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!

Good afternoon world! Thought I would catch you all before the late-afternoon slump, which is when I am accustomed to blogging. Second cup of Joe, here I come!

Today’s post takes a slight detour from the world of recycling: I wish to briefly discuss how one quantifies the environmental benefits of sourcing packaging material from recycled resin versus virgin; and, the associated environmental burdens of using inks, laminates and adhesives on fiber-based packaging.

First, the environmental benefits associated with making packaging out of recycled resin versus virgin is kinda a no brainer…one would assume that sourcing post-consumer material yields environmental benefits when compared with sourcing virgin. Luckily, the Franklin Associated recently determined that recycling plastic significantly reduces energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. According to their work, the generation of cleaned recycled resin required 71 trillion Btu less than the amount of energy that would be required to produce the equivalent tonnage of virgin PET and HDPE resin (Killinger, ACC). In other words, the amount of energy saved by recycling PET and HDPE containers including bottles in 2008 was the equivalent to the annual energy use of 750,000 U.S. homes. The corresponding savings in greenhouse gas emissions was 2.1 million tons of C02 equivalents, an amount comparable to taking 360,000 cars off the road (Killinger, ACC). You can download the full report here:  Final Recycled Resin HDPE PET Life Cycle Inventory Report.

So this is great because it finally provides justification for moving into PET and RPET packaging as that is the most readily recycled and recyclable. However, how do we show how this data actually impacts the LCA of a package? In other words, if I wanted to measure the environmental benefits associated with sourcing my packaging from RPET as opposed to PET, how would I?

And enter COMPASS, which is the SPC’s packaging environmental life cycle modeling software, which allows you to compare the “footprint” of different packaging materials and types in the design phase. Now that Franklin has provided LCI data about RPET used in packaging, COMPASS should be able to integrate the data into its software, thereby allowing users to compare packaging made from recycled PET versus virgin.

Here’s the email I sent to the creator of COMPASS:

Hey,

I hope this email finds you well.

I had sent you an email asking when COMPASS was going to be updated with the LCI RPET data released by the ACC/APR/NAPCOR, etc. This email is to follow up on that inquiry. As thermoformers of RPET, it is very important for us to be able to quantify the environmental benefits of sourcing an RPET clamshell versus a PET clamshell.

In addition, is COMPASS intending on including metrics for inks, laminates, and adhesives i.e. clay coated SBS board? A lot of research I am finding is that these chemicals greatly impact the environmental profile of a package; when will COMPASS be able to quantify these components?

Thanks for your time.

Chandler

And his response:

Hi,

See below.

Hey,

I hope this email finds you well. Thanks doing well indeed. And you?

I had sent you an email asking when COMPASS was going to be updated with the LCI RPET data released by the ACC/APR/NAPCOR, etc. This email is to follow up on that inquiry. As thermoformers of RPET, it is very important for us to be able to quantify the environmental benefits of sourcing an RPET clamshell versus a PET clamshell. As you may know, we do not add data until they are third party verified. There has been a lot of activity on the data front of late and the data verification is coordinated by the EPA, and rPET and rHDPE are among them. Once we get the go ahead, we will begin work to model the data for COMPASS. This is anticipated to start towards the end of Q3 2010.

In addition, is COMPASS intending on including metrics for inks, laminates, and adhesives i.e. clay coated SBS board? A lot of research I am finding is that these chemicals greatly impact the environmental profile of a package; when will COMPASS be able to quantify these components? The secondary materials you mention may indeed be of concern and they are on our radar, however, since GreenBlue does not collect primary LCI data, we cannot add information until they become available and are verified. There is a lot of talk in the industries about the need for such data, and the best way to convey the information. We may have spoken on this before, but coatings, inks, glues etc are generally used in a very small quantity relative to the primary materials, and the existing display mechanism may need to change to record the results for the secondary materials. Also, since LCA is not a very good mechanism for conveying toxicity, the entire secondary materials module may require some detailed thought prior to implementation. I do not have a timeline for these materials as yet since much of the work in preliminary talk stage only.

Groovy…

I then sent a similar inquiry to another contact who knows a thing or two about sustainable packaging metrics and modeling software:

Hello,

This is Chandler Slavin with Dordan Manufacturing. I hope this email finds you well.

