David Newcorn 
Yesterday at our Sustainable Packaging Symposium (SPS)  in Chicago, something remarkable happened. You could feel a visceral shift in the fault lines surrounding the end-of-life recovery question for packaging. The debate over biodegradability vs. compostability that has characterized recent industry discourse was largely absent. Instead, it was replaced by a vigorous debate over recycling -- how to increase it, and who pays for it. I'll let my colleague Anne Marie Mohan  report on the particulars.
But one idea that kept recurring throughout the day was that of "keeping molecules in play"--whether metal, glass, paper, or polymers. Composting may present a satisfying storyline--just throw that bottle or bag away and it turns into dirt--but it's actually very slow and inefficient way of returning that molecule back to re-use as a package relative to recycling. That was the observation of Tony Kingsbury, Executive-In-Residence, Center for Responsible Business, Berkeley, and an executive for Dow Chemical, and a speaker at SPS.
Even NatureWorks, a company that was midwifed into existence by Dow (but now completely separate), chimed in. Long a lighting rod for the PLA and compostability debate , Natureworks disavowed (at SPS) composting as a viable end-of-life packaging recovery strategy, except in very limited cases such as foodservice, and even then only in cases where composting facilities exist. (A marketing executive for the company said at the event that it has always focused on packaging sourced from renewable materials as a sustainability benefit, not on composting.)
The impromptu debate that broke out at our SPS event over recycling--who pays, how to increase, whether the current system is broken--was fascinating, and at times, tense. As I say, look for Anne Marie's report for details, because there were some particularly enlightening perspectives, particularly from Coke's Scott Vitters, Starbucks' Jim Hanna and Marks & Spencer's Andrew Speck.
So, given all the above, I have some questions for you. Is it your impression that much of the recent debate in packaging has focused on compostability, not recycling? And what has dominated your internal company discussions for viable end-of-life recovery--recycling or composting?