Hellllooooooo! Man, it has been a crazy week! I had no idea how much Pack Expo would take out of me!

Dordan now has over 30+ followers on Twitter, which makes me feel really cool, but I want MORE MORE MORE. So follow me @DordanMfg. Good times.

Click here to check out Dordan’s 2010 Pack Expo only Show Specials!

Good news: We have a ton attendees looking for us at Pack Expo via our online booth http://my.packexpo.com/pei2010nn/public/Booth.aspx?BoothID=107696, which is super cool, and I have booked interviews with three different packaging publications, so this show should be a grand occasion! We have events almost every night (CardPak’s Sustainability Dinner, AVMP networking event, Meet the Press, and more!) so I am totally PUMPED!

I was at McCormick Place yesterday to set up the booth and it was a rather enjoyable experience: our booth was where it was suppose to be; the Union workers were really helpful; and, I met the floor manager, Louie, who oozes old school Chicago. Dordan’s booth looks great, and I can’t wait for the Show to begin!

Before we get into the meat of today’s post, I came across some random industry tid bits that I thought I would share with you, my packaging and sustainability friends.

First, and this is sort of old news, but did you guys hear about the SRI Consulting study that determined that those countries with adequate space and little recycling infrastructure should landfill PET bottles as opposed to recycle in the context of carbon footprint reduction!?! The name of the report is “PET’s Carbon Footprint: To Recycle or Not to Recycle,” and is described as “an independent evaluation of the carbon footprint of PET bottles with analysis of secondary packaging from cradle to grave and from production of raw materials through disposal.” While the report cost an arm and a leg to download, an abstract of the report is available here: http://www.sriconsulting.com/Press_Releases/Plastic-Bottle-Recycling-Not-Always-Lowest-Carbon-Option_16605.html.

The report concludes:

• Shipping distances are not footprint crucial;
• Incineration creates the highest footprint;
• PET recyclate (HA, I thought I made that word up) has a lower footprint than virgin PET.

Weird bears; I wonder who funded this study…

Next, someone tweeted (yes, I said tweeted) this industry tid bit: “Biopolymers are Dirtier to Produce than Oil-Based Polymers, says Researchers” @ http://www.environmentalleader.com/2010/10/22/biopolymers-are-dirtier-to-produce-than-oil-based-polymers-say-researchers/ .

After perusing the article, I was surprised that PLA exhibited the maximum contribution to eutrophication, as every COMPASS LCA I have performed comparing paper and plastic shows that paper contributes WAY MORE to eutrophication than plastic…but I guess this makes sense in the context of PLA’s contribution because paper is based on a “crop” as is PLA; therefore, require similar resource consumption/toxin emissions?

Then there is this statement, which is crazzzyyyy: “biopolymers exceeded most of the petroleum-based polymers for ecotoxicity and carcinogen emissions.” What does that mean?!? Where are the carcinogens coming from? And, where did these researches get all this LCI data for these new bio resins in order to make the statements they do?

Wow the land of biopolymers is confusion.

And that provides a perfect segway into today’s post.

As you know, many of Dordan’s customers have expressed great interest in biopolymers because, according to a recent consumer research study, “biodegradation” is one of the most desired “green” characteristics of a package in the eyes of the consumer; I guess people don’t like the idea of things persisting for years and years in landfill…

As an aside, did you see this McDonalds Happy Meal biodegradation test?!? Apparently, after 180 days, a Happy Meal did not even begin to show signs of biodegradation! Check it out here: http://www.littleabout.com/Odd/sally-davies-mcdonalds-happy-meal/98413/ .

And, as we all know, it doesn’t matter if it is paper, plastic, or a banana peal; nothing biodegrades in a landfill because there is no oxygen and sunlight. But that is beside the point.
Where was I…?
Yes, we have been asked many questions about biopolymers, many of which, we didn’t have the answers to because depending on who you ask, you get different responses. So, first we did some background research on biodegradable/compostable plastics in general. You can download our report here: http://www.dordan.com/sustainability_ftc.shtml Then we began sampling the available resins and performing internal tests to see how they performed and what applicability they have to the sustainability goals of our customers. Though we have invested a considerable amount of time into trying to understand biopolymers, we still have much to learn; therefore, we decided that during Pack Expo we would share all our findings with attendees in hopes of opening the lines of communication and educating ourselves, our supply chain and our industry about the pros and cons of this new family of non traditional resins. After all, the last thing the plastics industry wants to do is flood the market with something they don’t really understand, from both an energy consumption/GHG emission and end of life management perspective, not to mention price and performance! So, if you come by Dordan’s booth E-6311 we will have 4 different bioresins on display for you to touch and see, accompanied by a lot of good information.

For those of you unable to attend Pack Expo, I have included most of the information below. Enjoy!!!

Cellulous Acetate:

Typical Physical Properties:

• Acceptable for use in food contact packaging;
• High clarity and gloss, with low haze;
• High water vapor transmission rate;
• Good tensile strength and elongation, combined with relatively low tear strength;
• Good die cutting performance and good printability and compatibility with adhesives;
• Available in matt and semi-matt finishes.

Environmental Aspects:

• Feedstock: Cellulous from Sustainable Forestry Initiative managed forestry in North America; acetic anhydride, a derivative of acetic acid; and, a range of different plasticisers.
• Complies with EN 13432 and ASTM D 6400 Standards for industrial biodegradability and compostability; and, received Vincotte OK Compost Home certification.
• Complies with US Coneg limits for heavy metal content in packaging materials.
• Classified in the paper and board category in the UK, in view of its cellulosic base. As a consequence, the levy on cellulous acetate is lower than that on other thermoplastic films which are classified as plastics; however, levies only apply to those markets where EPR legislation exists.
• There is no post consumer or post industrial market for this resin. However, in principal, film is readily recyclable and because of its predominantly cellulosic nature, it is feasible that it can be recycled along with paper in a re-pulping process.

PHA:

Typical physical properties:

• A general purpose, high melt strength material suitable for injection molding, thermoforming, blow/cast film and sheet extrusion;
• Durable and tough;
• Ranging from flexible to rigid;
• Shelf stable;
• Heat and moisture resistant;
• Pending FDA clearance for use in non-alcoholic food contact applications, from frozen food storage and microware reheating to boiling water up to 212 degrees F. The pending clearance will include products such as house-wares, cosmetics and medical packaging.

Environmental Aspects:

• Feedstock: Poly Hydroxy Alkanoate (PHA) polymer made through a patented process for microbial fermentation of plant-derived sugar. PHA is unique in that it represents the only class of polymers that are converted directly by microorganisms from feedstock to the polymetric form—no additional polymerizations steps being required.
• Complies with EN 13432 and ASTM D 6400 Standards for industrial biodegradability and compostability; complies with ASTM D 7081 Standard for marine biodegradation; received Vincotte OK Compost Home certification; and, received Vincotte OK Biodegradable in Soil certification. The rate and extent of its biodegradability will depend on the size and shape of the articles made from it.
• There is no post consumer or post industrial market for this resin. However, in principal, film is readily recyclable.

PLA:

Typical physical properties:

• Acceptable for use in food-contact packaging;
• Good clarity but can haze with introduction of stress;
• PLA sheet is relatively brittle at room temperature; however, the toughness of the material increases with orientation and therefore thermoformed articles are less brittle than PLA sheet.
• PLA is frequently thermoformed using forming ovens, molds and trim tools designed for PET or PS; however, PLA has a lower softening temperature and thermal conductivity than PET or PS, which results in longer cooling time in the mold for PLA vs. PET or PS.
• Exposure to high temperatures and humidity during shipping or storage can adversely affect the performance and appearance of resin.
• At temperatures below its glass transition point, PLA is as stable as PET.

Environmental Aspects:

• Feedstock: Polylactide or Polylactic Acid (PLA) is a synthetic, aliphatic polyester from lactic acid; lactic acid can be industrially produced from a number of starch or sugar containing agricultural products.
• Derived 100% from annually renewable resources like corn.
• PLA resin complies with EN 13432 and ASTM D 6400 Standards for industrial biodegradability and compostability; however, after conversion, said Standards no longer apply.
• There is no post consumer or post industrial market for this resin. However, several recycling methods can be applied to waste PLA. Concern has been voiced that PLA is contaminating the PET bottle recycling infrastructure.
• Competition between human food, industrial lactic acid and PLA production is not to be expected.

PLA & starch-based product

Typical physical properties:

• Only available in one color and opacity due to the natural ingredients changing in color and intensity; known to have black or brown specs in or on the sheet due to said natural ingredients.
• Good impact strength;
• Demonstrates superior ink receptivity over petroleum based products;
• Heat sensitive; therefore, care must be taken when shipping, handling, storage, printing and further processing this material.

Environmental Aspects:

• Feedstock: PLA polymer is a major ingredient; however, through a supply partner, this material incorporates next generation technology of modifying PLA polymer with plant/crop based starches along with natural mineral binders to enhance its impact.
• Made by an EPA Green Power Partner with 100% renewable energy.
• Complies with EN 13432 and ASTM D 6400 Standards for industrial biodegradability and compostability.
• There is no post consumer or post industrial market for this resin. However, in principal, this film is readily recyclable.

Now, check out the comparative below: price is not literally dollar amounts but an internal calculation we have determined to allow you to contextualize the fluctuating prices with different resins.