At the meeting, a participant asked if you intended on including any metrics for the inks, laminates and adhesives used in many fiber-based packaging materials. You replied that unless you had scientific evidence that illustrated that such a metric had an impact on the overall environmental profile of a given package, you did not intend on including said metrics in the Scorecard.

I found the following statement in the U.S. E.P.A.’s TRI (Toxics Release Inventory) report, 1996:

…Coated and laminated paper products are also associated with significant reporting of releases and other waste management of TRI chemicals…Pollutants associated with various coating materials and processes have included emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and discharges of wastewater containing solvents, colorants, and other contaminants.

Download the report at: http://www.epa.gov/tri/tridata/tri96/pdr/chapt5_ry96.pdf

That being said, what are your thoughts on the inclusion of some type of metric that would attempt to quantify the environmental burdens associated with the utilization of inks, laminates, and adhesives on packaging?

Thank you for your time.

Chandler Slavin

And her response:

We aren’t opposed to including but we need to have details on what to include and how much they impact the total Life Cycle of the package.  In studies that I have seen on packaging the impact by these materials to the total package LCA are small in comparison than other parts like production of raw materials and transportation.  Prior to us adding to the scorecard we would need the data proving they are a big portion of the LCA and publicly available LCI to add to the scorecard.

Thanks for reaching out sharing some of your questions and concerns.

Hmmmmmm…

I replied the following:

During the meeting, you and your team discussed the ambiguities surrounding the “sustainable material” metric and participants articulated the desire for a “material health/toxicity” metric, in addition to, or as a component of, the “sustainable material” metric. Have you and your team given any thought to the inclusion of such a metric that does not rely on an LCA-based approach, but another “mechanism for conveying toxicity?”

I look forward to your response; thanks again for your time!

And her response:

Yes, we are analyzing the GPP metrics through the Pilot process as discussed at the meeting. 

She then provided me with a link to their website and other pertinent information; what a doll!

The GPP is the Global Packaging Project and it is super awesome! It looks to provide global metrics for quantifying the environmental profile of a material, packaging type, conversion process, etc. Tons and tons of CPGs and retailers and manufactures and packaging converters are members of this organization. I believe they are currently in a pilot phase, which is attempting to collect LCI data from primary processes.

I reached out to a representative from the GPP and she was really nice. She told me about their work and provided me with access to said work—I feel like I hit a gold mine! Unlike the Scorecard, the GPP will cover a multitude of different metrics, toxicity being among them. SOOOO I guess I am definitely not the only one interested in this and eventually, we will have much more thorough tools to measure the environmental repercussions of our packaging purchasing decisions.

Consequently, it’s only a matter of time until the greenwashers get phased out. I feel like we are in the Wild Wild West of packaging and sustainability and that eventually, some governance will come to maintain order—hopefully the GPP.

AND GUESS WHAT: The GPP is having a conference in October in PARIS. That’s right, Paris, the most romantic city in the whole wide world. I would kill to be able to go; hopefully I can make a good enough case for my Superior to consider it…

The last email that I sent along this theme was to the wonderful Robert Carlson of CalRecycle.

I wrote,

Hello there!

Question: why is an LCA-based approach not appropriate for trying to quantify the environmental ramifications of secondary materials i.e. inks, laminates and adhesives? In addition, what “other mechanisms” exist for quantifying these ramifications? How do you foresee the inclusion of this information in environmental modeling tools going forward?

Do chemical manufactures have to report their releases to the US EPA? If so, where/how can I access this information?

AND, I was reading the back of one of our competitors’ packages and the following verbiage was displayed: “This product contains a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects and other reproductive harm.” WHAT THE WHAT? What is this, where can I find out more?

Thanks buddy!

And his response:

Ok…let me try to take this piece by piece and see what I can help you with:

As far as the competitors’ package goes, there are LOTS of chemicals that require that warning, it’s all part of prop 65 (see the attached PDF for the complete list and their website http://oehha.ca.gov/prop65.html ).  There is very likely a Material Safety Data Sheet available for that product…you might check on their website.

As far as manufacturers reporting their emissions to US EPA…I’m not really sure but I don’t think they do generally.  There are very likely specific situations that are regulated and are required to report emissions to EPA…but I’m not familiar enough with them to tell you which ones are required to be reported on.

