Playing catch up

November 22, 2010

Hello and happy Monday funday!

Boy howdy do we have lots to talk about!

Drum roll please….I FINALLY finished my presentation on my Recycling Report for Sustainable Plastics Packaging 2010 in Atlanta, December 8th and 9th! I had no idea how hard it would be to convert a 10 page report into a half an hour presentation while not boring the audience to death with all the technicalities that is recycling. It sort of reminded me of when I was invited to present my Senior Thesis to a class of freshmen at DePaul—not that the audience of this Conference is comparable to college freshmen—but insofar as there is way too much to explain in the confines of a half an hour. Before I could even begin talking about the state of recycling clamshells in America, I had to set up a foundation for understanding the economics of recycling in general, including the “process” of recycling from collection through reprocessing/remanufacturing. All I know is that I have over 80 slides, which means I have to go through almost 4 slides a minute. I talk fast, but that is super fast…

Here is the structure of my presentation:

Introduction: What is “recyclable,” why, and why we care
Part 1: Explain the economics of recycling packaging in America with reference to abstract concepts
Part 2: Contextualize said concepts by explaining them in tandem with the state of recycling thermoform packaging in America:
Section 1: Supply and Demand Considerations
Section 2: Sortation Considerations
Section 3 Specs and Baling Considerations
Section 4: Contamination Considerations
Part 3: Discuss where we should go from here to work towards recycling thermoforms.
Conclusion: Discuss what progress is being made in recycling thermoforms with reference to NAPCOR

While normally I would post my presentation to my blog for your viewing pleasure, I am going to wait until after my presentation because I think it gives the content a sense of drama! And, who doesn’t like creating drama via anticipation?

That which was also difficult to convey in my presentation was the “why” component: that is, why do we care about recycling in general, and recycling thermoforms in particular? After all, while I am interested in recycling because I am interested in just about anything (ahem, degree in Religious Ethics anyone?), the audience for this conference will be anyone from brand owners to material suppliers; each of which, has different motivations for attending the conference. Therefore, while creating the content for this presentation, I thought it was important to situate recycling within the larger picture i.e. what does this do for me as a packaging professional? Granted I think recycling in and of itself is the “right thing to do” because it conserves our natural resources and therefore should be discussed in an open forum, most “business people” are more concerned about the bottom line than saving the planet. SOOOO this is what I came up with:

We care about recycling packaging because…

• Introduction of Walmart Packaging Scorecard;
• Increase demand for sustainable packaging and products by CPGs/retailers/consumers;
• Increased awareness that a products’/packages’ end of life management is crucial to its “sustainability.”
• Increased demand for PC content in packaging and products by CPGs and retailers.
• Advances in Extended Producer Responsibility.
• And, an increased understanding that our Earth’s resources are finite.

Obviously for each point I expand; hence, the point of a “presentation.”

I then talk about the “green consumer” and reference various market research that shows that if deciding between competing brands/products, consumers are more likely to buy the “green” product than the product not touting any environmental benefit (assuming same price, performance and quality).

Then I move onto a quick discussion of why we care about recycling thermoforms specifically, quoting NAPCOR’s 2009 Report on Post Consumer PET Container Recycling:

The dramatic growth in PET thermoformed packaging has resulted in pressures… for a recycling end-of-life option. Although additional post-consumer RPET supply is arguably the most critical issue facing the industry, a variety of technical issues have prevented existing PET bottle reclaimers from including PET thermoforms in the bottle stream. As a result, the potential value of this growing PET packaging segment is not being successfully realized.

By emphasizing NAPCOR’s opinion that additional PC PET supply is a critical issue facing the industry, I imply that only by adding PET thermoforms into the PET recycling stream, either within the PET bottle stream or a PET thermoform only stream, can said demand be met. In other words: recycling thermoforms will provide additional PC PET material for application in a multitude of end markets, be it bottles, thermoforms, or other.

Are you convinced that recycling is the way to go?!? Perhaps this will persuade you.

I plan to present my presentation to my Dordan colleagues sometime next week to get their feedback…my main concerns is that there is too much content and not enough time to get though it all…more details to come!

Shall we move on to a brief recap of Pack Expo, as I have yet to give you any feedback from this insanely huge event?