Bio Resin Show N Tell Comparative
Spec Sheet

Resin $ Comparative Heat Deflection @ 264 PSI Density/Yield

PVC
(clear) 0.050 140-170 F 19.67

HIPS
(opaque) 0.048 170-205 F 26.30

HDPE
(opaque) 0.042 180 F (@66 PSI) 28.85

RPET,
100% PC
(clear) 0.057 150 F 21.00

Cellulous Acetate
(clear) 0.261 125-225 F 23.00

PLA
(clear) 0.049 105 F (@ RH 50%) 22.30

PLA + starch
(opaque) 0.059 127 F 22.10

PHA
(opaque) 0.117 212 F 21.40

Sorry the columns got all jacked, but I think you get the picture.

Alright, this is going to be my last post until after Pack Expo. I wish everyone a fab Halloween weekend and a successful Show, for both exhibitors and attendees.

If any of you, my packaging and sustainability friends, are coming to Pack Expo, PLEASE stop by Dordan’s booth E-6311; I would really love to meet you, my anonymous followers, and I know all the good blues bars in Chicago!

And, isn’t it exciting—I learned how to integrate links into my blog—neato!

Tootles!

Hello and happy Friday!

And we are back on recycling!

Below is my summary of the Association of Post Consumer Recyclers’ Design for Recyclabilty Guidelines for beverage bottles. The APR does a great job, so I suggest reading the whole report here:

 http://www.plasticsrecycling.org/technical_resources/design_for_recyclability_guidelines/index.asp

For a play-by-play, however, check out my summary below. I feel as though a similar document must be created for PET thermoforms if we ever intend on integrating them into the PET bottle recycling infrastructure. By having PET thermoform Design for Sustainability Guidelines, we could work towards overcoming a lot of the obstacles currently sited as deterrents for the inclusion of said packaging in the PET bottle recovery scheme, like the “look-a-like” syndrome, additives and barriers, adhesives, etc. I honestly see a lot of overlay between these Design Guidelines for PET bottles and my conception of what the Design Guidelines would be for PET thermoforms.

Enjoy!

The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers

Design for Recyclability Program, Summary

Objective of Guidelines: “To assist plastic bottle designers and fabricators in constructing bottles for specific product applications that are compatible with the broadest range of recycling operations and to enhance the quality and quantity of postconsumer plastic packaging materials” (APR, p. 2).

Design for Recyclability Guidelines, Overview:

  1. Reclamation:
    1. The two most important factors in all reclamation operations are yield and quality.
    2. Any attachment to a plastic bottle, such as closures, closure liners, base cups, inserts, labels, pour spouts, handles, sleeves, safety seals, coatings and layers can impact the recovery rates of the base resin i.e. the resin the bottle is made from, by reducing yield and increasing recycling costs.
    3. These attachments, when not compatible with the base resin being recovered, represent a significant cost to the processor in terms of separation, recovery and waste disposal, and can have an adverse affect on the quality of the PCR produced (APR, p. 7).

Average Reclaimer Yield Values

BOTTLE TYPE                                                                                BASE RESIN YIELD (%)

Two-piece PET soda bottles (w/base cup)                                         65-75 (PET)

One-piece PET soda bottles & custom PET bottles                       75-85 (PET)

Natural HDPE bottles (e.g., milk, water)                                           85-95 (HDPE)

Pigmented HDPE bottles (e.g., soap, detergent)                          75-85 (HDPE)

PVC bottles                                                                                                                  85-92 (PVC)

PP bottles                                                                                                                        85-95 (PP)

Granulation & Air Classification:

    1. Granulation & air classification are generally the first steps in the reclamation process. Following sorting by resin type, whole bottles are ground to a particular size that best suits the reclamation process…Most granulation systems employ an air classifying technique to separate “light” materials such as labels from the heavier base resin being recovered.
    2. Granulation loosens plastic and paper labels and begins to free other attachments that might be on a bottle. Excess glue on labels or attachments has a detrimental impact on granulation and “lights” removal. This increases the cost of reclamation by decreasing the wash cycle yield (APR, p. 8).
  1. Washing:
    1. Washing the ground flake is the next step in most reclamation operations.
    2. Labels, label inks, adhesives, base cups, closures, closure liners, inserts, layers, coatings, or other attachments that may be present in or on the bottle affect washing efficiency and effectiveness.
    3. Labels, labels inks and label adhesives should all be chosen carefully in order not to cause the base resin to be adversely affected.
    4. Labels can contaminate the base resin material; label inks can bleed into the wash water tinting the PCR product; and, label adhesives that can’t be removed can coat the plastic regrind and embed unwanted contaminates.
    5. Adhesives used to affix other attachments can be difficult to remove and should be applied sparingly (APR, p. 8).
  2. Separation
    1. Most conventional reclamation systems use waster in sink/float by hydrocyclone systems to separate the base resin from attachments and contaminants based on differences in the density of the different materials used. 
    2. Plastic resins with densities greater than 1.0 can be separated from resins with densities less than 1.0 in water. However, resins with similar or overlapping densities are difficult to separate in these systems. For example, resins with densities greater than 1.0 cannot be easily separated from each other i.e. PVC from PET.
    3. It is therefore important when selecting plastic resins for attachements or components in a bottle design to avoid any such overlap, or to make them from the same base resin in the same color as the bottle (APR, p. 8).

Density Range of Key Plastics and Closure Materials

MATERIAL                                                                                           DENSITY (g/cc)

PP                                                                                                             0.90 – 0.92

LDPE                                                                                                        0.91 – 0.93

HDPE                                                                                                        0.94 – 0.96

PET                                                                                                           1.35 – 1.38

PLA                                                                                                           1.24 – 1.27

PVC                                                                                                          1.32 – 1.42

PS                                                                                                             1.03 – 1.06

Aluminum                                                                                                        ~2.10

PET bottles (Carbonated Beverage, Water, and Custom Bottles):

  1. Color:
    1. Unpigmented PET has the highest value and the widest variety of end-use applications.
    2. Transparent, green tinted bottles have the next highest value.
    3. Transparent light blue bottles are often included with green or clear streams successfully.
    4. PET bottles with other transparent tinted colors may have limited recycling value and may be considered contaminants by many PET reclaimers.
    5. The use of translucent and opaque color is problematic for many recycled PET end uses because of contamination. In particular, Ti02 is very detrimental to PET recycling for bottle-to-bottle and engineered resin uses.
    6. Inclusion of nucleating agents, hazing agents, fluorescers, and other additives for visual and technical effects should be examined specifically by the reclaiming industry for impact on the overall plastic bottle recycling stream (APR, p. 11).
  2. PVC Attachments:
    1. The use of PVC attachments of any kind on PET bottles is undesirable and should be scrupulously avoided. These attachments generally include, but are not limited to closures, closure liners, labels, sleeves, and safety seals. Very small amounts of PVC can severely contaminate and render large amounts of PET useless for most recycling applications.
    2. In addition, PVC is very difficult to separate from PET in conventional water-based density separation systems, due to similar densities that cause both to sink in these systems (APR, p. 11).
  3. Closures/Closure Liners:
    1. Plastic closures made from polypropylene are preferred to all others, as they are most easily separated from the bottle in conventional separaton systems and create an ancillary stream of recyclable material.
    2. Closter systems that contain no liners and leave no residual rings, or other attachments, on the bottle after the closure is removed are also preferred.
    3. While the use of EVA closer liners in plastic closures is acceptable to many reclaimers, EVA liners can cause contamination problems when used in aluminum closures.
    4. Although tolerated by many reclaimers, the use of aluminum closures should be avoided, as they are more difficult to separate from PET bottles compared to the preferred closure systems (PP, HDPE, LDPE) and add both capital and operating costs to conventional reclamation systems.
    5. Closures made from PS or thermoset plastics are undesirable and should be avoided.
    6. Silicone polymer closure parts are discouraged as they may present significant technical problems in the process of recycling and to the usefulness of the recycled plastic (APR, p. 12).
  4. Sleeves & Safety Seals:
    1. The use of tamper-resistant or tamper-evident sleeves or seals is discouraged as they can act as contaminants if they do not completely detach from the bottle, or are not easily removed in conventional separation systems.
    2. If sleeves or safety seals are used, they should be designed to completely detach from the bottle, leaving no remains on the bottle.
    3. The use of PVC sleeves or safety seals should be avoided.
    4. Foil safety seals that leave foil remnants or attaching adhesive on the PET bottle should be avoided (APR, p. 12).
  5. Labels:
    1. PP, OPP, PE, or other label materials that float in the water are preferred to all other label materials.
    2. Shrink labels with perforations to facilitate separation from bottles are the preferred label systems.
    3. Label materials should not delaminate in the reclaimer’s wash system.
    4. Paper labels are undesirable and should be avoided as they increase contamination in the PET due to fiber and adhesive carry-over through the reclamation process.
    5. Metallized labels increase contamination and separation costs and should be avoided.
    6. In general, the use of plastic labels with a specific gravity of less than 1.0 are preferable for easy removal in conventional water-based density separation systems (APR, p. 12).
  6. Inks and Adhesives:
    1. Some label inks bleed color when agitated in hot water and can discolor PET regrind in the reclaimation process, diminishing or eliminating its value for recycling.
    2. Pressure sensitive labels should be water soluble or dispersible at temperatures between 140 to 180 degrees F in order to be removed in conventional washing and separation systems.
    3. The use of other adhesive types is discouraged and should be avoided.
    4. Adhesive usage and surface area covered should be minimized to the greatest extend possible to maximize PET yield and avoid contamination (APR, p. 13).
  7. Direct Printing/Decoration:
    1. Presently, all direct printing other than date coding, either for product labeling or decoration, contaminates recycled PET in conventional reclamation systems and should be avoided. The inks used in direct printing may bleed ink or otherwise discolor the PET during processing, or introduce incompatible containments. In either case, the value of the PET for recycling is diminished or eliminated (APR, p. 13).
  8. Barrier Layers, Coatings & Adhesives:
    1. Some PET bottle designs require the use of barrier layers, coatings or additives to meet the requirements of specific product applications.
    2. Additives to PET bottles, including scavengers, which cause the PET to discolor and/or haze after re-melting and solid stating, should be avoided unless means are readily and economically available to minimize the effects.
    3. Blends of PET and other resins are undesirable unless they are compatible with PET recycling.
    4. The use of non-PET layers and coatings are undesirable and should be avoided, unless they are compatible with PET or are easily separated from PET in conventional recycling systems.
    5. The use of EVOH, nylon-based, epoxies, amorphous or “diamond-like” carbon, and silicon oxide barrier layers or coatings is currently tolerated be most reclaimers provided the layers-coatings readily separate and can be isolated or have been shown not to be a problem for the reclaiming process.
    6. The use of degradable additives may result in shortening the useful life of the bottles of which they are a part and therefore affect the ability of such bottles to be recycled.
    7. Degradable additives should not be used without an evaluation confirming that their expected use will not materially impair the full service life and properties, including successful recycle and durability, for the next use of the recycled bottle (APR, p. 13).
  9. Base cups/Adhesives:
    1. The use of base cups is undesirable and should be avoided, as they reduce PET yield and increase separation costs.
    2. If base cups are used, the use of unfilled HDPE or clear PET is preferred to all other materials.
    3. The use of other adhesive types is discouraged and should be avoided (APR, p. 14).
  10. Other Attachments:
    1. The use of any other attachment is discouraged.
    2. If any other attachments to a bottle are used, they should be made from HDPE or clear PET.
    3. The use of RFID’s on bottles, labels or closures is discouraged and should be avoided unless they are compatible with PET recycling and are demonstrated not to create any disposal issues based on their material content (APR, p. 14).
  11. Non-detaching Components:
    1. The use of non-detaching bottle components, including monomers, which are not made from PET, must either be compatible with or easily separated from PET in conventional recycling streams (APR, p. 15).

