Hurra!

July 5, 2011

Hey!

I hope everyone had a lovely 4th of July weekend! Go America!!!

Sooo I have some exciting news!

First, my rebuttal to the NYT’s anti-clamshell article was featured in Greener Package’s newsletter last week as a news HEADLINE!!! Check it out here with the new comments! I especially like the BOOOYYYAAAA one, ha!

Second, as per last week’s post, Dordan’s redesigned corporate website is now live, yippee! Check it out—there is a ton of good info and research to download. Enjoy!

And last but not least, our press release discussing our Bio Resin Show N Tell for Pack Expo west is featured on the Supplier News section of Greener Package! Check it out here!

Alright, I apologize for today’s post of self-proclamation; still catching up from this weekend’s festivities! BUT I just booked my Dallas trip for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s fall meeting! I hope to see some of you there!

To come: Making a Sea Change summary (Ocean Conservancy re: ocean debris), summary of Dr. Narayan’s science of bio-based/biodegradable resins PPT; and, much much more!

Hello everyone!

Another gloomy day in Chicago—I can’t wait to go to San Diego next week for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s spring meeting! AND, I just booked flights to Rogers, Arkansas, for the Walmart SVN meeting and Expo. Though Dordan is not exhibiting this year, I am excited to see what other vendors are offering and get updated on Walmart’s sustainability initiatives!

So I am about half way through TerraCycle CEO Tom Szacky’s book, “Revolution in a Bottle.” It is really, really good, and inspiring! I thoroughly suggest you get yourself a copy today! That which I like so much about his story is his awareness into the economic realities of the market place: one of his main arguments is that the majority of consumers will NOT pay more for a green product; while everyone wants to do well by the environment, few are willing to pay for it. His whole approach, therefore, is to be able to provide green products at a competitive price and performance as those currently on the market. And the best way to do that? Use what is considered waste as your feedstock. BRILLIANT.

I met with TerraCycle’s VP of Global Brigades today to learn more about the logistics of their approach to recycling/reusing hard-to-recycle materials and products. Basically, they have a brand pay to finance the brigades (collection of materials and shipment) and in return, TerraCycle upcycles or recycles the collected materials thereby extending the brand’s life post consumer. It’s a win-win: the brand gets consumers to participate in their identity by collecting it’s waste i.e. Capri-Sun bags, thereby strengthening the consumers relationship with the brand and the brand’s perceived environmental stewardship; the collected “waste” is then recycled/upcycled into new products, further extending the life of the brand and/or creating a value-added product for the market while diverting hard-to-recycle materials from landfill! From how I understand it, TerraCycle is privatizing waste management—cutting out the MRF, brokers, municipalities, etc, and creating a simplistic supply chain based on consumers’ willingness to participate and a team of innovative designers. As discussed numerous times in my Recycling Report, the whole problem with recycling thermoforms is the high cost of manual sortation and the lack of investment in automated sorting technologies. If consumers are doing the sorting themselves at places where people congregate i.e. schools, church, retailers, etc, then the whole issue of manual vs. automated sorting systems at a MRFs is totally bypassed. These materials don’t even make it to the MRF—TerraCycle sort of IS the MRF! Crazy, right?!?!

The wheels are churning upstairs for sure!

So let’s discuss the first part of Narayan’s PPT on the science of biodegradable polymers. Please visit March 16ths post to download the presentation and follow along with my descriptions per slide number.

Part one: Bio-based products concepts

Slide 6: What value proposition to bio-plastics offer?

As discussed in March 16ths post, there are two components to “sustainability” as it pertains to packaging: the carbon footprint of the package and the end of life management of the packaging material. Therefore, today’s discussion will focus specifically on the carbon footprint dimension of the multi-faceted conception of “sustainability.”

Narayan began the first part of the workshop by explaining that bio-based polymers, that is, plastic that derives its feedstock from an annually-renewable resource, like starch, provides a value proposition in the context of material carbon footprint. He states: “Switching from the “petro/fossil” carbon in plastics to “bio-renewable” carbon reduces the material carbon footprint.”

