Recap # 3: SPC meeting

April 29, 2010

Greetings my packaging and sustainability friends!

Guess what: I have a meeting with our City Official on Monday to determine what the economics are governing waste management in our region (Woodstock, IL). After all, municipalities are the bodies that dictate to haulers like Waste Management what materials should be recovered post-consumer. If we want to figure out why non-bottle rigids (clamshells) are not recycled in our region, perhaps we should talk with those who determine what materials should be collected in the first place!

Before I get ahead of myself (I still have to summarize all my recent findings about non-bottle rigid recycling and PET recycling via the American Chemistry Council’s research), shall I recap my experiences from the SPC meeting in Boston last week?

Well, Boston itself is a BEAUTIFUL city; it is the most “European-like” city I have been to in the States. Like Chicago, Boston has lots of classic architecture juxtaposed with modern, glass and steel structures, which makes for a very aesthetically interesting skyline.

ohhhhh

The lonnnggeesttttt building

Historic!

While there, I went to my first professional hockey game: The Bruins in the first game of the playoffs! It was totally radical! Very barbaric and hedonistic, with all the fighting, cheering, eating and drinking; I now know why it is one of America’s favorite past-times!

Hurray!

The spring conference for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition was okay. Granted the volcanic eruption made it difficult for several international speakers to attend—thereby making SPC staff scramble to find new speakers last minute—the content of the presentations was still a little “fluffy,” in my opinion. Perhaps my disappointment with the content can also be attributed to the fact that the only other SPC conference I attended marks the beginning of my career at Dordan. Consequentially, all the information presented at that conference was super new and exciting and I acted as a sponge, sucking it all up. Because I have been doing nothing but researching since the fall SPC conference, maybe my understanding of “sustainability” has reached an elevation that requires increasingly technical presentations in order to satiate my appetite. That being said, I did learn several things from the presenters.

The first presentation I sat in on titled “Using the SPC’s Indicators and Metrics Framework” discussed how to use the SPC’s metrics for sustainable packaging in the procurement of LCA and LCI data. It appears as though these metrics can be used to determine life cycle inventory data for certain processes, thereby helping to establish a base line for companies such as ours to measure sustainability improvements upon. This is what I learned:

  • “Gate-to-gate” means the environmental inputs (energy, water, etc.) and outputs (greenhouse gas equivalent emissions) required/emitted during the production of extruded roll stock through the conversion phase for the manufacture of thermoformed packages. In other words, data that pertains to Dordan’s operations of ownership i.e. the roll stock we buy to convert to thermoformed packages. You dig?
  • “Cradle-to-gate” means the inputs and outputs required/emitted during the raw material extraction. This term can also extend further throughout the supply chain i.e. to the converter or CPG company. Basically, it is a designated point along the supply chain that aids those in the procurement of LCI data.
  • “LCI” means life cycle inventory data and it takes into consideration the inputs and outputs required/emitted throughout the entire life cycle of a product/material/etc. This is organizational-specific data and is concerned primarily with the environmental profiles of PROCESSES i.e. extrusion, conversion, fulfillment, etc.
  • Eco-invent is a free LCA database; however, many LCA databases are proprietary and costly to gain subscription tooL.
  • At least three different LCI data entries are required to validate the industry average data (LCA)…this is confusing to me, too.

Because of the “rules” governing the conference, I am unable to provide the name of the presenter/speaker or the company/organization that he/she represents.

That being said, the key note speaker for the conference was speaking on behalf of a very prominent NGO dedicated to the environment. This speaker gave a very insightful but somber presentation on how our world’s current approaches to production and consumption are NOT sustainable; not even close. According to this presentation, “the current demand for the Earth’s resources is 1.25 times what scientists believe our plant can sustain. And by the way, that’s with 6 billion people—not the 9 billion world population predicted by mid-century.” The main argument of this presentation was that we need to increase the production on our already-producing land (land for agriculture) while not further depleting our natural resource reserves (water, top soil, biotic resources, etc.). Basically, we need to be much smarter and innovate in order to continue utilizing our land for the production of food. This argument curtailed on another, which was further explicated in a latter seminar titled “Bio-material Procurement;” in a nut shell, we should not use our already strained agricultural land to grow materials like corn for the feedstock of the next generation of bio-based polymers because this land is already required for the production of FOOD for our ever-growing and consuming population.