Pack Expo 2010 was a roaring success: Dordan had more direct traffic (people looking for Dordan as opposed to just wandering by) than any other year we exhibited past! Our booth looked super great and our Bio Resin Show N Tell and COMPASS tutorials generated a lot of interest among the Show attendees.

Our Bio Resins Show N Tell definitely got the most attention, as Show attendees explained how nice it was to have objective research accompany the latest alternative resins, which Dordan converted via thermoforming for seeing and feeling pleasure. I was happy to hear that like Dordan, the onslaught of environmental marketing claims in the context of bio based/biodegradable/compostable resins was confusing the heck out of packaging professionals, as every study you read contradicts the last study published. After the Show, Dordan was contacted by a ton of Show attendees, who all requested the information displayed alongside our Bio Resin Show N Tell. Due to Dordan’s ethic of corporate transparency, we were thrilled to share our research with the interested parties. Hopefully interest like this will move our industry in the right direction, away from confusing environmental claims and towards a more qualified understanding of packaging and sustainability.

AND, check out this special picture of me and my brother/Dordan Sales Manager Aric at CardPak’s Sustainability Dinner at the Adler Planetarium during Pack Expo:

Good times.

This is sort of random but one of my old college professors, with whom I still speak, was featured on NPR Friday. His interview was really cool, and while on the NPR site, I found a session within the “Environment” heading that dealt specifically with the plastic vs. paper debate.

Check it out here.

That which I found the most interesting, however, was around the 15 minute mark when Jane Bickerstaffe of INCPEN explains how packaging has become the scapegoat for the perceived problems with how humans relate to our natural environment. She explains…

We did some research looking at the average household energy use for everything:

81% of energy is consumed by the products and food we buy, central heating and hot water in homes, and private transport. Packaging, however, accounts for just 3% of our energy expenditures.

She concludes:

People need to get a sense of perceptive…they drive their SUVs to the grocery store and then stand there agonizing over whether to choose paper or plastic; it’s actually a tiny tiny impact.

Right on! Granted the way in which we produce and consume things can always become more “sustainable,” the bag and bottle bans make my head hurt because the concern is so misplaced when you are wearing Gucci shoes manufactured by children in Indonesia. Alright, now I am getting a little melodramatic, but you get the idea, right? And speaking of overseas manufacturing, I just bought this book. My next research project is on the ethics of sourcing product/packaging from China. Exciting!

And how ironic, Dordan CEO says the EXACT same thing in our recently published interview in PlasticsNews.

Hurray for PlasticsNews!

Alright, I got to go: I am on a deadline to research and write a white paper providing evidence that “seeing it sells it” i.e. market research demonstrating that consumers’ identification of the product via transparent packaging results in higher sales. While all the sustainability research in the context of paper vs. plastic I have complied is helpful (see this), Dordan Sales Force tell me again and again that regardless of the environmental profiles of the different packaging materials, packaging buyers want the packaging medium that will sell the product. Period. Time to sales savvy marketing piece to our bag of tricks! Wish me luck!

But I will leave you with this informative article about recycled plastic markets from Recycling Today. Enjoy!

Hey yall!

Check it: Recycling for Thermoformers
RAD!

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!

Greetings my packaging and sustainability friends! I swear, my lot in life is writer’s block: I have been invited to contribute content to SupplierHub’s blog, and am required to submit my first post TODAY, dun dun dunnn. SupplierHub is a closed portal website for Wal-Mart Private Brand suppliers, which looks to aid said suppliers in the attainment of better Packaging and Supply Chain Scores. Check out the website here: http://mysupplierhub.com/login.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2fdefault.aspx

Therefore, my content, in addition to establishing myself as an authority on packaging and sustainability via my participation with the SPC, Wal-Mart SVN, and MOC Committee of Wal-Mart Canada, should help Wal-Mart Suppliers increase their Scores in some way shape or form. Because I sat in on seminars about the Wal-Mart Packaging Scorecard at the Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club Sustainable Packaging Expo in Bentonville and subscribe to the Wal-Mart Packaging Modeling Software 2.0, I feel as though I am fairly well versed in the metrics and therefore could provide some insight into how to get a better Packaging Score; however, because Dordan does not sell directly to Wal-Mart (our customers sell to Wal-Mart), I am unsure how to go about the whole Supply Chain Score thingamajig…I assume it has something to do with supply chain logistics and finding the most economically and therefore environmentally efficient way to manufacture, transport and distribute products at the various Wal-Mart shopping centers throughout America and the world, but that is just an assumption. I often times feel like Wal-Mart is a club that I can’t quite get into, which is conveyed, in my opinion, by the closed portal nature of SupplierHub: Because I am not a Private Brand supplier to Wal-Mart I can’t access the website that I have been invited to contribute blog content to; as an academic, understanding the audience and medium is crucial to creating the content; without which, it is sort of like shooting in the dark. Ohhhh well, you never get anywhere dilly-dallying, right?