He then went into a discussion of LCA, as many in the industry have argued that petro-based polymers are “better” than bio-based due to the energy-intensive process of creating carbon from bio-based resources as opposed to petro-based resources. And here is what he had to say:

This has nothing to do with the PROCESS. Those who manufacture bio-based polymers must ensure that their process of generating polymers from renewable resources is better than or equal to the existing process of creating polymers from fossil fuel. However, this isn’t your or my problem. I am not advocating that the process of creating plastic from crop residue is not important when understanding the “sustainability” of these non-traditional resins; I am arguing that that discussion is a separate one then the discussion we are having right now, which is understanding how substituting petro-based carbon with bio-derived carbon is a value added proposition in the context of material carbon footprint.

In a nut shell: there is a value proposition in switching from petro-based carbon to bio-based carbon for plastic material feedstock. This value proposition has nothing to do with the manufacturing process of petro vs. bio-based polymers; it has to do with switching from a non-renewable source of carbon to an annually renewable one. If carbon in polymers can originate from non-renewable fossil fuel or annually-renewable crop residue, why not substitute the renewable carbon with the non-renewable!?!

But how do you derive carbon from crop residue for synthesis into bio-based polymers?

Tune in tomorrow for Chemistry 101.

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!

Helllllllooooo all! Guess what: Dordan is now tweeting! I have always been a little slow to jump on the latest and greatest techie endeavor: personally I didn’t join facebook until I was studying abroad and had strep throat and was feeling a little… disconnected. Same goes with Twitter. However, as the marketing manager at Dordan, I have been researching like crazy on how to create and nourish an integrated marketing campaign; and, everything I have read emphasizes the need for a presence in the social networking sphere of our ever-expanding media cosmos. So I began tweeting, and it’s really fun! In the last two days, Dordan has 15 new followers—most of which are green organizations or packaging publications—and its super cool because I can read all about their efforts and they can read all about Dordan’s. Soooo, now that I have jumped on the bandwagon, “Follow us on Twitter”!

Alright, all sorts of exciting stuff at Dordan!

We have begun composting our food and yard waste. Check out our cute compost bins, which are located in the cafeteria and the office, to collect food scraps and other compostable materials, like paper towels.

If you are trying to decide what kind of bin to get to collect food scraps for composting, I would suggest something with a lid, to keep the smell in and allow ease of disposal. Also, it is convenient to have something that locks the bag in place, which again, allows for easier disposal and maintenance.

So far everyone at Dordan is doing a great job segregating out the compostable material (organic matter) from the non-compostable material, like glass, aluminum, and animal products. We had a bit of a hiccup because I thought we could compost everything food related, except meat and bones, which resulted in someone discarding cheese in the bin and boy was it stinky!!! So now the compost bins are accepting no animal products, including dairy, and the office is happy. Hurray!

While we have only been collecting food scraps for composting for a week, we already have a little pile, which I have mixed with yard waste (fall is a great time to start composting!), and am observing daily. Yesterday I stuck my hand into the composter (not the decaying matter) and felt heat, which I think is a good sign. AND, because Dordan has sampled some bio-based and certified “OK to Home Compost” resins, we tossed some scrap into the mix, to see if the material does in fact biodegrade in the marketed time. Check out the photo:

Obviously you can’t see much, but our modest but growing compost pile is under the green bio-based/compostable material. I will be sure to update you with pictures as the material begins to break down. Neat!

Ummmm Pack Expo begins next week; yikes! In preparation for our Bio-Resin Show N Tell, we have collected all pertinent information for the several alternative resins we have sampled this year, and thermoformed the material so attendees can decide for themselves what they think of the latest thermoformable bio-based/compostable resins. And, for your viewing please, check out the photos below:

This material is cellulous acetate, which means that it derives its feedstock from cellulous, as opposed to fossil fuel. It is certified to biodegrade in home compost piles and industrial composting facilities, and is classified as a paper product if sold into a country with EPR legislation on the books.

This stuff is a cornstarch-based product that is, according to the supplier, “renewable, biodegradable, home compostable, and water dispersible.” Because it can break down in water, which is crazy, it actually absorbs water from the air, which makes processing it super tricky, see:

This guy is PHA…I honestly don’t know much about PHA vs. PLA because I have not gone through the research yet. It is marketed as biodegradable in home composts, industrial composting facilities, marine environments, and basically anywhere else, like the side of the road. Crazy! It actually looks kind of cool…

Next we got a starch based resin, which is certified to biodegrade in industrial composting facilities:

Last, a PLA sample, which I don’t have a picture of…but use your imagination.

