Canadian Packaging

Voluntary Code launched in Quebec

New program designed to help Canadian industry optimize packaging, containers and printed matter.

September 19, 2011
by Canadian Packaging Staff

On September 15, 2011, Éco Entreprises Québec (ÉEQ) announced its launch of the Voluntary Code for the Optimization of Containers, Packaging and Printed Matter.

This program is intended for companies targeted by the curbside recycling compensation plan and is the Canadian industry’s first voluntary initiative.

The Voluntary Code is a proactive approach that supports companies in the adoption of best practices for the design of packaged products and printed matter in consideration of product life cycle. As the industry’s first voluntary pan-Canadian initiative under the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) principle, the Voluntary Code sets out a framework for stimulating innovation, identifying and promoting best practices.

Phase 1 will be spread over a period of four years and each of its three parts will target different sectors of activity in order to bring all sectors on board to optimize their packaged products and printed matter by 2015. The first two parts of this phase will mainly deal with packaging while the third will focus on printed matter.Developed by ÉEQ in cooperation with contributing companies and ecodesign experts, the Voluntary Code uses a progressive, two-phase approach to packaging optimization.

The first phase addresses specific business sectors starting with the food and health & beauty sectors, which produce 80 per cent of packaged products marketed in Quebec. By 2015, all business sectors targeted by the compensation plan will be covered by the Voluntary Code which will provide all companies with a framework to optimize their containers, packaging and printed matter.

Says Maryse Vermette, ÉEQ president and chief executive officer: “Today’s market offers companies a whole array of packaging to choose from. Companies should make packaging choices that take into account the overall impact on recycling streams and, given their legal obligation to finance the net costs of municipal curbside recycling programs, it is in their interest to make wise choices. The Voluntary Code provides a framework for continuous improvement that is based on proven strategies. In addition, ÉEQ will provide companies with guidance as they develop their initiatives. The results of those efforts will be consolidated on a yearly basis and exemplary practices shared publicly.”

General Objectives of the Voluntary Code:

• Help companies better understand and manage the environmental impacts of their packaging and printed matter;
• Provide a framework to increase consistency among packaging optimization initiatives;
• Give companies the tools to design better packaged products and printed matter;
• Create a directory of information on packaging optimization and best company practices;
• Promote and recognize signatory companies.

“Voluntary measures are a better option because they encourage companies to take responsibility and implement improvements that are adapted to their individual reality. In addition, they can respond to consumer demand,” says Denis Brisebois, ÉEQ board chairman.

How it’s done: Three areas for action, seven proposed strategies

The Voluntary Code uses a framework approach based on the life cycle of the packaged product and areas for action that focus on:

1. Reduction at the source: Less packaging, better packaging. Reduce packaging production and waste at the source by eliminating excess over-packaging;
2. Ecodesign: Think globally, act locally. Adopt ecodesign practice in order to consider environmental, social and economic impacts throughout the life cycle of packaged products and printed matter;
3. Recyclability: More value, less waste. Improving the recyclability of packaging and printed matter in order to achieve public recycling and residual materials management objectives

The proposed seven strategies guide companies in developing their optimization initiative: life cycle thinking, adopting responsible procurement criteria, improving the packaging/product ratio, designing for transport, improving the usage scenario, improving recyclability and communications.

Optimize Rather than Reduce – Key Optimization Concepts

More than simply reducing the amount of packaging (which implies weight or volume reduction), optimization is an overall improvement initiative based on the life cycle concept: it is the consideration of cradle-to-grave environmental, social and economic factors related to a given packaged product. Optimization is any action or modification of the packaging or the product as defined in the areas for action described in the Voluntary Code.

Key Optimization Concepts

The Voluntary Code takes into account the entire packaging system (primary, secondary and tertiary) as well as the product’s life cycle. These principles ensure that, for essentially identical functions, the
weight or volume of the packaging system is optimized without affecting consumer or end-user acceptance. The success of packaging optimization is necessarily based on an approach that involves packaging manufacturers, packers, distributors and consumers.

Packaging + Product Combination

Packaging is used because it meets the functional requirements of the product it contains. Consumers do not purchase packaging; they purchase packaged products. Until it becomes obsolete after the product is
consumed, its packaging forms an essential part of the packaged product and must be designed for the product it contains.

Packaging System

Secondary packaging and transportation packaging should also be part of the overall optimization effort. As is the case with the packaging + product combination, modifying primary, secondary or tertiary packaging may positively or negatively impact other components of the packaging system.

Identical Use Value of the Packaged Product

A packaged product’s acceptability to the consumer is an essential condition to the product’s commercial success. Modifying the packaging, a packaging component or the product itself (conditioning, product formulation) must not alter the packaged product’s performance once it reaches the consumer. Acceptability therefore constitutes a performance criterion that enables the identification of critical points beyond which the
modification of the packaging affects acceptability.

Companies that have already signed onto the Voluntary Code are:
• A. Lassonde inc.
• Cascades Inc.
• Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd.
• Group Biscuits Leclerc Inc.
• Lavo Inc.
• Le Groupe Fruits & Passion
• Métro Richelieu inc.
• Olymel L.P.
• Provigo, member of Loblaw Group
• Sobeys Québec
• Société des alcools du Québec

About Éco Entreprises Québec

Éco Entreprises Québec is a private, non-profit organization. ÉEQ’s mission is to represent companies with regard to their responsibility to finance their share of the net costs of municipal curbside recycling, establish reasonable fees to ensure program financing and, in partnership with other stakeholders, promote efforts to increase the quantities of recovered materials through curbside recycling at the lowest possible cost.
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