Mary Jo Werlein


Senior Sustainability Manager


Adept Packaging

Mary Jo Werlein and Katie Ireland will discuss tips for itendifying and avoiding greenwashing in packaging on Tuesday, April 30, at 3:50-4:10 pm during “The pet food market and marketing innovations” concurrent sessions. Register here

What is the single, most important concept you hope attendees will learn from your presentation?

Driving sustainability through packaging.

Please explain the significance of this concept to the pet food industry:

  • Environmental Impact: Packaging in the pet food industry contributes to a significant portion of waste. Adopting sustainable packaging helps reduce the industry’s environmental footprint by minimizing plastic use, promoting recyclability, and decreasing overall waste generation.
  • Consumer Awareness: Modern consumers are increasingly environmentally conscious. Sustainable packaging aligns with the values of pet owners who seek eco-friendly products. This can enhance brand image, attract a broader customer base, and foster loyalty among environmentally conscious consumers.
  • Regulatory Compliance: As governments and regulatory bodies focus more on environmental regulations, adopting sustainable packaging can help the pet food industry stay compliant with evolving standards. This proactive approach minimizes the risk of legal challenges and ensures long-term viability.

Please explain the significance of this concept to your organization:

  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): Embracing sustainable packaging aligns with the principles of corporate social responsibility. It reflects a commitment to minimizing environmental impact and contributing positively to the community. This can enhance the reputation of my organization and demonstrate a genuine commitment to sustainable practices.
  • Cost Savings: Sustainable packaging often involves the use of recycled materials and efficient designs, which can lead to cost savings in the long run. While initial investments may be required, reduced material consumption and waste management costs contribute to overall financial sustainability.
  • Market Competitiveness: As sustainability becomes a key differentiator in various industries, including pet food, adopting eco-friendly packaging can give my organization a competitive edge. Consumers are increasingly making choices based on environmental considerations, and offering sustainable products can attract a larger market share.
  • Long-Term Viability: Environmental issues are becoming more critical, and businesses that proactively address sustainability concerns are better positioned for long-term success. Investing in sustainable packaging reflects a forward-thinking approach, ensuring the organization’s viability in a changing market landscape.

What are potential next developments or stages in this specific field?

  • Biodegradable Materials: Advances in the development of truly biodegradable materials that break down harmlessly in various environments could revolutionize packaging sustainability. Research in this area aims to create alternatives to traditional plastics, reducing the persistence of packaging waste.
  • Circular Economy Models: The adoption of circular economy principles involves designing packaging that can be easily recycled, reused, or repurposed. Future developments may focus on creating packaging systems that seamlessly integrate into circular supply chains, minimizing the need for new raw materials.
  • Smart Packaging: Incorporating technology into packaging to enhance sustainability is a promising area of development. Smart packaging may include sensors to monitor product freshness, reducing food waste, or indicators that help consumers make informed choices about recycling or disposal.
  • Alternative Sourcing: Research into alternative sourcing for packaging materials, such as plant-based or renewable resources, is ongoing. The hope is to find materials that are not only sustainable but also economically viable and scalable for large-scale production.
  • Reducing Packaging Weight and Volume: Innovations in materials and design may lead to packaging that is lightweight yet robust, reducing the overall environmental impact associated with transportation and storage. This can contribute to energy savings and lower carbon footprints.
  • Innovative Recycling Technologies: Advancements in recycling technologies, including chemical recycling and improved sorting processes, can enhance the efficiency of recycling systems. This could enable the recycling of a broader range of materials and reduce the amount of packaging ending up in landfills.
  • Consumer Education and Engagement: Future developments may involve increased focus on educating consumers about sustainable packaging choices and encouraging behavior that supports recycling and responsible disposal. Enhanced consumer awareness can drive demand for sustainable packaging solutions.

Presentation Description:

Identifying and avoiding greenwashing in packaging sustainability — Katie Ireland, principal packaging engineer, CRB, and Mary Jo Werlein, senior sustainability manager, Adept Packaging, discuss the best options for pursuing pet food packaging sustainability without committing “greenwashing,” the deceptive practice of making products appear more environmentally friendly than they are. Packaging sustainability is a critical consideration in today’s world, where there is a growing awareness of environmental issues and a desire to reduce the impact of consumer products on the planet. However, achieving sustainability in packaging is not just about using eco-friendly materials and making superficial changes. It involves breaking down the complex issue and building a solid plan to address it effectively, all while avoiding the trap of greenwashing.


Mary Jo Werlein has more than 20 years’ experience driving sustainable packaging projects for Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft, 3M and others. She is an expert in the design, development and execution of sustainable packaging initiatives for brands in the consumer product goods and food and beverage industries.