Sustainability is good for business, Canmaker Summit speakers agree

David Wall, chief executive of Ardagh's metals division, speaking at The Canmaker Summit

Sustainable canmaking is not only good for the environment, it’s also good for business.

That was the message from the opening day of The Canmaker Summit, held this year in Venice, where industry leaders lined up to highlight the sector’s commitment to reaching European circular economy and environmental-protection goals.

“It’s not only a cost saving, but a saving for our planet,” said Marco Checchi, chief executive of Pelliconi, of the Italian crown cork and bottle cap manufacturer’s efforts to cut waste and reduce its carbon footprint.

The metal packaging sector’s environmental credentials were hailed by speakers including David Wall, chief executive of Ardagh’s metals division (pictured), Alexis Van Maercke, secretary general of steel packaging group APEAL, and vice chairman of US-based Roeslein & Associates, Dave May.

From replacing lighting systems and water-cooling processes in factories to redrawing transportation strategies, canmakers and their suppliers are doubling down on stripping greenhouse gas emissions from their businesses. The surge of recent activity is in response to growing consumer demand for environmentally-friendly products and a raft of European Union legislation to boost recycling and other green initiatives.

“Everybody’s focusing on a sustainable world,” said May. “We have a great recycling programme, one of the best.”

Speakers stressed how aluminium and steel containers can be recycled over and over again with no loss to their beneficial properties. That reduced the need to extract new raw materials from the ground, the 160 delegates were told. And the ability of metal cans to keep food fresh for longer cuts food waste, another concern of EU regulators.

While metal containers are slightly more expensive than plastic bottles and packages, an increasing number of consumers feel that the extra cost is worth paying for the long-term environmental benefits, said Raphael Thevenin, vice president for sales and marketing at aluminium canstock manufacturer Constellium. Ardagh’s Wall agreed, saying that plastic was no longer seen as a wonder product.

“Public opinion has moved very strongly against plastic packaging,” Wall said. “It was considered very efficient from a cost perspective, efficient from a transport perspective and efficient from a durability and flexibility perspective, but nobody considered until now the environmental costs that went with that. We’re now beginning to see that come home to roost.”

Many delegates will be attending a gala dinner tonight when the Cans of the Year 2018 awards will be presented.