WOW, I have already rattled a lot. How about I stop for today and continue to expand on the conference in tomorrow’s post.

Thanks for listening!

Oh, and just for fun, here are some pcitures of a Bostonian street performer and our Sales Manager, so eager to assist!

Juggling mean things

Ha! Go Aric!

Recap # 2: Walmart Expo

April 27, 2010

Greetings world! I feel like a million bucks—finally cleaned my office and organized all the information I gathered the last several weeks traveling. I will now resume my diligent blogging!

Soooo, where did I leave off? That’s right, I still need to fill you all in on the Walmart Expo in Arkansas.

Well, first of all, Arkansas is really nice! The drive from the airport to Bentonville was beautiful—very lush and it smelled so good! It appears as though the entire town of Rogers-Bentonville has been created to sustain the Walmart community, which is crazy! All the main buyers and movers and shakers for and to Walmart live around the headquarters, which must make company outings easy and enjoyable! Everyone we met was super duper nice and the whole “dry county” thing didn’t really apply because every restaurant we went to suggested you “sign in” thereby giving the establishment the status of a “club” and consequentially allowing them to serve us booze!

The Expo itself was really exciting! It being my first time “working the booth” I was thrilled to get in front of the packaging community and talk about Dordan and all our exciting new happenings! All the passerbyers were, again, super awesome and polite and all in all it was a good show! I got to see some old packaging buddies from the SPC and meet more people within the industry. Because I have only been to one or two other conferences, I was surprised to run into people that I had met previously—I didn’t realize what a small community the sustainable packaging realm was!

Check out our beaut of a booth:

AND all the Walmarters are really, really nice. Some of the top guys came by our booth and asked how the show went and thanked us for coming. We couldn’t believe the hospitality of the entire event and look forward to participating next year! If any of you Walmarters are reading, thanks again, we had a blast!

It was really cool too because our engineers had JUST finished running our samples that we designed for the Expo literally hours before we flew out of Chicago, which gave us the ammo we needed to initiate conversations with anyone. They looked great and showcased our thermoforming capabilities; and, demonstrated the different materials we were now offering! Basically it is a fancy business card holder with cool engravings and what not and the tray is made out of a bio-based, certified compostable resin and the lid is made from supplier-certified 100% PCR PET, which derives its feedstock entirely out of bottles post-consumer. We found that having something tangible to give to passerbyers really helped initiate discussion and we got a lot of attention because of the clarity of the PCR PET. For those of you not familiar, high concentrations of post-consumer content in PET often times give the resin a sort of orangy-brown tint; our source for 100% PCR PET, however, ensures a level of clarity that we have not been able to find elsewhere. In a nut shell: Good times all around.

This is a sort of poopy picture of our sample offer; but you get the idea:

Yum!

During the Expo there were education sessions, too. I found the content of these sessions very interesting and compiled my notes to debrief our sales and marketing departments upon my return. I have included these notes below, FYI.

Walmart Expo Summary:

  • Scorecard seminar, misc.
    • ECRM created the software for the Walmart Scorecard
      • “Efficient collaborative retail marketing”
    • Direct suppliers are REQUIRED to enter packages into scorecard
      • Via “retail link” i.e. per vendor number and item number
      • Allows you to compare with packages in same product category i.e. dairy. ECRM is working to narrow the categories down so you are only compared with direct competitors.
    • Indirect suppliers do not have access to retail link.
    • Focus of Score: Material type, material weight, material distance, packaging efficiency
      • Distance: the point the package travels from point of conversion to point of fulfillment.
    • Completion rate of Scores:
      • Each item sold in Walmart has its own number. Suppliers are required to fill out a Score for each item number. Currently, COMPLETION of scores is the easiest way to influence purchasing decisions. In other words, suppliers that have more than 85% of their Scores completed receive an “A” in the Walmart world; suppliers that have 55% complete receive a “B;” everything below comes up as a “red flag” in Walmart-internal. 
    • Package modeling software: Different than the Score card but formatted the same way; this is what we subscribe to.
      • Intended for indirect suppliers to utilize the modeling software in such a way that they can approach their customers (direct suppliers to Walmart) and explain how by doing X you can improve your score and here is the proof.
      • “Reversed engineering;” encouraged doing this on competitor’s packages, too.
  • Paperboard Packaging Council seminar, misc:
    • Fiber-based packaging is a by-product of the lumber industry? I need to look into this…
    • I asked why the recovery rates for corrugated were higher than paperboard…
      • Answer: Difference is attributed to post-industrial collection (corrugate) vs. post-consumer (paperboard). I need to examine this further.
    • Fibers can be recycled 6-8 times before the fibers become too small to reprocess
    • China currently buys most of our post-consumer mixed paper and reprocesses it; we need to find a domestic source for recycled fibers.
    • All corrugated has 46% post-industrial content in the U.S.
    • SBS is almost ALWAYS virgin fiber, with the omission of MWV’s Natralock.
    • I asked what the difference in energy demands are for virgin vs. recycled paper; I received a very ambiguous answeràapparently a controversial topic.
  • Plastic fundamentals seminar:
    • Discussed the benefits of plastic such as:
      • Keeps food fresher for longer;
      • Lightweight;
      • Didn’t address fossil fuel consumption;
      • Didn’t discuss MSW rates;
      • Did say that recycling for non bottle-PET has grown from 7.5% to 11% in the last year;
    • ACC supports re-writing the Toxics Control Act, which we referenced in our first Newsletter.
    • The ACC released LCI data on RPET and recycled HDPE. HURRAY!
  • SVN meeting:
    • There are a ton of different organizations that Walmart has its involvement in; I will try to explain the various relationships as follows:
      • ISTA—transit assessment; I don’t know what this is.
      • Global Packaging Project: Walmart funds this but is not the only CPG company on the board; this looks for a GLOBAL metric for assessing the sustainability of packages and product; this is bigger than the Scorecard, as the Scorecard will be a component of these metrics; the metrics used will be country-specific. This grew out of the CONSUMER GOODS FORUM, which was originally called the GLOBAL CEO FORUM. The GPP metrics look to take into account the Scorecard metrics, COMPASS, and other existing and legitimate metrics. If one wants the inclusion of another metric, it must be reviewed for application prior to being incorporated into the GPP metrics.
      • ISO project for Sustainable Packaging: I don’t know.
      • Scorecard: For packaging only; scores based on ITEM level.
      • Supplier Sustainability Assessment: Consists of 15 questions, which are asked of all product suppliers to Walmart; “scores” based on CORPORATE level.
      • Sustainability Index: the Assessment is part of the Sustainability Index, which is a project of the Sustainability Consortium. Again, Walmart funds this organization but is not the only CPGs company that participates.
  • Points of discussion:
    • “Sustainable material” metric: What does this mean? What are the limitations?
      • Should everyone get the same “score” until clarified?
      • Should we remove the metric?
      • Is Recovery taken into consideration?
      • Is it a LCA approach?
      • Does it consider conversion or primary production?
      • What about toxics?
      • Sourcing certificates?
    • Determined that it would be helpful to have a health and safety metric AND a sustainable sourcing metric.
    • Should inks/adhesives be included in GPP and Scorecard?
      • Not until proof that it has an impactàI have proof and will see that it gets into the right person’s hands.

Sorry if the format of my notes are a little confusing. Please let me know if you would like me to expand on any of these points or provide clarification.

