Net Zero LIVE: CSO Jenny Wassenaar to bring Trivium insights

Q&A with Jenny Wassenaar, Chief Sustainability Officer & SVP Global R&D at Trivium Packaging, as she anticipates the inaugural Net Zero LIVE in London

In March 2024, guests will descend on one of the most inclusive corporate sustainability events of the year. Sustainability LIVE Net Zero will cover a variety of topics to suit the needs of global viewers either in person or online. 

Joining the event speaker lineup—as a previous Sustainability LIVE speaker—from Trivium Packaging—its Chief Sustainability Officer and Senior VP of Global Research and Development Jenny Wassenaar. Rather than explaining who she is and what Trivium Packaging is all about, we figured it’s worth letting Wassenaar herself discuss this in a Q&A session. 

Get your ticket for Sustainability LIVE Net Zero here

“The wording says it all: Net Zero Live Sustainability Conference. Let’s open an interactive discussion on what we can do together in the value chain to aim for Zero! Zero waste, Zero harm, and, of course, Zero emissions. The world of packaging is complex, and at Trivium Packaging, we thrive at positive challenges, certainly when we approach them together!”

"At Trivium, we shape the future of packaging to ensure a better planet for everyone – today and for generations to come. With more than 60 locations worldwide, close to 7,500 people employed, and annual sales of US$3.3bn, we aim to enhance the circular economy by producing more than 100 million packaging items made from infinitely recyclable metal every day! Sustainability is my true passion; as a Dutch national, it is in my DNA. I believe sustainability is no longer a choice but an imperative for the success of any company. At Trivium, we are committed to positively impacting the lives of millions of people through the company’s sustainable and circular product offerings."

Jenny Wassenaar, Chief Sustainability Officer and Senior VP of Global Research and Development at Trivium Packaging

What is meant by circularity in sustainability, and specifically ‘circular materials’? Please include multiple examples. 

Sustainability in packaging is a complex concept. Circularity is one aspect of measuring sustainability and refers to the % of materials that can be used again for new applications. There is an “open” loop circularity and a “closed” loop. The open loop measures to what extent materials can be used in different applications. A closed loop ensures materials are used for the same purpose or product. The metal in Trivium’s packaging solutions is 100% infinitely recyclable, which means the aluminium and steel can be used repeatedly, reducing waste and ensuring we protect valuable resources for future generations. 

Why are materials so important when designing sustainable packaging?

Selecting the right type of packaging is particularly important for food products, which require exceptional protection to reduce the risk of damage and food waste during storage, handling, and consumption. Many companies within the food industry have, therefore, opted to enclose their products in metal cans, a type of packaging offering superior levels of robustness and durability relative to alternatives on the market. Such has been the predominance of the metal can that the United Kingdom’s Royal Society named it one of the three most significant inventions in the history of food and drink. Metal: protects, promotes and preserves. With a robust barrier against light and air, the nutritional value of the products in cans is protected and can be transported even at ambient temperatures worldwide. The latest designs and print options make sure that customers can shine on the shelf and are an eye-catcher for the consumers. Finally, metal preserves valuable resources as the metal can be recycled over and over again. 

What makes metal a sustainable material choice? 

80% of all metal ever produced is still in use today. When we recycle metal, we only require a fraction of the energy compared to the first time we use it, making it essential to maintain the material loop. The good news is that metal is an element, not a “human” made invention. Therefore, the quality of recycled metal is comparable with the virgin form as the chemical composition isn’t altered in the process. It is a fantastic material to keep on using as metal recycles forever.

What sustainability challenges face packaging, and what can be done to combat those? 

The most significant challenge in packaging is the enormous amounts of waste created after the use phase. Experts note that the gold standard of sustainability for packaging is its recyclability. “Sustainable packaging” is packaging that can be effectively and efficiently separated from the waste stream, recycled at scale globally, and produces recyclates of sufficient quality to make new products. By this definition, a wide array of packaging formats on the market perform underwhelmingly. 

Multilayered or composite packaging, such as beverage cartons and plastic pouches, is significantly challenging to break down into individual components. Other materials, such as certain classes of plastic, can only be down-cycled, meaning they can only be recycled once or twice before they suffer such quality loss that they must be discarded entirely. 

To the detriment of the planet, a considerable amount of plastic and composite packaging remains unable to be recycled and ends up as landfill or ocean waste. However, packaging material made of steel or aluminium stands clearly above the crowd. Metal is an infinitely recyclable permanent material. Its inherent properties do not change or degrade over time, meaning it can be used and recycled endlessly without losing quality. That is why up to 80% of all metals ever produced are still available or in use today. With well-established and efficient recycling channels worldwide, metal packaging is among the most recycled materials globally.

What steps are being made towards embedding sustainability into packaging? 

It is not easy to capture “sustainability into packaging.” At Trivium, we developed an Eco-Design program to evaluate the sustainability credentials of new products we bring to the market. Eco-design means that sustainability is embedded into every aspect of our product development, from ideation to standardisation. Built on a multi-criteria approach – and using the European Commission’s Product Environmental Footprint guidelines as a benchmark – we set out nine clear sustainability measures to help us determine the sustainability rating of our product designs and developments.

Additionally, other international standards are being developed over time. For example, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) developed the Sustainability in Packaging Holistic Evaluation for Decision-Making (SPHERE) framework. Conceptualised as a framework to support decision-making for packaging strategies spanning company departments, SPHERE strikes a balance between complexity and simplicity. The framework collects all the aspects required to evaluate packaging from an environmental sustainability perspective and distils an approach that facilitates a holistic assessment.

To learn more about Trivium Packaging, visit the company’s website.

Get your ticket for Sustainability LIVE Net Zero here

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For more insights into Sustainability - check out the latest edition of Sustainability Magazine and be sure to follow us on LinkedIn & Twitter

Other magazines that may be of interest - EV Magazine | Energy Digital

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Sustainability LIVE Net Zero will be hosted live from the QEII Centre, London on the 6th and 7th of March, and streamed globally via our virtual event platform Brella. Sustainability LIVE Net Zero will  will delve deeper into the strategies, innovations, and collaborative efforts propelling us toward a net-zero future. The conference and exhibition gives the opportunity to connect with like-minded peers and actively contribute to crafting a sustainable future. 

Following Sustainability LIVE Net Zero, viewers can also sign up for Sustainability LIVE Dubai, Singapore and New York.

Sign up to the The Global Sustainability & ESG Awards 2024, coming to London on the 10th September 2024. 

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