Misc. updates FUN

September 20, 2010

Happy Monday Funday!

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

Composter update:

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

Zero-waste update:

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

Victory Garden Update:

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

Grassroots education update:

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

SPC Executive Committee update:

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

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

The Exec Committee, therefore, is described as follows:

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

Here is a list of the current Exec Committee:

Scott Ballantine, Packaging Project Manager, Microsoft

Alan Blake, Associate Director, Procter & Gamble

Scott Carpenter, Senior Research Engineer, SC Johnson

Humberto Garcia, Packaging Manager Ice Cream and Beverages, Unilever

Sara Hartwell, Environmental Specialist, U.S. EPA

Lance Hosey, President and CEO, GreenBlue

Jennifer McCracken, Environmental Manager, HAVI Global Solutions

Shanna Moore, Sustainability Director, DuPont

Karen Proctor, Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology

Gerald Rebitzer, Sustainability Leader, Amcor Flexibles Europe & Americas

According to the SPC website,

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

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

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

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

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

Hello fellow SPC members

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

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

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

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

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

Sustainability logo design update:

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

Traditional Dordan logo redesign:

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

National TV Show update:

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

Speaking opportunity:

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

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

Hi Chandler,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the best!

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

Below is a list of confirmed speakers for the conference:

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

Walmart-Canada MOC meeting update:

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

GPP meeting update:

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

Plane tickets are over $2,000.00!

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

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

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

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

And the investigation begins!

September 9, 2010

Hello and happy September!

I hope everyone had a labor less Labor Day! I was able to get away to the beautiful dessert oasis of Arizona! For those of you who have never been, Arizona is beautiful! The vegetation is so bizarre and sparse and the horizon looks like it travels forever. And the stars! Don’t even get me started on the stars; all I know is that I was able to see more stars than I knew currently existed living in downtown Chicago for the last 5 years! All in all, good times.

Before I forget, I found the BEST Mexican restaurant in downtown Scottsdale! Called Los Olivos, this no-fuss authentic Mexican restaurant has been family owned and operated since 1919 and serves tortias bigger than my head, which you rip up to create your own tantalizing tacos, fajitas, burritos, what have you. Awesome!

AND, I went here!

http://www.rockstargallery.net/

If you like rock n’ roll, then you may as well have died and gone to heaven!

I have some super exciting Dordan news. While waiting for my flight from St. Louis to Chicago last week (I was traveling on business), I was contacted by someone from a National TV show who is investigating doing a series in 2011 about sustainability and business. Somehow, this show’s research team found Dordan and requested an interview about our sustainability efforts. After speaking with the assistant producer, I was asked for another interview, this time with Dordan CEO and President Daniel Slavin, to determine if Dordan’s Story to Sustainability would be a good fit for their series! Our interview is scheduled for today at 3:00. Wish me luck! Maybe I will get discovered as the actress I always knew I could be! Ha!

So that’s neato!

And now let’s talk packaging and sustainability.

As some of you know, several weeks ago one of Dordan’s customers inquired into this new “biodegradable” additive that when added to traditional polymers, render the plastic biodegradable in any disposal environment; be it by the side of the road, in our waterways, in a landfill, etc.

The company that distributes this product just had their first ad in the September issue of Pack World. Check out their ad in the digital addition here, located on the right hand side of page 55.

http://digitaledition.qwinc.com/publication/?i=43523

Anyway, I set up a conference call with a rep from this company to learn about this additive’s various properties and afterwards, was more confused than before! I quickly put in a call to Robert Carlson of CalRecycle; Robert and I met last year at the SPC members-only meeting in Atlanta and he quickly became my go-to-guy for all things sustainable packaging. For some of my more diligent blog followers, you will note that Robert helped me with the inception and execution of my clamshell recycling initiative; he is a doll!

