SPP update 1.5 of 2 and terrible terrible terribleness!

December 29, 2010

Hey! For those of you that have your toes in B2B marketing, check out all the tools available for download here. I found the “helpful documentation” to be super helpful when trying to design an integrated marketing campaign…

So this is random but we have suspended composting Dordan’s food and yard waste for the winter because it seems as though the microorganisms are hibernating! As it stands, it looks more like a pile of stuff than a home-grown pile of compost! C’est le vie!

I will keep you updated on Dordan’s social and environmental sustainability efforts as they unfold and progress into 2011, but in the mean time, feel free to peruse the partially complete description of our goals here.

Okkkk so where were we? That’s right, SPP feedback.

After I drank a celebratory beer following my presentation, I returned to the conference, where Scott Steele of Plastics Technologies explained how reducing packaging may not always be the best approach to cost savings/sustainability. He spoke specifically of the dramatic material reductions in the PET bottle, which anyone can tell you have been down gauged to the extreme; just ask my 95 year-old grandmother! His argument was actually very powerful because he explained that if you reduce the material consumed per package as an attempt of saving green, then due diligence must be taken throughout the production and distribution supply chain in order to ensure no damage to the product (or anything else) arises from this packaging reduction. I know this is a little crazy but he even referenced a store clerk dying, heaven forbid, because the bottles had been down-gauged to the point that they could not support the top load of the skid, which all came crashing down after the PE shrink wrap was removed…yikes!

By the by, all the presentations are available for download here.

The last presentation of the day was JoAnne Hines, the “Packaging Diva,” who discussed the Sun Chip compostable bad “situation.” I had heard bits and pieces about the Packaging Diva over the year so I was thrilled to see her in the flesh! She was a very comfortable public speaker and I enjoyed her sarcasm! Basically she discussed the Sun Chips compostable bag innovation/market flop, and what that says about the intersection between sustainability/packaging/consumer preferences. For those of you unfamiliar, the Sun Chip compostable bag, launched on Earth Day in 2010 (I think) by Frito-Lay, resulted in declining sales across all chip style categories because consumers complained that the compostable bag was “too noisy.” Just youtube Sun Chips compostable bag and you will be overwhelmed with the negative feedback generated via consumers/social networking sites.

All in all, a good presentation and a favorable one to end the day on!

The second day of the conference began with a presentation from an Industrial Designer from Brandimage—Desgrippes & Laga. He was charming and had a very good on-stage presence. However, being a designer, his assumptions about what is “green” were more so based on generic understandings then sound science. Perhaps a discussion of one of his companies’ new concepts will speak to this point…

Brandimage has created a molded pulp water bottle that has a plastic laminate inside the bottle, to keep the liquid from leaching through the paper. From a design standpoint, it looks pretty cool, because the bottles actually lay flat throughout production and it is not until you force water inside that its shape takes form. However, as an attempt to be more “sustainable” than the classic PET bottles, there are many problems. For instance, the weight of a molded pulp water bottle filled would dramatically exceed the weight of the down gauged PET bottles of today’s market; therefore, the energy required to move the bottles from the point of production through distribution would exceed that of PET bottles. Next, because of the plastic laminate on the inside of the bottle, these disposable containers (I don’t see how they could be resused…) can’t be recycled. Because NAPCOR and others have invested a considerable amount in the development of the PET recycling infrastructure (PET bottles are the highest recycled plastic container in North America), it doesn’t make sense to introduce an alternative material into the bottle market. In other words, because the recovery infrastructure already exists for PET bottles, but doesn’t for laminated paper products, it does not make sense to replace PET bottles with molded pulp ones in the context of end-of-life management.

After he presented I told him that I thought he did a great job, but that his molded pulp bottle concept was really silly. He was a good sport about it!

OK, I know I have a lot more updates to rally to you all, but I leave for Mexico tomorrow for VACATION!!!!! Therefore, I wanted to leave you with something a little more…something.

First, watch “The Future of Food;” it will blow your mind.

Next, visit The Cosmetic Database and search by product brand i.e. Burts Bees, or product type i.e. mascara. You will be shocked!

Then, read “Poorly Made in China.”

And lastly, read this Chicago Tribue article.

If you do so in that order, you will feel as though I did last week—terrible terrible terrible! I am not trying to be a weirdo but being a sustainability coordinator for a plastic packaging company allows you to make arguments for business practices in the context of ethics; be it workers rights, the environment, whatever. That being said, when I come across things like “The Future of Food” and a database for cosmetics that details all the terrible things in the products we consume each day AND then find out that the water I have been drinking for the last 5 years has cancer causing agents in it you begin to wonder about this whole sustainability jazz. Trust me, I am genuinely a die-hard environmentalist; I have always been and will always continue to be so. However, while I truly enjoy working towards a more sustainable packaging industry, I find myself struggling with the following ethical conundrum: if the products that we are packaging in our “sustainable material” are themselves harmful (cosmetics, food, etc.) to the person consuming them, the environment, and the social fabric in which it was produced and distributed, then why so much hype on the sustainability of a package? Shouldn’t we be more concerned about how products themselves are manufactured i.e. what goes into them and what comes out, then how in reducing a package by X amount, you get more product per pallet, cheaper shipping, and so on?!?

I’m sorry—I swear—I am never a Debby downer but for some reason this whole dealio is really bothering me. I am meeting with my old ethics professor the third week of January so hopefully he can help set me straight…

Let us end our sort of depressing post with the following even more depressing post from Enviroblog, which details the worst environmental disasters of 2010. Happy New Year! Ha.


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