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SPC's COMPASS comparative design tool launches

Compass.jpgIn development since 2005, the new COMPASS (Comparative Packaging Assessment) online software application from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition ( is now available for license by packaging professionals. To launch the new program, SPC project manager Minal Mistry demonstrated the application to attendees during three workshops at the SPC’s Spring Meeting 2009 on March 23 in Chicago.

“COMPASS will help packaging designers make more informed material selections early in the development process,” said Mistry. “By reporting credible information on a range of environmental criteria, it allows users to understand the tradeoffs of material selection and select design options that best fit their company’s sustainability objectives.”

The application uses a life cycle approach to assess packages on resource consumption, emissions, and packaging attributes such as material health, recycled or virgin content, and solid waste. The life-cycle phases calculated by the software include sourcing, manufacturing, conversion, and end-of-life. The distribution and use phases are not a part of the COMPASS tool, Mistry explained.

The application’s metrics and methodologies were developed by experts from across the packaging supply chain and reviewed by a range of stakeholders, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Users can select U.S. or European data sets and can compare four packages side-by-side. “Copy” and “Search” functions enhance the software’s ease of use.

Notes the SPC, the COMPASS development process has included a significant data collection effort, as the coalition continues to work with various trade associations to collect the most up-to-date industry-average life-cycle inventory data for common packaging materials. The software also includes the latest recovery figures from the EPA and the European Union to assess the recyclability of packages.

One thing the software does not do however, Mistry clarified, is assign any “scores” to packages or materials. “It leaves the ‘scoring’ up to the user depending upon their own priorities for sustainability,” he told audience members.

The software is available through an annual license, which costs $500 for SPC members and $750 for nonmembers. Each license allows for up to five users and allows for collaboration within design teams.

For a free trial of the COMPASS software, visit the Web site at

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