Helllllllooooo all! Guess what: Dordan is now tweeting! I have always been a little slow to jump on the latest and greatest techie endeavor: personally I didn’t join facebook until I was studying abroad and had strep throat and was feeling a little… disconnected. Same goes with Twitter. However, as the marketing manager at Dordan, I have been researching like crazy on how to create and nourish an integrated marketing campaign; and, everything I have read emphasizes the need for a presence in the social networking sphere of our ever-expanding media cosmos. So I began tweeting, and it’s really fun! In the last two days, Dordan has 15 new followers—most of which are green organizations or packaging publications—and its super cool because I can read all about their efforts and they can read all about Dordan’s. Soooo, now that I have jumped on the bandwagon, “Follow us on Twitter”!

Alright, all sorts of exciting stuff at Dordan!

We have begun composting our food and yard waste. Check out our cute compost bins, which are located in the cafeteria and the office, to collect food scraps and other compostable materials, like paper towels.

If you are trying to decide what kind of bin to get to collect food scraps for composting, I would suggest something with a lid, to keep the smell in and allow ease of disposal. Also, it is convenient to have something that locks the bag in place, which again, allows for easier disposal and maintenance.

So far everyone at Dordan is doing a great job segregating out the compostable material (organic matter) from the non-compostable material, like glass, aluminum, and animal products. We had a bit of a hiccup because I thought we could compost everything food related, except meat and bones, which resulted in someone discarding cheese in the bin and boy was it stinky!!! So now the compost bins are accepting no animal products, including dairy, and the office is happy. Hurray!

While we have only been collecting food scraps for composting for a week, we already have a little pile, which I have mixed with yard waste (fall is a great time to start composting!), and am observing daily. Yesterday I stuck my hand into the composter (not the decaying matter) and felt heat, which I think is a good sign. AND, because Dordan has sampled some bio-based and certified “OK to Home Compost” resins, we tossed some scrap into the mix, to see if the material does in fact biodegrade in the marketed time. Check out the photo:

Obviously you can’t see much, but our modest but growing compost pile is under the green bio-based/compostable material. I will be sure to update you with pictures as the material begins to break down. Neat!

Ummmm Pack Expo begins next week; yikes! In preparation for our Bio-Resin Show N Tell, we have collected all pertinent information for the several alternative resins we have sampled this year, and thermoformed the material so attendees can decide for themselves what they think of the latest thermoformable bio-based/compostable resins. And, for your viewing please, check out the photos below:

This material is cellulous acetate, which means that it derives its feedstock from cellulous, as opposed to fossil fuel. It is certified to biodegrade in home compost piles and industrial composting facilities, and is classified as a paper product if sold into a country with EPR legislation on the books.

This stuff is a cornstarch-based product that is, according to the supplier, “renewable, biodegradable, home compostable, and water dispersible.” Because it can break down in water, which is crazy, it actually absorbs water from the air, which makes processing it super tricky, see:

This guy is PHA…I honestly don’t know much about PHA vs. PLA because I have not gone through the research yet. It is marketed as biodegradable in home composts, industrial composting facilities, marine environments, and basically anywhere else, like the side of the road. Crazy! It actually looks kind of cool…

Next we got a starch based resin, which is certified to biodegrade in industrial composting facilities:

Last, a PLA sample, which I don’t have a picture of…but use your imagination.

So ya, I think it will be a pretty cool exhibit because not only are we actually showing the bio resins we have sampled this year, but we are presenting all sorts of crucial information, like what kind of certifications the materials have, what kind of disposal environments the materials are intended for i.e. industrial composting facility vs. marine biodegradation, price points, performance, specs, etc.

Ok, I got to go; Oh, but check out my SupplierHub blog contribution below. I haven’t received approval yet from the blog designer, so I don’t know if this will be THE blog contribution, but it’s what I came up with thus far…

It is a very exciting time for business ethics: the Milton Friedmanian notion that the only responsibility of a corporation is to increase the profit of its shareholders is now being reconstructed; thrown into the mix is a new desire for corporate responsibility—from consumers and CPGs/retailers alike—in both the social, economic, and environmental spheres.

The domestic packaging industry was first introduced to issues of sustainability with the release of the Wal-Mart Scorecard in 2006. For the first time in history, packaging was being assessed not only on aesthetics, quality, efficiency and cost, but “sustainability.” The dialogue around packaging and sustainability continued to evolve and reached new heights with the formation of the Global Packaging Project from the Global CEO Forum and other industry associations in 2008. In the summer 2010, the GPP released 52 metrics for assessing the sustainability of a package within a global dialogue, taking into consideration those packaging metrics found in the Walmart Packaging Scorecard and SPC’s metrics for assessing sustainable packaging, among others.

What the GPP’s metrics make clear is the need for corporate transparency, not only from packaging suppliers, but the whole supply chain, in the context of environmental and social performance. By requiring certain sets of information from your suppliers, Private Brand suppliers to Walmart can enjoy increased ease of reporting, compliance, and performance on the Packaging Scorecard; which consequentially, will facilitate the continued assessment and therefore improvement of the Supply Chain Score.

Things you should require from their packaging suppliers:

Knowledge of Scorecard metrics: Packaging suppliers should demonstrate proficiency with the metrics of the Walmart Scorecard in order to understand how to design and manufacture the most eco-efficient package based on the specific product requirements. Private Brand suppliers should encourage that their packaging providers be well versed with the Software in order to demonstrate reduction in Scores with any new package proposal/redesign.

Documentation validating all environmental claims:

According to the FTC Green Guides, for a package to be labeled “recyclable,” “the majority of consumers/communities” must have access to facilities that recycle that type of package. If a packaging supplier claims their package is “recyclable,” documentation should be provided, like recovery rates for the packaging type via the US EPA’s MSW data.
For a package to be marketed as “reusable,” packaging suppliers should present evidence that said packaging type has a system for post consumer collection and reuse.

For a package to be marketed as “biodegradable,”/”compostable” packaging suppliers should present qualifying information, like in what disposal environment does said packaging type “biodegrade”/”compost” i.e. industrial composting facility, marine environments, etc. Depending on the disposal environment cited, proper certification should be presented i.e. ASTM D6400 for industrial composting.

Understanding of life cycle of package: Packaging suppliers should demonstrate an understanding of the life cycle impacts of their packaging designs and manufacturing processes. Life stages encouraged for consideration include: manufacture, conversion, end of life, and distribution. Tools like the SPC’s comparative packaging modeling software COMPASS allow packaging suppliers to quantify the life cycle impacts of a packaging design; as such, Private Brand suppliers should encourage their packaging suppliers to provide LCA data demonstrating consideration of their packaging’s life cycle.

With all things considered, Private Brand suppliers should encourage their packaging suppliers to be transparent and accountable for all environmental claims made, packaging produced, and distribution channels utilized. Tools like the Walmart Scorecard, COMPASS, knowledge of the FTC Green Guides, and an understanding of contemporary developments in packaging and sustainability should be considered by packaging suppliers in order to make your job as Private Brand suppliers easier in the context of packaging procurement.

Misc. updates FUN

September 20, 2010

Happy Monday Funday!

Before I get to the meat of today’s post, which will either discuss biodegradable plastics OR the SPC meeting (I haven’t decided yet…) I wanted to provide you with a recap of Dordan’s various sustainability initiatives and miscellaneous tid bits…

Composter update:

First, our composter is totally finished; last week compost Phil added a retractable roof to keep the critters our and the smell in. She’s a real beaut! Now we are in the process of getting separate bins in the cafeteria for our employees to place their food scraps in, thereby providing our compost pile with the nitrogen required for success! Pictures to come!

Zero-waste update:

Because I have been so busy with miscellaneous Pack Expo tasks (check out Dordan’s exciting 2010 Pack Expo-only Show Specials at: http://www.dordan.com/dordan_2010_pack_expo_only_show_specials.shtml) the zero-waste initiative was placed on the backburner. Now that I am back and don’t have any plans to travel in the near future, I am in the process of creating a zero-waste action plan. More details to come but I assume another waste audit is on the horizonL.

Victory Garden Update:

Emily and Phil have staked out the plot for their organic farm next spring. While it was smaller than anticipated, they are very excited about Dordan donating the use of its land to the production of organics for local restaurants. Due to their intentions of growing an organic garden on Dordan’s land next spring, we have cancelled plans to spray our land with pesticides, which in the past has been done to preserve our yard and trees from annoying infestations. Emily has plans to plow the area this fall to determine the quality of the soil prior to retiring for the winter. In addition, she and I are researching how to build a greenhouse as she expressed a desire for a warm room to start her seedlings in before moving them outside with the start of the growing season next spring.

Grassroots education update:

I am going to the Woodstock High school this Wednesday for their first meeting of the Environmental Task Force. The ETF is made up of administrative folk and one student representative and its task is to develop and implement various sustainability initiatives in D200 schools. I have been invited to pitch my desire to teach students about recycling to the various principals and deans that sit on the Committee and see what other ways I can get involved in the community.