By the by, today I should be in Canada at the Walmart SVN/MOC meeting, but I am not. This is for various reasons, which I won’t bore you with. However, I have been watching the presentations via “Global Crossing Conferencing,” which is cool, but don’t have anything too terribly exciting to report. Right now the presenter is discussing Walmart Canada’s action plan for 2010-2012 in regard to the goals outlined by the MOC…and now they are having a break. I love technology!

NOW, drum roll please…NAPCOR/APR have published their much anticipated 2009 PET Recycling Report, which outlines the progress being made in recycling PET thermoforms in the appendix. For the full report, visit: http://www.napcor.com/pdf/2009_Report.pdf. I have also copy and pasted the section on PET thermoform recycling here. Enjoy!!!

ADDENDUM: PET THERMOFORM RECYCLING

The dramatic growth in PET thermoformed packaging has resulted in pressures from environmentalists, brand owners, policy makers, recycling program operators, and most importantly, consumers, for a recycling end-of-life option. Although additional post-consumer RPET supply is arguably the most critical issue facing the industry, a variety of technical issues have prevented existing PET bottle reclaimers from including PET thermoforms in the bottle stream. As a result, the potential value of this growing PET packaging segment is not being successfully realized.

NAPCOR has made recycling of PET thermoforms its highest priority and to that end, has been working with collectors, intermediate processors, reclaimers and end markets to identify and clearly define these technical issues, and to eliminate the barriers to successful recycling. These barriers include: look-alike packages made from
OPS, PLA, OPP and PVC that require advanced autosort technology; certain adhesives used for paper labels on PET thermoforms; package geometry; and wide variability in intrinsic viscosity.

In 2009, NAPCOR facilitated the shipment of almost one million pounds of PET thermoforms to various reclaimers and end markets in an effort to better understand and remedy these barriers. As a result of this work, it is anticipated that there will be various market options for this material in the near future. This expectation is based on both planned retrofits to existing plants to enable them to handle the variety of shapes and sizes associated with PET thermoforms; new plants being designed to accommodate PET thermoforms; and further work with the PET thermoform manufacturers to establish common adhesive and other “design for recycling” guidelines to address technical barriers to recycling. NAPCOR is committed to working on this issue until PET thermoforms can be labeled “recyclable” in the truest sense of the word (see http://www.napcor.com/PET/positions.html for the NAPCOR position statement on Use of the Term Recyclable), and is optimistic that its efforts will be successful.

NAPCOR acknowledges the strong support of this effort by Stewardship Ontario, Waste Diversion Ontario, The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR), and the Canadian Plastic Industry Association (CPIA), without whose collective assistance we would not have made nearly the progress achieved to date.

UG! I have been pulling my hair out the last two days trying to condense my 10-page recycling report, available here: http://www.greenerpackage.com/recycling, to 600 words for publication in PlasticsNews! After much frustration, I realized there is no way I can incorporate all the necessary facets in 600 words; therefore, what follows is my best attempt to simplify my findings while still being informative and of value to the industry.

Enjoy!

Being new to the plastics industry, it was just last year that I discovered that thermoformed packaging, like the clamshells, blisters and trays Dordan manufacturers, are not recycled in 60% or more American communities; therefore, could not be considered “recyclable” according to the FTC’s Green Guides’ definition. While everything is theoretically “recyclable,” only those packaging/material types that are collected post consumer in the “substantial majority of American communities” and sold for reprocessing can be considered recycled/recyclable.

Upon this discovery I began researching what obstacles had historically kept thermoforms out of the recycling infrastructure, in hopes that in isolating the problems, the industry could begin developing solutions. However, I wasn’t alone in this inquiry; organizations like NAPCOR, APR, and others have long identified the market potential of post consumer thermoform recyclate and are working with stakeholders to develop the necessary infrastructure, markets, and technology to facilitate the recycling of thermoforms. Therefore, for a more technical treatment of the progress that is being made in recycling thermoforms, consult the work of the APR, NAPCOR, and their industry partners.