So ya, I think it will be a pretty cool exhibit because not only are we actually showing the bio resins we have sampled this year, but we are presenting all sorts of crucial information, like what kind of certifications the materials have, what kind of disposal environments the materials are intended for i.e. industrial composting facility vs. marine biodegradation, price points, performance, specs, etc.

Ok, I got to go; Oh, but check out my SupplierHub blog contribution below. I haven’t received approval yet from the blog designer, so I don’t know if this will be THE blog contribution, but it’s what I came up with thus far…

It is a very exciting time for business ethics: the Milton Friedmanian notion that the only responsibility of a corporation is to increase the profit of its shareholders is now being reconstructed; thrown into the mix is a new desire for corporate responsibility—from consumers and CPGs/retailers alike—in both the social, economic, and environmental spheres.

The domestic packaging industry was first introduced to issues of sustainability with the release of the Wal-Mart Scorecard in 2006. For the first time in history, packaging was being assessed not only on aesthetics, quality, efficiency and cost, but “sustainability.” The dialogue around packaging and sustainability continued to evolve and reached new heights with the formation of the Global Packaging Project from the Global CEO Forum and other industry associations in 2008. In the summer 2010, the GPP released 52 metrics for assessing the sustainability of a package within a global dialogue, taking into consideration those packaging metrics found in the Walmart Packaging Scorecard and SPC’s metrics for assessing sustainable packaging, among others.

What the GPP’s metrics make clear is the need for corporate transparency, not only from packaging suppliers, but the whole supply chain, in the context of environmental and social performance. By requiring certain sets of information from your suppliers, Private Brand suppliers to Walmart can enjoy increased ease of reporting, compliance, and performance on the Packaging Scorecard; which consequentially, will facilitate the continued assessment and therefore improvement of the Supply Chain Score.

Things you should require from their packaging suppliers:

Knowledge of Scorecard metrics: Packaging suppliers should demonstrate proficiency with the metrics of the Walmart Scorecard in order to understand how to design and manufacture the most eco-efficient package based on the specific product requirements. Private Brand suppliers should encourage that their packaging providers be well versed with the Software in order to demonstrate reduction in Scores with any new package proposal/redesign.

Documentation validating all environmental claims:

According to the FTC Green Guides, for a package to be labeled “recyclable,” “the majority of consumers/communities” must have access to facilities that recycle that type of package. If a packaging supplier claims their package is “recyclable,” documentation should be provided, like recovery rates for the packaging type via the US EPA’s MSW data.
For a package to be marketed as “reusable,” packaging suppliers should present evidence that said packaging type has a system for post consumer collection and reuse.

For a package to be marketed as “biodegradable,”/”compostable” packaging suppliers should present qualifying information, like in what disposal environment does said packaging type “biodegrade”/”compost” i.e. industrial composting facility, marine environments, etc. Depending on the disposal environment cited, proper certification should be presented i.e. ASTM D6400 for industrial composting.

Understanding of life cycle of package: Packaging suppliers should demonstrate an understanding of the life cycle impacts of their packaging designs and manufacturing processes. Life stages encouraged for consideration include: manufacture, conversion, end of life, and distribution. Tools like the SPC’s comparative packaging modeling software COMPASS allow packaging suppliers to quantify the life cycle impacts of a packaging design; as such, Private Brand suppliers should encourage their packaging suppliers to provide LCA data demonstrating consideration of their packaging’s life cycle.

With all things considered, Private Brand suppliers should encourage their packaging suppliers to be transparent and accountable for all environmental claims made, packaging produced, and distribution channels utilized. Tools like the Walmart Scorecard, COMPASS, knowledge of the FTC Green Guides, and an understanding of contemporary developments in packaging and sustainability should be considered by packaging suppliers in order to make your job as Private Brand suppliers easier in the context of packaging procurement.

Hello my packaging and sustainability friends!

I sound like a broken record but again, I apologize for not blogging this week; please forgive me!