SPC Executive Committee update:

As some of you know, I have been nominated for the Executive Committee of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. To recap, the SPC is…

…An industry working group dedicated to a more robust environmental vision for packaging. Through strong member support, an informed and science-based approach, supply chain collaborations and continuous outreach, we endeavor to build packaging systems that encourage economic prosperity and a sustainable flow of materials.

The Exec Committee, therefore, is described as follows:

Our Executive Committee consists of nine elected members and one GreenBlue representative, all of whom are dedicated to the SPC and our mission. As a project of GreenBlue, the SPC is ultimately governed by the charter and Board of GreenBlue. The Executive Committee is an advisory committee to GreenBlue and the SPC Director. In this advisory capacity, they provide strategic and fiscal guidance on meetings, events, projects, and all aspects of the Coalition. The Executive Committee is required to have a minimum representation from the supply chain and elections are held once a year in the fall. Members serve three-year terms.

Here is a list of the current Exec Committee:

Scott Ballantine, Packaging Project Manager, Microsoft

Alan Blake, Associate Director, Procter & Gamble

Scott Carpenter, Senior Research Engineer, SC Johnson

Humberto Garcia, Packaging Manager Ice Cream and Beverages, Unilever

Sara Hartwell, Environmental Specialist, U.S. EPA

Lance Hosey, President and CEO, GreenBlue

Jennifer McCracken, Environmental Manager, HAVI Global Solutions

Shanna Moore, Sustainability Director, DuPont

Karen Proctor, Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology

Gerald Rebitzer, Sustainability Leader, Amcor Flexibles Europe & Americas

According to the SPC website,

…The SPC 2010 Executive Committee elections will be held online following the Fall Members-Only Meeting and each member company is entitled to one vote. There are three positions open in this election. The terms are for three years, beginning in October 2010. We are required to have at least one Executive Committee representative from each of these major supply chain groups that make up the majority of SPC members. These groups include: Material Manufacturer, Packaging Converter and Brand Owner/Retailers.

At the meeting in Phoenix last week I was introduced as a candidate for this election, along with the other nominated parties. My face was also in the brochure with a small bio, which was sort of funny. Check it out here: http://sustainablepackaging.org/uploads/Documents/SPC_Fall_2010_EC_Committee_Nominees.pdf.

Granted I am very excited and honored to be nominated for this Committee, I honestly don’t think I even stand a chance as most of those who I am running against have been in the sustainable packaging industry for longer than I have been alive! I actually feel kind of silly to be listed alongside these truly outstanding people as I have so little experience; oh well, now is not a time to get sheepish—if I don’t get nominated this year there is always next year and the following year and the following year etc. until I am as experienced and renowned as those who have won a seat on this coveted Committee. Three cheers for perseverance!

And, this is totally ridiculous but AWSOME: An industry-friend who is also running for the Exec Committee sent the following email to those parties vested in the outcome of the election; HILARIOUS!

Subject: Exec Committee Elections … maybe this isn’t for prime time but I thought I’d kick it over to those of you I know for a laugh

Hello fellow SPC members

As some of you may know, I have been nominated by at least … oh, I don’t know, a hundred people or so for the exec committee at the SPC. I have developed some great relationships with many of you as we travel in small circles within the sustainable packaging community.  From sitting across each other and watching the tumbleweeds blow down the aisle at the Wal-Mart expo, touring stinky MRF’s as members of SERDC, hiking around Asia on the US Delegation for ISO and making fun of some of the applications on the GreenerPackage judging committee.

But, the purpose of this email is to talk about something much more serious.  Now, I’ve been told to run a clean campaign and I intend to do so but there are some things going on with some of the other candidates that I must bring to your attention.

 Why, just the other day someone sent me this snapshot of Chandler Slavin.

Upsetting, I know. I thought I knew chandler well but it appears that she has a few stamps on her passport to Kabul and I just don’t know what to say.

The author of the email then goes on to display silly pictures of all the other candidates running, followed by a “vote for me” call to action. Why I outta…

Sustainability logo design update:

Dordan has finally decided on a sustainability logo, which was developed in an attempt to brand Dordan’s 2011 Sustainability Efforts. We are in the process of polishing it up prior to giving it to our web designer for incorporation on Dordan’s homepage. Look out for our new logo in the upcoming weeks; I hope you like it!

Traditional Dordan logo redesign:

We have currently put off plans to re-do Dordan’s traditional logo (4 D’s) because, as I moved into the position of Marketing Manager this summer, I began to feel as though we/I had bitten off more than is chewable, or something like that. Also, to transition Dordan’s traditional aesthetic to a new one right before Pack Expo may be confusing for those just starting to become familiar with the Dordan brand, as this is the first year since the eighties that we have done any branding marketing in the form of print ads.

National TV Show update:

In a recent post, I described how Dordan was contacted by a National TV Show that is looking to do a series on Sustainable Business Solutions for the 21st Century and was interested in covering Dordan’s Story to Sustainability in a 5 minute segment, hosted by an entertainment personality. After several interviews and conversations between me, Dordan’s CEO, and the Assistant Producer of this show, it was explained that we would have to pay a “booking fee” to be featured as a “guest” on this segment. After a lot of reflection, we decided to let this opportunity go; I still don’t know if this was a scam or not…

Speaking opportunity:

Guess what: Yours truly has been invited to present at “Sustainable Plastics Packaging 2010” in Atlanta on December 8th-9th about my work on recycling clamshells! Again, for those of you who have not read it, visit http://www.greenerpackage.com/recycling to download my report on recycling. This is the result of a year’s research and draws on my involvement with Walmart-Canada, though it is an independent work. It is a concise yet technical treatment of why thermoforms are not recycled in most American communities, with suggestion for the industry. The name of my presentation will be the name of my report (Recycling Report: the truth about clamshell/blister recycling in America with suggestions for industry) and I am required to fill a whole 30 minutes; yikes! While I am getting better at public speaking, I consider myself no pro, so I am actually very nervous about this and plan to practice the yet-to-be-made presentation daily until the presentation itself! Overkill? I think not!

As an aside, I am in the process of copyrighting this Report and spent all day Thursday emailing it to those I thought would be interested in the content. Below is an email from one recipient, who provided the best feedback I have received to-date. While I can’t disclose his name and/or position, he is a governmental official for the waste management industry and has been a featured speaker at two conferences I have attended this y ear about recycling and issues related to extended producer responsibility.

Hi Chandler,

It was great to see you in Phoenix and now after reading your paper (finally!), I wish we had found more time to talk. I actually think this topic would make a very interesting and insightful session at a packaging conference because, as you have done with your piece, it would be instructive as to all the kinds of things that need to come together for any type of package to become recyclable.

Your paper is very thoughtful and well-researched and you clearly hit on the chicken-and-egg dilemma. I think the steps you identified for more information are on target and I believe other folks are thinking the same way. To that end, how much interactions have you had the APR’s rigids sub-committee? Their current activities are revolving around the same issues – the need for data, bale specs, etc. I’ve been a pretty detached member of the committee of late, with a number of other things on my plate (including preparation for the EPR discussions), so I cannot tell you any details about the current work. It strikes me, though, that if you have time and resources to do so, you are a natural to participate in that committee.

Here are some other observations, for what they are worth. I agree with you that achieving critical mass of material is the leverage point of recyclability. For thermoforms, we may have to accept a regimen for at least awhile of MRFs generating mixed rigid plastic, non-1 and 2 bottle bales and relying heavily if not exclusively on export markets for those bales. I think the export market remains pretty forgiving and still hungry for mixed resin bales, resting on the ability of low labor cost markets to do the sortation.

So if there can continue to be the gradual expansion of collection of this material and the marketing of truckload quantities from mostly larger MRFS, eventually there could be enough to attract the development of domestic, mixed resin, mixed product plastic reclamation facilities. These would in turn take pressure off the MRFs to spend capital and make room within limited footprints for more differential sorting and storage, both of which are expensive.

In a nutshell, then, I see the export market as critical to the incubation of material market for non-bottle rigids. There is also a broker[I know] that seems to have a pretty good handle on exporting as he sources different kinds of mixed bales for Asian markets – you might find it interesting to talk to him…

Once again, I think you are being very thoughtful about this whole thing and I commend you for taking on the challenge. You already know there are no easy answers but that hasn’t stopped you from working hard on the issue, which I really admire.

Not sure when our paths will cross again – I’m only going to the packaging shows when I am invited to come. So far apparently I have not worn out my welcome. But if you have the travel time and money, I would recommend thinking about coming to one of the Plastic Scrap conferences or APR meetings. I will be going to the one next March in New Orleans. Maybe I’ll see you there!

All the best!

Rely on export markets, he says…very interesting. I will let you all marinate on this and I will comment on this in a future post.