After a year of independent research on recycling, I published my “Recycling Report: the truth about clamshell and blister recycling in America with suggestions for the industry,” which outlines my understanding of the economics dictating the recycling of thermoformed packaging. It is important to note that I in no way intend to present myself as an expert on recycling thermoforms, nor do I intend my Report to be interpreted as an exhaustive study on the topic. That being said, I do feel as though my Report adds to the ongoing discussion surrounding recycling insofar as it presents a concise overview of why certain packaging/material types, like PET/RPET bottles, are recycled, while others, like PET/RPET thermoforms, are not. In addition, I hope that my Report can be interpreted as an analogy for other packaging/material types insofar as while there are dramatic differences between the various post consumer materials’ markets, there are similarities, which when understood, could facilitate the increased diversion of all packaging materials from the waste stream.

What follows is a brief summary of my findings, described in depth in my Recycling Report.

Key findings:

There are three popular approaches to recycling thermoforms:

1. Recycle PET/RPET thermoforms with PET/RPET bottles;
2. Recycle all PET/RPET thermoforms together, separate from PET/RPET bottle stream;
3. Recycle all mixed resin thermoforms together in a low grade plastic mix.

Depending on the approach taken, there are different end markets for the reprocessed material; therefore, different collecting, sorting, cleaning and baling considerations. Due to the confines of the allotted space, I can’t discuss the implications of the various approaches. Regardless of the approach taken, however, the following issues need to be considered:

Basic recycling considerations:

Supply and demand: In order for a package/material type to be collected via curbside or other systems for recycling, there has to be a buyer/end market for the post consumer material. The buyer/end market requires a certain quantity and quality of material, often times outlined in “specs.” For those materials not currently recycled, the supply and demand equilibrium is often described via the chicken and egg analogy: a material/packaging type will not be collected if there is no demand for the post consumer material; there is no demand for the post consumer material if there is no supply available for reprocessing.

Specs: Every package/material type that is collected for recycling has specs, which indicate to the MRF/reclaimer what is allowed in the bale for resale and what is not. For instance, most PET bottle specs indicate that only clear, think neck PET bottles are accepted for reprocessesing, while all other PET rigid containers are not. The development of specs for PET/RPET thermoform and PET/RPET bottle bales, PET/RPET thermoform-only bales, and mixed resin thermoform bales are crucial for the ability of MRFs to sort and bale thermoforms for resale; hence, recycling.

Sorting: For a package/material type to be recycled there has to be a way to efficiently sort the desired material from the material destined for landfill at the MRF/reclaimer level. The more efficient the sorting technology, the lower the cost to “recycle” the material; therefore, the more economically competitive the reprocessed material/product will be in the market. Optical sorting (near Infra-red) can successfully sort PET/RPET thermoforms from other “look-a-likes,” like PVC, a known contaminant to the PET recyclate stream.

Contaminants: The buyer/end market of the post consumer material determines what is considered a contaminant to the material. This dramatically informs how the material is collected, sorted, cleaned and baled for resale because contaminants are reclaimers number one obstacle: if the bale does not meet specs for the buyer/end market, the material will not be sold and recycled.

In short, the recycling of thermoforms depends on the ability to collect, transport, sort, clean, bale and remanufacture into new material/products in an economically competitive way with virgin material/product production. Issues such as adequate supply and demand, best sorting, cleaning, and baling processes, and reprocessing/remanufacturing technologies need to be addressed in order to incorporate thermoforms into the recycling infrastructure. For more information on how these considerations specifically inform recycling thermoforms, I urge you to download the entire Recycling Report at http://www.dordan.com. I will also be presenting these findings and more at Sustainable Plastics Packaging 2010 in Atlanta, December 8th and 9th. I look forward to seeing you there!

Good news!

October 13, 2010

Good news everyone!

The progress that is being made in recycling thermoforms will be available to the public sometime next week in the appendix of APRs/NAPCORs Report on PET Container Recycling Activity. Look out for it!

I am working on an abstract of my report on recycling thermoforms for publication in PlasticsNews. Upon its completion, I will post it here, so you—my packaging and sustainability friends—can read it first!

Have a splendid afternoon!

Environmental Task Force

October 4, 2010

Hello and happy Monday Funday!

So, as I am sure you assumed, I have not gotten the green light to share with you the progress that is being made in recycling thermoforms. I’m sorry.

I do have a plan, however, which may be a win-win for all involved. But again, due to the sensitivity of the information and parties concerned, I can’t divulge my plan right now…but know that I am routing for you, my packaging and sustainability community, and I will do my best to get this information to the industries concerned in a timely manner…

Sooooooo the website for the Sustainable Plastics Packaging conference went live last week, which I am speaking at. Check it out: http://www.sustainableplasticspackaging.com/. Be sure to look at the agenda; I’m on it!

Ok, last Wednesday I went to Woodstock High School for the first meeting of the Environmental Task Force. The ETF is a group of administrative-type folk that discuss and implement various sustainability initiatives at the D200 Schools. This year they are having an energy contest where the different D200 schools (elementary, middle and high school) compete to see who can reduce their energy consumption the most, compared with last years’ consumption. The winner gets some kind of cash prize, which can be reinvested in other cool sustainability initiatives, like an organic garden, solar panels, or whatever.

I was invited to participate in this meeting because I had contacted the assistant to the Superintendent at the beginning of the summer to see how I could get involved and he suggested I start by sitting in on the ETF meeting.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me back up.

Last winter I contacted the City of Woodstock to see what types of packaging materials are recycled in Woodstock and by whom as part of my contextual research on recycling thermoforms. During my conversation with a rep from the City, it was articulated that funding for recycling education had been cut, due to the economy. Consequentially, students were not being taught anything about recycling.

Because I had been studying issues pertaining to waste management for several months and believe that the best way to increase recycling rates is through education, I suggested that I could fill the void left from cutting this program’s funding. Subsequently, the City rep put me in contact with the Superintendent of District 200 schools, who then put me in touch with the Assistant Superintendent. I met with Assistant Superintendent in early summer to introduce myself and what I wanted to do and he invited me to the EFT meeting to introduce me to the rest of the group so we could determine where I would fit best.

And that brings us up to last week, at the ETF meeting.

It was fun going to high school again but it was weird to be seen as on par with the administrative folk and not a student. The other participants of the ETF were the administrators of transportation, health, food, building and construction, the principal, and another guest, from SIEMENS Energy Company.

After we discussed the energy contest, I was introduced, as was the SIEMENS rep. I explained that Dordan is a company in Woodstock that wants to become further involved in the community and sees an opportunity in the context of providing free recycling education. I articulated the desire to present to students about the ABCs of recycling and perhaps help the Green Club implement different waste reduction tactics. With all things considered, I think I was well received for my enthusiasm and my ability to articulate myself well; hopefully I will become more involved in this committee and others at the Woodstock high school as the year unfolds.

The gentlemen from SIEMENS had a really cool story to tell because he works with different public schools to implement energy saving measures in exchange for allowing the students that participate in said efforts a shot at working with Northwestern Students in the implementation of their sustainability initiatives. A sort of big brother relationship, if you will, and certainly a resume booster!

The end of the meeting concluded and I emphasized to the group my eagerness to help the school with its sustainability initiatives in what ever way they see fit. I am going to present to the AP Science class about “sustainability as a career” in addition to whatever else the students are interested in a couple weeks. I will be sure to keep you posted!

That’s all for now, my packaging and sustainability friends.

I have been researching like crazy trying to find market research that proves that visual packaging not only adds to the perceived value of the product, but that “seeing it sells it,” which is attainable only through a plastic packaging medium. AND, I am so tired of hearing about the trials and tribulations of wrap rage (the reported frustration of consumers not being able to open clamshell packaging) that I am finding statistics on paper cuts vs. plastic cuts in the context of emergency room visits and in the process, found that more people injure themselves trying to pry apart frozen food then many more commonly-assumed accidents. Go figure!

See you tomorrow!

DA BEARSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

Dordan is still relishing in its team’s win from last night; you can just feel the excitement in the office, or at least, smell the beer evaporating from our skin. Ha!

Good afternoon my packaging and sustainability friends. I have some SUPER exciting news!