I have been super busy with creating new marketing materials and restructuring our advertising mix on greenerpackage.com. Check out our new and improved Design for Sustainability white paper here: http://www.greenerpackage.com/corporate_strategy.

And my fabulous Recycling Report here: http://www.greenerpackage.com/blisters_clamshells and here http://www.greenerpackage.com/recycling.

And guess what: PlasticsNews is going to publish my recycling report in the “perspective” section. Look out for it in print in the next 3-4 weeks.

Oh and for all you Packaging World E-newsletter subscribers, look out for our Recycling Report in the August New Issue Alert, scheduled to go out tomorrow! My ad man told me that pictures of people generate more interest (and therefore clicks and leads), so I include the picture of me giving the thumbs-up sign in my ghost buster suit in the garbage during our first waste audit (the one before I got all sweaty and sad). Ha! Good times…

I don’t know if I told you guys but when Dordan was exhibiting at the Walmart Expo I met a gentleman from SupplierHub, which is this online education exchange for private packaging buyers and sellers for Walmart. Anyway he was super nice and I got him hooked on my blog (Hello if your reading this!) and now we are advertising on this site! Go Dordan!

And lastly, I have implemented some changes on Dordan’s website under the “sustainability” tab to reflect our new social and environmental sustainability efforts. While I still have to create some of the language for the new pages it is “live” so check it out; I am quite proud: www.dordan.com.

Advertising excuses aside, the main reason I haven’t been blogging is because I have been passed the Pack Expo baton, which means I am coordinating the show for the first time ever. I was totally freaking out because I just inherited this project and I thought the due date for submitting all the order forms was August 17th but its SEPTEMBER 17th, phew! So now I can relax and resume my blogging!

Ok, enough random embellishments for the day, let’s talk sustainability!

We are going to begin construction on our composter next Tuesday, yippee! I sent an email to the woman who is helping us (also the farmer who is going to use our land to grow organics for the Woodstock community), asking if we needed to begin collecting our food waste. If so, we have real motivation to begin educating our employees about source separation; that is, segregating out the food waste from the food packaging waste, garbage, and recyclables.

As an aside, we just got in some new bio-based material to sample, which is certified “OK to home compost.” This material is unique in that it exceeds the standard 120 degrees F heat deformation temperature currently dominating the market AND can break down in ANY disposal environment, besides landfill. If this is “true,” then this is crazy cool as one of my biggest concerns with biodegradable plastic packaging is that it often doesn’t make it to its intended disposal environment, which is usually an industrial composting facility (D6400 Standard for Industrial Composting). ANYWAY I’m excited to play mad scientist and test the performance of this new material’s biodegradation by tossing it our soon to be erected compost pile. While I will not be able to determine if it completely biodegrades (no plastic particulates available after 90-180 days) because I don’t have insanely microscopic eyeballs, I will be able to determine if it breaks down until no longer visible. By conducting a test of this material’s biodegradability in our compost pile, I will be more comfortable adding it to the reservoir of resins Dordan offers our customers and prospects. So that’s pretty cool…

In regard to my work with our community schools:

I met with the co-chair of the Environmental Task Force for Woodstock School District 200 yesterday. He was super duper nice and I liked him right away! The ETF, he explained, is this organization of administrative folk, including school principals, and two student representatives, who discuss and implement different sustainability initiatives at the schools. One project they are working on this fall is an energy contest, whereby the D200 schools compete to see which one can reduce their energy use the most. They envision having this big thermometer, of sorts, which shows how much energy they have used per week compared with the previous school year. Sounds neato!

The co-chair of the ETF was also interested in having me talk about the field of sustainability as a profession in hopes of generating more interest in environmental sciences. I think this is great! I can’t believe I may be one of these people that comes into schools on “career day;” how funny!

As the meeting came to an end, I provided him with a couple suggestions for how I thought my work could enhance the goals of the ETF. I offered COMPASS tutorials so students could be introduced to life cycle analysis as a methodology for assessing the sustainability of a product or service; recycling education; and, a discussion on environmental advertising and manipulative and misinformed advertising claims. I still remember taking a class in high school called Rhetorical Analysis of Media, which introduced for the first time the idea that I was being marketed to as a consumer and encouraged an awareness and analysis of said media. It was such a cool class and I would love the opportunity to encourage this kind of reflection among students in the sphere of environmental marketing claims, as so many are, in my opinion, flirting with that fine line between reality and greenwashing. In a nut shell, I am really excited to get involved with D200 schools and help spread the love of all things sustainable!

