How Smart Are These SmartPacks?

On the exterior, this food packaging looks similar to anything else in the freezer aisle. In reality, PolyCello removed a layer of film that lets the resulting package be recycled by consumers.

PolyCello removed a layer of film found in traditional food packaging to make these pouches recyclable for the average household.

When PG Emmerson started flexible-packaging company PolyCello in 1956, the goal was to provide a superior-quality product and service customers better than the competition.

More than 45 years later, and now under the helm of PG’s grandson, Stephen Emmerson, PolyCello has the same values as it did in the beginning, but with a sustainable twist.

Ranging from recyclable to compostable packaging for products that include frozen foods and pet foods, PolyCello has led the charge for creating innovative, environment-friendly packages for its customers while also driving sustainable operating processes.

“We have better and improved products—it’s an evolution of the bag,” says Stephen, who serves as president and CEO of PolyCello. “We are still putting things in bags, but the bags are getting better all the time.”

Stephen is clear that even though sustainability is good for the environment, it also is a good business decision. He states that PolyCello started eco-friendly initiatives as a way to minimize its operating costs more than a decade ago. It began with PolyCello gathering up its film scraps, grinding them up, and recycling them back into its products. Seeing that success, the company began recycling wood pallets and tin cans, along with implementing balanced scorecards on truckloads.


As a third-generation owner, PolyCello president and CEO Stephen Emmerson has been leading the environmental charge in the packaging sector long before “green was in vogue.” Below, he shares some of his insights into the sustainability sector.

BEHAVIOURS: “It started for [PolyCello] as a pursuit for operational excellence. Then, we realized we were being environmentally conscious in the process. They went hand in hand.”

GREEN MARKETING: “The problem is that the term ‘green’ is overused. Companies will talk green and act brown. We want to make sure that our companies are actually walking the talk.”

EDUCATING: “When we present the SmartPack to people, they either get it or they don’t. If we have to sell too hard on the value of the product, the company will not fully embrace it. It’s all or nothing.”

“You can be very green and have it make you money,” Stephen says. “The biggest cost-savings for us have proven to be green by nature. It’s a real win-win for us.”

Polycello reexamines its operational process regularly, with the goal of minimizing its environmental footprint as much as it can in each of its facilities,which are located in Amherst, Nova Scotia, and Belleville, Ontario. Since 2000, when the company started tracking its sustainable gains, PolyCello has reduced its residual solid waste by 83 percent for every foot produced through its recycling and composting programs. Water waste also has dropped by 82 percent for every foot produced after the company converted to a closed-loop system.

PolyCello’s sustainable practices don’t just end on the operational side; for its clients, PolyCello created SmartPack technology, which eliminates a layer of film on food packaging. This new design allows food packages to be recyclable by the everyday household while also maintaining the air and moisture needs for food storage.

PolyCello also created CleanSheet, a cost-effective cutting board that can be recycled after use in food preparation. The cutting board serves dual purposes for its customers, and is mostly used in delis, hospitals, and other commercial food-preparation areas.

“This is a product that is not only environmentally conscious, but you are also tackling the core issue of food preparation and hygiene, which really affects the end consumer,” Stephen says.

PolyCello’s success with sustainable products and operations has not gone unnoticed. The firm has been named as one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies for three years in a row, honoured for its practices and creating value in innovative ways. SmartPack’s innovative technology also won the company an Innovation in Waste Reduction Award from the Resource Recovery Fund Board of Nova Scotia and an Excellence in Print Award.

PolyCello credits the close partnership with its customers as the driver in its development of environmentally friendly products. The company’s emphasis on customer service makes it easy for clients to reveal their problems and challenge PolyCello to come with a solution to package products promptly.

“We have a smart group of people here, and when pointed in the right direction, they can come up with the right packaging for a company,” Stephen says of his staff. “People come up with an idea and a need, and we are able to come up with a solution for them.”

Stephen praises his 350 employees as the catalyst for the company’s ingenuity, creativity, and ability to deliver a quality product to the client that meets their needs and is environmentally friendly.

“We want to succeed together and deliver for our customers,” he says. “Great companies aren’t [great] because of great CEOs or great marketing; they are great because of great employees.”