AND I met a gentleman that gave me a PLETHORA of information about non-bottle plastic recycling and I am forever indebted to him. Seriously, good stuff and AMAZING feedback in regard to the various approaches I was considering for our clamshell recycling initiative. Once I get through recapping my recent travels, I will resume my clamshell recycling narrative. I think we are getting somewhere

Stay tuned!

Day 25: Nov. 20th, 2009

March 9, 2010

Goooooood day! I finally finished my report on Extended Producer Responsibility/Product Stewardship. Look out for it at www.dordan.com under the sustainability tab!

Let us resume our clamshell recycling initiative narrative:

The next day I arrived to the office feeling much better having received Robert’s insightful email. I felt as though my journey of discovering an end-of-life market for thermoformed packaging was slowly making progress. I had established that if our RPET packages are “read” like PET bottles via the MRF’s optical sorting technology, we could integrate our RPET packages into this recycling infrastructure. I also learned that we could develop a new market for mixed rigid plastic packaging post-consumer (that is, non-bottle grade plastic material), as is often the case in CA. I wonder which would be more cumbersome…Ha!

To my surprise, I received an email from the Environmental Director at Starbucks, responding to the email I sent yesterday.

Chandler,

Thanks for the email.

I am traveling in Los Angeles this afternoon and won’t return until Friday evening. I will be in the office next week, so please feel free to give me a call at your convenience. The best time to catch me is between 7:30 and 8:00 on weekdays, before meetings start up.

Cheers!

GROOOOOVVVVVVYYYYYYY. It looks like I may get my interview after all! My father, who is also coincidently the owner of Dordan, told me “not to hold my breath” about actually getting to speak with the Environmental Director of Starbucks. Not to be a jerk, but I love proving him wrong, at least for the better.

And another beneficial development: I had several responses to the discussion I started on greenerpackage.com about trying to recycling non-bottle PET thermoforms. The most insightful was from the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, who I discussed briefly in an earlier post.

Check it out:

The Plastic Recyclers Viewpoint…

Posted on behalf of the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR):

Back when the world was younger and more uniform, there was one fairly simply defined PET resin used for 2 liter soft drink bottles. PET makes an excellent 2 liter soft drink bottle. Then more packagers wanted to use PET bottles for other products with other needs. The result today is that the PET used for bottles encompasses a range of molecular weights and potential additives.

Thermoformed packaging made from PET may use similar resin as is used for bottles or may use even lower molecular weight (lower IV) plastic. The technical needs for thermoformed packaging are not necessarily the same as for bottle packaging. There is an overlap in IV ranges used for bottles and for thermoformed sheet. Does the potential for IV difference preclude recycling the two forms together? No. End use markets dictate how significant are the differences for recycled plastics from different first uses. Are there additive conflicts? Unlikely, but not assuredly.

So why the reluctance to include thermoforms with PET bottles? There are at least two current reasons. First, the risk of serious contamination is great. A thermoform of non-PET can visually look like PET and be a huge problem. Think inclusion of PVC with the PET. This problem has been a showstopper in North America. In China, hand sorting can overcome the problem if the resin code is accurate. The second problem is a materials handling problem. Crushed thermoforms do not behave like crushed bottles. They do not “fly” the same in autosorting equipment and they do not bale the same. If bales are made too dense, the material does not process as efficiently as it should. Adjusting to the differences takes time and effort.

Does this mean PET thermoforms cannot be recycled? No. Thermoforms are recyclable, once we get through the growing pains of special needs and critical mass. Would sustainability be better served by switching all thermoforms to a different material? Probably not as non-PET, non-polyolefin resins are even more problematic in being accommodated in existing collection and sorting systems.

So why are multiple resins used? In some cases that decision is for aesthetic or performance reasons. Usually, economics dominate. And sometimes tradition keeps on happening. As has been the case for bottles, there does seem to be a gravitating by decision makers to a few resins. The challenge is to develop the infrastructure that allows for efficient handling and sorting to useful resin categories and then to develop markets for those categories.

