Algae plastics, packaging supplier collaboration, and meet the Dordanites!

January 19, 2012

Heyo!

Long time no chat! As per a previous post’s statement, I spoke with a representative from Algix a couple weeks back in regards to their algae-based plastic that has been successfully injection molded into different parts. Unfortunately I have misplaced my notes from the call, which detailed the technicalities involved in synthesizing a resin from an algae-based feedstock, including the unique chemistry of this process. But fear not! Check out the inquiries below I just emailed to my friend at Algix who defiantly is the go-to guy for all things algae-based-technology related.  

  • Please describe the relationship between textile manufacturers/dairy producers and algae. In other words, how does algae become a waste product of these industries’ processes and how is it ideal for manipulation into bio-based plastics?
  • How is post-industrial algae synthesized into bio-based plastics? In other words, how is the protein in algae bound to the plastic components to allow for application to injection molding? What additives are required to allow for the synthesis OR used to increase the properties of the material? I remember discussions of protein-based materials (cellulous) vs. carbon-based (bio-PET) and how the former “connects” to the plastic molecule similar to how the calcium carbonate connects to the PP polymer, for example.  Please expand on this analogy.
  • What is the preferred end-of-life treatment of this unique bio-based plastic? Is it similar to the approach taken by PLA supplier NatureWorks, which looks to generate the quantity necessary to sustain the creation of a closed-loop recycling process in which PLA would be recycled in its own post-consumer stream?

Hopefully, more details to come!

NEXT, Dordan’s collaboration with material science company Ecovative in regards to the design of their thermoformed “grow trays” was recently covered in several industry articles: First published on GreenerPackage.com and then Packaging World the story subsequently made its way into HealthCare Packaging! Thereafter,  a different version of the story appeared on PlasticsToday.com; this focused more on how the limitations of Ecovative’s manufacturing processes, couple with those inherent in thermoforming, dictated the overall design of the grow trays. Obviously I am biased, but I think this story is super clever insofar as it demonstrates how different packaging suppliers can collaborate in new and exciting ways, leveraging existing technologies like thermoforming and innovations in material science (ahem, growing packaging!) to facilitate process efficiencies  within the supply chain. I especially like how Ecovative’s Sam explained how thermoforming, unlike a lot of engineering processes, is “a bit of an art form,” giving merit to one of Dordan’s marketing slogans: “Dordan, the perfect blend of art and engineering.”  Neato! You may recall a video from Pack Expo that shows Sam and I discussing this collaboration; the GreenerPackage.com/Packaging World feature is as follow up to that discussion. I hope you like the photos of the thermoformed grow trays—I roamed around Dordan’s factory sticking the 21X21 inch tray here and there, finally finding a home for it sandwiched between a narrow cavity in one of our skids, ha!

 Next, our efforts to recycle thermoformed packaging are being featured in the Reporter’s Notebook series of Machine Design Magazine. This is one of the more technical interviews I have experienced, with questions as complex as: describe the waste management industry in America, yikes! Expect a digital version of the story latter this afternoon…(two hours later)…and here it is!

If I could reflect for a moment…how awesome is the PR/publishing industry in the packaging space?!? From blogging about our efforts to recycle thermoform packaging to having said efforts awarded the cover feature in Green Manufacturer Magazine to creating a press release describing our collaboration with Ecovative that subsequently caught the attention of Greener Package editor Anne Marie Mohan at Pack Expo, I can’t believe the success we have experienced getting our story out to a large and targeted audience via these news channels. So HOOHA to the packaging industry and its fabulous representation in the news via these proactive and innovative publishing houses.

Let’s see what now. I sent a follow up email to my friend at S+S sorting in regards to the results of their pilot looking to investigate the technical differences between reprocessing bottle-grade and thermoform-grade PET. Thanks for those of you who participated in my poll following my last post; more polls to come!

Last but not least, meet the Dordanites! As per a reporter’s request for inclusion in an upcoming publication, my father and Dordan CEO Daniel and my brothers and Dordan Account Executives Sean and Aric and yours truly participated in a photoshoot last week. Obviously there are a lot of other Dordanites—aside from those that carry the Slavin name—that make Dordan such a lovely place to work. From engineering to production to management, we are proud of our employees and while little to they know, they will soon be beckoned for a company photoshoot, muhahahaha.

Enjoy!

Dordan CEO Daniel explaining thermoforming

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Dan expanding on art of thermoforming

Dordanites looking all fly; Sales Manager Aric far right, CEO Dan second from right, Account Exec Sean left of Dan, and ME far left

Our more normal demeanor

My boys!

HA! I think this is silly

Do we see a pattern developing?!?

There we go!

Awwwww

Because you should never take yourself too seriously...

In my next post I will discuss (FINALLY) feedback from the SPC’s material health working group, which looks to develop indicators and metrics to assess the safety of materials used in packaging. This stuff gets pretty heady so make sure you bring your thinking cap!

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