After providing a quick summary of our conversation, Robert mentioned that these “biodegradable additives” sounded a lot like the school of products known as “oxo-biodegradables,” which he explained as follows:

Oxo-biodegradation, or those products considered “oxo-biodegradable,” require/s oxygen and sunlight to initiate the breakdown process. Oxo-biodegradables have been used in Europe for some time now, though much concern has been voiced over issues pertaining to the complete biodegradation of the polymer (total consumption via microorganisms present in intended disposal environment); and, ambiguities surrounding biodegradation testing standards. Further concern has been raised about these additives’ impact on existing recycling technologies insofar as they may jeopardize the value of the post-consumer material by rendering it partially—or entirely—“biodegradable.”

After chit-chatting for close to an hour about biodegradable plastics and everything under the sun, Robert concluded that he would check out the company’s website and get back to me with more insight.

In the meantime, I conducted some preliminary research on the term “oxo-biodegradable” as I knew so little about the concept or the science behind it.

I reached out to my contact from a working-industry group that Dordan is a member company of, inquiring about his opinion on “oxo-biodegradation.” He subsequently sent me a plethora of documents on the issue. While I was waiting to retrieve these documents from the printer for my analysis, I received an email from Robert:

Chandler,

I’ve passed this on but from what I read, it doesn’t seem like it IS oxy-degradable. It seems like it’s something different…however I’m not sure what to make of it so I’m checking in with a few of my co-workers…

Hmmmmmmmm…

I then sent the company rep with whom I spoke about these biodegradable an email requesting a synopsis of his products’ attributes. This is what he sent me:

Quick facts:

  • Biodegrades plastics to humus (soil), CO2 & methane (converts to energy);
  • 100% organic – non-starch based;
  • ASTM tested and validated with data available;
  • Recyclable;
  • FDA compliant;
  • Does not change the manufacturing process;
  • Added to current resins at approximately 1%;
  • Does not affect shelf-life;
  • Does not change tensile or physical properties;

 WOW, I thought to myself as I skimmed over the “facts” about this product…what do these claims actually mean?

 Let’s start with a biggie—certification. I put in a call to the company rep, asking what certification they had received for their marketed “biodegradable additive.” He referenced ASTM 5511, which he explained as certification for plastic biodegradation in a landfill.

I rallied this information to Robert. What follows is his feedback:

Hey Chandler,

I asked a few people in my office about that ASTM testing standard as well as the potential for these plastics to degrade in the landfill.

This is what I received from our degradable plastics expert:

The intent of ASTM 5511 is not to establish the requirements for labeling of materials and products as biodegradable in landfills. ASTM 5511 is a standard test method, not a standard specification. As such, ASTM 5511 provides the testing procedure to measure the degree and rate of biodegradation of high solids in anaerobic digestive systems. This procedure is not intended to simulate the environment of any particular high-solids anaerobic-digestion system. However, it is expected to resemble the environment of a high-solids anaerobic-digestion process operated under optimum conditions. This test method may also resemble, not simulate, some conditions in biologically active landfills.

Weird bears; how convoluted can we get? A certification for a testing standard, not a certification of complying to said standard? Huh?

I googled “ASTM 5511” and found that I had to buy the Standard to have access to its qualifications. Dang.

 Then I sent the company rep another email, inquiring into some of the other claims made:

 Hey,

This is Chandler Slavin with Dordan, we spoke several days ago about your biodegradable plastic additive.

First, thanks for the information about your product! I am in the process of looking through the literature and performing some research.

What follows are some questions about your product:

One of the claims about your product is 100% recyclability, which implies that if added to a traditional RPET beverage bottle, it would not result in the breakdown of the resin when reprocessed and remanufacured into, let’s say, green industrial strapping. Can you expand on how a biodegradable additive does not render the recyclate “weak” when compared with recyclate without a presence of this biodegradable additive?

Does this additive allow for the biodegradation of plastic in other disposal environments besides a landfill, such as on the side of the road (as litter), in our marine and freshwater environments, etc.?Are you familiar with the concept “bioaccumulation,” which results from the accumulation of small plastic particulates being ingested throughout the food chain? If you product allows for the biodegradation of plastic, does it ensure the complete breakdown of the polymer i.e. total consumption of material by microorganisms in disposal environment?  Thanks for your time; I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Chandler

The next day, I received the following “answers:”

Chandler,

In regard to your first inquiry:

Our product is a nutrient that attracts microbes when they are present. PET or RPET going through distribution will not come in contact with active microbes and therefore no biodegradation will occur. There would therefore be no reduction in physical properties until the plastic is placed in a landfill or compost. We have experience in this area and I can tell you that the material is not weakened.

In regard to your second inquiry:

Yes, we believe so. We have run ASTM D 5988 (litter test) and have seen very nice results. We have some indications for ASTM D7081 (marine, salt or brackish) testing that we will have good biodegradation. However, I don’t have data here that I can share. Regarding the freshwater, we believe we will have good biodegradation; we are looking at testing in this area and have not done any to date.

In regard to your third inquiry:

This really is applicable to oxodegradable additives. Our product does not fall into this category. Our product attracts the microbes that then take the long chain carbons in synthetic polymers and break them down to CO2 and CH4. We don’t leave plastic particulate behind.

Thanks!

And around we go!

Tune in tomorrow to learn about the validity of these claims; reference will be made to many different position papers published by the Society of Plastics Industry Bioplastics Council, European Bioplastics, Biodegradable Products Institute, and more!

It’s great to be back!

Greetings!

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

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

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

Enjoy!

Dordan Manufacturing Co. Inc.

Our Story to Sustainability

Dordan Bio:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dordan’s Story to Sustainability:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello 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!

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!

Recap # 2: Walmart Expo

April 27, 2010

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

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

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

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

Check out our beaut of a booth:

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

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

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

Yum!

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

Walmart Expo Summary:

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

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

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

Stay tuned!

Day 31: Dec. 8th, 2009

March 25, 2010

Good day!

It’s official—I am going to Ontario next week to participant in a Committee that looks to find a way to recycle thermoforms! I am totally tickled pink by this news; I will keep you all posted!

And guess what: this is sort of funny, well not funny, but something to note…Some of my research on paper versus plastic in the context of sustainability was distributed to the members of the Committee as pre-reading material and a member voiced concern that this research favored plastic over paper; therefore, my research was removed from the list of pre-reading material because this Committee looks to be unbiased, and my research was very pro-plastic. You can read this research at http://www.dordan.com/sustainability_the_facts.shtml.

Is it super duper pro plastic? I think not…

While I do admit that it does make an argument for plastic over paper, all of the information is referenced and from publicly available records via the EPA and other environmental agencies. Moreover, I believe that the best way to understand a concept/situation/problem/topic is to understand ALL the different arguments; therefore, I would love to see a pro-paper argument, a pro-plastic argument, and any other argument that would inform discussion on packaging and sustainability. Perhaps I am still clinging on to the classroom etiquette where every argument is valid if supported with facts, regardless of if it is biased. I was always taught that it was my role as an academic to identify people’s objectives/biases in order to fully understand the argument (we live in a post modern world where one’s social location informs their perceptive). As a plastics girl, I obviously have a goal to make people understand that plastic IS NOT BAD; it just gets a bad rap in the eyes of the public because of lack of education and poor marketing. Therefore, my research on plastic and paper was more of an “in the defense of plastic” piece as everyone, even my college buddies, think plastic is bad and paper is good because plastic comes from oil and paper from trees.

On that note, check out this blog post from the Nashville Wraps Blog; it is all about recycled paper and it’s often times ethically-compromised point of origin: http://www.nashvillewrapscommunity.com/blog/?p=1275.

This is a great blog, by the by. Check it out!

Okay, shall we resume our recycling narrative?

Where were we…?

On  December 8th I arrived to the office feeling a little unmotivated; I still had not received the results from our RPET samples’ “test” via the MRF’s optical sorting technology and my Superior told me to shelf the recycling initiative for a bit because it wasn’t an economic priority for Dordan. So, while I waited for the results and my enthusiasm to return, I focused on other sustainability concerns. One of which is the life cycle impacts of recycled PET. After all, my clamshell recycling initiative is all about RPET and increasing its feedstock via the incorporation of RPET clams into the PET-bottle recycling infrastructure…love me my RPET. At the same time, however, I couldn’t find any industry data about the energy required/GHG emitted during RPET production to validate that RPET was the route we wanted to go as a sustainable plastics company.

I shot my contact at an industry-working group the following email, hoping he could provide some insight:

Hello!

Hope your having a lovely in-between holiday time.

In regard to COMPASS, the environmental packaging assessment tool created by the SPC: I am trying to utilize the software to compare a corrugated package of similar dimensions with a plastic package. The plastic package is RPET with a certified minimum of 70% PCR but I am unable to input this into the software. I know you had explained that this is because there is no industry data about RPET available at this time; my question, however, is how can that be when RPET is the new “hot” material in the professional packaging world. How can you have data on PLA and not RPET? When will this material be available for selection within the softwar

Thanks for your time!

And his response came later that afternoon:

Hi Chandler,

PCR is a funny thing. The marketplace has run head first to incorporate recycled content, yet the industry associations have not released any of the LCI data for folks to use for comparative purposes. These LCI data do not come from entities like GreenBlue, but from companies that make the materials. NatureWorks released the data for PLA because it was in their interest to show their product to have a better environmental profile than other traditional polymers. But, the rPET folks have not released the requisite data. Makes you wonder if the profile for rPET is really as good as we assume. Neither USLCI nor ecoinvent have such data, so we are unable to model r-anything yet.

I was at the LCA conference in Boston and the noise was about new data points. ACC – the folks who have the plastics data, intend to release them, but no eta. Unfortunately, data are the limiting factor to environmental assessment and will probably be that way unless there is some kind of legislative push or some other incentive that could induce industry to release data.  Everyone (us and all other LCA practitioners) are waiting on LCI data. There aren’t even good proxy data that we can use in the meantime.

Hope that helps.

Later I found this article in Packaging Digest, which provides further insight into the RPET “situation:”

The need for data grows as PCR content becomes more common

Given the popular consumer perception that packaging is wasteful, there is an intensive effort to improve packaging performance and recoverability, with manufacturers evaluating material and design alternatives to differentiate their packages on-shelf. Recycled content appeals to consumers and directly responds to concerns of packaging waste. Brand owners are testing ways to incorporate post-consumer-recycled (PCR) content into packaging where virgin material had been the norm.

Packaging developed with recycled polymers has been particularly in demand. Increasing recycled content across the packaging spectrum is perceived to have enhanced environmental profiles over virgin-content counterparts. In many instances, this is true, particularly with plastics, but it’s often hard to quantify these environmental benefits due to a lack of data for recycled materials.

Life-cycle assessment (LCA) methods can help quantify the benefits and illuminate tradeoffs of virgin and recycled materials. Yet a methodology is only as accurate as the data collected. There are hundreds of industrial processes that contribute to the creation of a single package. The LCA methodology requires detailed data about all the processes that go into bringing a packaged product to market, not just the obvious ones.

Enterprising companies have made great strides in introducing packaging with a high percentage of PCR content, even for food contact applications that have stricter regulations. Many of these innovations can be attributed to leader companies that have set up unique relationships for material collection and conversion to produce a small set of products.

These companies have made significant investments and are paying higher prices to produce packaging with green attributes. However, to accurately communicate what the environmental benefits are, manufacturers need to be able to quantify the specifics of the environmental advantages of using PCR content in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, material usage, water consumption and other environmental metrics.