Talk tomorrow!

Hey guys!

Oh man I have so much fun stuff to do so I won’t be able to really post today.

That being said, check out my shout out in Plastics News’ , The Plastics Blog:

One processor’s thoughts on bioplastics

By Don Loepp on June 14, 2010 1:27 PM ET | 1 Comment | No TrackBacks

Bioplastics are a hot topic among recyclers — especially biodegradable resins. Are processors paying attention?

Dordan Manufacturing Co. Inc., a thermoformer in Woodstock, Ill., has been studying the issue for some time, and today Chandler Slavin, the company’s sustainability coordinator, posted a thoughtful item on the topic.

Bio-based plastics, environmental considerations,” on GreenerPackage.com, compares bioplastics like PLA to conventional resins like PET.”Taken together, one would assume that the 2005 Ingeo PLA is a more sustainable option than traditional plastics, as manifest through this study,” she concludes. “However, it is important to take into account the other dimensions discussed above, such as end of life management, complete biodegradation, and sustainable sourcing. By understanding the advantages and disadvantages of bio-based resins from an environmental perspective, packaging professionals can make informed material selections and truly comprehend the ecological ramifications of their packaging selections and designs.”

It’s nice to see a processor taking the time to do the research into the pros and cons of using bioplastics, and I know that Dordan isn’t alone. I get a few phone calls a month from processors with questions about what materials are “most sustainable,” and I know others at Plastics News get the same question.

As I wrote back in January, I think most processors are willing and able to adapt to their customers’ materials-related sustainability goals — they just need information and guidance.Processors are flexible about using recycled content, or bio-based resins, or switching from one virgin material to another. It all depends on cost, performance and what the customer wants. 

Comments (1)
Matt Kerkhoff:

Great post. It’s amazing the turn around in interest concerning environmentally alternatives from just a few years ago. While environmentalists cheer the effort, the true story lies in the market, which has demanded these materials and changes. The big question always was “do people want it”? As of 2010, it looks like they want more choices concerning recycling, sustainability, and how best to take care of the planet. 

Posted by Matt Kerkhoff | June 14, 2010 4:27 PM 

 Neato!!!

I will have a super good post for you all tomorrow–and to give you a clue, it has to do with sustainability! Ha!

Tootles!

Hello world! Today is officially the most beautiful day—the sun is shining and the weather is sweet. If I only I weren’t stuck in a cubicle…

Soooooo because I have had so many of Dordan’s customers ask us about bio-based resins, I decided to compile a brief report, which details the various environmental ramifications one must consider when discussing bio-based plastics. Soon this report will be accessible on our website but because you are all so special, I have attached it below here. A sneak peak, per se. Wow I am a nerd.

Enjoy!

Bio-Based Resins: Environmental Considerations

Biodegradability is an end of life option that allows one to harness the power of microorganisms present in a selected disposal environment to completely remove plastic products designed for biodegradability from the environmental compartment via the microbial food chain in a timely, safe, and efficacious manner.[1]

Designing plastics that can be completely consumed by microorganisms present in the disposal environment in a short time frame can be a safe and environmentally responsible approach for the end-of-life management of single use, disposable packaging.[2] That being said, when considering any bio-based resin, there are some environmental considerations one must take into account. These include: end-of-life management; complete biodegradation,; its agriculturally-based feedstock; and, the energy required and the greenhouse gasses emitted during production.  

Before I expand on these concepts below, let us quickly discuss the biological processes that degradable plastics endure during biodegradation.

Microorganisms utilize carbon product to extract chemical energy for their life processes. They do so by:

  1. Breaking the material (carbohydrates, carbon product) into small molecules by secreting enzymes or the environment does it.
  2. Transporting the small molecules inside the microorganisms cell.
  3. Oxidizing the small molecules (again inside the cell) to CO2 and water, and releasing energy that is utilized by the microorganism for its life processes in a complex biochemical process involving participation of three metabolically interrelated processes. [3]

If bio-based plastic packaging harnesses microbes to completely utilize the carbon substrate and remove it from the environmental compartment, entering into the microbial food chain, then biodegradability is a good end of life option for single use disposable packaging.

