Walmart SVN feedback, 3:3 (FINALLY!)

March 15, 2011

Waa wa. It turns out Dr. Narayan’s PPT requires a more recent version of Adobe Reader, which I can’t download on my work computer because I am not the administrator of the network. Therefore, I will work from home tomorrow and be sure to upload his PPT, along with my notes and a summary of what I took away from the workshop, by lunch time tomorrow at the latest. Sorry friends.

Real quick: On yesterday’s post I got a comment from a TerrayCycle rep; it turns out that the article I referenced about Scotts Miracle Grow merging with the Worm Poop division of TerraCycle was an April Fools joke by a friendly blogger! I don’t know why but I find that extra funny. It’s nice to see companies in this industry not taking themselves too seriously. Kudos!

Sooo in the world of recycling thermoforms, I was delighted by this PlasticsNews article, which reports on the APR’s recently issued bale specifications for non-bottle rigids. In my post titled “New Insight into PET Thermoform Recycling,” I dance around the “do specs for thermoform bales exist” question, and was never really ever able to conclude if they exist, and if so, what that implies for the industry. For those of you familiar with my Recycling Report, one of my arguments was that MRF’s will not collect thermoforms for recycling if specs for thermoform bales don’t exist. Hopefully, thermoform containers will be included in the seven new bale specs for non-bottle rigids being developed by APR. The new spec categories, as explained in the above sited PlasticsNews article, are as follows: bulky rigid plastics, tubs and lids, all-rigid bales, olefin bales, household containers, bottles and containers, and pre-picked rigid bales. I already sent an email to my contact at APR, congratulating her for their work, and inquiring into what this means for recycling thermoform containers. I will keep you posted.

Shall we discuss the third and final part of the Walmart SVN meeting I attended in Rogers, Arkansas, in December?!? For a description of the first and second parts, visit the posts with the associated titles.

December 14th, 2010
Sam’s Clubs Headquarters, Rogers, Arkansas
Walmart’s winter SVN meeting

In January 28th’s post, I describe the Sustainability Consortium, which is working with Walmart and others in the collection of data necessary to facilitate the construction of Walmart’s Product Index. The PI looks to contain LCIA data on every product sold at Walmart. In preparation of this massive undertaking, the University of Arkansas—either apart of or partnered with— the Consortium, is in the process of executing 5 pilots. These pilots are based on collecting the research necessary to create standards and therefore develop tools to increase the sustainability profile of Walmart’s products. And forgive me if this information isn’t 100% accurate—my notes are scribbled on 3”X5” “Embassy Suites” stationary, which is special. Anyway, one of the pilots introduced was the “electronics sector;” another, “food and beverage,” and lastly, “home and personal care.” I believe Walmart is looking to develop a SMRS (sustainable measurement and reporting standard), which will facilitate research and reporting from business to business, business to retail, and business to consumer. AND I am pretty sure that Walmart will allow suppliers to enter in their own LCIA data, if the industry averages do not do justice to their specific manufacturing processes.

Next we moved onto a discussion of how packaging informs the PI, highlighting the progress made by the GPP and how the Scorecard will kind of get sucked up into the former’s metrics. The GPP is super cool—anyone can join and get updates on the progress being made and how to get involved. Anyway, I drew an umbrella right about here in my notes, with “INDEX” scribbled on the top of the umbrella, and “scorecard” and “SSA” placed underneath, implying that the Scorecard and Supplier Sustainability Assessment will be a COMPONENT of the overall product’s sustainability profile within the index. Kind of like the big fish eating the little fish.

Then we switched to an introduction of the EPA’s new working group titled “Sustainable Financing for Waste Management for Packaging Materials.” This is when we queued the jumbotron (LOVE jumbotrons), and were connected with an office in Washington, where I spotted some familiar faces from the world of sustainable packaging. After the traditional greetings, it was explained how this group is in the process of researching different approaches to managing the financial responsibility of waste, hoping that they can bring several ideas to the table, weighing the pros and cons of each approach before moving forward with policy and implementation. I guess this working group is composed of 8 states (NC, MN, Wisconsin, NY, Iowa, Nebraska, Washington, and one whose name I can’t decipher), 4 governments (VT, Seattle, CA and NY), and 12 brand owners that focus on food/beverage, health/beauty, and home care. This group is hoping that their well-researched dialogue will inform legislation, where they attempt to bridge the gap present in our current approach to waste management by developing more efficient, and sustainable means to finance the recovery of packaging waste. While the US EPA rep did say that there is or would be a website dedicated to describing the agenda of this group, I just googled “Sustainable Financing for Municipal Management of Packaging” and nothing came up…I put in an email to my contact at the EPA so I will let you know what I find. This is all very exciting I think! And, this may or may not be the same thing as AMERIPEN, which was just covered in this article, though I honestly am not sure what the relation, if any, is. Hmmmmmm

The meeting closed with a couple presentations from fellow SVN members/trade associations. The first was by a representative of the tab/label manufacturers, who introduced their certification program titled L.I.F.E. Then a representative from TetraPak presented on how his company and competitors worked together to develop the composite carton recycling stream, which as per this gentleman, is at an impressive 30%!?! Lastly, a gentleman from, perhaps, the metal association (?) presented on how BPA is not bad and is a necessity of modern consumption. I care not to comment on the BPA situation as it is one of the several topics of my upcoming research project and I don’t want to speak without doing my due diligence.

And, not to poke fun or anything, but I just received this email from an unknown contact… thought I would share it with you to get your salivary glands ready for tomorrow’s feast!

I am curious. I saw you Power Point and feel that if and when we can get the recycling of more products, it is a loss of a valuable product that can be reused. So have you considered adding a biodegradable additive that will enable the plastic to biodegrade in landfills AND will not affect its ability to be recycled with mainstream plastics? I have been in biodegradables for 9 years and feel the a landfill biodegradable product is the answer until we get the infrastructure to recycle more.

AND, check out this great Advertising Age article, which summarizes today’s post!
Alright, that’s that. Until tomorrow!

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