And for fun, below I have attached my most recent understanding of what needs to be determined if we wish to recycle PET thermoforms.

YAY!

Action Plan:

  • Because the demand for PET recyclate exceeds the supply thereby driving up costs for said recyclate, the collection and therefore supply of PCR PET must be increased to facilitate the continued usage thereof.
  • According to a contact, the collection and therefore supply of PET recyclate could be increased as follows:
    • Incorporating PET thermoforms into the existing PET bottle recycling infrastructure;
    • Limit the amount of PET recyclate leaving the country;
    • Impose bottle deposit legislation.

This action plan focuses on the first suggestion; that is, incorporating PET thermoforms into the existing PET bottle recycling infrastructure:

  • We must determine if it is feasible to recycle PET bottles and PET thermoforms together;
  • If feasible, we must determine who is collecting PET thermoforms with bottles for recycling and at what quantities;
  • We must determine what specs exist for mixed PET thermoform and bottle bales;
  • We must determine where these mixed PET thermoform and bottle bales are going i.e. what is the end market of this recyclate?
  • We must determine what sorting technologies are necessary for the separation of PET thermoforms from “look-a-likes;”
  • We need to create local markets for mixed PET bottle and thermoform recyclate.

If it is not feasible to recycle PET thermoforms with bottles, we must determine if it is economically feasible to create a new stream of thermo-grade PET recyclate.

  • We must determine at what quantities, the recycling of PET thermoforms is economically sustainable;
  • We must determine who is collection PET thermoforms for recycling and at what quantities;
  • We must determine what specs exist for PET thermoform-only bales;
  • We must determine what sorting technologies are necessary to isolate PET thermoforms from other “look-a-likes;”
  • We need to create local markets for PET thermoform recyclate.

That’s all for today my packaging and sustainability friends.

But get excited: Yesterday I spoke with the Education Directory of the U.S. Composting Council about what kind of compost would work best for us; he put me in contact with a woman who has been down the zero-waste road before, so expect a lot of good content to come. As a teaser, think waste audits…oh boy!

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!

Hello world!

So Canada is awesome. Toronto has the most amazing waste management system EVER. Check it:

You have to pay depending on the size of your garbage can; the bigger the can, the more you pay.

The result: tiny garbage cans and huge recycling bins.

Monetary incentive facilitating public action? I think so!

AND they have a bin for organic waste.

AND they provide bags for “electronic waste.”

So, unlike me, who, upon discovering a facility in the far South side of Chicago accepted electronic waste, drove around and around trying to locate said facility, local Torontonians simply place their e-waste in the wonderfully provided designated bag. What a life!

So yeah, it was really cool to see how waste is managed in Canada, which has some EPR legislation in place. I don’t know who is making money, if any, off the system (usually costs municipalities money to recycle), but something is definitely working right…

Here is what I learned; get excited!

It is in fact very possible to recycle PET thermoforms and bottles TOGETHER!!!!! So, all those who articulated reasons why the two packaging types were incompatible for remanufacturing together (i.e. different IVs, melting temps, molecular length, etc.) were misinformed! Hurray! And the clamshell recycling initiative rises from its grave!

This is positively wonderful news. If we can recycle PET thermoforms with PET bottles, than the value of the recyclate will remain higher than if PET thermoforms were recycled with other plastic materials, thereby constituting a low-grade plastic mix. From what I understand, bottle-grade PET is the highest grade, or enjoys the most inherent value. If PET thermoforms are made out of bottle-grade PET like ours are (supplier-certified 100% PCR PET), then they TOTALLY can be baled with PET bottles and sold together for remanufacturing into any of the following: new RPET bottles (more expensive reprocessing, need to clean resin for FDA-certified food compliance), new RPET thermoforms, any polyester-based fiber application, plastic strapping, and a TON of other products.

AND I spoke with a gentleman that runs a MRF and he concluded that they do collect and bale PET bottles and PET thermoforms together for market. AWSOME.

I wonder how much of these mixed PET bales are generated…?

I wonder what the specs of the mixed bales are…?

However, a working industry group recently conducted a pilot to test the integrity of these mixed bottle and thermoform bales and concluded that the adhesives used on labels on PET thermoforms compromised the recycled material. While I am a little hazy on the details, it was reported that the recycled material was unacceptable for market because of the adhesives, which are considered a “contaminant” to the overall integrity of the recyclate. Soooooooo I guess what this means is that:

  1. PET bottles and clamshells can be recycled together; yippee!
  2. Packaging suppliers need to begin to design thermoform PET packaging “for recycling.” While the APR has guidelines for designing bottles for recycling, no guidelines exist for designing thermoforms for recycling. Such guidelines could suggest things like:
    1. The adhesive used for binding labels and other marketing information to PET thermoforms needs to be X or can’t be Y or something to that effect.

I am looking forward to learning more about the results of this pilot; it is just so cool that people are interested in this, too. And here I thought I was all alone…

After speaking with another gentleman who knew a thing or two about a thing or two, I understand the current climate of recycling in North America to be as follows:

There is a HUGE demand for PET recyclate from bottlers, brand owners, and CPGs; however, there is not enough SUPPLY due to limited collection. This supply and demand disproportion can be solved, perhaps, by implementing the following actions:

  • Implement bottle deposit programs/legislation—this would provide consumers with an economic incentive to recycle their PET bottles.
  • Incorporate PET thermoform packages into the PET bottle recycling infrastructure. I like this oneJ.
  • Limit the amount of PET bales that are exported each year.

The ACC estimates that 400 million pounds of a particular plastic needs to be generated in order for the recycling of it to be profitable. According to Plasticstoday.com, 1.4 billion lbs of PET thermoforms were generated in North America in 2008. This implies that PET thermoform bales could constitute a recycling steam all on their own, without piggy-backing on PET bottles. However, perhaps it’s easier to integrate them into the existing PET bottle recycling infrastructure than create a new stream of PCR PET, thermoform grade? Now I just don’t know…

Tomorrow is my birthday and this Saturday is my sister’s wedding! Therefore, I will be unbloggable until early next week. But stay tuned, there is a ton of interesting stuff I need to report to you!

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!

Happy Friday! This Saturday is my sister’s bachelorette party at Cuvee in Chicago, which is a super posh champagne lounge. I will let you know if I see any celebrities!

So I FINALLY finished my work on PET recycling for a Canadian retailer, which is good, as I leave on Tuesday!

Check it out! It’s sort of a lot, and it’s really detailed, so sorry if I bore you! Oh, and it’s broken into a couple different sections:

  1. Summary of a super huge document titled, “Best Practices and Industry Standards in PET Recycling.”
  2. Supply and demand of PET bottles post consumer, North American context.
  3. Supply and demand of PET thermoforms post consumer, North American context.
  4. Interview with StewardEdge and Stewardship Ontario’s Plastics Market Developer.
  5. Case studies of PET recycling, bottle to bottle, bottle to thermo, and thermo to bottle.