This response was written by Dave Cornell, Technical Director for APR. For more info on the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, including published Design for Recyclability Guidelines, www.plasticsrecycling.org

Posted November 19, 2009

Radical! Design for Recyclability Guidelines, eh? Sounds right up my alley. Time to do some more research!

Tune in tomorrow to learn more about recycling in America!

Day 24: Nov. 19th, 2009

March 8, 2010

Happy Monday! I am already on my second cup of joe and not feeling too perky. Ug! I hope everyone is feeling a little more motivated than I…

Shall we resume our recycling narrative?

The next day I arrived to find an email waiting from Robert Carlson of the CA EPA. This is in response to the email I sent updating him on the status of my clamshell recycling initiative. It is jammed packed with goodness so enjoy! Thanks Robert!

Chandler,

First I wanted to address the issue of collecting rigid plastics for recycling (providing the source for PVC contamination).  I’m not terribly aware of the recycling infrastructure in your part of the country, but here in California, most jurisdictions do in fact accept mixed plastics.  A lot of jurisdictions moved away from the 3-bin system which often took only beverage containers to a single-stream approach to recycling where you dump all recyclables into a single bin and it’s sorted at the MRF.  Where I live, the city picks up 1-7 plastics of any kind for recycling then sorts later.  So…this situation is one that would introduce a PVC bottle or clamshell into a stream where it could be confused for PET or some other plastic for that matter (even paper).  Also, if there are commercial recycling centers/retail bins etc…an errant PVC container may find its way into the bin and be sent with the rest for recycling.  Some of the plastics that are collected do get separated and disposed of, but others are sent to be recycled as a low-grade plastic mixture that’s often used in plastic lumber applications where it’s mixed with sawdust or something and used for fencing or benches or sometimes decking.

Second, you idea about having consumers separate their goods from its packaging before they leave the store and deposit it into appropriate bins for recycling is a good one.  It is in fact being done in Europe and I believe parts of Canada (don’t quote me on that) where they have EPR programs in place.  If you do in fact pursue that option I would LOVE to follow it since it’s an approach that we think would allow a high level of recovery while maintaining a clean stream.  BUT of course it introduces the problem of financing and retail acceptance (they don’t always want to put bins in their stores…particularly in the front where everybody can see them) not to mention changing the consumer’s behavior to unwrap their product in the store instead of at home where they are accustomed to doing it.  The other issue I’ve heard is related to returns (often you’re required to return the product in its original packaging).  Not that these are issues that can’t be addressed, but they would need to be though about and dealt with somehow.  Again…VERY exciting and if you go that way, I’d love to watch or be more involved somehow.

Third, as I think I’ve mentioned before, Pyrolosis may be the best option for you and if it works and meets your goals and expectations, then by all means pursue it.  It’s not really an option for us (in California) right now, but who’s to say what will happen in the future?  Keep me updated on it if you go that direction.

Fourth, your assumption that your PET clamshells should be compatible with the PET bottle stream is correct.  If you could somehow guarantee a certain level of cleanliness (both free of food/product contamination as well as free from various other resin contamination) then it should in fact be compatible.  From what I understand, Starbucks first had a University test the recycling process of corrugated containers with their cups and proved that they did in fact work.  Then they started piloting the project, collecting the cups and sending them to be mixed into a real-life recycler with corrugated.  The recycler is then sending samples of the finished board for testing to be sure it meets the same specs as recycled board with NO cups.  This recycler though is known for being able to take and separate ANYTHING so they may not work for everybody, but it’s a foot in the door.  People can see that it can be done and it won’t degrade the product.  Then it’s a matter of finding the contamination level that other recyclers are comfortable with and making the stream clean enough for them (that’s the next step).  If you were collecting at retail, you’d have some control over stream cleanliness.  Of course, if PVC were banned…it’s help your cause immensely as well as you’d no longer have to deal with recyclers worrying about PVC messing up the clamshell stream.