End-of-life management considerations:

Because biodegradation is an end of life option that harnesses microorganisms present in the selected disposal environment, one must clearly identify the ‘disposal environment’ when discussing the biodegradability of a bio-based resin: examples include biodegradability under composting conditions, under soil conditions, under anaerobic conditions (anaerobic digestors, landfills), or marine conditions. Most bio-based resins used in packaging applications are designed to biodegrade in an industrial composting facility and one should require some type of certification or standard from material suppliers, ensuring compostability.

Unfortunately, little research has been done on how many industrial composting facilities exist in the United States and how bio-based plastic packaging impacts the integrity of the compost. However, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition did perform a survey of 40 composting facilities in the U.S., which provides some insight. According to their research, 36 of the 40 facilities surveyed accept compostable packaging. These facilities reported no negative impact of including bio-based plastic packaging in the compost. Of the 4 facilities that do not accept compostable packaging, 3 are taking certain packaging on a pilot basis and are considering accepting compostable packaging in the future. Of the facilities surveyed, 67.5% require some kind of certification of compostability i.e. ASTM, BPI, etc.

In addition, because value for composters is found in organic waste, I assume most facilities would not accept bio-based plastic packaging for non-food applications because the lack of associated food waste and therefore value. In other words, as Susan Thoman of Cedar Grove Composting articulated in her presentation at the spring SPC meeting, composters only want compostable food packaging because the associated food waste adds value to the compost whereas the compostable packaging has no value, positive or negative, to the integrity of the compost product. 

It is also important to note that because there are so few industrial composting facilities available, the likelihood that your bio-based plastic packaging will find its way to its intended end of life management environment is rare. While the idea of biodegradation and compostability for plastic packaging may resonate with consumers, the industrial composting infrastructure is in its infancy and requires a considerable amount of investment in order to develop to the point where it would be an effective and economical option to manage plastic packaging waste post consumer.

Complete biodegradability considerations:

A number of polymers in the market are designed to degradable i.e. they fragment into smaller pieces and may degrade to residues invisible to the naked eye. While it is assumed that the breakdown products will eventually biodegrade there is no data to document complete biodegradability within a reasonably short time period (e.g. a single growing season/one year). Hence hydrophobic, high surface area plastic residues may migrate into water and other compartments of the ecosystem.[4]

In a recent Science article Thompson et al. (2004) reported that plastic debris around the globe can erode (degrade) away and end up as microscopic granular or fiber-like fragments, and these fragments have been steadily accumulating in the oceans. Their experiments show that marine animals consume microscopic bits of plastic, as seen in the digestive tract of an amphipod.

The Algalita Marine Research Foundation[5] report that degraded plastic residues can attract and hold hydrophobic elements like PCB and DDT up to one million times background levels. The PCB’s and DDT’s are at background levels in soil and diluted our so as to not pose significant risk. However, degradable plastic residues with these high surface areas concentrate these chemicals, resulting in a toxic legacy in a form that may pose risks to the environment.

Therefore, designing degradable plastics without ensuring that the degraded fragments are completely assimilated by the microbial populations in the disposal infrastructure in a short time period has the potential to harm the environment more that if it was not made to degrade.

Agriculturally-based feedstock considerations:

Most commercially available bio-based resins are produced from sugar or starch derived from food crops such as corn and sugarcane.[6]Over the past few years, the use of food crops to produce biofuels has become highly controversial; the same may happen with bio-based resins. However, this is only if the scale of bio-based polymer production grows. According to Telles VP Findlen, “If the bioplastics industry grows to be 10% of the traditional plastics industry, then around 100 billion pounds of starch will be necessary, and there is no question that that will have an effect on agricultural commodities.”[7]

This sentiment is echoed by Jason Clay of the World Wild Life Fund. Because sugar is the most productive food crop[8] Clay explained, it makes an ideal feedstock for bio-based resin production; however, if all Bio-PE and Bio-PET came from sugarcane, we would need 2.5 times as much land in sugarcane. Unfortunately, this can not be done sustainably because, according to the Living Planet Report,[9] our current demand for the Earth’s resources is 1.25 times what the planet can sustain.[10] Put another way, on September 25th of this year our resource use surpassed what is sustainable. What this would mean as a financial issue is that we are living off our principle.[11]

Therefore, when considering bio-based resins, one should take into consideration the feedstock from which it is derived and the various environmental requirements that go into procuring said feedstock. While the current production of bio-based resins is not to scale to compete with sugarcane production for food, it is important to understand the environmental and social ramifications of sourcing materials from agriculturally based products.