Below is a list of confirmed speakers for the conference:

  • Arno Melchior, Global Packaging Director, RECKITT BENCKISER GROUP PLC
  • Chandler Slavin, Sustainability Coordinator, DORDAN MANUFACTURING CO. INC.
  • Dailey Tipton, Global Leader of Sales & Marketing, FIRSTCARBON SOLUTIONS
  • Suzanne Shelton, CEO, SHELTON GROUP
  • Michael Sansoucy, National Sales Manager OR Rick Shaffer, President, NETSTAL MACHINERY
  • Patty Enneking, Group Director Global Sustainability and Environmental Affairs, KLOCKNER PENTAPLAST GROUP
  • Barbara G. McCutchan, Ph.D, Associate, PACKAGING & TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATED SOLUTIONS LLC
  • Aaron L. Brody, Ph.D, President and CEO, BRODY INC.
  • Scott Steele, Vice President – Global Analytical Labs, Global Training and Enterprise Projects, PLASTIC TECHNOLOGIES, INC.
  • Dave Clark, Director of Sustainability, AMCOR RIGID PLASTICS
  • Katherine O’Dea, Senior Fellow, GREENBLUE

Walmart-Canada MOC meeting update:

I have been invited to the next MOC meeting at the Walmart-Canada headquarters on November 20th…this also corresponds with the Walmart-Canada SVN meeting, but I don’t know if I will receive approval to attend this event(s) from upper management. I did send my Recycling Report to my co-lead, who forwarded it on to Walmart-Canada’s new sustainability packaging coordinator. I have not heard back from him nor have my notes, which I wrote summarizing the conversation from our last meeting in June, made it through Walmart legal yet…go figure.

GPP meeting update:

I believe my dream of wearing a suit in Paris in the fall has been blown to smithereens as I don’t think I will be allowed to attend the annual meeting of the Global Packaging Project scheduled for October 14th-15th in Paris. Waaaaaa!

Plane tickets are over $2,000.00!

And, the objective of this annual meeting of the GPP is to report on the success of the pilots, which were implemented by various member companies in hopes of determining the feasibility of the recently release metrics for assessing the sustainability of a package. Because Dordan had nothing to do with the development of the metrics or volunteered to test their validity via a pilot, it is difficult to justify sending a representative to this event; I have been arguing, to the dismay of our CEO, however, that it would do wonders for my insight into sustainable packaging metrics, though I hardly believe it will justify the expense!

SOOOO that’s what going on in the world of Dordan; exciting stuff!

And I know I said I would provide a recap of the SPC meeting/present my findings on biodegradable plastics today but I have exhausted my time dedicated to blogging for the day. I apologize!

See you tomorrow! You know they say Tuesday is the most productive day of the week; here’s hoping!

Greetings all!

Today’s post is a continuation of yesterdays and details exactly how Phil built us a composter out of post-industrial materials. Enjoy!

After we gathered our composter materials and the needed tools and amenities, we started talking through the concept

After conversing, Phil thought that it would be cool if we had two compartments for our composter because, as alluded to yesterday, this allows us to have different batches of material based on how long the material has been “composting.” Also, in having two compartments for the composter, we can play mad scientist with the bio-based resins we have sampled and see how they do in fact break down, and if so, over what kind of time frame. As discussed in a previous post, we have some concern about bio-based resins breaking down completely i.e. being completely consumed by the microorganisms present in the disposal environment. If bio-based resins do not completely break down, then we walk the risk of introducing a ton of teeny tiny plastic particulates into the environment, which could travel into our waterways, be consumed by tiny things that get consumed by bigger things and on it goes until humans are ingesting tiny bits of plastic. Yuck! The fancy term is “bioaccumulation” and it is no good.

Where was I going…oh yea: so while we won’t be able to tell, obviously, if the bio-based material breaks down completely because we don’t have insane microscopic vision, we will be able to watch the degredation process in real time, which I think is pretty neato! In theory, the second compartment could be devoted entirely to watching different bio-based resins breakdown; the remaining compost, therefore, would not be used on our farm next spring because the risk that it may contain plastic particulates. Perhaps we could even send this compost to a “lab” to determine if the plastic particulates have in fact been entirely consumed…imagine the possibilities!

Please note, however, than most bio-based resins are certified to breakdown in an industrial composting facility, which is much more sophisticated than our composter. Therefore, I am unsure if most of these materials, certified with the ASTM D6400 Standard for Industrial Compostability, will break down at all, as our composter resembles more of a home composter than an industrial one. We did, on the other hand, just sample a new bio-based resin, which has received certification for “OK to home Compost.” This stuff is definitely going in our mighty composter to see how it breaks down!

And, how cool is this, but when we decide to start playing mad scientist, I will take pictures of the degredation process over time so you can see how a converted package morphs and breaks down in the disposal environment in which it is intended for. Splendid!

Alright, let’s continue with our how-to construct a composter:

So yeah, we decided on two compartments.

Then Phil suggested that we add some kind of mechanism, which would allow us to access the compost pile without having Go Go Gadget arms. After all, the composter is over 4 feet tall, which would make access to the material difficult as would it make “tending” to the compost problematic. Phil came up with another solution: why not add a tracked, wooden component to one side of the composter, which would then receive a thin piece of wood that you could move up and down along the track! Sort of like a curtain, this wood veil could be easily manipulated by the person tending to the compost, moving it up to access the mix and moving it down to conceal the pile from critters and excessive wind, rain, sun, etc.

So that was the approach Phil took toward constructing our compost: two compartments with a retractable side wall built out of post-industrial wood pallets.

Once we were all in agreement, Phil began working on “piratizing” our pallets. This consisted of him breaking down the pallets with a pry-bar in hopes of gathering enough material to carry out his vision. 

Basically, Phil intended on have two pallets per side of the composter, with a “divider” that cut the area of the composter in half, thereby creating two compartments. In order to accomplish this he began by attaching two skids together via a drill and nails. See:

After assembling one side of the composter, Phil repeated this process and created another side wall. He then attached these together, creating an “L” form.

Prior to calling it a day, Phil attached one pallet to the newly constructed “L,” which would serve as the divider between the other compartment, yet to be created. Check it out:

The next day, Phil finished the divider wall by attaching another skid, and created the entire second compartment. Check out the skid organization:

He also designed and constructed our “opening mechanism,” illustrated here:

And TA DA, we have a fully functioning and arguably adorable composter; I’m so proud:

I can’t wait to paint it! I’m thinking polka dots!

Tune in tomorrow to learn about oxo-degradables and other biodedradable plastics.

Compost baby ya!

August 24, 2010

Helllooooooo everyone and happy day!

A quick mention before I get into the meat of today’s post, which discusses how to construct a home composter!

I am beginning a new research project on all things “oxo-degradable.” One of our customers expressed interest in these “magical little additives,” which supposedly render a resin biodegradable in a landfill? I am totally confused after my conference call with a rep from a company marketing this “innovative new technology” but I will keep you all posted with what I find. I didn’t even know things broke down in a landfill, really, let alone can receive certification for such a process, which according to this company rep, they have? Go figure!

If any of you, my diligent blog followers, know of the validity of these additives from a holistic, sustainability-based approach, please advise!!!

OK….drum roll please….

Dordan Manufacturing Company Incorporated is proud to announce completion of its composter construction! Dordan is now open for composting! Yehawww!

So this is what I learned: building a composter is just as easy, if not easier, then buying one. When I first received word from upper management that Dordan was considering getting a composter, I began researching what kinds and was quick to learn that there are a million different kinds, brands, styles, requirements, capacities, etc. For those of you who follow my blog, you will remember that this inspired me to conduct Dordan’s first waste audit, insofar as I was trying to quantify how much “compostables” Dordan generates via our employees and yard in order to determine what kind of composter to purchase. While I was never able to get a good reading of our compostables because I was too much of a sally and couldn’t separate our “wet waste” i.e. week old food, from our “dry waste” i.e. industrial scrap, I did intend on training our employees to separate the food waste from the other waste. In separating out the food waste, I assumed that we could get a much more accurate reading of how much compostables we generate per week, month, etc., therefore indicating what kind of composter to buy. Makes sense, right?

And enter Emily and Phil.

As some of you know, several weeks ago we had offered the use of Dordan’s land to a local farmer, Emily, for growing organics next summer as the land she is currently using is no longer available. Ironically, Emily also knows how to construct composters! When she and her father came out to access the land before committing to using it next summer, I indicated that I was researching composters and having a difficult time finding “the right one.” She explained how she and her father had just finished building a composter for one of the restaurants they provide organics to, and emphasized that it was super easy.

Awesome, I thought to myself; it certainly makes my job easier; and, it’s cheap!

After Emily and Phil agreed to help us construct a composter, it took literally 3 days for its completion!

What follows is a description of what I learned from observing Phil and Emily as they built our composter. Please note that the materials used for the construction of our composter are post-industrial, often times available at manufacturing facilities. Perhaps you can apply these insights to the construction of your own composter; after all, as Phil’s shirt said on day 1 of building our composter, “a rind is a terrible thing to waste!”