I’m busy dealing with synthetic turf field issues and recycled paper issues at the moment, plus of course my usual EPR related issues.  Meetings, reports, dealing with lobbyists!!  My life is busy in a boring way!!

Whew!!!  That was a marathon of an email, huh?!?!? 

We’ll have to chat again soon, but maybe next time parceled out into smaller portions.  I’m a number of years out of college and not as mentally nimble as you are anymore!!  God…getting old at 30!  That’s terrible!!

Maybe if you have any specific questions about any of these topics, we can get together on the phone so that we can discuss a bit more casually rather than having to get everything down in an email.

Take care…gotta go to yoga now and relax my brain for a few moments!

Robert

Tune in tomorrow for some feedback from the Environmental Director of Starbucks! Good luck getting through the rest of the day!

Cheers!

Day 20: Nov. 6th, 2009

February 26, 2010

Happy Friday!!!

Sorry I did not post yesterday; I was at the Dental Show at McCormick place in Chicago, doing research on how that medical industry is interpreting sustainability. You can check out my picture with the tooth fairy at: http://images.pictureu.com/photos/3MDD/01/highresb/3MDD010010.jpg.

Good times!

Anyway, the project manager from the SPC would prefer if I did not post any of our correspondences to my blog; therefore, she is working on putting me in touch with a colleague in Australia who would have the information she provided to me about recycling non-beverage PET via previous emails.

In the meantime, shall we resume our recycling narrative?

On Nov. 6th I came into the office feeling good; I had sent out 50 of our RPET samples to the MRF at Waste Management, where they would be run through the optical sorter to see if they are “read” like PET bottles and therefore of similar material. By understanding the way our material moves through the sorting technologies at Waste Management, we will gain a better understanding of what obstacles are keeping our RPET packages from being recycled with PET bottles.

The logic is: our RPET is made out of PET bottles; therefore, why not recycle our thermoformed RPET packages along with PET bottles, to be sold back again to our material suppliers, who grind the PET bottles down and create rolls that we consequentially form into new RPET packages. Get it?

I wonder how long for the results…?

I sent the educational tourguide of Recycle America, a division of Waste Management, the following email:

Hey!

I just wanted to drop you a quick email updating you on the status of our recycling initiative:

I got into contact with an IL Rep who suggested I send him 50 of our RPET clamshell samples to run through their optical sorting technology to see if our material is compatible with the PET bottle material. If so, perhaps we can find an end-of-life market for our RPET packages within the existing recycling infrastructure for PET bottle material. If not, then at least we have eliminated one of many material recovery options. I will let you know the status of the test as soon as I do.

I just wanted to follow up with you as you have been so helpful to me; I really appreciate you putting me in contact with people at WM who can help implement our recycling initiative.

Just out of curiosity, do you know who has or where there is optical sorting technology (municipality/regional)? Moreover, do you know where or by whom mixed plastic is collected (once the PET bottles have been sorted out)?

Thanks again for all your help. I can’t wait to find an end-of-life market for our packages!

By the by, do you need any information about plastic packaging as it relates to sustainability issues? I know that a lot of consumers are misinformed about the environmental attributes of different packaging materials and if you needed accurate data about plastics’ environmental advantages and disadvantages in order to inform the consumer for better buyer decisions, please let me know. I would love to provide you with a plastic packaging sustainability profile for you to educate your tour guests and give them the tools they need to identify green washing and manipulative environmental advertising.

Thanks again and I look forward to speaking with you soon!

Best,

Chandler

While working on this recycling project, I was also juggling a lot of other sustainability initiatives. At the fall members-only meeting of the SPC in Atlanta, someone mentioned greenerpackage.com to me as a great site for knowledge exchange about issues pertaining to sustainability and packaging. Ever since, I frequent this site daily, taking part in conversations and eager to get the “truth” out about the sustainability of plastic (I had conducted a ton of research about plastic versus other packaging materials in the context of sustainability and was delighted to find that because its lightweight and versatile character, it actually saves energy in manufacture, conversion, shipping, etc. when compared to more dense materials; and, plastic doesn’t comprise the most landfilled packaging material—paper does! And (I could go on and on), although plastic is made from a non-renewable energy source, it actually consumes less water, biotic and natural resources and releases less greenhouse gases into the atmosphere when compared with pulp and paper manufacturing. All this information, with references, is available at www.dordan.com under the “Sustainability” tab).

