2023 Confluences: Reducing Plastics Along the Entire Organic Supply Chain

Organic Confluences Conference

The Organic Trade Association partnered with The Organic Center to present the 2023 Organic Confluences: Reducing Plastics Along the Entire Organic Supply Chain. We brought together scientists, farmers and industry experts for insightful panel discussions to help businesses reduce plastics and create a more sustainable future for organic. Organic Confluences sessions took place all day on Tuesday, May 9 and the morning of Conference Day on Wednesday, May 10. 

Agenda: Tuesday, May 9 │ Current Use of Plastics in Organic and Future Directions

What is the role of plastic in our food system? How plastic moves through our food system and environment.

A Presentation and Q&A on the role of plastic in our food system and environment. Researchers and Farmers will present their top-level findings on how plastic enters the environment and human bodies and how the use of plastic impacts farmer livelihoods.

  • Cynthia Barstow, Protect our Breasts
  • Dr. Lisa Erdle | Director of Science & Innovation, Gyres Institute
  • Alejandra Warren | Co-founder, Plastic Free Future
  • Dr. Dana Nettles | Owner, Dr Nettles Natural Beauty
  • Dr. Amber Sciligo, | Director of Science Programs The Organic Center (discussion leader)

Use of Plastics in Organic

A discussion examining the use of plastics in organic throughout the supply chain, highlighting challenges that organic stakeholders face that are currently addressed with plastic-based tools. Farmers, retailers, and distributors will discuss their plastic use and difficulties in finding bio-based alternatives. The panel will also touch on consumer demand for reduced plastic and how farmers are trying to meet production goals given these pressures.

  • Dr. Carol Miles | Professor in the Department of Horticulture at Washington State University, and Director of WSU Mount Vernon Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Center
  • Dr. David Gonthier | Assistant Professor in the Department of Entomology at the University of Kentucky
  • Camille Herrera | Sustainability Programs Manager at Driscoll’s of the Americas
  • Renaud des Rosiers | Director of Sustainability at Amy's Kitchen
  • Dr. Kelly Nelson | Research Agricultural Economics at USDA Economic Research Service
  • Dr. Amber Sciligo | Director of Science Programs, The Organic Center (discussion leader)

Break for Lunch

Organic Regulations and Plastics: Policies, Pathways and Challenges

Policies, Pathways, and Challenges A panel including updates from NOP regulators on the current status of plastic regulation in general and specifically for organic, and discussions about the complexities of regulating plastic use in organic in the domestic and international policy landscapes.

  • Katherine DiMatteo | Independent Consultant
  • Kyla Smith, Certification Policy Advisor at PCO
  • Lisa Erdle | PhD, Director of Science & Innovation, 5 Gyres
  • Chris Anderson | Vice President of Sustainable Strategies
  • Dr. Amber Sciligo | Director of Science Program The Organic Center (discussion leader)

Breakout Sessions
Conference participants will break into small groups to participate in interactive discussions across stakeholder groups identifying the biggest challenges in reducing plastic in their supply chain sectors as well as potential solutions to those challenges. Breakout groups will report back their biggest challenges in reducing plastic and the highest priority action items to address them.

Wednesday, May 10 │ Exploring Plastic Alternatives and Building a Roadmap for the Future

The Future of Non-Input Synthetics, Recycling and Plastic-Alternatives in Organic

A session exploring the need for a framework to develop discussions around the non-input use of synthetic plastic alternatives in organic. The panel will discuss the complexities of expanding the perspective of organic to include non-input synthetics and who needs to be included in collaborative efforts from artists to policy makers to make large shifts in plastic use, including consumer engagement.

  • Jazmine Mejia-Meunoz | Water Quality Program Coordinator  at California Marine Sanctuary Foundation
  • Rhodes Yepsen | Executive Director of the BPI
  • Cynthia Minet | MFA, Professor Moorpark College
  • Mitch Ratcliffe | CEO and Publisher of Earth 911
  • Dr. Amber Sciligo | Director of Science Program The Organic Center (discussion leader)

Innovations in Plastic Alternatives: Lightning Session

Organic stakeholders have been getting creative to reduce plastic from packaging to distribution and retail, and transporting food to home (from the store, food delivery). These rapid, 5-minute presentations will highlight case studies where industry is using novel alternatives to plastic and strategies to reduce plastic use.

  • Mike Dill | Manager of Policy & Advocacy Organically Grown Company, Coordinator- Organic Produce Wholesalers Coalition
  • Lindsey McCoy | CEO & Co-Founder Plaine Products
  • John McKeon | Director of Organic Integrity & Compliance Earthbound Farms
  • Lisa de Lima | Vice President of Grocery MOM’s Organic Market
  • Alejandra Warren | Co-Founder & Executive Director of Plastic Free Future

Conference Day will continue with the Organic Policy Conference after the morning Confluences sessions.

View the Organic Policy Conference agenda here.

Funding for this conference is provided by NIFA OREI