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!

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

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

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

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

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

Chandler Slavin, Dordan Mfg.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IV.  PVC contamination:

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

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

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

                                                            iii.      PVC liners found inside some caps and closures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VI.  Misc. considerations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chandler Slavin, Dordan Mfg.

Supply and demand of PET bottles, North American context

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

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

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

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

Chandler Slavin, Dordan Mfg.

Supply and demand of PET thermoforms, North American context

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

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

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

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

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

  1. The cost of energy

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

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

Chandler Slavin, Dordan Mfg.

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

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

Chandler Slavin, Dordan Mfg.

Case Studies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Monday Funday!

May 24, 2010

Happy Monday Funday!

The company that I made the “Sustainability and Packaging” presentation for, which I posted to my blog on Friday, sent me the following email after receiving said powerpoint (I sent it early for confirmation of its content):

“180 slides is way too long, even for a medical convention…”

Ha!

How do you provide an “overview of sustainability” in 60 slides, which is what this company suggested? I guess I am just as dilligent a powerpointer as I was a student; I was one of the special few who had to speak with my professors about exceeding the page limits for term papers—old habits die hard…

Anyway, tomorrow’s the day: My big presentation for a giant company on all things “Sustainable.” I am going to wear my new power business suit and fab heels AND I took my face piercing out several weeks ago so I look totally business-like.

For today’s post I thought I would reflect on a recent happening in our industry, which was convered on greenerpackage.com, PlasticsNews, and other misc. packaging publications. Because the company in question is a competitor, my superior was hesitant about me articulating my questions in a public forum i.e. on greenerpackage.com. Therefore, I decided to address this tid bit in my blog as it is not an in-your-face forum because I totally respect this company and the work they are doing in sustainability.

Consequentially, all reference to this company has been removed so as not to ruffle anyone’s tail feathers.

Here is the article:

Company X  has announced that it will construct a closed-loop recycling facility in Somewhere America to grind and wash post-consumer bottles and thermoforms for processing into its namebrand sheet products. The company says it is reducing the total carbon footprint of its product by bringing the material supply chain closer to production and offering its customers more choices of materials, including up to 100% post-consumer content PET.

 “We’re excited to bring bottle cleaning and sheet production together in a continuous process loop,” says company CEO. “Our factory design will streamline operations while delivering the recycled sheet products the market requires.”

Company X notes that it is among the first thermoforming companies in the food and consumer packaging industry to implement its own in-house recycling. With the new facility, the company will receive curbside-collected bottles to clean, grind, and extrude into sheet. Reducing the number of bottles going to landfills while providing high-quality material for customers has long been a goal for the company. Company X has been using recycled content in its packaging for more than 15 years, and over the last seven, it has diverted more than 1 billion discarded bottles from landfills.

While Company X has extruded sheet for internal use for 20 years, this marks the first time it will sell its namebrand sheet on the open market.

In addition to namebrand post-consumer rPET, the facility will produce LNO (letter of non-object) flake, allowing food contact with recycled material. Company X  has also commercialized an RF-sealable rPET grade of material to address customers’ bar sealing requirements for PET. Company X says that with only minor process adjustments, this material is a direct replacement for PVC sealing applications.

The recycling facility will be completed in two phases. In phase one, Company X will be adding an additional extruder for its namebrand rollstock. This will be completed in the third quarter of 2010. Phase two will be the addition of the bottle washing equipment, which is scheduled to be operational in the first quarter of 2011, with plans for additional extruders to follow.

Company X’s CEO said that integrating the bottle washing and grinding makes sense, given the amount of post-consumer material the company uses. With the completion of the in-house recycling facility, the firm will be able to streamline the recycling process to ensure that raw material meets Company X’s high standards.

Seeing as how I have been trying to figure out a way to integrate our RPET thermoforms into the existing PET bottle recycling infrastructure, I have A TON of questions for Company X. 

If any of you fine packaging and sustainability friends have any insight, please don’t hesitate to share!!! Sharing is caring!