Seriously, this is the post of all posts! And when I copied and pasted my report into the Blog software, it messed up my outline–sorry!

Chandler Slavin, Dordan Mfg.

Summary of “Best Practices and Industry Standards in PET Plastic Recycling”

  1. PET recycling, history, American context:
    1. St. Jude, 1976—recycled PET bottles into plastic strapping and paint brush bristles.
    2. St. Jude, 1997—first to repelletize PCR PET plastic, which is important for PET remanufacturing companies.
    3. Wellman, Inc., 1978— began recycling PET bottles into a fiber product that was suitable for both carpet and fiber applications.

                                                               i.      Wellman continued to increase its use of recycled PET and throughout the 1980s and early 1990s increased their processing capacity and consequentially the market demand for post-consumer PET.

                                                             ii.      1993—first textile fiber manufactured from 100% RPET.

  1. Today, St. Jude and Wellman are joined by a dozen other companies, whose combined PET recycling processing capacity produces over ½ billion pounds of recycled PET resin annually.
  2. With advances in PET recycling technology, it is now possible to ‘close the loop’ by recycling bottles back into bottles, even in some food-contact packaging.

                                                               i.      There are three generic types of food-contact packaging applications/processes for which the use of PCR PET has been issued letters of non-objection (from the FDA, certifying applicability for direct-food content).

  1. Depolymerization processes that chemically break down PET plastic into its component chemicals, which are then repolymerized and made into new PET food contact packages;
  2. Multi-layer or laminated food-contact containers where PCR PET is combined with a virgin PET layer;
  3. And, full-contact food packaging containers where 100% PCR PET is used.
  4. Food-contact packaging applications are one of the largest uses of PET plastic resin in the United States. The ability to recycle these food-contact packages back into new PET food-contact packages will help ensure the long-term viability of PET plastic recycling and the ability to avoid the use of virgin PET in food contact packaging manufacturing.
  5. How PET bottles get recycled, American context
    1. Collection:

                                                               i.      Returnable Container Legislation or Bottle Bills, which establish redemption value on non-alcoholic beverage containers. These containers, when returned by the consumer for the redemption value, facilitate recycling by aggregating large quantities of recyclable materials at beverage retailers and wholesalers to be collected by recyclers, while providing the consumer with an economic incentive to return the PET bottles and containers. Currently, 10 States have enacted some form of this legislation.

                                                             ii.      Curb-side collection: Generally the most convenient for community residents to participate in and yield high recovery rates as a result.

  1. Communities that provide curb-side recycling generally request residents to separate the designated recyclables from their household garbage and place them into special recepticles, which are then set at curb for collection by municipal or municipal-contracted crews.
  2. Some communities allow their residents to comingle recyclables, that is, mix recyclable materials of different kinds into the same receptacle.
  3. Others require some level of material segregation, known as “source separation.”
  4. Some curbside recycling collection programs use compaction vehicles to collect designated recyclables. While this will yield greater amounts of material on a collection route than collecting materials loose and placing them in non-compaction vehicles, there is a greater possibility of introducing contaminants to the PET recycling process.

                                                            iii.      Drop-off recycling: Containers for designated recyclable materials are placed at central collections locations throughout the community, such as parking lots, churches, schools, etc. Residents are requested to deliver their recyclables to the drop-off location, where recyclables are separated my material type into their respective collection containers. Drop-off centers require much less investment to establish he curbside program, yet do not offer the convenience of curbside collection.

                                                           iv.      Buy-back centers: Most buy-back centers are operated by private companies; however, communities provide incentives through legislation or grants and loan programs that can assist in the establishment of buy-back centers for their residents. Buy-back centers pay consumers for recyclable materials that are brought to them. Most have purchasing specifications that require consumers to source separate recyclable material brought for sale. These specs reduce contamination and allow the buy-back center to immediately begin processing the recyclables they purchase, while providing consumers with an economic incentive to comply with the specs.

  1. How PET bottles are sorted and prepared for sale:

                                                               i.      After collection, each subsequent step in the recycling process adds value to the PC PET and puts it into marketable form for other processors and end users that will use them to manufacture new products.

                                                             ii.      The amount and type of sorting and processing required will depend upon purchaser specifications and the extent to which consumers separate recyclable materials of different types and remove contaminates.

                                                            iii.      Collected PET bottles are delivered to a MRF or a plastic intermediate processing facility (IPC) to begin the recycling process. The value of the PC PET and its ability to be economically manufactured into new products is dependent on the QUALITY of the material as it passes through the recycling process.

                                                           iv.      MRFS accept commingled curbside collected recyclables and separate them into their respective material categories. PET bottles are separated from other recyclables and baled for sale to IPC, plastic recycling facilities, or reclaimers. There are two types of sorting systems used at plastics recycling facilities:

  1. Manual sorting systems= rely on plant personnel who visibly identify and physically sort plastic bottles traveling over a conveyor belt system.
    1. Studies indicate that trained inspectors are capable of sorting 500 to 600 pounds of PET per hour and are more than 80% effective at identifying and removing PVC from the line.
    2. The use of ultraviolet light helps manual sorting systems remove PVC (yellow or green when exposed to UV) from PET (blue when exposed to UV).
    3. Manual sorting systems are generally one of two types—positive or negative sort systems.

                                                                                                                                                                                      i.      Positive= PET bottles are removed from a stream of plastic containers being carried over a conveyor system.

  1. When PET bottles are removed in a positive sort, there are either fed directly into a granulator or onto a second conveyor system that feeds into a granulator.
  2. Positive sort systems are considered best in generating highest quality materials.
  3. However, they may not always result in the most efficient system as positive sorts are generally more time consuming than negative sorts.

                                                                                                                                                                                  ii.      Negative= PET bottles are left on the conveyor system and unwanted materials are removed from the conveyor line.

  1. Negative sort systems work well if materials have been “presorted” into specific categories.
  2. The choice between positive and negative sort systems will depend on program budget and the supply characteristics of the incoming material.
  3. Automated sorting systems= employ a detection, or combination of collection systems, that analyze one or more properties of the plastic bottles passing through and automatically sorts these plastic into several categories, either by resin type, color, or both.
    1. Auto-sort systems are increasingly used at the intermediate processing level and even more extensively by reclaimers and end-users to obtain contaminant free streams of PET bottles for subsequent processing.
    2. Most auto-sort technologies employ some type of detection signal that can differentiate plastic bottles based on chemical or physical characteristics when that signal is detected and analyzed by a sensor.
    3. There are three different types of detection systems:

                                                                                                                                                                                     i.      Optical sorting systems= use visible light to separate plastic bottles by color. This is called near infrared (NIR).

  1. NIR detection signals pass completely through the scanned plastic bottle and can detect bottles that are shielded by other bottles when passing over the sensor.
  2. An advantage to NIR is their ability to detect multi-layer and composite container structures. Some of these pose contamination problems in the PET recycling process and are difficult to identify.
  3. NIR signals can scatter inside flattened bottles, which prevents the signal from being read by the sensor, causing the container to be ejected.

                                                                                                                                                                                    ii.      Transmission technologies= a signal passes directly through the bottle and is read by a sensor on the other side of the bottle; each plastic resin has a characteristic response to the signal based on its unique chemical composition. This is called X-ray transmission (XRT).

  1. Ignores labels and other surface contaminants that can lead to false readings with other detection systems.
  2. Also can read the chemical content of bottles when stuck together when bales are packed too densely.
  3. Drawback= flattened bottles can scatter the detection beam, which prevents the sensor from getting a reading on the other side.

                                                                                                                                                                                iii.      Surface scanning devices= the signals bounce off the surface of the bottle and are reflected back to the sensor for identification; each plastic resin has its own response. When a sensor detects what it is looking for, it will generally activate an air jet that will eject or direct the item it has positively identified. This is called X-ray fluorescence (XRF).

  1. Limitation= all surface scanning technologies will not detect a PVC bottle that is shielded from the signal by another bottle; therefore, it will not detect a PVC bottle that is stick to a PET bottle as it passes over the sensor.
  2. Also, surface scanning signals might be affected by surface contaminates like labels and caps and make cause PET bottles to be incorrectly ejected.
  3. The current state-of-the-art in auto-sort technology combines several types of sensors to provide multiple sorting functions for streams of commingled plastic resin types.

                                                             v.      PET bottles are sorted from other plastic containers at PRFs and, in most cases, further processed by color and sorting and granulating PET for shipment to reclaimers as “dirty” regrind.

  1. Dirty regrind from PRFs is then sent to reclaimers that process PC PET plastic into a form that can be used by converters.
  2. Converters process the recycled PET into a commodity-grade form that can be used by end-users to manufacture new products.
  3. At a reclaiming facility, the dirty flake passes through a series of sorting and cleaning stages to separate PET from other materials that may be contained on the bottle or from other contaminants that may be present.
    1. First, regrind material is passed through an “air classifier,” which removes materials lighter than PET such as plastic or paper labels and “fines” –very small PET particle fragments that are produced during granulating.
    2. The flakes are then washed with a special detergent in a “scrubber.” This step removes food residue that might remain on the inside surface of the PET bottles, glue that is used to adhere labels to the PET bottles, and any dirt.
    3. Next, the flakes pass through what is known as a “float/sink” classifier. During this process, PET flakes, which are heavier than water, sink in the classifier, while base cups made from HDPE and caps and rings made from PP, both of which are lighter than water, float to the top.
    4. The ability of the float/sink stage to yield pure PET flake is dependent upon the absence of any other plastic that might also be heavier than water and sink with PET.
    5. After they are dried, the PET flakes pass through what is known as an electrostatic separator, which produces a magnetic field to separate PET flake from any aluminum that may be present.
    6. Some reclaimers use x-ray separation devices for PVC removal, or optical sorting devices to remove other contaminants.
    7. The purity level to which PET flakes are processed depends on the end-use application for which they are intended.
    8. Once these processing steps have been completed, the PET plastic is now in a form known as “clean flake.” In some cases, reclaimers will further process the clean flake in a “repelletizing stage,” which turns the flake to pellet.