Using LCA methodology to compare a recycled plastic package with a virgin one will allow companies to credibly quantify a package’s environmental savings, as well as justify the investment in PCR materials. Yet one needs life-cycle inventory (LCI) data, or the inputs and outputs for the entire life cycle for both materials, to make these calculations. LCI data are essential not only for assessing packaging applications, but also for all sorts of product development that uses the same commodity materials. The requisite LCI data for some virgin materials are publicly available, though some are outdated or incomplete, and we have a reasonable understanding of the various human and environmental impacts associated with their production and use. Unfortunately, the same kind of detailed and current data for most recycled forms of the commodity materials used in packaging are not yet publicly available. Efforts are underway to ensure the data for recycled materials become publicly available. Until then, the lack of LCI data for many commodity materials is a serious impediment to measurable progress along sustainability goals.

This article is accessible at: http://www.packagingdigest.com/article/447099-The_need_for_data_grows_as_PCR_content_becomes_more_common.php?rssid=20535&q=minal+mistry.

Hmmm…time to speak with our material suppliers of RPET to see why they haven’t released any LCI data…looks like we are about to travel into “proprietary” waters again; great.

Tune in tomorrow to get the much anticipated results of our RPET samples’ “test!”

Day 30: Dec. 1st, 2009

March 24, 2010

Hello! Sorry I didn’t post yesterday! I am now a new resident of the West Loop, Chicago. Moving yesterday was a total debacle: movers came early, I didn’t have enough boxes, I got lost on the way to my new place and ended up too far West for one’s own good, and then I got locked out of my new place and had to call a lock smith. Fun times…

Well I’m back and ready to talk about recycling in America!

Where were we?

Two days later I arrived to the office anticipating the results of our RPET samples’ “test” to determine if our RPET is “read” like bottle-grade PET. Here’s the thinking: If our RPET moves through the MRF’s optical sorting technology like PET bottles, then we would have some leverage to approach our suppliers of post consumer regrind PET with and suggest they accept bales of PET bottles with our RPET thermoforms in the mix. It’s worth a shot, right? I swear, as this recycling initiative moves forward it keeps changing. For those of you who are new to my blog or have not followed the narrative, these are some possible solutions to finding a way to recycle thermoformed packaging:

  1. Integrate our RPET thermoforms into the existing PET bottle recycling infrastructure. This is large scale and regionally a-specific.
  2. Work with our supplier of PCR PET to create a pilot program that works as follows:
    1. We would work with WM to designate a bale for PET bottles AND RPET thermoforms (either just our packages, so we could certify the integrity of the resin feedstock, or all RPET thermoforms, which may get a little messy depending on which domestic/international markets said material is originating from);
    2. This bale would sit at WM collecting PET bottles and RPET thermoforms until full;
    3. This mixed bale of RPET thermoforms and PET bottles would be purchased by our material supplier who would clean, grind, and extrude the mixed bale to create sheets for us to thermoform;
    4. We would ensure that we would buy this mixed thermoform and bottle-grade RPET sheet, providing security for the material supplier to engage in this initiative;
    5. We would test this mixed sheet with our machines and see what the output is.
  3. Create a new end market for low-grade, mixed rigid plastic packaging, as is the case in some communities on the East and West coasts where all plastic, once the PET bottles and HDPE jugs are removed for recycling, are collected for reprocessing. Sometimes this reprocessing manifests itself in lumber applications and sometimes this low-grade plastic mix is sold to international markets for WTE or perhaps feedstock for resin production.

So yeah…don’t really know what the best approach is…any suggestions?

Now that we have recapped, let us return to December 1st, 2009.

Upon arrival to the office I shot my contact at WM the following email:

Good day!

I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend.

I just wanted to drop you a quick email inquiring into the status of our samples’ analysis via optical sorting. At your earliest convenience, please let me know if you have received the status of said analysis.

Thanks again for your time; I owe you lunch!

Best,

Chandler Slavin

Later that day I received the following response:

Hi Chandler,

Thanks for the note, yes, it was a nice Holiday break. I will reach out to my contact and our Grayslake plant manager this week to see if there’s any update.  The big issue as I think you know is on the buyer’s end….even if WM can accept and sort your PET material, the buyer’s of PET typically only recover the bottle grades, any other plastic is typically discarded. 

TICK TOCK.

Tune in tomorrow to learn more about recycling in America!