  • What are the specs of the bales of thermoforms Company X is buying from the MRF?
  • Are they only PET thermoforms or are they mixed material thermoform bales?
  • If only PET thermoforms, is there enough QUANTITY of these types of packages available for the recovery of PET thermoforms to be economically sustainable?
  • How do they collect ONLY PET thermoforms without collecting “look a likes” like PVC, which will completely compromise the integrity of the PET bale, or PETG, which has a lower melting temperature and therefore adds inconsistencies to the recovery process?
  • Are you planning on integrating the PET thermoform scrap with the PET bottle scrap and extruding together? If so, how will you handle the different IVs between sheet grade PET and bottle grade PET?
  • If buying mixed material thermoform bales from the MRF i.e. PET, PETG, PP, etc., how are the different resins sorted for recovery? Are they blended together to create a low-grade, mixed resin flake for down-cycling applications? If so, who is buying this low-grade, mixed resin flake?
  • What kind of sorting technology is utilized to be able to generate a clean, quality stream of PET thermoforms for Company X to grind, clean, and extrude for direct food-contact packaging?
  • How are you competing with Asia for PCR PET?

While I am tickled pink that Company X is recovering thermoforms post-consumer in a closed-loop system, I don’t know how they are doing it! Perhaps the point, no?

That’s all for now; wish me luck tomorrow on my presentation!

The next day I arrived to the office to find the following email that confirmed the results of our RPET samples’ test, which I had verbally received from another WM contact the day before:

Hi Chandler,

After speaking with our plant manager in Grayslake, PET clam shells should be recoverable from the recycling stream via optical and manual sorts.  I can’t say that’s the case at all WM recycling facilities, or non- WM competitive facilities, so take that for what it’s worth :).  The material would end up in our PET bales. 

However, that does not mean that the PET blister packs are the “same” as bottle grade PET bottles… as I understand it, the PET bottles have an IV rating of 0.78 – 0.80, or a “high rigidity,” that bottle makers require.  I do not know what UV rating your blister packs have, so I would recommend you discuss the technical aspects of your products with your engineers and your suppliers to determine the IV rating and other compatibility issues.

The main issue at this point, based on my research and discussions internally here at WM, is that any non-bottle PET that gets into a bale is typically discarded for landfill upon receipt at a PET bottler, even if a collection and processing company like WM can sort the PET blister packs from the recycling stream.  Again, perhaps you can confirm or research this further with your suppliers.

I hope this helps!  Good luck with your project. 

Hmmmmmm…

I then sent our head engineer the following inquiry:

Hey,

Do you have any idea what the “IV” of our supplier’s RPET is?

Thanks!

Chan

After a delectable lunch of an Italian beef with sweet peppers, I returned to find the following:

Spec for supplier’s RPET is IV>= 0.65; I believe it’s typically between 0.70 and 0.75.

Hope this helps.

I then checked the email from WM… “PET bottles have an IV rating of 0.78-0.80, or a ‘high rigidity’…”

Well, that’s not too terribly different than our 0.75 IV…now I am confused.

Tune in tomorrow to learn more about recycling in America!

AND check out this website that my contact from the APR suggested to find buyers of post-consumer plastic scrap: http://www.plasticsmarkets.org/. I just found it so I will let you know what I can find out in regard to who buys bales of thermoforms post-conumser. YIPEEEEEEEEEEEE.

Ok, so I think I have dragged out the inevitable long enough. And resume recycling narrative:

Ring…Ring…

“Good Morning Dordan this is Sarah how can I help you? One moment please…”

Beep. “Chandler, Waste Management on Line 1…”

“Thanks.”

Suddenly I realized that this was the call I had been waiting on for almost 7 weeks: the results of our RPET clamshell samples’ test via the MRFs optical sorter. If our supplier-certified 70% post-consumer regrind PET clamshell packages are “read” like PET bottles via the recovery facility’s optical sorter, then perhaps we could integrate our clamshells into the existing PET bottle recycling infrastructure. If anything, the results would tell us if one of the many obstacles facing the inclusion of PET/RPET clamshells into the PET bottle recovery stream is NOT the inability to sort these two packaging types together.

I reach for the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hey Chandler!”

“Hey, nice to hear from you; how’s it going?”

“Great, thanks. I have the results from the MRF regarding your samples.”

“Ok, what are they; did they pass with the bottles?”

“Yes, there was no difference between the PET bottles and RPET samples as read by our optical sorter. So if RPET clams and PET bottles were moving down the line together, there would be no luminescent difference between the bottles and clams as they moved through our plastic sorting station. Again, the main point of the optical sorter is to see the difference between PVC and PET bottles, which look dramatically different when viewed via the optical sorter.”

“This is wonderful news!”

“Well, keep in mind that regardless of this, buyers of baled PET bottles DO NOT want clams in the mix.”

“And this is because fear of contamination, different IVs and perhaps melting points, no specs for mixed bales and on and on…?”

“Pretty much hit the nail on the head.”

“Well, I really appreciate you and WM going out of your way to help us figure this stuff out. We just want to recycle our packages—didn’t know how complicated it is!”

“Well we wish you the best of luck with your recycling initiative. Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you…”

“Truly, thanks again.”

“No problem; take care.”

“You too!”

I hung up the phone.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm…what does this mean, I asked myself?

I think it means that the molecular structures of clamshell RPET and bottle PET are the same, at least was read via the optical sorter.

So how will this help us recycle our RPET thermoforms?

It illustrates that the reason RPET clams are not recycled with bottles has nothing to do with an inability to sort the two packaging types together. So if our RPET clams and PET bottles are read the same, they could be collected and baled, with no need for different sorting technology.

Good to establish, Chandler.

Suddenly I snapped out of my internal discussion; my two colleagues were waiting tentatively outside my cubicle, eager for the results.

“They passed!” I said.

“Sweet!” they replied in unison.

“So what does this mean for us?”

“Haha, I’m not quite sure yet…”

Tune in Monday for a summary of the different obstacles hindering the inclusion of RPET clams in the PET bottle recovery stream. Once established we will move on to discuss how the following determine the recyclability of a material/packaging type: supply, demand, and technology.

Have a splendid weekend! Its Friday, woop woop!

Bottle Box

May 12, 2010

This is awsome and all I want to say for today:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRPYccEXt-8

This company is super cool–they buy baled PET bottles and clean, grind, flake and extrude the material into RPET clamshells.

I am making a giant graph of all my research on recycling so get excited!

Tootles!

Guess what!

May 11, 2010

Hello world!

UG don’t hate me for my failure to post AGAIN; it has been a heck of a day!

But guess what: I have been invited to assist a major retailer in their attempts to achieve zero waste for PET packaging, both thermoforms and bottles! But not only assist; be a CO-LEADER! I will be a research junky, therefore, as I hope to compile abstracts for the other co-leader and committee members to summarize my research over the past 6 months. And what that means to YOU my fellow blog readers is that I will be extra awesome with blogging because it has become a priority, again.

As I am sure some of my more diligent followers are aware, my blogging ebbs and flows with my existing work load AND the perceived value of continuing to investigate the logistics and economics governing the recycling of clamshells. Because of this recently ignited interest in my work on recycling PET thermoforms, I have been given the green light to (again) delve into researching waste management and recycling in America. YIPEEEEEE! I don’t think I would make a very good Sales woman anyway…J Work from home, here I come!

So tomorrow I will, and I promise, present the results of our RPET samples’ test and discuss how to move this initiative forward. If Canada can do it, so can we!

See you soon my packaging and sustainability friends!

Happy Monday Funday! I hope the weather is as beautiful for you as it is for me—sunny and 70, what more can a girl ask for?

 SO where were we…that’s right, recapping the SPC spring meeting.

Oh, before I forget, there was one more thing I wanted to tell you about the Walmart Expo.

Prior to the Expo, in preparation for the Walmart SVN meeting (Sustainable Value Network), we were asked to do a little homework: this entailed going to a local Walmart and finding a package that needed a “sustainability makeover.” We were supposed to fill out a “packaging opportunities template,” which basically inquired into how one would redesign the package to increase its environmental profile while saving costs. This is what our team came up with:

PackagingOpportunitiesTemplate, FINAL

We decided to pick on a thermoformed package because we are thermoformers, although this one looks as though it was manufactured overseas, due to the perimeter sealing. Therefore, it’s not like we would be able to steal the business…I wonder what the sustainability profile is of an overseas manufacturer versus a domestic supplier…Ha!

