Atlantic Packaging pursues its mission to drive change


“Our mission is very personal to me,” said Wes Carter, president of Atlantic Packaging. Based in Wilmington, North Carolina, the company today provides equipment, materials, engineering and services for consumer and B2B packaging solutions with a focus on sustainable packaging. Atlantic has over 30 facilities and over 1,500 employees.

Part of Carter’s personal mission dates back to Atlantic’s roots. The company was founded in 1946 by an idealistic journalist, W. Horace Carter – Wes Carter’s grandfather – as Atlantic Publishing, which published The Tabor City Tribune, a weekly newspaper in Tabor City, North Carolina North . Almost from its inception, the newspaper became embroiled in the local Ku Klux Klan, waging a two-year battle with a series of editorials against the group. Despite death threats, vandalism and financial boycotts, the fledgling newspaper ultimately won, exposing the group’s members and helping send dozens of offenders to prison. The Tabor City Tribune won the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for these efforts.

In the 1960s, the publishing house extended its activities to printing, paper processing and the distribution of office supplies. Under the leadership of Wes’ father, Rusty Carter, this was followed in the 1970s by adding industrial supplies to the mix, to service what was then a large textile company in the southeastern states. The 1990s saw expansion toward automation and industrial packaging integration, as well as a greater focus on technical support for Atlantic’s growing branch network. And it is in recent years that the company has focused heavily on sustainability in packaging.

Carter sees parallels between Atlantic’s modern quest to improve the natural environment and the company’s early civil rights activism. “There’s an interesting synergy between what my grandfather did and what we’re doing now,” he says. “But the big difference is that no one is trying to kill me.”

However, this part of the work is also personal to him. “I’m an Eagle Scout, hunter, fisherman, hiker and surfer,” he said. “I have spent a lot of time traveling to places like Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Indonesia. The differences today compared to 20 years ago are sometimes staggering. must take responsibility for ensuring that there is a pathway where the material does not end up in the environment.

Through its integrated solution offerings, Atlantic can help its customers with their packaging from start to finish, helping them design packaging and equipment, test and supply the best materials and configurations. “We help our customers use packaging more efficiently,” Carter said.

One of the main areas of focus is eliminating plastic wherever possible. “There is no place for single-use plastic in consumer packaging,” Carter continued. “We have natural fiber-based options for most applications. We get it from a sustainable source and we use fibers that we recycle very well in this country. Transitioning all single-use consumer packaging to fiber over the next three to five years is entirely achievable. »

Two additional challenges remain to be addressed in the near future: the stretch film used to hold product pallets and food packaging together. “On the B2B side of our business, the first item is stretch film,” Carter said. “We need to get rid of this waste now – there are around two and a half billion pounds a year that go to landfill. We have to find a way to close this loop. We bought a machine in Europe, an Erema, and created a unique stretch film recycling channel. It produces clean recycled material that looks like virgin plastic.

The challenge is completely different for food packaging. “For food containers, there are real food safety issues,” Carter explained. “I won’t be the first to eat chicken wrapped in a fiber container! So here, compostable materials make more sense. Curbside composting is the solution – it needs to be as common as a trash can. Biofilms from sustainable, non-GMO sources are also another great potential solution. »

Carter sees Atlantic’s focus on all of this as a very viable way to grow the business. “Every major consumer products company and retail brand looks to their suppliers to help them achieve their sustainability goals, especially their packaging suppliers,” he said. “Whether it’s Kellogg’s or P&G, I’m their Scope 3 [indirect CO2 emissions that are part of the corporate environmental footprint]. Because of our commitment to sustainability and carbon neutrality, companies are happy to do business with us. We have never had a better catalyst for the growth of our business. We are able to transform the sustainability profiles of our clients in a very short time. »

He sees the opportunities as endless. “Surfboard wrapping doesn’t really move the needle,” he said. “But when we delivered the first pack of fiberboard surfboards it was a lot of fun. But then look at the toilets – they’re all packed with polystyrene. That’s a big deal, so if we can get everything through that to fiber packaging, it will have a huge environmental impact.”

When all is said and done, it all becomes truly personal to him. “Sustainability is not a fad,” he concluded. “I have twins who are eight years old. I want to take them surfing, hunting and fishing, but I’m afraid of the world they might be left with. I’m in a position of influence where I can help get things moving. things. It gave me a direction for my life. My grandfather must have felt the same way. I understand his drive more than ever before.”


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