First, you need to find a material that will become the composter; Phil suggested wood or a combination of wood and chicken wire. The composter, in concept, should be open to the ground and the sky but have a retractable “roof” to keep rainwater and critters out. It should have at least one 4-walled compartment for the compost and preferably another for the compost that is farther along in the “process.” In other words, in having two compartments for compost, one can move a batch of compost to the compartment reserved for the more “mature” compost mix, while keeping the other compartment for the freshies. Make sense? It will!

As per Phil’s and Emily’s ingenious suggestion, we decided to use post-industrial wood pallets for our composter. We have a ton of wood pallets in-house, as that is what our material comes on when we receive it. While normally we recycle these pallets by selling them to wood re-processors, Dordan just so happened to have a bunch in-house waiting for shipment. Coincidence? I think not!

After inspecting our wood pallet selection (Dordan uses many different shapes and sizes of wood pallets and therefore we had several “types” to choose from), Phil determined that those of a more “narrow” disposition would be the best for conversion into a composter. These more narrow pallets measure roughly 4 ½ feet by 2 feet, are made of solid pine wood, and have no iky additives added. Here is a picture of the skids selected, for your viewing pleasure:

We collected about a half a dozen of these wood pallets and Phil went on to “piratize” them into a very sophisticated composter, consisting of two compartments with a retractable “side.” This retractable side will allow us to mix the concoction, add more materials without having to lift it the 4 ½ feet required to access the compartments, and check in on the status of the compost.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

After we decided on what type of material to use in the construction of the skid, we selected a location. Dordan CEO Daniel Slavin suggested it be behind the future farm plot but close to a Dordan entrance/exit to make for easy maintenance. This is what we decided on:

The types of tools and amenities needed for a construction project of this character are:

Air gun

Extension cord

Electrical outlet 

Reciprocating saw

Circular saw and ear muffs

Hammer

Nails, screws

Measuring tape

Pry bar

And some handy-man know how!

After we gathered our composter materials and the needed tools and amenities, we started talking through the concept.

Tune in tomorrow to learn what Phil and Emily come up with!!!

Hello my packaging and sustainability friends!

I sound like a broken record but again, I apologize for not blogging this week; please forgive me!

I have been super busy with creating new marketing materials and restructuring our advertising mix on greenerpackage.com. Check out our new and improved Design for Sustainability white paper here: http://www.greenerpackage.com/corporate_strategy.

And my fabulous Recycling Report here: http://www.greenerpackage.com/blisters_clamshells and here http://www.greenerpackage.com/recycling.

And guess what: PlasticsNews is going to publish my recycling report in the “perspective” section. Look out for it in print in the next 3-4 weeks.

Oh and for all you Packaging World E-newsletter subscribers, look out for our Recycling Report in the August New Issue Alert, scheduled to go out tomorrow! My ad man told me that pictures of people generate more interest (and therefore clicks and leads), so I include the picture of me giving the thumbs-up sign in my ghost buster suit in the garbage during our first waste audit (the one before I got all sweaty and sad). Ha! Good times…

I don’t know if I told you guys but when Dordan was exhibiting at the Walmart Expo I met a gentleman from SupplierHub, which is this online education exchange for private packaging buyers and sellers for Walmart. Anyway he was super nice and I got him hooked on my blog (Hello if your reading this!) and now we are advertising on this site! Go Dordan!

And lastly, I have implemented some changes on Dordan’s website under the “sustainability” tab to reflect our new social and environmental sustainability efforts. While I still have to create some of the language for the new pages it is “live” so check it out; I am quite proud: www.dordan.com.

Advertising excuses aside, the main reason I haven’t been blogging is because I have been passed the Pack Expo baton, which means I am coordinating the show for the first time ever. I was totally freaking out because I just inherited this project and I thought the due date for submitting all the order forms was August 17th but its SEPTEMBER 17th, phew! So now I can relax and resume my blogging!

Ok, enough random embellishments for the day, let’s talk sustainability!

We are going to begin construction on our composter next Tuesday, yippee! I sent an email to the woman who is helping us (also the farmer who is going to use our land to grow organics for the Woodstock community), asking if we needed to begin collecting our food waste. If so, we have real motivation to begin educating our employees about source separation; that is, segregating out the food waste from the food packaging waste, garbage, and recyclables.

As an aside, we just got in some new bio-based material to sample, which is certified “OK to home compost.” This material is unique in that it exceeds the standard 120 degrees F heat deformation temperature currently dominating the market AND can break down in ANY disposal environment, besides landfill. If this is “true,” then this is crazy cool as one of my biggest concerns with biodegradable plastic packaging is that it often doesn’t make it to its intended disposal environment, which is usually an industrial composting facility (D6400 Standard for Industrial Composting). ANYWAY I’m excited to play mad scientist and test the performance of this new material’s biodegradation by tossing it our soon to be erected compost pile. While I will not be able to determine if it completely biodegrades (no plastic particulates available after 90-180 days) because I don’t have insanely microscopic eyeballs, I will be able to determine if it breaks down until no longer visible. By conducting a test of this material’s biodegradability in our compost pile, I will be more comfortable adding it to the reservoir of resins Dordan offers our customers and prospects. So that’s pretty cool…

In regard to my work with our community schools:

I met with the co-chair of the Environmental Task Force for Woodstock School District 200 yesterday. He was super duper nice and I liked him right away! The ETF, he explained, is this organization of administrative folk, including school principals, and two student representatives, who discuss and implement different sustainability initiatives at the schools. One project they are working on this fall is an energy contest, whereby the D200 schools compete to see which one can reduce their energy use the most. They envision having this big thermometer, of sorts, which shows how much energy they have used per week compared with the previous school year. Sounds neato!

The co-chair of the ETF was also interested in having me talk about the field of sustainability as a profession in hopes of generating more interest in environmental sciences. I think this is great! I can’t believe I may be one of these people that comes into schools on “career day;” how funny!

As the meeting came to an end, I provided him with a couple suggestions for how I thought my work could enhance the goals of the ETF. I offered COMPASS tutorials so students could be introduced to life cycle analysis as a methodology for assessing the sustainability of a product or service; recycling education; and, a discussion on environmental advertising and manipulative and misinformed advertising claims. I still remember taking a class in high school called Rhetorical Analysis of Media, which introduced for the first time the idea that I was being marketed to as a consumer and encouraged an awareness and analysis of said media. It was such a cool class and I would love the opportunity to encourage this kind of reflection among students in the sphere of environmental marketing claims, as so many are, in my opinion, flirting with that fine line between reality and greenwashing. In a nut shell, I am really excited to get involved with D200 schools and help spread the love of all things sustainable!

Talk tomorrow!

I heart Dordan!

August 5, 2010

Hello world! Again, I apologize for my lack of blogging this week. I just thought I would let the recycling report marinate for a bit…

Anyway, guess what happened yesterday: the Metra train that I take from Chicago to the office everyday HIT and TOTALED a car at the Des Plains stop. It was totally crazy!

Read the press release here:

http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local-beat/Car-Bursts-into-Flames-Driver-Killed-After-Train-Collision-99950479.html.

Ironically, and not to get all metaphysical or anything, but as one soul left this world, another came in. Check out this article about how a pregnant woman gave birth in the traffic caused by the Metra accident:

http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local-beat/baby-delivery-firefighters-birth-train-accident-metra-100021949.html.

Weird bears. And, totally unrelated but worth mentioning, they are filming Transformers literally a block from my house—I got to see the transformer trucks and everything!

Okay, enough personal embellishments for the day.

Actually, I have one more; humor me.

Drum role please…

Yours truly has been nominated for the Executive Committee of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition! If I “win” I get to serve on the Executive Committee for three years and act as a representative for all packaging converter member companies. AWSOME.

After learning of my nomination, I was asked to provide a bio and other information. This is what I wrote:

SPC Executive Committee Nominee Description

Chandler Slavin, Sustainability Coordinator, Dordan Manufacturing Company Inc.

  1. Identify your company in one of these categories: material manufacturer, packaging converter or brand owner/retailer.
    1. Packaging Converter—thermoformer
    2. Brief bio:
      1. Chandler was employed as Dordan’s Sustainability Coordinator in fall 2009. After performing months of research on packaging and environmental issues, Chandler began implementing sustainability initiatives at Dordan and working to attain a more robust environmental vision for plastic packaging. Invited to be the co-lead of Walmart-Canada’s PET Subcommittee of the Material Optimization Committee in winter 2010 due to her work on recycling clamshells, Chandler continues to collaborate with stakeholders to increase the diversion rate of PET packaging. Chandler embraces an integrated approach to sustainability; that is, one of economic, social, and environmental sustainability. Chandler’s environmental sustainability efforts include making Dordan a zero-waste facility. Her social sustainability initiatives include working with District 200 schools to educate students about recycling; she has also arranged for a farmer to use a portion of Dordan’s land in spring 2011 for the production of organics for the Woodstock community in hopes of preserving its longstanding culture of locally-sourced products.
    3. High-resolution photo (at least 30 dpi):
      1. To come.
    4. Why do you want to serve on the SPC Executive Committee?
      1. I want to serve on this Committee because I am passionately dedicated to the goals of the SPC; that is, working to develop a more robust environmental vision for packaging through education, supply-chain collaboration, and industry-led initiatives. I truly admire the SPC’s science-based approach to understanding packaging and sustainability and share their commitment to transparency and their value of a life-cycle based approach to interpreting the “sustainability” of packaging and packaging systems.
    5. What can you contribute to the SPC Executive Committee?
      1. I can contribute my phenomenal project management, technical writing, and database research skills to the SPC if nominated. I am a very clear communicator and my attention to detail is impeccable as is my dedication to organization outstanding. In addition, I have spent months researching all the hot button issues and have a very integrated understanding of the complexities surrounding “sustainable packaging.” I consider myself well versed on issues pertaining to packaging waste management, bio-based resins, life-cycle assessment, sustainable packaging metrics, and more.

