The Green Way to Package
Victor Bell travels the world one week a month advising corporations on how not to offend the environment. From a small house in Jamestown, R.I., his company, Environmental Packaging International, helps the likes of WalMart, Nike, and Coca Cola find their way through a maze of international regulations on the packaging and disposal of consumer goods.
Bell studied resource economics at URI and directed Rhode Island’s statewide recycling program in the 1980s. He says the United States trails way behind Europe, Canada, Japan, and China in how it pays for the disposal of packaging and electronic products. Simply put, the onus here is on communities and states while in Europe manufacturers pay disposal fees and must comply with sustainable packaging regulations. Thus, Microsoft and McDonald’s—clients of Bell’s 11-year-old company—have to know the ins and outs of sustainability or suffer a costly penalty.
Seven of Bell’s 18 employees are URI graduates and all of his staff members are multilingual by necessity. “It’s a lot easier to do what we do if you speak the other country’s language,” Bell says. “We track global requirements for companies and deal with officials and executives all over the world.”
EPI has written software programs, sustainability guidelines, and guidelines to prevent “greenwashing,” a subtle form of lying in which manufacturers claim their packaging is sustainable when it isn’t. Bell and others at EPI work closely with companies on the WalMart Scorecard, a set of sustainable packaging standards that WalMart requires its vendors to meet. Bell says WalMart has been a leader in the U.S. effort to catch up with the rest of the developed world.
EPI’s business has grown to the point where it needs new quarters, which Bell is erecting now at the rear of the current offices. This building will reflect the company’s environmental values as it incorporates geothermal, solar, and wind energy in an effort to reach a near-net-zero energy profile.
—John Pantalone ’72