ANYWAY, I got hooked up with a bunch of people at greenerpackage.com, who enjoyed what I was doing and wanted to help Dordan and our sustainability initiatives. The business director of greenerpackage.com is one contact whom I continue to talk with; she has been a great help and continues to be a sounding board for a lot of my inquiries.

Once I described my recycling initiative to her, she suggested I get in contact with her colleague at the Sustainability Consortium, which is an industry group that works with retailers and consumer goods companies on a variety of sustainability initiatives. One initiative is the Sustainability Index—a database that identifies materials for end-of-life recycling, reuse, and recovery.

After purusing their website (www.sustainabilityconsortium.com), I sent the following email of inquiry:

Hello,

My name is Chandler Slavin—I am the Sustainability Coordinator at Dordan Manufacturing, which is a Midwestern-based customer design thermoformer of plastic clamshell and blister packages. I have been researching issues pertaining to sustainability and packaging for several months now, and am in the process of finding an end-of-life market for our plastic packaging. We currently are members of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, which is a project of GreenBlue, and are subscribers to COMPASS, a comparative life cycle assessment tool.

As per an email from the business director of greenerpackage.com on which you were attached, I was wondering if you could provide me with information on the Sustainability Index as it relates to identification of materials for end-of-life scenarios. After visiting your web-site, I understand your approach to the Sustainability Index but am curious how this index will work with the Wal-Mart scorecard, SPC’s metrics for sustainable packaging, and the various other metrics developed by environmental groups and NGO’s. Moreover, how will packaging factor into this index, that is developed primarily for consumer goods retailers?

Moreover, how can I get involved with the Consortium as a packaging professional in the field of sustainability? How can I help further the goals of the Consortium?

Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Best,

Chandler

Have a splendid weekend! Tune in Monday for more recycling in American deliciousness!

Day 19: Nov. 5th, 2009

February 24, 2010

That Monday I arrived to the office more motivated than when I had left; how can I find a way to recycle clamshell—and more specifically—thermoformed, packaging?

As I waited for feedback from the SPC in regard to what they thought about the feasibility of finding an end market for non-beverage PET flake, the phone rang, and the receptionist transferred the call to my fine cubicle.

“Jessica with Waste Management is on line one,” she announced.

I picked up the line.

           …five minutes later….

Jessica was super cool; she is Dordan’s contact at Waste Management who manages our waste and recycling contracts, and wanted to reach out to me because she knew I had been talking with various Waste Management employees about my initiative. And, she also provided another crumb: She suggested that I contact another Major Account Representative in IL to discuss the feasibility of my initiative; she provided his name and number.

I called him that day, eager for some direction.

Ring…ring…ring…

“Hello?”

            …ten minutes later…

Hurray! A bigger bread crumb!

Apparently, what a plastic cup manufacturer in the Midwest had recently done, and he encouraged us to do, was send off some of our RPET clamshells to a Waste Management Material Recovery Facility (MRF) to see if their optical sorting technology would “read” our material like it reads the material in PET bottles. If the sorting technology couldn’t tell the difference between our RPET and the PET used in beverage bottles, then the material is close enough to theoretically be integrated into PET-beverage bales. In other words: the material is the same, which makes sense, because our RPET is certified at a 70% post-consumer regrind concentration, which means 70% comes from PET-beverages and 30% comes from virgin PET resin, give or take. Basically, if we thermoform material made out of bottles, why wouldn’t our packages then be compatible with this optical sorting technology.

The Account Representative offered to run our samples through their optical sorting technology to see if the problem with recycling non-beverage PET is due to sorting capabilities. Great!

He forwarded me the address of the MRF.