Anywhoozy, it turns out that during the SVN meeting several of these “packaging opportunities” were to be presented to the entire conference—and guess what—I was one of the lucky four selected to present.

Basically I suggested that the package be right-sized and thermoformed out of RPET instead of PVC. The panel then inquired into how I would convey the same marketing presence with a reduced package AND prevent against pilferage. I was stumped. Perhaps include a recyclable paperboard backing, I offered? That totally stunk, however, because it suggested that paperboard is more “sustainable” than plastic, which I would not argue having performed extensive research on the topic. AND, according to the recent E.P.A. reports, the paperboard used in clamshell alternatives (labeled “other paperboard packaging” in the MSW report) HAS NO RECOVERY DATA—literally it is listed as neg., which means negligent. I wish I had known this during my presentation as it would have served our industry well. Rats!

Visit http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/msw2008data.pdf to see the break down of what is recycled and what is not in the paper world.

I guess my obsession with the recycle-ability of paperboard versus thermoforms can be summed up as follows:

I am at the Walmart Expo, working the booth. A prospect comes by, with whom I have had casual conversation in the past. Having seen his product at a competitor’s booth, I hassle him saying, “I saw your thermoformed trays at our competitor’s booth…and here you have been blowing me off all year…not very nice!” And he responds with, “we are getting out of thermoformed trays because they are not recycled.”

UG! What do you say to that? Prior to knowing that paperboard, which would be the alternative used for his packaging application, has no data for recovery post-consumer according to the E.P.A., I assumed that it was the more sustainable material because of its end-of-life recovery. But now that I know that in most cases, both thermoformed trays AND paperboard trays end up in landfills, I should have articulated a better argument for why thermoformed trays are still a wonderful packaging option.

It’s like when you have some kind of social confrontation and find yourself tongue-tied only to later come up with the best “come-back” ever! That’s what this was like; I needed a good come back, both for the “packaging opportunities” presentation and the fellow who thinks paperboard is better due to its end of life recovery. Next time…

A couple other points about the Walmart Expo:

As discussed in a previous post, the Walmart Scorecard has a “transport module,” which takes into account the inputs/outputs of shipping a package from the point of conversion/manufacture to the point of fulfillment. Supposedly the filled packages’ journey to the point of purchase is covered in another metric…

Anyway, I asked if the scorecard takes into account/intends to take into account the environmental ramifications of overseas manufacturers versus domestic manufactures. After all, long before my appointment at Dordan, we lost business to China because of the super duper low prices of labor and therefore commodities. And considering all this sustainability jazz, one would think that sourcing domestically would have some kind of impact on ones Score (think shipping, environmental regulations, labor regulations, etc. in China versus the States)…unfortunately, that is not the case. According to a member of the SVN, Walmart considered having a “point of origin” metric but determined that it was unquantifiable and would not resonate with their suppliers. Go figure!

A SVN member then articulated the following inquiry, which tickled me pink: Is the Scorecard going to take into account the inks, laminates, and sealants used on paperboard packaging? The member who voiced this inquiry qualified this question with some data, specifically, that even the tiny amounts of hazardous material in these various substances can have a high toxicity on the social and environmental environments.

This inquiry was answered as follows: Again, they considered adding this metric into the Scorecard but did not because they didn’t believe that these factors had a large enough effect on the overall “environmental profile” of a package. Supposedly, if we prove otherwise, they will consider adding this metric into the scorecard…

Lastly, Walmart is rolling out their Scorecard to other countries. I asked if each Scorecard used different recovery rates depending on the country it was being utilized for. In other words, Canada has a better recovery rate for most packaging materials that the U.S.; therefore, is their Scorecard going to use Canadian recovery data or American? According to the SVN, each Scorecard will be country specific, using recovery data from the country considered.

Wow, another marathon of an email. I’m sorry to keep rambling, I just have so many thoughts! I will continue tomorrow with the SPC recap and quickly move into resuming my clamshell recycling initiative.

Go packaging!

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!”