Circularity 23 – Just go for it! 

Circularity 23, organized by GreenBiz in Seattle, WA from June 5-7th, was a heady mix of learning, discovery, and relationship-building.

After our inaugural US conference at SPC Impact in Austin, TX, the size and scale of the sustainability and circular economy community was highlighted once more by more than 1,000 delegates, all eager to discuss, debate and learn more about how, predominantly, the United States is tackling the challenge of sustainable packaging, legislation and collection and processing of wastes. Even before the conference commenced, retailers, NGOs, CPGs, and circular economy proponents were networking online, organizing meet ups and asking questions which firmly reinforced that the world’s most successful businesses take these topics incredibly seriously. 

On day one, Gillian Garside-Wight presented to over 120 delegates on how ‘Data Drives the Future of Packaging’. The room was just about big enough to hold the delegates who were eager to understand the importance of live and accurate packaging data and how it is necessary as EPR bills develop across the country. We were joined on stage by our partners, Walmart, and Cheryl Lam ably answered a raft of questions on how they have embraced a new approach to packaging data. Previously completing an annual packaging survey, the world’s largest retailer bravely took control of their packaging sustainability, pioneering packaging data collection through e-halo, our proprietary technology platform.  

During Gill’s session, we ran a survey which produced interesting insights to market opinion. 58% of participants do not believe that their business has the necessary data to make informed, positive change when it comes to sustainability and EPR. 

It was fascinating to read the open-ended answers from the broad range of attendees to the question of whether governments and policymakers should be doing more to support, promote and incentivize the circular economy, with the vast majority stating yes. One comment was firm in their belief that “EPR should be mandated across the USA by the federal government as there is too much reliance on the consumer.” 

As the hour came to an end, we particularly appreciated the feedback from the floor. Organizations are crying out for data in all areas of their business and sustainability is no different. The immediate EPR data conundrum is right here, right now and the questions were clear: “How should we collect data?” “When should we collect data?” “What data should we collect?” 

Talks, demos and British candy

Our talk was one of many organized by GreenBiz across the three days. I particularly enjoyed ‘Gen Z’s role in Shaping the Circular Economy’, and ‘How Walmart is Catalyzing Packaging Innovations’. The challenge was getting to all the sessions as we experienced a deluge of interest ine-halo at our exhibition stand. At one stage, Gillian and Erika were managing a queue of delegates who wanted a demo of our software platform, but I also suspect the Refresher candies were quite the draw! Note to self, bring more UK candies next time! 

Meeting new people is exciting but so is catching up with familiar faces. Working from home has become the new norm but nothing beats sitting face to face for building relationships and engaging debates. Discussing a 7-year packaging transformation plan with one major apparel and homewares retailer or explaining how our technology can speed up packaging comparisons for a grocery retailer is the stuff of geek dreams! 

I may have been described as slightly extroverted before so being around people might just generate endorphins for me! This came to a head at the after-party organized by GreenBiz at the duelling pianos bar but thankfully I only embarrassed myself in two out of the three hours. Thanks to Julia from GreenBiz for the dance-off. 

When we packed up our stand on Wednesday, we were still cramming in meetings. It was fascinating to hear how gaining engagement with packaging data is still a challenge for major global CPGs.

The world is certainly getting smaller yet we’re playing catch up when it comes to one truth with packaging specifications. 

Trevor Yong, Aura

It would be remiss of me to not mention how much I loved Seattle. From the magnificence of the Space Needle to the cuteness of the monorail, or the majestic views from Kerry Park and the undoubted beauty of Bainbridge Island, Seattle is simply magical. In both Austin and Seattle, the Aura team have been blessed with perfect weather. Check out my LinkedIn for some photographs and follow Aura for more content.  

Thank you to GreenBiz for a brilliantly organized event. If you would like to know more about what we can do to help your organization with packaging data, EPR or how to dance to Despacito, contact us today.  

The future of packaging data is now. Let’s go for it! 

Trevor Yong Business Development Director

About the Author

Trevor leads business development for Aura with 20 years' experience in the environment sector, delivering a broad range of compliance, consulting and waste management solutions for leading businesses. He has worked with global household names to identify, implement, and deliver tangible, sustainable solutions. His passion is to support clients to realise their goals, driving change through data analysis and building long-lasting relationships. Trevor loves creating value out of waste and thrives on making the complex simple. Trevor is a massive sports fan, especially when it comes to Liverpool Football Club. The word "fanatic" was made for him!