Now…on to the meat of your question…the inks, laminates and adhesives…  I’m not sure what you meant with the comment that LCA is not a good mechanism for conveying toxicity…  Perhaps it has to do with the fact that usually LCA don’t get into exposure…  If a product emits 1.2 grams of a toxic substance, that’s all that is reported…it doesn’t really get into whether it’s emitted close to people, if people have long contact time with it or short, if sensitive sub-populations are exposed or not, if the toxin is persistent or not, if workers are exposed or consumers, etc…  That may be what was meant…  It could be that a combination of an LCA (to determine the releases at various points in the process) and a toxicological assessment of some kind (to determine exposure and risk assessment) would be a better way to approach LCA for these kinds of materials.

 There are always data gaps…there always will be.  To some extent, you can’t measure what you don’t know…  BUT somebody has to collect that data!  Eventually!  So somebody is going to have to step up and foot the bill…the problem of course comes in the sense that nobody trusts industry and government is broke…

How’d I do?  Make any sense???

You did wonderful, Robert, thanks!

That’s all for now. Tune in tomorrow to learn more about packaging and sustainability and the feasibility of recycling PET thermoforms in North America.

Tootles!

GO BLACK HAWKSSSSSS

June 14, 2010

Happy Monday Funday!!!

I have returned from my travels. GO BLACK HAWKSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!

While I will fill you in on what I learned in tomorrow’s post (busy day!), I thought I would include a response to my greenerpackage.com post. Check it out (notice the “anonymous”…)

June 9, 2010, Anonymous (not verified) wrote:

Chandler – One point that can’t be argued. Packaging from trees is a sustainable option. Packaging from oil (like plastic films) is not – once its pumped out and converted into film products, there will be no more. It would be ideal to compare apples to apples and determine which causes less harm to the planet, however, the opportunity to replant trees and convert paper back into usable pulp is an obvious advantage. And the article makes a solid point that regardless of what might be possible for recycling films, consumers or municipalities rarely have the facilities for taking advantages of the possiblities of recycled film products.

June 11, 2010, Chandler Slavin wrote:

Thank you for your comments and I understand your perspective; however, I am a little confused by this statement: “Packaging from oil (like plastic films) is not [sustainable] – once it’s pumped out and converted into film products, there will be no more.” Are you simply making the argument that paper is sustainable because it comes from a renewable resource while plastic is not because it comes from fossil fuel, which is ever depleting, as dramatically illustrated by the tragic Gluf Coast Spill? If so, that argument is acceptable, but very one dimensional, in my opinion. The reason I feel that this argument is sub par is because it only highlights the different feedstocks used in the production of fiber-based packaging materials or fossil-fuel ones; what about the energy required to convert this feestock into its end-product, that is, paper or plastic? What about the resources consumed in this converstion process; the GHG equivalents emitted therefrom, the inks, laminates, or chemicals added, etc.? I guess the whole point of my post was that to view “sustainability” from one metric, be it renewable versus unrenewable feedstock, is unacceptable in trying to quantify the overall burden a specific packaging material has on the environment.

As an aside, the point about the complexities of recycling plastic packaging is appropriate; with the exception of PET bottles, the rates of recycling plastic packaging in the States is very low. However, Japan, the UK, Belguim, Germany, and many others have very high diversion rates for plastic packaging post-consumer, usually with the aid of waste-to-energy technologies. Because we live in a global market, I am sure that the products of a large CPG company, like Kodak, end up on many international shelves; therefore, the probability that the packaging will or will not end up in a landfill is constituent on the region in which it is distributed. Consequentially, it is difficult to speculate on how much packaging material a company diverts from the landfill by switching from one material to another without specifying what geographical region said packaging material resides in.

In addition, there is a lot of interest in diverting PET thermoforms from the waste stream, as there is an every growing demand for this recyclate. Many companies are now investing in the sorting and cleaning technologies necessary to reprocess these packages with PET bottles to remanufacture into new packages or products. Hence, it is only a matter of time until plastic packaging begings to be recovered post-consumer because of the inherent value of the recyclate.

Thank you for your comments; it is always good to move the dialogue forward!

Mahahahahahahhahaha. See you tomorrow!

Hey!