Energy requirements and fossil fuel consumption of production:

Obviously sourcing plastics from bio-based resources as opposed to fossil fuel is an intriguing option for those looking to reduce the burden of packaging on the environment. However, if the energy required to produce bio-based plastics exceeds the energy consumed in the production of traditional resins, then the sustainability profile of bio-based plastics can be compromised.

When bio-based plastics first became commercially available, the processing technologies were not developed to the point where producing plastics from bio-based sources consumed less energy than producing traditional, fossil-fuel based plastics. However, the bio plastics industry has dramatically evolved and is now able to produce certain bio-based resins with less energy when compared with traditional resins. Natureworks Ingeo PLA (2005), for instance, is processed in such a way that it actually consumes less energy and emits fewer greenhouse gas equivalents during production when compared with traditional, fossil-fuel based resins.[12]

The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IFEU), Heidelberg, Germany, conducted the head-to-head lifecycle comparison on more than 40 different combinations of clamshell packaging made from Ingeo PLA, PET and rPET. Both PLA and rPET clamshells outperformed PET packaging in terms of lower overall greenhouse gas emissions and lower overall energy consumed and PLA exceeded rPET in its environmental performance.

According to the study, clamshell packaging consisting of 100 percent rPET emitted 62.7 kilograms of C02 equivalents per 1,000 clamshells over its complete life cycle. PLA clamshells emitted even less, with 61.7 kilograms C02 equivalents per 1,000 clamshells. Energy consumed over the lifecycle for 100 percent rPET clamshells was 0.88 GJ. This compared to o.72 GJ for the Ingeo 2005 resin, which is an 18% reduction in energy consumed.

Taken together, one would assume that the 2005 Ingeo PLA is a more sustainable option than traditional plastics, as manifest through this study. However, it is important to take into account the other dimensions discussed above, such as end of life management, complete biodegradation, and sustainable sourcing. By understanding the advantages and disadvantages of bio-based resins from an environmental perspective, packaging professionals can make informed material selections and truly comprehend the ecological ramifications of their packaging selections and designs.


[1] Ramani Narayan, “Biodegradability…” Bioplastics Magazine, Jan. 2009. Narayan is a professor from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at Michigan State University.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] See www.algalita.org/pelagic_plastic.html.

[6] Jon Evans, “Bioplastics get Growing,” Plastics Engineering, Feb. 2010, www.4spe.org, p. 19.

[7] Ibid, p. 19.

[8] 1-2 orders of magnitude more calories per ha than any other food crop. Information taken from Jason Clay’s presentation, “Biomaterial Procurement: Selected Resources,” at the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s spring meeting in Boston.

[9] The Living Plant Report is a biannual analysis of the carrying capacity of the globe compared with resource consumption: Population x consumption > planet.

[10] Clay, SPC spring meeting presentation.

[11] Ibid. 

[12] M. Patel, R.Narayan in Natural Fibers, Biopolymers and Biocomposites.

Recap # 1: Toronto

April 15, 2010

Hello world!

It’s been so long since my last post, I almost don’t know where to begin!

Well, Toronto was awesome!

Pretty!

The Canadian retailer has a very nice facility with even nicer employees. The  Committee I will be working with basically looks to increase the recycling rates of several hard-to-place materials; those of specific focus where PS/EPS, PET (thermo-grade and bottle-grade) and bio-based resins.

When the meeting began we went around and introduced ourselves. I was super nervous because, as I am reminded again and again, I am young and considerably new to the “business world.” Being surrounded by really accomplished people in the industry was very intimidating, motivating me to keep my mouth shut, observe and learn.