                                                           vi.      Clean flake/pellets are sold to the remanufacturer.

  1. Contamination issues, overview:
    1. Contamination reduces the value of recyclable PET by hindering processing and causing unproductive downtime and clean up expenses for PET processors, reclaimers and end-users.
    2. PET bottles can get confused with food and liquid containers that are made from other plastic resins that post major contamination problems for the PET recycling process.
    3. Some PET bottles are manufactured with barrier resins, closures, labels, safety seals, or contain product residues that can introduce incompatible materials than contaminate PET recycling process.
    4. Many materials that pose contamination problems for PET recycling are contained on the PET bottle itself. Therefore, there are a number of design elements that can be implemented that significantly increase the efficiency and reduce the cost of the PET recycling process. These design for recycling efforts have been aimed at reducing the impact of such materials as labels, the adhesives used to affix them and the inks used to print them.

IV.  PVC contamination:

  1. The primary contaminate to the PET recycling process is PVC; it can form acids when mixed with PET during processing. These acids break down the physical and chemical structure of PET, causing it to turn yellow and brittle. This will render the material inacceptable for many high-value end use applications. There are four primary sources of PVC contaminates that can enter the PET recycling process:

                                                               i.      PVC look-alikes= PVC bottles that resemble PET bottles.

                                                             ii.      PVC safety seals that are used on certain containers, like mouthwash.

                                                            iii.      PVC liners found inside some caps and closures.

                                                           iv.      PVC labels that are affixed to some PET containers.

  1. The sensitivity of PET to PVC contamination is based on the ultimate end-use application for which the recycled PET is intended, but in general the tolerance for PVC contamination is extremely low. The negative impacts of PVC contamination can occur with concentrations as low as 50 parts per million.
  2. Other resins:
    1. The presence of resins other than PET may also post problems with processing and remanufacturing PET.
    2. The presence of closures may introduce plastics other than PVC that may contaminate the PET recycling process or add separation costs. In addition, some closures are made from aluminum, which can pose problems for some PET reclaimers and end-users or increase cleaning costs.
    3. There are also a growing number of PET containers and other PET packaging materials which are marked with the SPI # 1 resin ID code that pose a number of problems to PET reclaimers. In some cases these containers are manufactured with modified PET plastic resins or in laminated forms that contain barrier resins that are either incompatible with the recycling of “bottle grade” PET plastic resin, or are difficult to distinguish from acceptable materials with current sorting technology.
    4. These modified PET resins may have physical or chemical properties that make them incompatible with ‘bottle grade’ PET resin during the recycling process. However, very few of these modified PET resins are used to manufacture bottles with screw-neck tops. This is why many recycling programs that collect PET plastic will only requires PET bottles with screw-necks.

                                                               i.      PET Microwave trays= these are manufactured from crystallized PET, known as CPET, and are incompatible with bottle grade PET resin and must be excluded.

                                                             ii.      PET drinking glasses, “Clamshells” and “Blister packs”= drinking glasses are manufactured from APET and not compatible with PET bottle recycling stream; PET clamshells and PET blister packs, while TECHNICALLY COMPATIBLE with the recycling of bottle-grade PET, run into “look-alike” issues with other clamshells and blisters that are not made from PET.

                                                            iii.      PET laundry scoops= while technically it is possible to recycle PETE scoops with PET bottles if they are clear or transparent green, it is best to exclude them as many laundry scoops are opaque and may introduce contaminates due to pigmentation.

                                                           iv.      PERG= many custom PET bottles are now manufactured from PETG. PETG containers are manufactured differently than other PET containers and are generally known s extrusion-blown containers. PETG has a much lower melting point than bottle grade PET resin and can cause a number of technical and operating problems to PET reclaimers.

                                                             v.      Multi layer PET containers= an increasing number of PET containers are manufactured with multi-layer construction. Some of these containers are manufactured with a barrier resin known as ethyl vinyl alcohol (EVOH). The presence of EVOH is a problem for reclaimers as it effects the clarity of the finished product or can cause a change to the intrinsic viscosity (IV) of the recycled PET that renders it unacceptable for certain end-use applications. Like PETG, it is difficult to distinguish a multi-layer PET container from a single-layer PET container.

                                                           vi.      Colored PET= PET reclaimers and end users are generally only interested in clear and transparent green containers, as they have the best end-use applicability.

                                                          vii.      Labels= Some PET containers, including coffee containers, liquor bottles and mustard jars, may contain metalized labels that pose problems for some reclaimers.

VI.  Misc. considerations:

  1. Bale specifications= the lack of standardization and the resulting variability of the quality and content of baled post-consumer PET bottles adds economic costs to and limits the efficiency of the PET recycling process.
  2. Granulating= properly designed and maintained PET granulating systems will optimize quality, production efficiency and throughput, and general workplace safety.
  3. Dirty regrind specs: the quality requirements for PET regrind are far more demanding than for baled PET. And, the allowable levels of contamination in PET regrind are in the parts per million range. The quality of PET regrind is crucial to the efficiency and economics of subsequent PET recycling processing stages. Producing dirty regrind that meets the specific specifications will ensure the ability to market granulated PET.
  4. Baled PET= Properly stored bales help maintain the quality of prepared PC PET plastics prior to sale.
  5. PET regrind (dirty flake)= Properly stored boxes of PET regrind help maintain the quality of prepared PC PET regrind prior to sale and further processing and limit the economic losses associated with improper storage.
  6. Shipping/Truck loading, Receiving and Weight Determination= Properly loaded trucks of PET bales and boxes of PET regrind can ensure regulatory compliance with maximum legal shipping weights, lessen the possibility of contamination, and prevent costly material losses and clean-up expenses due to improper loading. Proper paperwork and weight verification for shipments can help reduce disputes over material quality or quantity.
  7. Generic end-use categories for recycled PET:
    1. Packaging applications, such as new bottles;

                                                               i.      This is one of the highest value end-uses for recycled PET

  1. Sheet and film applications, including thermoforming applications;
  2. Strapping;
  3. Engineered resins application (such as reinforced components for automobiles);
  4. And, fiber applications (such as carpets, fabrics, and fiberfill).
  5. Examples include:

                                                               i.      Belts, blankets, boat hulls, business cards, caps, car parts, carpets, egg cartons, furniture, insulation, landfill liners, overhead transparencies, paint brush bristles, pillows, polyester fabric for upholstery and clothes, recycling bins, sails, strapping, stuffing for winter jackets/sleeping bags/quilts, tennis ball cans, twine, etc.

  1. How to increase the recycling of PET bottles:
    1. Consumer educationàincreases quantity and quality of recyclable material; reduces contaminates included with recyclables.

                                                               i.      Only PET bottles with screw-neck tops should be placed out for collection or brought to a collection location. PET bottles can be identified by looking for the #1 resin ID on the bottle of PET bottles. Any non-bottle PET items, like thermoforms, should be excluded. These materials introduce contaminants or create technical or economic problems in the PET recycling process.

                                                             ii.      Only PET containers that are clear or transparent green should be included for recycling.

                                                            iii.      Consumers should remove lids, caps, and other closures from PET bottles placed out for recycling.

                                                           iv.      All PET bottles that are set out for recycling should be completely free of contents and rinsed clean.

                                                             v.      Consumer should flatten PET bottles prior to setting them out. This decreases collection costs.

                                                           vi.      Consumers should never place any material other than the original contents into PET bottles intended for recycling i.e. chemicals.

  1. Encourage consumers to purchase products made with recycled content; this will ensure the long-term demand and economic infrastructure for the recovery of post consumer PET.
  2. Encourage retailers to increase the amount of recycled content in their private label packaging.
  3. Encourage product producers to increase the amount of recycled content in their products.
  4. Encourage produce producers to source packaging with a percentage of PC content.
  5. Designate ALL PET bottles with screw-neck caps are acceptable for recycling.

Chandler Slavin, Dordan Mfg.

Supply and demand of PET bottles, North American context

  1. Supply:
    1. Although recyclers say finding bales of PCR material is easier than before, the QUALITY is way down (plasticstoday.com).

                                                               i.      Coca-Cola’s plant bottle capped its PCR PET content at 30% in North America, due to limited supply (plasticstoday.com).

                                                             ii.      Working to counter that is Leon Farahnik (see case studies).

  1.  
    1. 30,699 tones of PET bottles were generated in Canada from 1999 to 2000.
    2. 42% of PET bottles generated were recovered post-consumer.
  2. Demand:
    1. There is a high demand for PCR PET bottles in North America: “There is a phenomenal pent-up demand for PC PET recyclate…the problem now is getting it” (NAPCOR). 
    2. There are over 250 buyers of PET bottle bales in North America.
    3. Brand owners and product producers demand PCR PET for packaging and products.