Who wouldn’t vote for me with a description like that? Ha! In all seriousness though, I am super excited because I really admire the SPC and would love the opportunity to become more involved with the organization. If any of my diligent followers are members of the SPC, please vote for me. Ha, the campaigning has begun!

Ballots go out after the SPC meeting in Phoenix in September; I will keep you all posted!

Okay, let’s talk sustainability.

I have really great news: the local farmer that grows organics for the Woodstock community has finally committed to using Dordan’s land next summer! I am super excited because the land that Dordan sits on is really nice and not being used to its fullest potential. By donating the use of this land to a local woman who sustains herself on the ability to provide organics to the local community, Dordan can truly begin to understand itself as a socially sustainable company! And it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

AND this wonderful specimen of a farmer is going to help us build a composter! In a previous post I spoke about being confused over what kind of composter to buy because there are sooooo many different types. After speaking with a lot of people, it was explained that the amount of compostable materials generated would determine the type of composter to buy. This suggestion, consequently, provoked me to perform our first waste audit, which was super insightful, but didn’t really provide the concrete data I was looking for in regard to compostable waste generation. Luckily for me this local farmer, who is also a woman (super cool!), said she would help us build one out of old wood pallets, chicken wire, and some good old handy man skills. We are going to begin constructing the composter next week! Don’t worry—I will definitely do a “How-to Build a Composter” post so you can all do the same without having to go through all the confusing research! YAY Dordan!

AND I have started moving forward with District 200 schools in regard to educating students about recycling. Oh as an aside, check out this answer to “frequently asked questions” on a competitor’s website. It is silly; should I send them my white paper? Ha!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is thermoformed plastic packaging recyclable?

Yes, both PVC and PET are recyclable materials. PET can even be deposited in your local curbside refuse container. At Universal Protective Packaging, Inc. (UPPI), we realize that everything we do ultimately has an impact on the environment. As a result, we have a recycling program in place with our primary material supplier in which we grind both PVC and PET scrap and then sell it back to the material supplier through a closed-loop recycling program.

This “answer” makes no reference to post-consumer versus post-industrial, which makes a HUGE different in regard to recycling plastic packaging. They are totally misinforming the reader…yikes!

Anyway, I had a meeting with the assistant of the Superintendent of District 200 on Tuesday and I am going to begin my involvement with them by attending their first Environmental Task Force meeting in September. Members of this Task Force include several principals and other administrative folk who oversea all the sustainability programs implemented at the different schools. I am excited! Here is an email I received today, getting the ball rolling:

Dear Ms. Slavin:

I am the co-chair of District 200’s environmental task force and received your contact information from the assistant of the Superintendent.  I am also an environmental science teacher, chair of the young defenders and green club.  We are planning on organizing an energy contest between the buildings and we thought you might have ideas on how to market the information to each school.  I also would love to talk with you regarding our environmental science program and how you can get involved with some students.  Is it possible to meet some time in the next week? I attached my AP Environmental science curriculum so you can see the topics we cover. 

GROOVY!

I have also been hooked up with the Woodstock Rotary Club, whose members would like me to conduct some recycling seminars at the Woodstock library.

Ahhhhhh what you can accomplish when you offer your services for free!

Well I think I have rambled long enough. I am just happy that this whole social sustainability thing (growing organics, grassroots education efforts, etc.) is taking off. I heart Dordan!

Tootles!

WOW. I don’t even know where to begin.

Consider this a “how-to” perform a waste audit post; however, as the narrative unfolds, perhaps it will be interpreted more as a “how-to-NOT” perform a waste audit. UG!

Ok, yesterday I attempted to conduct Dordan’s first “waste audit.” To recap, the point of conducting a waste audit is to determine exactly what kind of waste your company generates in order to start outlining an action plan for achieving zero-waste. Because we are looking to reach zero-waste, we obviously need to know what kind of waste we generate in order to find a way to recycle it, reuse it, or switch it to a more recyclable material. Ya dig?

And to recap my recap, this all started with Dordan’s CEO saying he wanted to get a composter. In my last post I explained how in search for the “right” composter I learned that I needed to figure out how much “compostables” we generate in order to determine the kind and size of composter we should buy. After all, there are like a million different kinds of composters with different volume requirements and what not. Therefore, I came to the wonderful conclusion that we needed to conduct a waste audit.

Not to tout my own horn or anything, but I consider myself a pretty tough cookie; that’s why the idea of single-handedly jumping into our central dumpster and pulling out the different material types to weigh didn’t really intimidate me. After all, as long as I had gloves and a mask and other protective gear, it should be a piece of cake, right?

I approached yesterday full of optimism. Thanks to the helpful insight of my network, I had compiled all the necessary “tools” to perform my waste audit:

I had a scale, capable of weighing material up to 250 lbs;

My trusty pen and pad of paper, to write down the various materials and corresponding weights;

My pretty pink tub that would hold the different material types thereby allowing me to weigh said material;

And, a funny marshmallow suit, super duper gloves and a face mask. Look, I am positively pumped!

Around 10:30 yesterday, after taking an early lunch of a hot dog with everything, a cheeseburger with everything, a fry and coke (I knew I would be exerting myself and therefore wanted to consume the most nutritious meal I could envision), I approach Dordan’s central dumpster, ready to dumpster dive.

This is what I had to work with:

After lowering myself into the rather full dumpster (trash pick up comes twice a week; therefore, I waited until it was its fullest prior to pick up so I could get the most accurate data), I began sifting through our waste.

To start, it wasn’t all that bad. Most of the stuff in the dumpster was industrial waste, like cardboard, dirty plastic scrap that we can’t recycle, plastic strapping, metal bits from whatever, plastic rejects, heavy brown paper, etc.

See, here’s a bin full of wood-scrap, not scary at all:

Here I am still looking rather optimistic, with a bin full of plastic film to weigh:

As the time past, however, and I kept…

Jumping in the dumpster;

Throwing the desirable material type out of the dumpster;

Climbing out of the dumpster, which got increasingly difficult based on the ever-declining volume in the dumpster;

 “Binning” the desired material in my pink bin;

Weighing the bin;

Throwing the contents of the bin into another bin so as not to throw the material back into the central dumpster, whose bottom I was determined to find;

And; doing it all over again with other materials…

It got really, really, really, really hot. I don’t think I can stress how hot it was—no air conditioning, a ninety degree day, direct sun, stinky garbage, plastic suit, latex gloves under heavy-duty gloves, and constantly jumping in and out and in and out and I think you get the picture. If not, I have conveniently included one below!

Going to the office to cool down mid-audit

After 5 hours of this (literally, I am not exaggerating) I realized that the end of the day was fast approaching and I had not even gotten to Dordan’s wet waste i.e. food waste, bathroom waste and office waste. Luckily this waste was bagged prior to being tossed in the central dumpster so it was easy to isolate this waste from the more “industrial waste,” described above. Due to the ever-impinging time constrains and my desperate need for a shower prior to sitting on the Metra for an hour and a half, I decided, with the input of our office manager, to put our un-weighed “wet waste” in our now empty garbage cans to be dealt with tomorrow (which is now, today). We stashed these wet waste bins in an air conditioned room in the plant so as to attempt to preserve their “freshness.”

The next day, which is conveniently, today, I got suited up again, with the hopes of going through our wet waste in order to determine how much of it is food waste, office paper, paper towels, etc.

I pulled the wet waste garbage bins from the air conditioned room in the factory. I re-collected all my auditing “tools” i.e. scale, bin, etc. I laid down a tarp, (which was really plastic bags tapped to the floor), and began ripping open the various bags. See:

And another glam-shot:

This is the wet waste after emptying on the tarp:

While it may look harmless, it was actually super duper duper gross: there were maggots, flies, other creepy-crawlers, super gross smells, soiled everything, and whatever: trash. Enough said?

I started to panic/have a minor breakdown. I quickly started lumping the paper towel waste with the food waste (it was impossible to segregate; everything was soiled with everything else), which conveniently contained a ton of maggots, and throwing them in the not-so-pretty-anymore pink bin, to attempt to weigh.  