So in yesterday’s post I talked about an article I read on greenerpackage.com that dissapointed me due to its unfounded anti-plastic stance. I  included a letter that I had intended on sending to the disseminator of said anti-plastic stance because I didnt want to call him out in the public forum that is greenerpackage.com; however, our CEO wanted me to post a rebuttal to his comments on greenerpackage.com, so this reductionistic stance on plastic can begin to be confronted.

Here we go:

Comments: 1

0 minutes ago, Chandler Slavin wrote:

After reading the above article titled “Paper media packaging for Kodak licensee removes 98% of plastic,” I believe that KMG Digital’s Mike Golacinski may be misinformed. Speaking on behalf of a plastic thermoformer, we are disappointed when we stumble across the proclamation of misinformed or unsubstantiated environmental claims about plastic packaging. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to analyze these anti-plastic environmental claims with hopes of facilitating an honest dialogue about packaging materials and sustainability. Only when we understand the reality of the situation will we begin to make more informed packaging material procurement selections that are based on science, and not ambiguous claims.

Consider the following statement: “Many competitive products are boasting about reduction of plastics while not addressing the fundamental issue, which is to eliminate plastic packaging that produces greenhouse gases and clogs our landfills…”

First of all, the assumption that plastic packaging produces greenhouse gases is misplaced. Almost every product and service produces GHG equivalents during production and throughout the life cycle. Let’s clarify what “greenhouse gases” mean:

According to the 2009 report released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the largest factor contributing to global warming is increased greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapor, halocarbons, and soot. Therefore, when making claims of GHG emissions, it is helpful to indicate which chemical you are referring to, as each packaging material procurement and conversion process releases different GHG equivalents, based on the methods used.

In addition, not only should GHG equivalents generated be consideration when procuring packaging materials, but other metrics, like water discharges, air pollutants, and OSHA carcinogens should be taken into account.

While I have not been able to find the necessary data to do an apples-to-apples comparison between the GHG equivalents emitted during the production of 1,000 lbs of fiber-based packaging materials versus those emitted during the production of 1,000 lbs of a common packaging polymer, the most recent Toxics Release Inventory data released by the U.S. E.P.A. explains the following:

…Pulping processes are the pulp and paper sector’s primary source of air emissions and water discharges of pollutants. Chemical pulping (to digest a material, typically wood, into its fibrous cellulose constituents) is the most widely used pulping method (85% in 1991). Kraft chemical pulping, an alkaline process whose active components are primarily sodium sulfide and sodium hydroxide, is the sector’s greatest source of air pollutants.

…For many paper grades, bleaching follows pulping. Traditional chlorine bleaching generates chlorinated byproducts—chloroform, dioxins, furans—that pose particular environmental concerns for their persistence, bioaccumulatability, and toxicity.

…Methanol or “wood alcohol,” is the chemical with the largest TRI releases (principally air emissions) from this sector. Methanol is formed in the chemical pulping process as wood chips are “cooked” to dissolve the lignin bonds that hold cellulose fibers together…Methanol in air reacts to form formaldehyde, contributing to air pollution…119.8 million pounds of methanol were released from the pulp and paper sector in 1996.

…Coated and laminated paper products are also associated with significant reporting of releases and other waste management of TRI chemicals…Pollutants associated with various coating materials and processes have included emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and discharges of wastewater containing solvents, colorants, and other contaminants.

…Pulp and paper releases…of chemicals designated as OSHA carcinogens totaled
18.9 million pounds in 1996. The large majority (17.7 million pounds) was released to air. Three of the top 15 chemicals for on- and off-site releases in the pulp and paper sector are OSHA carcinogens: chloroform, acetaldehyde, and formaldehyde. These three chemicals accounted for 16.4 million pounds of the 18.9 million pounds of OSHA. The OSHA carcinogens with the next highest on- and off-site releases were dichloromethane (746,000 pounds) and asbestos (571,000 pounds).

…[In summary,] The pulp and paper sector reported a total of 1.60 billion pounds of TRI chemicals in production-related waste for 1996

Please visit: http://www.epa.gov/tri/tridata/tri96/pdr/chapt5_ry96.pdf to download the most recent TRI report for the paper and pulp industries.

