Victoria Jung, surface care packaging director for Procter & Gamble, is dedicated to making the packaging of P&G Home Care products more sustainable.
The Waste360 40 Under 40 award winner has collaborated with her team and partners to reimagine Swiffer’s package design for its duster products to eliminate plastic packaging, reducing plastic by 173 tons per year. She was also instrumental in the decision to switch Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser packaging from a PET tub design to recyclable carton boards, resulting in reducing plastic by 482 tons per year.
In this Q&A, she talks with Waste360 about how her department designs packaging to meet both consumers’ needs and address environmental issues, and why she always reads the customer reviews.
This interview has been edited for length.
Waste360: What are some of your major responsibilities?
Jung: I oversee all innovation planned for the packaging that we have in Surface Care. It includes Mr. Clean, Swiffer, and Microban.
Waste360: You have an interest in trying to look at challenges around waste and recycling. What would you say are some of these challenges that you are working to address?
Jung: When I think about the packaging that we designed for consumers, in the past, I think, our main focus always was delighting consumers. If products are on, let’s say, the Amazon website, what the consumers see there, or if they see the product on the shelf, that’s the first moment of truth. Then, it’s the usage experience, which we call the second moment of truth. Then, it’s how they dispose of our product and the packaging. That always has been on our minds, but I think as we’re more aware of environmental challenges and issues, how people dispose of it has been more of a focus area, over the last two years.
Now, [we] understand more about the challenges in the recycling stream, and even in consumers’ homes. People really aren’t clear what can go into the garbage cans versus recycling bins. We’re trying to make it very simple for consumers. That’s been on the top of our mind. That has changed drastically over the past few years. I see it not just in my group but all around our company. It’s a thing that we intentionally do.
Waste360: You’ve thought about the consumer experience, and the product manufacturer perspective. What about from the waste management provider or recycler perspective?
Jung: I’ll use the Swiffer Starter Kit as an example. The starter kit is where we sell a device, or implement, and the refills, together. When we designed [the packaging], we designed it so it would protect our implement, and our refills. For the WetJets, we have a liquid bottle inside, and we designed it so that it’s protected throughout our supply chain. There are a lot of blister packs and inserts that are protecting the components inside the box. When consumers take it out, there are so many different types of packages that they have to sort out and throw away. With a lot of the small plastic bags and blisters, people probably just put them in the trash bin, with their everyday garbage.
I visited one of the big recyclers that we have locally, Rumpke, and I saw that when they get all these recycled products back there are so many products that are not actually recyclable, so they have to sort it out. That’s a lot of manpower and sorting hours they have to spend even before they can start to process those pieces. So, we made it in a way that everything in a box is simply recyclable. If you just put everything in the recycling bin, it can be recycled.
Waste360: You also do some research with Western Michigan University?
Jung: We have a lot of packages that need an extra barrier or protection. For example, with the Swiffer refills, when it is a product with a perfume or mineral oil, those products need a laminated film barrier inside the carton. When there is a layer of laminated plastic used, it’s not crystal clear if it can be recycled or not. There is an industry method where you can do a recycling test, to make sure that you can actually reuse those materials. Western Michigan University is certified, and How2Recycle also use their data and reports to issue those recyclable (or not) logos. It’s a well-trusted industry method.
We had new packaging that we were exploring, and I wasn’t sure if it was fully recyclable or not, so we did the testing with Western Michigan University. The test was pretty quick. I think it took four to eight weeks, and they generated very thorough data. We got the report back that said, yes, your product is good, it can be recycled, and recyclers can accept your product. It was a win-win.
Waste360: What is something that you enjoy or find rewarding about the work that you do?
Jung: I think it’s probably too simple, but when I see my product on the shelf, it’s meaningful. I go to Amazon and read reviews that consumers leave. Most of the time, it’s very positive. I really like when I see people’s comments, and they get the benefit that you designed. They will say, “The sprayer is really easy to use. With one spray you can cover a large surface.” It’s a very simple thing, but there was a lot of work behind the door, and we spent a lot of time designing that. When I read comments like that, it’s very rewarding.
Waste360: You’re brave to read those comments. That’s good that you do that.
Jung: There are lots of negative reviews, too. It’s a good learning experience. If there’s something that we haven’t thought about or something that we missed in the design process, in the next round we’ll make it better, and try to fix it. It works both ways.
Waste360: It’s good to get that feedback. It shows that you actually care. Is there anything you would like to add that I didn’t ask you?
Jung: I think that when people think about CPG [consumer packaged goods] companies or other industries, people often think that we’re the offenders, putting plastics out, and polluting the air. I want to make sure that people understand that we are trying to minimize the waste, and do the right thing. We are trying to make people’s lives better. There are lots of efforts, behind the scenes that we are doing to actually deliver the product in a more sustainable way.