My attempt to weigh a wet waste bin…cleary no segregation of materials:

This lasted for about a half an hour until I realized that this was not going to generate accurate data because everything was commingled past the point of recognition. After getting as good of a reading as I could without vomiting all over myself, I threw everything back onto the makeshift tarp, took up the corners, and threw in the central dumpster. This, however, did not go as smoothly as I envisioned, with some wet waste spilling onto the factory floor in front of the dumpster.

After that I did the I-got-ants-in-my-pants dance back to the office, where I jumped into our un-heated shower.

SO GROSS.

WAAAAAAA

So this is what all my misery can now teach you, my packaging and sustainability friends about how-to-conduct your first waste audit.

Try NOT to conduct a waste audit on a super hot day.

Have someone HELP you. I envision my non-existent assistant standing outside of the dumpster, collecting the material I throw out, weighing it, and moving it to another bin. That way I wouldn’t have to keep jumping in and out and in and out again.

Get a bigger bin to weigh the desired materials in (I spent a lot of time breaking the corrugate down to a size I could stuff in the bin).

Get a ladder to place in the dumpster to allow you to climb out of, if no assistant is available.

Get a REAL tarp; not plastic bags tapped together and to the floor.

Try not to sweat all over your notes; it makes the ink run and your data confused.

Have water handy.

And, if possible, prior to conducting your first waste audit, have your employees SEPARATE their food waste from their food packaging and their paper towel waste for at least a week. This way, it won’t all become this solid mass of grossness keeping you from getting an accurate reading of the food waste versus paper towel waste versus food packaging waste.

Ok, I feel as though I have vented a bit and can resume being a normal person. People are right, writing is a good release!

Tune in tomorrow to learn what I do with the results of our first waste audit.

Hello my packaging and sustainability friends! This is officially my 50th blog post! Hurray for dedication to all things sustainable packaging!

Sorry that the link to the water scarcity mapping tool from yesterday’s post was broken…I fixed it and added another link to another tool; go crazy!

Ok, this is gunna be a biggie.

Several weeks ago I began investigating what kind of composter would be appropriate for the amount of food and yard waste generated at Dordan. To my surprise, there were like a million different kinds with different properties and I couldn’t actually speak with a Sales Rep because most of the composters available for sale via were done so through distributors and brokers and in a nut shell, a computer.

Do we want a vermin composter, I asked myself?

Do we want a tumbler?

Do we want one capable of handling a lot of material or a bit…oh I just don’t know!

I then went to my network, sending inquires to anyone I could think of that would know a thing or two about composting.

The first inquiry I sent was to the Marketing Manager of Cedar Grove, which is a super sophisticated industrial composting facility in the greater Seattle area. I met this rep at the SPC Spring meeting in Boston, so I thought she may be open to providing some guidance…

I wrote,

Hey,

This is Chandler Slavin with Dordan Manufacturing—we met briefly at the SPC meeting. I articulated gratitude for your presentation as it was really very insightful. I hope this email finds you well.

This email is sort of silly but I was wondering if you had any insight in regard to the following:

Dordan is investigating buying an on-site commercial composter for the food and yard waste generated at our facility and by our employees. Do you have any suggestions in regard to what kind of composter would work best for us or what brand to choose? I would love to talk with a Sales person of commercial composters but can’t find anyone who would be able to aid in our selection…

If you have any suggestions, please do not hesitate to ask.

Thanks for your time!

Chandler

And her response,

Thanks for the nice note, Chandler. The only small technology for on-site composting I am familiar with that I see with some regularity is the Earth Tub (link below).

http://www.compostingtechnology.com/invesselsystems/earthtub/

If you wanted a wide range of options to consider, you might want to check in with the USCC. There are many consultants that are members that may be closer to you in proximity that could offer some great advice. http://www.compostingcouncil.org/contact/

Thanks for reaching out, and good luck with your composting!

I knew I liked her…

If you follow the link embedded above, you are taken to a description of Earth Tub, which is a small and sophisticated COMMERCIAL composter. From what I understand, there is a big difference between home composting and commercial composting: home composting is for a much smaller quantity of material while commercial is usually reserved for large quantities of material. AND commercial composters are generally employed in hopes of generating quality compost for market, while home composters usually enjoy more of a trial-and-error approach, with the resulting compost consumed by the home composter’s garden or community or what not.

Okay…this is definitely too big, I thought to myself as I tried to conceptually walk through the diagram.

Next I sent an email to my friend who works in the sustainability packaging field as I assumed he would be a pro-composter knowing his genuine commitment to sustainability and all…

Hey,

Do you guys compost your food and yard waste at your company? Do you do home composting? Dordan is investigating composters for the food and yard waste our facility and employees generate and don’t know what kind or what brand is the best to go with. Any insight you could provide would be very well received.

Thanks buddy!

And his response,

Hey Chandler,

I do compost at home. I used to have a naturemill which was okay, but not odor and noise free as advertised. The benefit is that it can accept meat and dairy scraps. Now I’m doing some experimental stuff, which I would not recommend at this point. Several of my friends have had great success with vermi-composters (worms). 

Have a great weekend!

Hmmm, experimental you say? Sounds far out!

Lastly, I sent an email to good ole’ Robert Carlson, previously of the California Board of Integrated Waste Management, which now is CalRecycle. For those of you who have been following my blog for a while now, I am sure you remember Robert as the one who gave me tons and tons advice as I struggled to understand “sustainability,” let alone care out mine and Dordan’s space therein…

Anywhoo I wrote,

Hey bud,

Happy Friday!

Ok, do you have any insight in regard to the following?

Dordan is investigating buying an on-site composter for the food and yard waste our facility and employees generate. Do you have any suggestions in regard to what kind, what brand, or do you know anyone that would be willing to talk with me about the above questions? I know next to nothing about this and would really like some perspective before pulling the trigger.

Thanks!

Chan

Several minutes latter Robert called me and we discussed composting. Following the conversation, he sent me the following information, which was super helpful!

Visit these links:

http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/organics/homecompost/

http://www.composters.com/compost-tumblers.php

http://www.composters.com/vermiculture-worms.php

If you go the worm route…be sure to get the red wigglers…not the nightcrawlers.  I can point you to some sources for the worms themselves if you need that.

This is the sort of worm bin that we keep under our desks (they can be made rather easily too).

http://www.composters.com/vermiculture-worms/friendly-habitat-worm-compost-bin_50_4.php

This is the sort that many people use at home (there’s also a very popular square one).

http://groworganic.com/item_GCO201_CanOWorms.html

I like this one (regular composter, not vermi)…it’s kinda sexy and it’s so expensive that I’ve never been able to justify it for myself.

http://www.compostbins.com/general/compostumbler2composttumbler.cfm?TID=PBM004&source=channel_intelligence_gbase&ci_src=14110944&ci_sku=PBM004

Don’t forget the rain catchment system for your little victory garden!

http://www.composters.com/rain-barrels.php

http://www.gardeners.com/Two-Rain-Barrels/Watering_RainBarrels,38-665RS,default,cp.html

Let me know if you have other questions or if you find one you like but want another opinion!

He then sent me a picture of the composting bin in his office; ha! Oh those crazy Californian environmentalists…just joshing; they are my people!

Check it out, how silly:

WORRMMSSS

I spent the next several days visiting the above links, learning about the composting “formula,” and trying to determine what kind of composter Dordan should buy.

Still a little unsure, though feeling much more educated, I contacted the U.S. Composting Council, which the Rep from Cedar Grove referred me to in her email, copied above.

I went to the link she provided, spoke with the receptionist, and was transferred to the USCC’s Education Director. This guy was AWSOME! He spoke with me for as long as I desired, and provided AMAZING insight. Here is what I learned:

In order to determine what kind of compost one should buy, one needs to determine how much material will be added to the compost. Once can determine this by performing a WASTE AUDIT.

For us he recommended getting a 3X3X3 home composter, which is open to the ground.

He did not advocate a tumbler or worms because: the former doesn’t work well; the latter is used if ONLY food waste is going into the compost. Because we wish to compost our food waste along with our yard waste and possibly office waste and packaging, including bio-based plastics, this type of composter would not be the best.

As an aside, he did say that for the biodegration of bio-plastics, usually an industrial composting facility—not a home compost—is required. Regardless, we are still going to play a little mad scientist and run some internal tests to see the rate at which some of the bio-based plastics we have access to break down, if at all. We are also waiting on a sample roll of a bio-based plastic that is certified to break down in a home compost; therefore, should biodegrade in Dordan’s compost, too.

Okay, before I get off track, I sent the following email to this contact from the USCC, thanking him for his awsomeness.

Greetings,

This is Chandler with Dordan—we spoke earlier today about what kind of composter I should get for my company’s food and yard waste. Remember? Ha!

Anyway, I just wanted to say mucho gracias for chit chatting with me about composting; if you have any further suggestions, please don’t hesitate. Real quick: Do you have any information on waste audits? It sounds super fancy so I don’t know if it is necessary for our initiative, but I would like to see what that all entails…

Again, thanks a bunch for your time today!

