel on sustainability. Todd Fayne, associate director, global snacks R&D for Pepsico, served as moderator of the panel, which included Nikola Juhasz, global technical director, sustainability, Sun Chemical; Jonathan Graunke, vice president, UV/EB technology, assistant R&D director, INX International Ink Co.; Andrew Mitchell, senior research engineer, Printpack; and AJ Buran, president, GOpak Flexibles. The panelists were asked, “How do you define sustainability?”

“We look at sustainability as a combination of minimizing greenhouse gas emissions, natural resource use and keeping waste out of waterways and the ocean,” Juhasz said.1

“Sustainability is more of a lifestyle – we try to make the world a better place than we found it,” Graunke said. “We look at what we can do to be ethical, how to reduce our emissions, how we can help our customers use our technologies.”

“Sustainability is any activity that helps to preserve the planet, whether it is measuring and trying to reduce water consumption, emissions and energy use, or developing new technologies for our customers,” Mitchell said.

“Sustainability is using less, being smarter with what we use, trying to have a closed loop, trying to use common sense,” Buran concluded. “Essentially, it’s trying to do what is right.”

When asked about the need to balance performance and sustainability, Fayne observed that once you get past the low-hanging fruit, it becomes more challenging. “Everything has a trade-off,” he noted. “Everything costs more money, such as adding more recyclable material in our bottles. When we add more recycled polyester to bottles, they become less clear. Thirty years ago, we had 12 types of barrier films and have consolidated it down to one barrier film because you save a lot of money on inventory, but that means the film has to do everything.”

During the Sustainability Summit at Amplify in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a representative from The American Forest and Paper Association explained the new design guidance for recyclability. The guidance touched on paper recycling and the ease or difficulty of recycling a type of paper or ink.

Also during the Sustainability Summit, a panel discussion was held with Scott Tacosik, director of sales at Kurz; Michael B. King, CEO of Eagle Systems; and myself, Cara Bommarito, sustainability manager with RadTech. The panel reviewed a recent study performed by Eagle Systems, which examined whether foil would hinder recyclability. The panel provoked a thoughtful conversation among audience and panel members. The takeaway from the panel was, as Fayne mentioned at RadTech 2022, there always is a trade off when it comes to sustainability. Consumers need to have realistic expectations when it comes to packaging and also be challenged to consider simplicity over style, while manufacturers need to ensure the process is evolving to become more sustainable, as well as being authentic with their findings.

As the sustainability manager at RadTech, I believe sustainability is about efficiency and using less, taking what already exists and reinventing or recycling that material. The most important part is finding a balance. As Doreen Monteleone with SGP said, “Sustainability is a journey.” This journey is about trying new ideas and learning what works. Our society only recently began getting serious about sustainability, and it will take time to work everything out.

How do you define sustainability? How can we help you achieve your goals? Please let me know at cara@radtech.org.


All quotes from the RadTech Sustainability Panel are attributed to David Savastano’s article “RadTech 2022 Panel Examines Sustainability and UV/EB” in Ink World, accessed online at www.inkworldmagazine.com in July 2022.