Recap 3.5: SPC, cont.

May 6, 2010

Hello! Sorry I did not post yesterday! I took my first “vacation day!” It was awesome…slept late, had a wonderful brunch, went to the beach, and watched the Hawks game. I feel rejuvenated and ready to blog about recycling in America.

BUT FIRST, we still have to finish our recap of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s spring meeting in Boston. Where were we…?

I left off discussing the keynote speaker’s discussion of our current approaches to production and consumption as being unsustainable. For a recap of the recap, check out my April 29th post.

Let’s move on to the Bio-Material Procurement presentation, which I alluded to in the previous post. In a nut shell, this presenter argued that if we chose to utilize biomaterials to produce polymers that can replace tradition materials, we need to ensure that we consider the economic, social and environmental factors inherent in the scale and intensity required for the production of said bio-based resins. Wow that was a mouthful; let me try again.

Basically, if we are going to rely on agriculture to produce biomaterials for the creation of bio-based polymers, we need to understand what that requires from an economic, social and environmental perspective. Through a discussion of the Better Sugar Cane Initiative, the presenter illustrates how the development of procurement principles, criteria, protocols and standards facilitates the “sustainable” production of biomaterials used for the creation of bio-based plastics. I honestly don’t have much to say about this issue.

Next I sat in on the “Making a Case for Integrated Waste Management” presentation, which basically discussed the impending “product stewardship” or “extended producer responsibility” legislation. For those of you completely unfamiliar with this topic, check out my research at: http://www.dordan.com/sustainability_epr_report.shtml.

Basically, this presenter illustrated how waste management developed in the US and how our current waste management system is economically unsustainable due to the responsibility relying entirely on municipalities. This presenter, like many others, argued that the burden for funding waste management should be shifted from the municipalities to the producer/brand owner/first importer. In a nut shell: If you make it, you have to figure a way to recovery it post-consumer. $$$

After this I went and listened to a presentation about other waste-to-energy technologies: one approach consisted of transferring trash into energy by essentially vaporizing waste into a multi-use syngas via a process known as plasma gasification; the other discussed innovating in composting, high solids anaerobic digestion and biomass gasification to produce renewable energy and high-quality value-added compost products.

Both technologies seemed super cool and the PERFECT solution to plastic packaging waste, which seemed a little fishy. I asked both presenters why these technologies were not utilized and the answer was because the price of natural gas is too cheap. Ha! Economics win again; I hate the real world.

There were a lot of other presentations, none of which I found particularly informative or interesting.

The next day I sat in on the “Making Packaging Composting a Reality,” which was AWSOME. Because Dordan is now working with bio-based resins that are certified to break down in an industrial composting facility, I really wanted to understand the likelihood that these bio-based resins would break down and could break down considering the existing infrastructure. The SPC had done a survey of numerous composting facilities in the US to determine their thoughts on compostable packaging. Luckily, bio-based clamshells DO break down in a compost pile; yippee! The only problem is, this end-of-life management option is WAY MORE attractive for food packaging because composters will accept the food waste along with the bio-based package because value for them lies within the organic i.e. food waste. Consequentially, it may be difficult “selling” our biodegradable packages to a composter post-consumer because they do not have food waste…

Regardless, it was really great to learn about industrial composting facilities and understand how the introduction of new bio-based polymers affects the overall integrity of the compost.

As an aside, the only thing that was found to NOT break down were “certified compostable” cutlery…go figure!

That’s basically it; sorry the info was a little basic. I hope that the fall meeting will be much more technical and really get into the gritty details behind why certain packages/materials are recycled and others are not i.e. its all about the money, honey.

Tune in tomorrow to witness the resurrection of my fallen recycling initiative.

Tootles!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: