Meet Larry Baner: Designing Packaging that is Better for the Environment
One of the Faces of Nestlé driving a positive impact on individuals & families, communities, and our planet
Larry Baner is a Packaging Research Scientist at Nestle Purina PetCare.
I’ve worked at Nestlé for 22 years, and I like to remind people that I’ve been working in sustainability since ‘before it was cool!’ My specialty is designing packaging for Purina dry dog food, so I work in the packaging and design group at the Product Technology Center for Nestlé Purina PetCare.
As a scientist, I am always trying to understand how to use new materials to make our packaging better. You may not realize how much care and attention goes into deciding on the best packaging for our products, but I spend a lot of time researching new ideas and materials.
We use something called Life Cycle Analysis. That means we look at the full life of the packaging — from the raw materials we source to how we dispose of packaging when it’s no longer needed — to measure the environmental impact of different packaging materials and improve the overall sustainability of our packaging. The use of a product is one big factor we consider to develop more environmentally sustainable products. For instance, we know that we’re able to use a higher percentage of recycled plastics in packaging for litter, because the material doesn’t come into contact with food the way it would with our pet food brands.
We’re always working with outside vendors to look at new ways to collect, extract, and use recyclable plastics. As a manufacturer, we know that we have a considerable role to play in finding new uses for recycled materials.
Outside of work I love to help people by repairing things, and have volunteered at Purina’s PetCare Pride Day by painting and cleaning at the St. Clair County Pet Adoption Center in Belleville, Illinois. In my greater community we’ve had two major floods within 18 months, and it was heartbreaking to see homes i’d helped rehab last year be flooded out again this year — so at the moment i’m spending many weekends and evenings removing water logged walls and floors in the community.
I really do think I have the best job ever, even though people don’t realize how complex packaging is! It affects our manufacturing facilities, the cost of production, and our whole value chain. What I love about working in research and development at Nestlé is that we’re allowed to take risks, and we’re allowed to fail — it’s those moments of failure where you learn the most, and you can take that learning and grow towards something even greater.
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