Chandler

That day he responded,

Hi Chandler.

A quick google of “How to perform a waste audit” brought up some good examples.

Basically you need to know who much compostables you could collect per day or month.  Then you can put together a system to compost them.

There was a sustainability coordinator for a brewery at our last compost class, so I copied her on this email (Hi!) in case she has some of those resources at her fingertips.

Fall is always a great time to start a project like this because leaves are the perfect bulking agent (“brown”) to balance your food scraps (“green”) and get you pile off to a good start before winter.

Best of luck!

And to my surprise, the sustainability coordinator for a brewery responded that day! She wrote,

Chandler,

In my experience, a waste audit is far from technical or “fancy”! It literally involves digging through your trash or recycling receptacles and finding out what you have in there. We’ve done trash audits in the past and we usually do them by weight. We have one central dumpster for the brewery which we periodically take a few hours, put some gloves on, and dig through bags of trash to see what we are throwing out. We separate the trash into categories and weigh as we go so we can get a profile of what are trash consists of. Some of our categories were general as in food waste, recyclables, and breakrooms, and then we had department specific categories like brewing, filtration, sensory lab, bottle shop, etc….

You can do the same process for your recycling streams. These are VERY helpful in establishing where you are and what is the next thing to tackle. After we did a couple trash audits we realized we still had a lot of recyclables in our trash which meant we needed to do some more and/or better education for our employees on using the recycling bins etc… We also found that a significant portion of our trash was empty plastic bags from a brewing ingredient- we are looking at switching which company we buy from in order to find one with a recyclable or compostable package. We also had a lot of empty sugar bags which our paper mill decided they didn’t want because the residual sugar “gums” up their machinery- again, we’re trying to find an alternative to purchasing in that form.

In short, a trash/recycling audit can tell you a lot and give you ideas on what to do. Again, its is really simple. All we had was some gloves, a notebook and pen, a scale, and a bin to put the material in for weighing. It’s a little dirty and time-consuming but easy and well worth it.

Hope that helps.

WHAT A DOLL, I thought to myself. While I do get bogged down from time to time when I come across people that use “sustainability” while disregarding its main principles, I get super excited when I meet people that are willing to go out of their way to help, regardless of what’s in it for them. I love my “sustainability people!”

OK. Step one of action plan: Conduct a waste audit.

Tune in tomorrow to hear about my experiences dumpster diving; my first audit is this afternoon I have a fancy suit and everything!

Greetings!

I know I said I was going to have a juicy email for you today about all things composting BUT I just got done with Dodan’s “Story to Sustainability,” which I wish to share with you. I intend on submitting it to some of my colleagues in the publishing world to see if it would resonate with their readers/subscribers; if so, perhaps we could get some coverage. Let’s say HURRAY for free press!

Granted it is a little cheesy and I definitely tout my own horn a bit, I think it still helps to convey our understanding of sustainability, which sets us aside from our competition.

The part that gets good is after the “this brings us up to present day” section because it discusses how “sustainability” for us is an ever-evolving concept that draws on much more than marketing claims but an integrated approach to a constructed ethos. Sounds heady, huh?

Enjoy!

Dordan Manufacturing Co. Inc.

Our Story to Sustainability

Dordan Bio:

Dordan Mfg. is a Midwestern based, National supplier of custom thermoformed packaging solutions such as clamshells, blisters, trays and components. Family owned and operated since 1962, Dordan Mfg. prides itself on being “the total package:” From our extremely sophisticated engineering and tooling capabilities to our punctual production and superb customer service, Dordan Mfg. is a one-stop-shop for high-quality custom thermoformed packaging.

Description of Dordan’s approach to sustainability, prior to 2009:

 Dordan has always been economically—and therefore conveniently environmentally—“sustainable” by recycling our industrial scrap and implementing energy-saving techniques. Below is a list of our internal sustainability efforts prior to 2009:

  • We have replaced the 88 Metal Halide light fixtures in our factory that each used 455 watts of electricity, with 88 Fluorescent fixtures that each use 176 watts, for a total electrical savings of 150,250 kilowatt-hours per year. This represents a reduction of approximately 150 tons of CO2 per year being released into the atmosphere.
  •  All of our internal scrap plastic is returned to the manufacturers of plastic sheet and rolls to be recycled and remanufactured as usable plastic sheets or rolls. Our PVC scrap is currently sold to a manufacturer that reuses it to make RPVC, which often times is remanufactured into PVC piping, siding, and deck products.
  •  All of our scrap aluminum is collected internally and sold to a metal scrap buyer; this material often times is remanufactured into new products.
  •  We use pressed wood pallets in addition to traditional wood pallets. Our pressed wood pallets are made in the USA of pre- and post- consumer wood waste; they are cradle to cradle certified as sustainable; and, considered source reducing insofar as pressed wood pallets weigh 50% less than traditional wood pallets and because they nest during shipment and storage they also require 50% less space. This translates into roughly a 50% reduction in the number of trucks needed to transport our skids to us. A 50% reduction in trucks results in a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions.

 Dordan also performed an analysis of the materials we use to help quantify the above statements. While this analysis was performed several years ago during the height of the economic boom and therefore production, we believe they help contextualize our internal materials management for sustainability. Consider the following:

  • Dordan has purchased 3 million lbs. of reprocessed plastic from our suppliers within the last 12 months; that is nearly 75 full truck loads.
  • Dordan sends out 1.3 million lbs. of plastic scrap annually to be recycled, which equates to 25,000 lbs. per week.
  • Dordan has purchased nearly 2 million lbs. of cartons with 30%-50% recycled content; that’s almost 1,000,000 lbs. of purely recycled corrugated.
  • Dordan has purchased nearly 70,000 lbs. of 100% recycled pressed wood pallets and has sent out almost 100,000 lbs. of scrap pallets to be recycled. Combined, that is more than 4 truck loads of 100% recycled wood.
  • Dordan has purchased over 11 tons of aluminum that has a recycled content of 70%-90%. In addition, we have recycled almost 10,000 lbs. of scrap aluminum.
  • Dordan has recycled 250 gallons of petroleum products.

Dordan’s Story to Sustainability:

While Dordan has always been economically and therefore environmentally sustainable with its post-industrial materials and energy use, it wasn’t until about a year ago when Dordan’s understanding of the “sustainability movement” transformed, resulting in a much more aggressive sustainability platform. For the first time since its incorporation in 1962, Dordan was being asked questions that it didn’t know the answers to; questions not about thermoforming, engineering or polymers, but questions about the environment, greenhouse gases, and fossil fuel consumption. Because Dordan had always been very successful at doing what it does best—thermoforming—it never honestly accessed the sustainability movement and its place therein…until now.

This time coincided with the CEO’s youngest daughter, Chandler Slavin, graduating from DePaul University with a degree in Ethics and Social Justice. Beginning as a consultant for Dordan, Chandler utilized her research skills to put together a plastics and the environment 101, per se, to orient Dordan employees about the environmental benefits and drawbacks of plastic packaging. Little did she or Dordan know, however, that this research compilation would be just the tip of the iceberg on all things sustainable.

Chandler’s consultancy quickly turned into a full-time job when Dordan’s CEO realized that this “green movement” wasn’t a fad; it was here to stay. While CEO Daniel Slavin should never be considered a cynic of the green movement, his reluctance to jump on the green bandwagon was a result of his history: it wasn’t the first time that packaging—specifically plastic packaging—had been targeted by environmentalists for its perceived environmental inadequacies. Therefore, Daniel assumed he would continue to do what he does best—good business—and let the green movement nestle within its specific niches.  To his surprise, however, the green movement began to have a much more active role in business decisions—even his business decisions—and Daniel decided it was in his and his company’s interest to honestly access this new phenomenon.

Chandler was appointed Dordan’s Sustainability Coordinator in September of 2009 with the task of trying to uncover the truth about plastic and sustainability. While Daniel was aware that he ran a plastics manufacturing company, he never let that trump the direction of Chandler’s research; he encouraged honestly, transparency, and attention to detail. Luckily, his ethics of good business paralleled his approach to sustainability: honesty and integrity before all else.

While trying to uncover the truth about plastic and sustainability, Chandler went to her first business conference in Atlanta: the Sustainable Packaging Coalition was hosting their fall, members-only meeting. While there, Chandler had a crash course with packaging and sustainability: though most of the member companies had been in the world of sustainability for a while, Dordan was very new and therefore had a lot of catching up to do. Suddenly Chandler was bombarded with terms like life cycle analysis, waste management, biodegradability, cradle to gate, and many others. In this new and very focused world, Chandler knew Dordan had to rise to the challenge; otherwise, it may compromise the reputation that it took almost 50 years to cultivate; that is, one of excellence, expertise, and good works. 