Second, the assumption that plastic packaging “clogs our landfills” is also misinformed: According to the Container and Packaging Municipal Solid Waste data released by the U.S. E.P.A. in 2007, 52% of landfills are comprised of paper products. In addition, in the MSW report released in 2008, “paper packaging/other paper packaging” has no recovery data (“Neg.”), which implies that paper packaging does not often get recycled, contrary to popular belief. Please visit: http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/msw2008data.pdf. On page 5 of this document you will find a break-down of the different paper products that are recycling in America: as this table illustrates, the high recovery rates for paper are attributed primarily to newspapers (87.6% recovery) and corrugated boxes (76.6%).

I apologize if the tone of this post is a bit aggressive; I am not trying to make anyone uncomfortable I just wanted to take advantage of this public knowledge exchange medium with hopes of elevating the dialogue around issues pertaining to packaging materials and sustainability. While there is a lot of confusion surrounding the sustainability of plastic packaging, I am confident that the science will catch up, the dialogues will evolve, and packaging professionals will begin making more informed packaging decisions based on sound science and not marketing claims.

In a nut shell: The anti-plastic mentality conveyed in the statements made by representatives of KMG Digital is unfounded in the scientific community and to use it to promote paper over plastics is not good for any company involved in packaging from an economic, social, political, and environmental perspective.

So yeah…that’s that. Questions, commments, concerns?

AND I am about half-way finished with my report on PET recycling for Walmart Canada–it is about 6 pages; my brain is about to explode!

See you tomorrow!

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 12: Oct. 26, 2009

February 8, 2010

Happy Monday Funday!

I hope everyone enjoyed the Superbowl. What was your favorite commercial?

I swear, my job as the Sustainability Coordinator at a plastic company is making me crazyyyyyy! I interpret any reference to the environment and plastics in the context of popular culture as a case to be studied; as an academic text to be analyzed.

Such crazyiness manifests itself in my life outside work, when, for instance, I am watching the Super Bowl with friends, drinking beer and eating pizza.

And roll Audi commercial about the Eco-police:

Opening scene: Would you like paper or plastic?

My ears perk up; my senses ready.

Plastic, the man at the check-out counter says.

Enter: Eco Police. They arrest the man at the counter, thereby implying that because he opted for plastic, he is transgressing against our ecosystem. Ug!

And the funny thing is, Obama suggested that American-produced cars utilize more plastic in their construction than previously manufactured cars because it makes them lighter; therefore, less energy consumptive.  

AND the new Audi has plastic components for this very reason. It’s cool though—I understand what the marketers of this car were going for; after all, this Audi runs on diesel, which releases less green house gases than the burning of fossil fuel. So that’s neat. I just wish they wouldn’t continue to propagate the notion that plastic is bad for the environment when, because of its lightweight and versatile properties, it actually facilitates innovation in the field of sustainability.

You can check out this commercial at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_MuqoSsuTQ&feature=player_embedded.

Anyway where am I? Oh that’s right; awaiting an email from the educational tour guide from Recycle America…

Until I speak with this contact about the contents of this email and receive her approval to include it in this blog, I am unable to continue the narrative at this point. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Day 10: Oct. 21, 2009.

February 4, 2010

The next day I received the following email from the educational tour guide at Recycle America:

Chandler,

I just received this and will gladly answer as best I can but it will not be until tomorrow as I have tours.  I appreciate your patience. 

Lisa

Okay…what else can I do in the meantime to move this initiative forward?

I thought back to the lectures at the SPC’s members-only meeting in Atlanta. The president of Environmental Packaging International (hereafter, EPI) gave a very honest presentation about environmental marketing. Basically he explained what kinds of environmental claims on packaging are misleading or manipulative and what kinds are acceptable. Because the FTC is being restructured, he explained, they have not been able to investigate the environmental claims on packaging; however, that will change, and those making unsubstantiated or vague claims will be sought out by the FTC. Therefore, he explained, it is in all of our interest to only make claims that can be validated via scientific analysis.  

Hurray, I remember thinking. Finally, marketers will be held accountable for manipulating consumer’s desires to do well by the environment.

To be honest, I probably would not have a job at Dordan as the Sustainability Coordinator if people in our industry were not greenwashing. In other words, it was because my father, the CEO of Dordan, didn’t know how to interpret the claims being made by our competitors that he hired me to investigate them. And what I found, more often than not, was because the FTC didn’t have the man power to investigate environmental claims our industry was in sort of a Wild West limbo where marketers could get away with saying almost anything. This Wild West limbo was catalyzed by the recent consumer research that showed how most consumers would buy the product with the better environmental profile if at a comparable cost and performance to other, less environmentally friendly products. I am sure we are all familiar with this…

Anyway, I remember the President of the EPI discussing the Mobius Loop symbol and how that can be a form of greenwashing in and of itself insofar as it implies recyclability or recycled content. All of our packages have this symbol, which houses the SPI resin identification number; both the symbol and ID number were mandated by SPI (Society of Plastics Industry) decades ago.

I sent the President the following email, hoping to get some clarification about the applicability of this symbol to our packages:

Hello,

This is Chandler Slavin with Dordan Manufacturing—we spoke briefly following your presentation in Atlanta entitled, “Are the Labeling and Green Claims on Your Packaging Meeting FTC and Retailer Requirements?” First, I wanted to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for your presentation: it was the most honest, direct, and educationally insightful discussion I had yet experienced at the forum. At the same time, however, there are some questions still lingering.

For instance, you said that the mobius loop i.e. chasing arrows symbol, which houses the SPI resin identification number, implies to the consumer that the package is either: (1) made out of 100% recycled material or, (2) is 100% recyclable. After telling this to the president of our company, we were confused because we thought that this symbol was mandated by the SPI. Are you and the FTC suggesting we remove this symbol from our packages? Is there someone at the FTC we could talk with for clarification? Is there someone at SPI that would be of assistance?

Sorry for the quick-fired questions: this is all new to us and we are trying to be honest with our labeling in order to inform our customers about the sustainability of our packages. Additionally, I would really like the opportunity to talk to you about industry-led EPR initiatives in the U.S. When would be a good time to reach you?

Best,

Chandler Slavin

The same day, I received the following email from the President of the EPI:

Chandler,

The SPI code as required by 39 State Laws are allowed if used as prescribed by those laws. If you placed it in an inconspicuous location on the container (e.g., embedded in the bottom of the container) it would not constitute a claim of recyclability or recycled content and is allowed.

If you have a questions let me know, Hope this helps.

Phew…I thought to myself; we only place the chasing arrows symbol on the bottom of our packages. We are FTC clear, at least for now.

Tune in tomorrow for more recycling in America tantalizing tid bits.

Day 3: Oct 13, 2009

January 25, 2010

One of my professors from undergrad, Dr. Scott Paeth, continues to be a sounding board for my inquiries about ethics, even several months into my post-grad life. As my academic advisor and my Senior Thesis mentor, I had the opportunity of developing a relationship with him that expanded beyond the parameters of the classroom; I still consider him a great friend and mentor.

Two months into my new job as the Sustainability Coordinator at Dordan Mfg., I was struggling with the “ethics of sustainability.” I shot Dr. Paeth the following email, looking for any direction to point my ethical compass towards:

Hey! 
 
How is the school year going? Good stuff? 
 
Okay, so consider the following: 
 
I went to a contract packaging facility on Friday, which basically assembles the different components of the package i.e. paper card, plastic clamshell, sticker, product, etc. They don’t make anything, they just put it together. This facility is the home of the Chia pet. Ironically, the Obama Chia is made in
China, imported to the US, packaged in the US, and then distributed in the US. Similar products are made in China, packaged in China, and then distributed in the US. How can companies market themselves as green, while the product and often tines package is made in China under lax environmental regulations and poor working conditions? 

In a nut shell: I am trying to figure out how to market ourselves as an ethical company, both environmentally and socially, but am having a difficult time because marketing in general seems disingenuous…why do consumers care about being green when they don’t even consider the people that are making the product and the conditions they are working in? 
 
Sorry to ramble– I am just so frustrated. I keep trying to sell our product to people who get their packaging from overseas. Yet they market themselves as green. I can’t tell if the green washing acts as a distraction from the reality– that the only thing that matters is money– even at the expense of people’s lives. 
 
If you have any insight, or books, or information pertaining to the ethics of advertising or environmental advertising or overseas manufacturing or anything that you think might provide some clarity to this cluster of craziness, I would be very happy. 
 
Oh, the real world is hard! 
 
I look forward to hearing from you! 
 
Best, 
 
Chandler 
 
I met up with Dr. Paeth the following week, who gave me a bunch of books on business ethics and the “corporate soul.” To be honest, however, this was the first time that I realized that his extensive knowledge didn’t apply to my new job: he was not able to provide me with the data I was requesting nor was he able to explain why certain information, even information about consumer products’ and their packages, could be classified as proprietary. I believe that this initiates the schism between the academic and the corporate for me; the great divide where one world no longer informs the other—a.k.a. “the real world.”

Paeth did hook me up with one of his colleagues in the science department. Although we never met, he suggested I look into the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, which, he offered, may shed some light on why it is difficult to find environmental information on different packaging materials. While I found some vague information on this Act, it wasn’t until January 4th of 2010 that an article came out in The Washington Post that described this Act in laymen’s terms; I have included the pertinent sections of the editorial below:

Use of potentially harmful chemicals kept secret under law

By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 4, 2010; A01

Of the 84,000 chemicals in commercial use in the United States — from flame retardants in furniture to household cleaners — nearly 20 percent are secret, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, their names and physical properties guarded from consumers and virtually all public officials under a little-known federal provision.

The policy was designed 33 years ago to protect trade secrets in a highly competitive industry. But critics — including the Obama administration — say the secrecy has grown out of control, making it impossible for regulators to control potential dangers or for consumers to know which toxic substances they might be exposed to.

Under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, manufacturers must report to the federal government new chemicals they intend to market. But the law exempts from public disclosure any information that could harm their bottom line.

Government officials, scientists and environmental groups say that manufacturers have exploited weaknesses in the law to claim secrecy for an ever-increasing number of chemicals. In the past several years, 95 percent of the notices for new chemicals sent to the government requested some secrecy, according to the Government Accountability Office. About 700 chemicals are introduced annually.

“You have thousands of chemicals that potentially present risks to health and the environment,” said Richard Wiles, senior vice president of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization that documented the extent of the secret chemicals through public-records requests from the EPA. “It’s impossible to run an effective regulatory program when so many of these chemicals are secret.”

Of the secret chemicals, 151 are made in quantities of more than 1 million tons a year and 10 are used specifically in children’s products, according to the EPA.

The identities of the chemicals are known to a handful of EPA employees who are legally barred from sharing that information with other federal officials, state health and environmental regulators, foreign governments, emergency responders and the public.

YIKES! It appears as though I have opened up a can of worms. Tune in tomorrow to see where this information takes me.

Day 2: Oct. 10, 2009

January 22, 2010

After nearly missing the train from Chicago to Woodstock and spilling coffee on my new pencil skirt, I made it to the office, hoping that something would be waiting there to lift my spirits: 1 new email from Robert Carlson! Yippee!

Chandler,

It was nice meeting you as well.

I don’t have a lot of time just now to address your question, but I’ll try to point you to the most likely location of that info and then do some research a bit later when I have more time.  I’d suggest looking at the AF&PA’s website (American Forestry and Paper Association). They have a lot of information although a fair amount of it must be paid for. 

My experience has been that this info can be difficult to get for a few reasons…1) some people don’t like to talk about this stuff, they call it proprietary or they think it will taint their image…2) It varies considerably from mill to mill depending on if they’re using scrap from the timber industry for energy or if they’re using natural gas or grid electricity… Anyway, have a look at AF&PA and if that doesn’t pan out for you, I’ll try to look through some of my resources a bit later on.

 Hope you’re doing well, Robert

Hmmm I thought to myself as I scrolled through the email; I had never thought of data about the environment as being proprietary…shouldn’t the public have access to the information about how certain consumer goods and packages impact our world? I guess if people don’t even check where their clothes or shoes or Gucci bags are made and in what kind of conditions (ahem, dormitories in factories anyone?) they obviously don’t care to investigate the repercussions that their buying decisions have on the environment—especially when it comes to packaging! But that’s changing, I thought to myself, as I clung on to the shred of idealism still remaining from college. And, I continued to reason, it is my job as the Sustainability Coordinator at a plastic packaging company to know the effects that packaging has on the global community. How hard can it be, I questioned?

Having spent the last four years in the cushy atmosphere of college where one little user name and password grants you access into some of the most powerful databases in the world (LexusNexus, for one), I reasoned with myself that I could find the information I was looking for; little did I know, however, the extent to which the “proprietary” bubble expanded into the blurring world between business and the environment.

Tune in Monday to see how, by law, chemical manufacturing companies can hide behind a veil of secrecy; otherwise know as the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act.