Two weeks ago I emailed my recycling report (download it here: http://www.greenerpackage.com/recycling) to everyone and anyone I thought would benefit from the information. A colleague in the waste management industry responded thoughtfully (see September 20th’s post), as did some other stakeholders. While there feedback was very much appreciated, today I received the BEST feedback EVER!

Just moments ago I received a letter from someone who participates in the Walmart-Canada PET Subcommittee and represents an industry group explaining what progress has been made over the last 18 months in regard to recycling PET thermoforms! And let me tell you, progress has been made boy howdy! I am just tickled pink by these developments, which suggest that PET thermoforms can and WILL be recycled post consumer in North America in the not-too-distant future. Finally my dream of converting thermoforms collected via curbside into second generation thermoforms will be a reality and I will be able to say with pride that plastic packaging is recycled, not just “recyclable.” Hurray!

And, not to get all nostalgic and what not, but I don’t think I could have started this investigation at any better of a time: Had I started this clamshell recycling initiative years ago, the industry-momentum needed probably would not have existed, which I argue, is the result of the increased pressure on companies to integrate an end-of-life option into their packaging life cycle, among other contemporary developments. And, in only a year, not only have we uncovered the obstacles keeping thermoforms out of the recycling infrastructure, but we have begun to find a way to work toward their inclusion. Well done plastics industry!

 Now that I have dangled this fabulousness in front of you, I regret to inform you that I am unable to share this information until I receive the necessary approval. But don’t worry, as soon as I get the green light, you will be the first to know!

I am up to my ears in research but will get back to you tomorrow with all sorts of goodness.

Hello and happy Tuesday! I hope everyone is having a jolly good day!

Because I just got done debriefing Dordan Sales Force about the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s meeting in Phoenix last week, why not debrief you, too, my packaging and sustainability friends?

Please note that the SPC conducts its meetings under the Chatham House Rule, which is explained as follows:

“When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

Cool? Alright, let’s do it!

But before I begin, here’s a picture of an Arizonian cactus, which in the collective, is called “cacti;” who knew? Just try to imagine you are there in Phoenix…in a cold conference room…listening to discussions of EPR…ahhh, the memories.

As alluded to in a previous post, the topic of the fall SPC meeting in Phoenix was extended producer responsibility/product stewardship. I was first introduced to this complicated topic at the fall SPC meeting in Atlanta last year (yes, Phoenix marks my year anniversary for SPC membership!), when a representative from Environmental Packaging International (hereafter, EPI), discussed its role as a go between for industry and government in the context of complying with product stewardship/EPR legislation. Wow that was a mouth full; let me try again.

EPI, as per their website (http://www.enviro-pac.com/indexM.htm), is an organization that specializes in global packaging and product stewardship requirements. Because different countries have different EPR laws to abide by and therefore require different reporting and financing procedures, EPI provides a service to those companies required to take financial responsibility of the packaging and/or hazardous household waste they place on the market. While I am not sure what services they offer specifically, I assume it is some form of reporting/compliance/data management software, since fees are often times based on the amount of packaging material i.e. paper, glass, aluminum, etc. placed on the market by the party considered the “producer” and therefore require some diligent book keeping.

But I am getting ahead of myself. EPR is complicated; let me back up.

Traditionally, the management of waste has been the responsibility of municipalities/local governments. However, in some countries, the responsibility has been transferred onto the “producers,” which are often times defined as the brand owner or first importer, among other more ambiguous things. However, it is important to understand EPR not as a homogenous concept, but as a compilation of legislation that is created in tandem with the specific geographical area for which it extends. Therefore, what works for one country/province/state/etc. may not work for another and so on.

I believe I have mentioned Fost Plus of Belgium to you before? They are a successful example of a company that provides EPR compliance services and software to the responsible parties, insofar as Belgium is at a 96% recovery rate for packaging waste, which is unbelievable! Like EPI, I believe, though I may be misinformed, Fost Plus manages the transfer of money from industry to government, thereby demonstrating compliance with its unique set of EPR requirements. Similarly, StewardEdge of Canada offers EPR requirements compliance services and data management software for those companies bringing products/packaging to the market in Ontario and Quebec, where EPR laws are in affect.

So what does this mean?

This means that EPR is coming to the States.