While at the SPC conference, Chandler learned that thermoformed packaging, along with most packaging materials, usually ends up in landfill. Outraged that her family’s pride and joy wasn’t being recycled, Chandler, with the support of Dordan, took it upon herself to discover: (1) why thermoformed packaging was not accepted for recycling in most American communities; (2) how thermoformed packaging can be integrated into the existing recycling infrastructure. Armed with nothing more than a recent graduate’s altruism and idealism, Chandler took to the books, to uncover the complexities of recycling in America.

These efforts and others are discussed in our blog, recyclablepackaging.org, which narrates our day-by-day attempts to recycle thermoformed packaging. The most notable discovery prior to 2010 was that our RPET packages, which are certified as having a minimum 70% post industrial/consumer content, moved through the optical sorting device at a recycling plant just like PET bottles. In other words, there was no “optical” difference between our RPET packages and the bottle-grade PET; therefore, the reason why thermoformed packaging is not recycled has nothing to do with the inability or ability to sort the resins; it is because of good old economics of supply and demand, sprinkled with the need for technology and investment.

After this discovery, our clamshell recycling initiative came to a stand still. Most municipal contacts articulated that our approach to recycling thermoformed packaging, that is, incorporating RPET thermoforms into the existing PET bottle recycling infrastructure, was technically impossible due to different IVs between bottle-grade PET and thermo-grade, different melting temps, densities, etc. Receiving contradicting information from different contacts, Chandler had no idea if Dordan’s approach to recycling thermoforms was valid or not.

It was not until the early spring of 2010 that Dordan’s clamshell recycling initiative finally got some attention. Recyclablepackaging.org caught the eye of Walmart-Canada’s Sustainable Packaging Coordinator, who was coincidently in the process of managing a Committee looking to achieve zero-waste for several hard to place materials, thermoform-grade PET being one of them. Because of my assumed expertise on recycling PET, I was invited to participate in the second meeting of Walmart-Canada’s Material Optimization Committee.

Unlike in the States, Canada has some product stewardship legislation on the books, which requires producers/brand owners/first importers to finance the management of their products’ waste/packaging waste post-consumer. This, consequentially, facilitates collaboration between industry and municipality, thereby resulting in constantly improving diversion rates. Because Canada has a much more sophisticated waste management system than in the States, Dordan was really excited to be able to work with a Committee that very well may be able to find a way to economically recover thermoformed packaging post-consumer.

A month after returning from the MOC meeting, Chandler was invited to be the co-lead of the PET Subcommittee. By working with stakeholders throughout the supply chain, this Committee looks to incorporate RPET/PET thermoforms into the existing PET bottle recycling infrastructure. By focusing on the development of local markets and possibly, limiting the amount of PET recyclate that leaves the country, zero-waste for PET packaging post-consumer, bottle grade and thermo-grade, may actually become a reality.

After spending a considerable amount of time and money researching issues pertaining to packaging and sustainability, Dordan decided to switch its focus. While previously all the work on sustainability had been from a macro-level, Dordan now wished to address sustainability issues from a micro-level. What this means is that the first 6 months of Chandler’s employment was dedicated mostly to trying to understand “sustainability.” The next 6 months, therefore, would now be focused on Dordan and its place within this ambiguous concept.

And this brings us up to present day: just last week Dordan’s CEO announced his new sustainability project; that is, zero-waste. With the hopes of diverting all Dordans’ waste from landfill, this initiative is multi-faceted and draws upon contemporary constructions of sustainability—the economic, social, and environmental.

The economic dimension of our approach to sustainability is quiet self-explanatory: Stay in business and continue to provide jobs and benefits to our employees.

The environmental dimension of our approach to sustainability, while introduced above, now becomes more focused. While recycling thermoforms will always be a goal at Dordan as will staying well-versed in issues pertaining to sustainability and packaging, we now wish to improve our facilities “carbon footprint.” While our action plan to achieve zero-waste has yet to be finalized, we intend on doing the following:

  • Purchasing a composter for Dordan’s food and yard waste. By being able to compost Dordan’s organic waste, we will be one step closer to achieving our goal of zero waste;
  • Working with Dordan suppliers and third-parties to find a home for all our post-industrial material;
  • Working with third-parties to find a home for all our office waste.

And lastly, the social dimension of our approach to sustainability, which is unique in its conception, can be described as follows:

Dordan is donating the use of a portion of the land that its plant sits upon to a local woman who specializes in horticulture and provides fresh organics to local restaurants and farm markets. While previously she was able to grow her produce on a farm provided to her, said opportunity may not be available for the summer of 2011. Without having a piece of land to grow her crops upon, she would be unable to provide for herself and her family, and the local restaurants and markets she provides her food to would have to look to another, non-local supplier. Because Woodstock is a very environmentally-conscious community, the idea of shipping in fresh produce from an unknown location would not resonate with the demographic. “Locavores” is the term ascribed to those conscientious consumers who try to buy produce grown within 100 miles of their residence; in doing so, they work to counter the contemporary globalization of the food supply, which has serious consequences for the environment, our health and our community. By providing this woman with land upon which to grow organics for the community, Dordan feels as though it has a place within the social sustainability component of our understanding of “sustainability.”

Lastly, Dordan’s Sustainability Coordinator is working with the Superintendent of the Woodstock School District in the organization of a presentation about recycling. While previously such education was the responsibility of an outside party, funding for such education has been cut; consequentially, Woodstock students are not learning about recycling. Because Dordan believes that the best way to increase recovery rates for materials post-consumer is education, we are excited about our grassroots approach to waste management.

Dordan looks forward to reaching its goal of zero waste and working with and in our community. By doing our part, we believe that “sustainability” is not so much about one material versus another or one approach versus another but about cultivating an ethos; one that takes into account the role that sustainability plays in society and our role therein.

Hello and happy new month! I have to say, I think July is my second favorite month after June, which I have an affinity for because it is the month I was born!

I know I have been slacking on my daily posts—I apologize. I have a lot of catching up to do after the Holiday and I am up to my ears in information about composters. I will have a really good blog post for you about composting soon; think of it as business composting 101, per se, but I have not finished my research quite yet so I don’t want to jump the gun…

Speaking of guns, I got to fire my first “riffle” this past weekend; granted I fired it at a target that I apparently did not even come close to, it was still fun, although the “kick back” was almost enough to kill me. So that’s how I spent my Holiday—in a farm in the middle of nowhere, driving tractors and shooting guns. Well, only one gun.

Okay wow really off target, Chandler (no pun intended). I am beginning to have way too much fun with this blog.

Let’s recap: Work on recycling PET thermoforms is moving at the pace that the Committee I am co-leading is moving; that is, slowly. If it helps put the pace of work in perspective, I sent out my notes from the last Committee meeting to my co-lead who forwarded them to legal four weeks ago; we still have not heard back from legal…

I will readdress these issues in a week or two; in the meantime, I am focusing on Dordan’s action plan for its goal of achieving zero-waste. In doing so I am now completely restructuring our website to house these new sustainability efforts. Once I get the website changes finalized and reach out to different publishers who may be interested in covering our sustainability story, I will aggressively design our action plan; I assume this will be way more difficult than I am anticipating as we have several hard-to-place materials, like the corrugated tubs inside the rolls of plastic we buy…

Also, for all those creative folk out there, we are brainstorming on a brand for our new sustainability efforts. As discussed in a previous post, most of my work on sustainability thus far has been from a macro- level. What I mean by this is I was focusing on the sustainability of different packaging materials in general, waste management of packaging materials in general, plastics’ reputation in general, etc. (think my rebuttal to The NYT’s The Haggler: http://plasticsnews.com/headlines2.html?id=17268&q=chandler+slavin). Now that we are actively pursuing our own intitaives, we need to brand said efforts. A lot of companies out there have their own “green team” or what not, which overseas all the sustainability works. We need some kind of green team, too. Well, we don’t need the team; we just need the brand. Get it? Again, our new sustainability initiatives are social and environmental: social insofar as I will be doing grassroots education about recycling with schools and we will be donating the food from our Victory Garden to local charities and events; and environmental insofar as we are working towards zero-waste and trying to recycle thermoforms. If anyone comes up with a brilliant idea you will win a fabulous prize, like oh I don’t know…research about recycling! Fun fun!

OKKKKKKK and for the meat of today’s post: I am happy to report that the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, in partner with Metaphore, just created an awesome new website, which discusses the life cycle of paper. Check it out: http://www.thepaperlifecycle.org/.

I really like this website because it is pretty and brings to light a lot of issues about sourcing paper that people don’t often recognize such as deforestation, exports, illegal logging, etc. Again, kudos to all those involved!

Also, I was really tickled pink with today’s Chicago Tribune article titled, “Green Choices.” Unlike most coverage of “sustainability,” author Monica Eng did a splendid job highlighting the pros and cons of different materials and situations. No reductionstic stances here! Check it out: http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/ct-met-eco-questions-20100706,0,3618266.story.

I gotta find this Monica…I am a big fan!

That’s all for today my wonderful packaging and sustainability friends. Again, I apologize for the “light” content of today’s and the previous days’ post. I promise I will bring the bull back; in the meantime, go packaging!

Tootles!