Chandler Slavin, Dordan Mfg.

Supply and demand of PET thermoforms, North American context

  1. Supply:
    1. According to the ACC, about 325 million lbs of non-bottle plastic packaging was recycled in 2007, with 2/3rds being exported. The ACC estimates that there has to be about 400 million lbs of a particular plastic for the recycling of it to be profitable. APR estimates that in the U.S., grocery stores generate about 135,000 tonnes/year of rigid plastics packaging (plasticstoday.com).
    2. In the U.S., there is a tremendous interest in increasing the available supply of PCR from thermoformed PET packaging (plasticstoday.com).
    3. 1.4 billion lbs of PET thermoforms produced in North America in 2008 (plasticstoday.com).
    4. By 2011, thermoform PET recycling could be ½ the size of the PET bottle market as growth in PET thermoforms is estimated at 15% per year.

                                                               i.      This is because the substitution of PET with PVC in many thermoforming applications.  

  1. Confusion exists around the generation of PET thermoforms because ambiguous categories i.e. “other rigids” vs. “custom PET.” See “Plastic Waste Management Strategy for Ontario” handout from MOC meeting, #1.
  1. Demand:
    1. Demand for recyclate from PET bottles is “going through the roof,” which means many recyclers are hesitant to start recycling non-bottle PCR PET, for which there is no defined customer base.
    2. Retailers and product producers demand PCR plastic for use in products and packaging.
  2. Market drivers:
    1. Public policy
    2. Corporate initiatives i.e. retailer mandates a certain % of PCR content in plastic packaging.
    3. China

                                                               i.      Will China virgin continue to undercut the U.S.?

                                                             ii.      Will Chinese exporters rely on U.S. bottle scrap? 

  1. The cost of energy

                                                               i.      If the cost of fuel rises, there may be more interest in recovering PET thermoforms from the waste stream.

  1. Obstacles:
    1. Look-alike plastics like oriented polystyrene, polylactic acid and PVC containers that are difficult to sort from thermoformed PET packaging, either manually or in auto-sorting operations.
    2.  Adhesives used on pressure-sensitive paper labels are different from those used on PET bottles and could cause yellowing.
    3. Some direct printing.
    4. Different additives than in PET bottles.
    5.  Flake geometry concerns.
    6.  Wide variability in intrinsic viscosity. PET bottles= 0.64-0.80 vs. PET thermoforms= 0.70 -0.75 (according to our supplier of RPET).
    7. Different shapes and sizes of PET thermoforms make it difficult to bale and they don’t “fly” like bottles do during the sortation/ejection process.
    8. There are no specs for PET thermoform bales. The only specs that exist are for mixed material balesà this is usually a low grade plastic mix that is remanufactured into timber-applications or playgrounds.
    9. Multi-later material PET thermoforms i.e. APET barrier, RPET base, etc.
    10. Low generation and recovery because non-homogenous and no defined end-market.

Chandler Slavin, Dordan Mfg.

Interview with StewardEdge and Stewardship Ontario’s Director of Plastics Development

  • In 1/3 and soon to be 3/3 provinces in Canada, EPR legislation exists, which requires industry to fund the recovery of their packaging post-consumer; this DRIVES recycling in Canada.
  • Stewardship Ontario (hereafter, S.O.) is like the Fost Plus system of Belgium for Canada—it takes money from industry to cover the costs of reprocessing packaging waste post-consumer.  It has a monopoly on this right now insofar as it is the only company that works as the middle man between industry and municipalities; it collects materials via blue box system, sorts, cleans and grinds at MRFs, and is sold to domestic and international markets.
  • S.O. doesn’t really care how materials get recycled i.e. bottles to bottles vs. bottles to carpet; they care that materials are recycled.
  • PET thermoforms are collected and sold as follows:
    • PET and other rigid thermoforms are not targeted by municipalities in Canada.
    • Some municipalities collect rigids with bottles, which are baled together, and sold to China—this means that there is a market for mixed bottle and thermo bales.
    • However, things are being done on “numerous fronts” and we should see some results in a year in regard to developing new end markets for non-bottle rigids.
  • PET bottles are collected and sold as follows:
    • Collected via Blue Box system; enjoy high recovery rates.
    • There is a demand for PET bottles but not enough supply.
  • According to Guy, “there is an oversupply of recycling capacity for PET.
  • To increase the recovery of all plastic materials, S.O. is open to the following sortation systems:
    • Sort each resin manual or via optical sorter;
    • Blend the different resins together for a low-grade plastic mix;
    • Taylor the different resins via pyrolysis or other WTE technologies;
    • Upgrade the resins via chemical manipulation.
  • Problems with recovery thermoforms:
    • Lack of quantity;
    • Economic issues (price of virgin vs. price of recycled PET);
    • Sorting/technology barriers;
    • Lack of investment;
    • Lack of defined supply and demand.
  • Companies with an investment in packaging materials have invested 3 million dollars in S.O. to develop new markets for plastic scrap

Chandler Slavin, Dordan Mfg.

Case Studies

  1. Par-Pak LTD (Brampton, Canada): 
    1. In 2011, Par-Pak is importing $2.5 million worth of equipment from Europe that will palletize and decontaminate both bottle and thermoform PET for reuse in food-grade containers.
    2. Sorting tests have been conducted at Toronto’s Dufferin recycling plant and in the Region of Waterloo and the thermoform bales have been shipped to the U.S. for processing south of the border (Thermoforming Quarterly).
    3. “Our ultimate goal is to have our containers go into a blue box, collected, sorted and ground and us buy it and make more containers out of it.”
  2. Global Plastics/Global PET (California):
    1. Washes, grinds, extrudes, and thermoforms PET into clamshell packages using nothing but post-consumer recycled PET.
    2. “Bottle Box:” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRPYccEXt-8.
    3. Received a grant of nearly 7 million from the state of California.
    4. Established a 10-year partnership with Plastic Recycling Corp. for 60 million lbs of post-consumer PET bottles.
  3. Company X:
    1. Buy PET bottle and thermoform bales and extrude into second generation PCR PET clamshells.
    2. Questions:

                                                               i.      What are the specs of the bales of thermoforms Company X is buying from the MRF? Are they only PET thermoforms or are they mixed material thermoform bales?

                                                             ii.      If only PET thermoforms, is there enough QUANTITY of these types of packages available for the recovery of PET thermoforms to be economically sustainable?

                                                            iii.      How do they collect ONLY PET thermoforms without collecting “look a likes” like PVC, which will completely compromise the integrity of the PET bale, or PETG, which has a lower melting temperature and therefore adds inconsistencies to the recovery process?

                                                           iv.      Are you planning on integrating the PET thermoform scrap with the PET bottle scrap and extruding together? If so, how will you handle the different IVs between sheet grade PET and bottle grade PET?

                                                             v.      If mixed material thermoform bales i.e. PET, PETG, PP, etc., how are the different resins sorted for recovery? Are they blended together to create a low-grade, mixed resin flake for down-cycling applications? If so, who is buying this low-grade, mixed resin flake?

                                                           vi.      What kind of sorting technology is utilized to be able to generate a clean, quality stream of PET thermoforms for Company X to grind, clean, and extrude for direct food-contact packaging?

                                                          vii.      How are you competing with Asia for PCR PET?

  1. Ice River Springs (Toronto)
    1. Bottle-bottle recycling a.k.a. “closed loop.”
    2.  “Our goal is to eliminate our dependency on foreign virgin PET resin by self-manufacturing recycled resin from baled post-consumer plastic purchased from MRFs” (Packworld, April 2010).
    3. “AMUT S.p.A.”= technology that sorts, cleans, and flakes PC PET.
    4. “Starlinger”= technology implemented for the purification of the clean RPET material; it has a Solid State Poly-condensation technology that effectively purifies PET flake and keeps the energy consumption and cost to a minimum. The Starlinger system concerts flake to PET pellets, which are then used for the next generation of bottles.
    5. Ontario recyclers will no longer need to sell baled PET to Asiaàpurchase of baled PET will provide a stable demand for baled PET bottles in Canada.
  2. HPC, Leon Farahnik:
    1. Intends to build a 100 million lbs per year PET recycling plant in California because most PC PET is exported to China; Faraknik believes he can compete with Asia for PET bales.
    2. UNM International (Hong Kong) = purchased 140 million lbs of PCR plastics in 2009 from North America and the Middle East.
    3. Chinese recyclers can not find enough QUALITY recyclate.
    4. Problem= high demand for PET recyclate; how to get it?
  3. Haycore (Canada):
    1. Accepts some non-bottle plastic material post-consumer.
  4. Clear Path (North Carolina):
    1. A new facility that may have the ability to take RPET clamshell materials the other way (toward bottles, or at least polyester), but we wont know until the plant is live next year.

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!

Greetings world!

So today I got a little sidetracked. I stumbled on the following article on greenerpackage.com:

Paper media packaging for Kodak licensee removes 98% of plastic

KMG Digital, the exclusive worldwide distributor of licensed KODAK Media Products, including CDs, DVDs, VHS, and more, has introduced Eco-Friendly optical media packaging that is said to remove more than 98% of all plastic packaging components from the consumer waste stream. KMG Digital is launching 10 new Kodak-branded Eco-Friendly packs. The packaging is made of paper and includes 100%-recyclable storage containers that do not include PP or PS plastics. To further expand on this green initiative, KMG Digital has also reduced the environmental footprint of its optical media packaging for Kodak-branded recordable CDs and DVDs by using soy-based inks for package printing.

According to Mike Golacinski, KMG Digital President and CEO, “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. We’ve found a way to bring environmentally sustainable packaging to the category in a cost-efficient manner.”

Says Brad Yeager, director of marketing, “Paper and cardboard are the most efficient materials to recycle. Plastics are one of the least efficient due to sorting, overseas transportation, and re-melting. Many municipalities do not have the ability to recycle all the different types of plastic. Approximately 1,400 tons of polystyrene are deposited into landfills every day. KMG Digital wants to do our part to decrease waste.”

Wait a second…

“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.”

What the douce?

Granted I am a little defensive of plastic packaging because it’s my life-blood and granted there are some problems with our industry’s current approaches to disposing of plastic packaging, this statement makes me sad; it is totally misinformed!

Because I got into a bit of trouble months ago when I ruffled some industry-folks’ tail feathers due to my aggressive response to a similarily constructed anti-plastics article (see http://www.greenerpackage.com/source_reduction/kodak_opts_paperboard_package_over_clamshell_digital_camera),  I chose to send the CEO of KMG Digital a letter, instead of calling him out in a public forum, which apparently, is no bueno.

Here’s my letter; I hope its not pretentious or annoying!

Dear Mr. Michael Golacinski,

My name is Chandler Slavin and I am the Sustainability Coordinator at Dordan Manufacturing, which is a national manufacturer of custom designed plastic packaging. I just read an article on greenerpackage.com that discusses KMG Digital’s 10 new Kodak-branded Eco-friendly packs, which are made primarily from paper. In this article written by Anne Marie Mohan, you are quoted saying, “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.”

While initially I wanted to post a response to you on the greenerpackage.com website, I chose to contact you directly because I did not want to call you out in a public forum and make you uncomfortable. Additionally, as the CEO of KMG Digital, you are an important mouthpiece of the company and industry and therefore I wanted to educate you about sustainability and packaging so as to keep you from making misinformed comments in the future. That being said, shall we analyze the above statement, highlighted in bold?

First, your assumption that plastic packaging produces greenhouse gases is misplaced: Almost every product and service produces GHG equivalents during production and throughout its life cycle; however, when compared with paper production in the U.S., plastic production releases less GHG equivalents. According to the most recent Toxics Release Inventory data released by the U.S. E.P.A., pulp and paper production in 1996 generated 1,599,797,509 lbs of production-related waste i.e. Air emissions, water discharges, landfilling, etc. Please see the enclosed document titled, The Facts for more information on the GHG equivalents generated in paper production vs. plastic production.

Second, your 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, which implies that paper packaging does not often get recycled, contrary to popular belief. I have included a print out of this data from the E.P.A., for your information.

Please see the enclosed documents for more information about the sustainability of paper versus plastic in the context of packaging material procurement.

Regardless of my spicy comments, I really appreciate your attempts to do good by the environmet via changing your products’ packaging. I understand that packaging plays a very vocal role in communicating the values of a brand to the consumer and that “being green” is an important value to convey. 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.

Thank you for this oppurtunity to initiate a dialogue about sustainability and packaging. Please let me know if there is anything I can help you with going forward. Additionally, all of my research is available for free on our website, www.dordan.com. Check it out!

Best Wishes,

Chandler Slavin

While I am waiting for approval from my Superior to mail this letter along with some EPA data and The Facts, which makes an argument for plastic over paper in the context of sustainability (you can download The Facts at: http://www.dordan.com/sustainability_the_facts.shtml), I thought I would share it with you, my packaging and sustainability friends!

This sort of stuff drives me crazy! Being a super nerd, I dislike when anyone makes a claim that is based on assumption, rather than knowledge. Hopefully this gentleman will not be offended by this—the plastic propaganda must end, in my opinion, if we are ever going to engage in a serious and honest discussion about the environment and packaging.

Poo!

Tune in tomorrow for more exciting tid bits. And congratulations: It has been 44 days since the Gulf spill. Do you ever feel like the world is ending? Not to be mellow dramatic but seriously—we are all touting reducing emissions by some percent and here FUEL IS SPILLING INTO THE OCEAN AT AN INSANE FREQUENCY AND NO ONE WANTS TO PAY TO CLEAN IT UP. It sort of makes my job seem silly because everyone is obsessed that plastic comes from fossil fuel when obviously, said fossil fuel isn’t valuable enough to try and save…weird bears.

Tootles!

Recycling and…China?

June 1, 2010

Hello my packaging and sustainability friends! I am feeling tip top today after having a four-day hiatus from work: I slept, I swam, I sunbathed, I ate…good times. I hope you all had an equally relaxing Memorial Day weekend, too!

AND know what’s even weirder—I actually missed work. That’s right, I missed the act of being productive…go figure!

So my last post was a little all over the place. I do believe, however, that this article may tie it all together, which then gets me on another rant of sorts. First, observe:  

NAPCOR: US efforts to recycle falling short

By Mike Verespej | PLASTICS NEWS STAFF

Posted May 28, 2010

SONOMA, CALIF. (May 28, 10:45 a.m. ET) — Longtime plastics recycling advocate Dennis Sabourin said “bold steps” are needed to increase supplies of not just recycled PET bottles but all plastics and recycling materials.

The executive director of the National Association for PET Container Resources in Sonoma, Calif., and a former Wellman Inc. executive said it is time for extended producer-responsibility laws and eco-fees on products. Also needed are public-policy initiatives that provide funds for recyclers to create green jobs and for stakeholders to come together, in coalition-style, to advance the recycling of all materials.

Even with the green movement, Sabourin said, “recycling is still not a front-burner issue,” as it was in 1995, when the PET recycling rate climbed to nearly 40 percent. That rate plummeted to less than 20 percent by 2003 before rebounding in 2008 to 27 percent — based on the most recent numbers available.

 “Why not have a national initiative to divert some of the stimulus funds to recycling on a broad-based effort?” he asked. “That would create jobs in the United States.”

He called initiatives introduced by Vermont and Rhode Island, and the extended producer-responsibility law passed by Maine earlier this year, steps in the right direction. “They will not give us any immediate relief from a supply standpoint, but EPR will bear fruit down the road,” he said, noting that an EPR law in Canada has given recycling rates there a huge boost. Canada’s return/diversion rate for non-alcoholic beverage containers is 64 percent.

He said the biggest obstacle to more recycling is the lack of a concerted public policy to motivate consumers to recycle, a move that would create jobs.

 “There are plenty of materials out there and plenty of markets for those materials. We have to reach out and start working together to get more materials collected,” he said.

For the full article, visit http://www.plasticsnews.com/headlines2.html?id=18730&channel=260.

This article was referred to me by my co-lead of the PET subcommittee for Walmart-Canada because it illustrates the infrastructural differences between recycling in America and recycling in Canada, where I am now focusing a lot of my research/work.

ANYWAY, what I am trying to imply between my last post and Sabourin’s argument (that some sort of legislation must be put on the books that REQUIRES industry/municipalities to meet recycling targets in order to increase the diversion rates in the States), is, touché! I believe that until there are some extended producer responsibility requirements implemented in the States that forces industry and municipalities to work together to divert more materials from the landfill, my recycling initiative will continue to be just that—an initiative, with little sight of implementation.

While there are some positive signs like retailers advocating post-consumer content in products and packages or recycling drop-off centers (think Whole Foods), I see little improvement across-the-board in regard to the amount of materials recycled in America until EPR legislation is implemented. As mentioned here and again throughout my blog, we need: SUPPLY, which we don’t have because no one is collecting it or they don’t wish to compete with China for purchasing post industrial/consumer scrap; DEMAND, which we don’t have with the crash of the economy, although this is changing as CPG companies look for quality streams of post-consumer plastics; and, INVESTMENT, which we defiantly don’t have because it has not been an economic priority (why worry about recycling plastics when the cost of virgin resins is so low?!?).

BUT then enter EPR, which requires producers i.e. brand owners, first importers, product manufactures (those responsible for putting the product/package on the shelf) to FUND the recovery of their product’s packaging waste post-consumer. Then all of a sudden organizations like Fost Plus in Belguim or Stewardship Ontario in Canada develop to help manage the money transfer from industry to municipalities and viola, the recovery rates of packaging—all packaging—would increase. I am sure it’s not that easy but you get the gist…

Anyway, I wished to include this argument in our June Newsletter (we send out newsletters each month updating all our contacts in regard to what is new at Dordan and what is new in the industry), but was met with some hesitation from some of the more “business-minded” folk at Dordan. According to these colleagues, EPR legislation would probably not do well by domestic manufactures because all of a sudden, our packages would become more expensive (or the product would become more expensive, or the cost to manage the waste would be pushed throughout the supply chain) than those produced overseas in say, China, where they have no EPR legislation on the books. But the first importers would be required to pay for managing Chinese packaging waste post-consumer, right? If so, would that provide an incentive to source packaging domestically? Now I’m confused.

SOOOOO our CEO called me into his office to discuss EPR and its implications into our business because I wanted to highlight this article in our June newsletter, and he wanted to ensure that we were not shooting ourselves. What he basically said, like any good American dream manifestation, is: why is our industry being targeted as irresponsible with our waste while CPG companies source TONS of products and packages from overseas, where little environmental and labor regulations exist? In a nut shell: What are the ethics of being “environmentally friendly” in the context of sourcing international manufacturing?

AND enter new research project: I am now going to be researching all that is Chinese manufacturing to come up with an argument that highlights the contradictions between trying to be “green” and sourcing manufacturing overseas.

I sent one of my former professors the following email, which marks the beginning of my research journey:

Hello!

This is Chandler Slavin—I graduate last spring from the Religious Studies Department and took your class on inter-faith engagement (I had the Turkish versus Greek debate) my senior year. Remember?

I hope this email finds you well.

I was wondering if you could help me with something: I work for my family business, which is a domestic manufacturer of plastic packaging for the consumer electronics industry. I am the Sustainability Coordinator, which means I research issues pertaining to sustainability and packaging in order to stay ahead of the curve and market ourselves as a “green” manufacturer. In our industry, there is a lot of concern over the “sustainability” of a product or package and many retailers have invested considerable amounts of time and money into trying to “green up” their image by switching packaging materials, having recycling drop-off centers, and labeling various products as “environmentally friendly.”

Anyway, often times we sell packaging based on discussions of sustainability. However, our biggest competitor isn’t other green plastics manufacturers but Chinese manufacturers, who can sell packages at a much lower cost into our economy, while we are unable to sell our packages into their economy without paying some sort of tax or entering some kind of agreement with the Chinese government.

Our CEO wants me to research this contradiction:

While American product producers are being pressured to green up their products/packages (I have been working on a recycling initiative for months now) or dispose of products/packages responsibly (its called “extended producer responsibility” and CA has some of these laws on the books in regard to managing electronic waste), many American product producers i.e. brand owners, are sourcing the manufacturing of their product and package overseas, where lax environmental regulations and labor laws allow for unsustainable production profiles and cheap products. Basically, when everyone in our industry is obsessing about the sustainability of a package (market research shows that consumers are more likely to buy products labeled as “green”), we are constantly competing with overseas manufacturers, who have absolutely no environmental or social platform in the context of “sustainability.”

Wow, that’s a lot. Because you work on environmental policy I was wondering what you knew about Chinese economic and social development in the context of the environment. If willing, could I come visit you and perhaps you could point me in the right direction? Seriously, any insight you could provide would be very well received. Think of it as the ethics of green marketing vs. overseas manufacturing…sounds intriguing, no?

Thanks for your time!

Best,

Chandler Slavin

Tune in tomorrow for more goodness!

All sorts of stuff

May 27, 2010

For those of you who have been following my blog, you are aware that our clamshell recycling initiative has sort of come to a stand still:

We determined why PET thermoforms are not recycled (lack of investment in the infrastructure due to quantity, quality, supply and demand issues) and the problems with including RPET thermoforms in PET bottle bales (different IVs, melting points, fear of contamination, etc.) While we did determine that our RPET clams and PET bottles are “read” the same via an optical sorter, when the mixed bales of RPET thermos and PET bottles make it to the processor, the thermos are thrown out and not recycled along with the PET bottles.

Consider the following article published in PlasticsNews, which does an amazing job summarizing all my research to date:

NAPCOR puts thermoformed PET on docket

By Mike Verespej

Posted May 24, 2010

Although blow molded PET and high density polyethylene bottles get most of the plastics recycling attention, a potentially large market looms on the horizon, presenting an opportunity and a challenge for the recycling industry — thermoformed PET containers.

In 2008, 1.4 billion pounds of thermoformed PET packaging was produced in the U.S and Canada. But by 2011, that market could grow to be one-half the size of the PET bottle market, which is the largest category of recycled plastic resin, said Mike Schedler, technical director for the National Association for PET Container Resources in Sonoma, Calif.

“The market is growing rapidly because of natural growth and conversion of products from polystyrene and PVC,” said NAPCOR’s Schedler.

But growth in thermoformed PET packaging and pent-up demand for recycled PET in those packages doesn’t automatically translate into a waste stream that can be turned into an end-market opportunity, he said. “The market is not the issue. The issue is moving it through the reclamation system.”

For the past 18 months, NAPCOR’s Thermoforming Council has been working with recyclers and material recovery facilities in the U.S. and Canada to address an array of technical issues, as well as difficulties presented by a huge variety of sizes and shapes of clamshells, boxes, trays, cups and lids.

Schedler said the council has three main objectives in regard to thermoformed PET.

“We have to remove the obstacles and create an infrastructure that will give PET thermoformed packages the same recycling opportunities as PET bottles,” he said. “And we have to do it in a way that is acceptable to existing collection systems and processes, and without jeopardizing the PET bottle recycling stream.”

Last, he said, “We have to support PET packages and do the things we did in the late 1980s to facilitate recycling of PET bottles.”

The council also is conducting a thermoformed packaging compatibility study to evaluate different streams of packaging and how well they meet industry protocols for fiber, sheet and bottles applications that have been developed by the Washington-based Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers.

Specifically, the study is looking at dedicated thermoformed packaging bales manually removed from MRFs without auto-sort capabilities, mixed bales of PET bottles and PET thermoformed packages at MRFs with auto-sorting equipment, and mixed rigid plastic bales.

“We will convey that data and our observations to PET reclaimers,” Schedler said.

A fourth possible stream — cups from arenas and stadiums with PET recycling programs — will be addressed later.

“I could see separate recycling programs within stadiums for cups, and, to a certain degree, clamshells,” he said. “But I don’t see that happening at MRFs with auto-sort equipment.”

The industry is working to overcome technical hurdles that currently keep thermoformed PET packages from being recycled in tandem with bottles. Among them:

* Look-alike plastics like oriented polystyrene, polylactic acid and PVC containers that are difficult to sort from thermoformed PET packaging, either manually or in auto-sorting operations.

* Adhesives used on pressure-sensitive paper labels are different from those used on PET bottles and could cause yellowing.

* Some direct printing.

* Different additives than in PET bottles.

* Flake geometry concerns.

* Wide variability in intrinsic viscosity.

“We understand what it takes to do this work and we are rolling up our sleeves to do it,” Schedler said. “We want to make PET thermoformed packaging recycling a reality and to position PET as the environmentally preferred package of choice.”

Copyright 2010 Crain Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In my last post, I discussed a company that is going to buy balled PET bottles and PET/RPET thermoforms from MRFs for reprocessing into the next generation of thermoforms. While I obviously have some questions and concerns in regard to the logistics of this approach, I feel like this is a step in the right direction. However, I feel that for Dordan, and the plastics industry in general, it is important to work on the residential recycling infrastructure level, as that is what the consumer has access to and informs his/her understanding of the “sustainability” of a given material. That being said, while a closed-loop system is awesome and a direction we would like to move, I will be focusing more on integrating our packages into the American recycling infrastructure in general because I really think that would resonate with consumers and the larger public. Additionally, the work I am doing with Walmart-Canada works on the residential level, as opposed to the closed-loop system level. If they can figure out a way to recycle PET thermoforms with or in addition to PET bottles, then hopefully, so can we.

Today I had a phone interview with a contact from StewardEdge, which is an organization in Canada that has their hands in issues pertaining to extended producer responsibility. This contact, however, works with Stewardship Ontario to develop markets for plastic post consumer. Our conversation today ROCKED because not only did he confirm my understanding of recycling, but he provided validation that our approach is one of relevance and that our goals are represented by our Canadian neighbors. So I am not alone after all, hurray!

Anyway, he explained that unlike the States, that which is driving recycling in Canada is Stewardship Ontario, which is an organization like Fost Plus in Belguim, which takes money from industry to manage the cost of said industry’s packaging waste. In other words, because there is legislation on the books in Canada that REQUIRES producers to fund the recovery of their packaging post-consumer, organizations like Fost Plus in Belgium and Stewardship Ontario in Canada developed to help producers meet said requirements.

Let me back up. In 2002 Canada’s Waste Diversion Act mandated that industry has to pay for 50% of the net cost for municipalities to run their Blue Box program. The Blue Box program is similar to curb side recycling in the States; however, they encourage the recycling of a lot more materials than is encouraged in the States.

The “designated” material types accepted for recycling via the Blue Box Program are listed here:  http://www.stewardshipontario.ca/bluebox/pdf/materialcategories.pdf.

Anyway, Stewardship Ontario was set up specifically to collect that money from industry and give it to the municipalities to manage packaging waste.

There are different fees for different materials, depending on the ease of recovering said material post-consumer. In other words, the harder a package is to recycle or recover, the higher the associated fee will be.

The fees change every year; here’s the latest: http://www.stewardshipontario.ca/bluebox/fees/fees_rates.htm.

For example, if you sold a polystyrene container into the Canadian market, you would be required to pay 24.65 cents per kg. These are real costs that affect the entire supply chain. PS is expensive because it is so lightweight (EPS is 98% air, 2% resin) there is no economical way to collect it for reprossessing (think shipping…); that is why EPS is one of the materials of focus for the MOC, because economically it is impossible to recycle…

Wow have I rambled. Sorry for the all over nature of this post; I have a point, I swear!

Tune in Tuesday (sisters taking a vacation!!!) to figure out where I am going with this and what needs to happen in the States to integrate thermoforms into the existing recycling infrastructure.

Tootles!