While we can always say it’s cheaper to landfill and therefore EPR is a thing of the distant future, recent developments in the consumer goods industry suggest otherwise. Examples include: pressure on CPG companies for transparency throughout the supply chain; the need to quantify the environmental impacts of consumer goods’ products/packaging; recognition that effective end-of-life management is essential to sustainability; and, the increased demand for post consumer material by brand owners for incorporation in products and packaging.

Now, add these issues to the fact that many municipalities are under systemic financial stress and can’t afford to increase recovery rates for materials with a high demand, like post consumer plastic, ahem, thermoforms, and what do you get? The possibility that EPR may be coming to a city near you. Five States have all ready enacted some form of EPR, mostly on the East Coast, though it is most often times attributed to hazardous household waste, like paint and batteries, as opposed to packaging. At the same time, however, a Chicago politician recently petitioned for a ban on single-use EPS packaging (he also wanted to put a ban on barking dogs!), and Wisconsin is up to vote on a ban of all single-use packaging? While I DO NOT think that bans on any package/material type are the way to go (Libertarian by education), these developments provide insight into this tumultuous time where legislation is attempting to do good by the environment/save its few and far between pennies.

WOW. That was a mind full.

So that’s basically it, in a terribly small nut shell. I wish I could share the presentations from the SPC meeting with you as they do a MUCH better job presenting a holistic treatment of EPR in the context of the EU, Canada, and the US. Oh well…

So anyway, the SPC meeting had two panels: one dedicated to those representing municipalities/governmental officials; and, one representing industry folk/stakeholders. All the panelists were fabulous, well spoken, and insightful. Issues discussed, though I won’t delve into the details, were the need for harmonized legislation and therefore reporting (as opposed to 50 different laws governing packaging waste producers are required to comply with); individual vs. collective responsibility (individual responsibility is when a “producer” manages fees/reporting/compliance by itself whereas collective is when you pay an organization, like EPI, StewardEdge or Fost Plus, to manage your compliance for you); how EPR intersects with deposit laws; who the obligated entity is; how the fees are determined; and, how the financial responsibility is share between the government and the industry (Canada is transferring from 50% industry funding to 100%, yikes! More details to come).

Again, these are super large complicated issues and there are people far more qualified to explain than I; therefore, if you have any specific questions, email me at cslavin@dordan.com and I will see that they are directed to the appropriate contact. Agreed?

After the panelists had their time in the spot light, the SPC member companies’ representatives broke into separate groups to discuss what should be included in draft EPR and packaging legislation. The main issues addressed were:

  • The need for harmonized legislation/reporting;
  • The need for accurate, third-party verified data on recovery rates of packaging materials to base projected diversion rates upon;
  • Non-static laws that can change with the changing recovery rate of packaging materials and adapt to changing economic realities (need for transparency in the law);
  • Determine collective vs. individual responsibility, as alluded to above;
  • The need for a level-playing ground, whatever that means;
  • And much, much more (though the details have slipped my mind)…

During the panel of municipality reps, I asked how governments were going to work toward the development of local markets for post consumer materials, which would set into motion the supply and demand equilibrium necessary for the economically-sustainable recovery of different materials. After all, more than 2/3rds of the recovered material in America is shipped to international markets, which I would argue, is not necessarily sustainable (think of Chinese laborers picking through bales of misc. recovered materials; or, better yet, think of children in India moving through irresponsibility disposed of electronic waste, not to play the high emotional card or anything but you get the idea)…

I was so nervous and I had a cold so my question came across kind of like a pre-pubescent boys, and the representative who I directed the question at didn’t really know how to answer it…he explained that we live in a global market and international consumption of America’s post consumer materials is a living, breathing reality, and one that I must come to embrace. Weird bears but this idea echoes the sentiments expressed in the email included in yesterday’s post about exploiting the export markets for post consumer mixed rigids, like thermoforms…

And now I am rambling. Alright guys, I got to go; thanks for listening!

I heart Dordan!

August 5, 2010

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

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

Read the press release here:

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

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

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

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

Okay, enough personal embellishments for the day.

Actually, I have one more; humor me.

Drum role please…

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

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

SPC Executive Committee Nominee Description

Chandler Slavin, Sustainability Coordinator, Dordan Manufacturing Company Inc.

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

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

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

Okay, let’s talk sustainability.

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

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

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

Frequently Asked Questions

Is thermoformed plastic packaging recyclable?

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

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

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

Dear Ms. Slavin:

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

GROOVY!

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

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

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

Tootles!