That day, I grabbed 50 of our sample as they came off the machine. Still warm with the heat from being formed, I placed them in the mail to go out with today’s post.

Groovy.

I sent the Account Rep the following email, confirming shipment.

Hey,

I just wanted to drop you a quick email letting you know that I sent out a box of 50 RPET clamshell samples to the address you provided for you to run through your optical sorting machine to see if they are compatible with the PET bottle material. If so, we can try and find an end market for our RPET clams, blisters, and thermoformed components.

Just out of curiosity, do you know where I can find information on who has optical sorting technology and where? Moreover, do you know who collects mixed plastic (that is, the plastic left over after the PET bottles have been removed) for material recovery and where?

Thanks again for all your help! I look forward to speaking with you again.

Best,

Chandler

Tune in tomorrow to learn more about recycling in America.

Day 18: Nov. 3, 2009

February 23, 2010

I felt as though I had hit a road block; while Robert’s kind words were encouraging, I felt like there was nothing I could do as an individual to create an end market for clamshells post-consumer, either as non-beverage PET flake or mixed rigid plastic flake. Perhaps on the vehicle of collaboration, we would be able to come up with the quantity necessary to create an end market for this homeless material…

I then started the following discussion on greenerpackage.com:

Where does the plastics industry go from here?

As Sean Sabre pointed out in a recent post, there is no recycling market for non-beverage PET flake i.e. the PET used in thermoformed packages (to veiw this discussion, visit http://www.greenerpackage.com/discuss/recycling/recovery_series_-_topic_2_universal_pet_recyclability_myth).

According to various contacts at Waste Management, this is because those who buy the balled PET beverage containers to recycle into other products do not want PET clams, blisters or components as it compromises the feedstock of the PET bottle flake. In other words, because PET beverage bottles have the same IV, additives and chemical properties, the quantity of that type of material is there, which allows for there to be an end market for it. Contrarily, the PET used in thermoformed packages has different properties depending on the additives used for the specific packaging application i.e. food, medical, consumer goods. Therefore, the quantity of the same type of PET is not available for the creation of an end market for this material. At the same time, however, there is a market for this type of material on the East and West coasts (“non-traditional rigid containers”) because China and other international markets undergoing industrialization buy this material for its stored energy value. In a nut shell: we can’t recycle it if the quantity is not there, which inherently means there is no market for the end life of these types of PET.

Where do we go from here? Do we, as an industry, decide on using one type of material per application i.e. one PET type for food, medical, and consumer goods in order to ensure the quantity of material necessary for the development of an end market for said material? Do we “down-cycle,” via Pyrolysis? Do we switch to PLA or other bio-resins, which require more energy to produce than traditional, fossil-based plastics and require the existence of commercial composting facilities, which are far and few a dozen? As an industry, we must collaborate if we want to reach our shared goals of sustainability.

If interested in the comments to this post, visit http://www.greenerpackage.com/discuss/thermoformed_packaging/where_does_plastic_industry_go_here

Once I reached out to the larger packaging community about my concerns as a packaging professional, I sent the following email to a project manager at the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. As the tone of my above conversation implies, I was hoping that collaboration would begin with member companies of the SPC:

Hey,

Just out of curiosity, do you have any relationship with SPI (Society of the Plastic Industry) or other packaging trade organizations? I have begun a dialogue with said organization in regard to the SPI resin identification numbers and the feasibility of recycling non-beverage PET flake i.e. clamshells, blisters and thermoform components. We are trying to figure out a way to recapture our thermoformed packages, which currently are not recycled. We can’t decide if a closed loop system would be best, as is in the case with electronics and batteries, or if working with the existing recycling infrastructure would be more beneficial.

What is the SPC’s stance on the feasibility of recycling non beverage PET flake? Do you think a project like this would be something of interest for the SPC?

Best,

Chandler

Let’s hope the SPC wants to help! Tune in tomorrow for more exciting happenings in the world of sustainable packaging initiatives!