The pre-reading material for the Committee described the current plastic packaging waste generation in Canada. It is broken down as follows:

  • Plastics represent 7-8% of the residential waste stream;
  • Plastic packaging represents 81% of total plastics found in the residential waste stream;
  • Plastic bottles account for 31% of the total plastics packaging generation. This is followed by:
    • Non-recyclable film at 29%,
    • Recyclable film at 19%,
    • Polystyrene at 10%,
    • Wide mouth tubs at 6%,
    • Other rigid plastics 5%.

WOW I thought to myself as I read over the statistics…only 5% of the 7-8% of plastic packaging that is in the residential waste stream is attributed to thermoforms i.e. other rigid plastics? Is that even enough material to reach the “critical mass” necessary to find an “end-of-life” market for thermoforms? The reason I ask is because if there is not enough quantity of these materials/packages types in Canada to create the critical mass necessary to find a buyer post-consumer, is my clamshell recycling initiative going to DIE? UG, I hope not!

And then consider the following:

I was reading good old Plastics News and came across an article about a new plastics recovery plant opening later this year in England, which looks to reprocess plastic from automotive shredder residue.

Author Esposito writes, “The slow journey of recycling in the U.S. is a bit frustrating…since the country generates THE MOST ELECTRONIC WASTE IN THE WORLD—more than 21 million pounds per year.”

Founder and President of this recovery facility explains: “One of the issues in the U.S. is that there’s no electronic collection infrastructure…And some that we do gather is sold overseas. The U.S. has more mines of plastic than any other country—it’s amazing that we don’t use it” (Michael Biddle, MBA Polymers Inc.).

For the full article, please visit: http://plasticsnews.com/headlines2.html?id=10031501901&q=MBA+moves+toward+being+global+recycler.

Several things jumped out at me while reading this article: First, is how misplaced the current anxiety of waste management is on single-use disposable packaging when trendy consumer electronics go unnoticed, although from a pure quantity standpoint, they blow plastic packaging out of the water in the context of waste generation. I am not trying to point the finger at any industry, product, or what not; what I am trying to imply, although not very discreetly, is that plastic packaging is being targeted as a manifestation of our over-consumptive society while other products, specifically, consumer electronics, are marketed as innovative, young, and anything but environmentally malevolent. Hmmmm…

So this got me a’thinkin…I am sorry to run on this tangent but a girl has got to do what I girl has got to do:

Perhaps the best way to go about this recycling initiative is to work with a large consumer electronics company that buys a lot of clamshell packaging. If they have implemented any product stewardship initiatives, like Dell ink with their shipping envelopes, then perhaps they would be interested in working with their packaging suppliers to “close the loop,” per se.

I envision the relationship like this:

Company X makes a ton of cell phones for the American market; they buy Y amount of clamshells yearly, all of which end up in a landfill. Because of the increased pressure on producers to consider the end-of-life management of their products/packages, perhaps we could develop a partnership where Dordan would provide all the clamshell packages to company X under the agreement that if returned to our facility, we would regrind them and reprocess them into next generation clamshells. The only logistical problems would be enticing the consumer to bring the packages back to a store or drop-off location (perhaps company X could offer a point-rewarding system similar to Recycle Bank) and then funding the shipment back to our plant…

So, if any CEOs of super-powerful consumer electronic companies are reading this blog, we should get lunch!

Ha!

Ok, where was I before my thought-baby…OH the Committee in Ontario:   

Below are my notes from the meeting. Enjoy!

  • Background: The Committee focuses on increasing the recovery rates of several hard-to-place materials in Canada. In Canada, Stewardship Ontario requires “producers” to fund 50% of the packaging waste management of the products they sell. The Committee is the first time a powerful retailer has gathered people from along the supply chain to honestly investigate the obstacles keeping some materials out of the recovery stream: This retailer has the power to influence the packaging sold in Canada via purchasing power.
  • We spent a lot of time discussing the “scope” of the Committee’s goals (increase diversion rate to X% by Y date):
    • All of Canada?
    • Province-specific?
    • Retailer in-house waste only?
    • This retailer has over an 80% waste diversion rate of in-house waste management. This ROCKS!
    • Post-consumer, post-industrial, or both?
  • Determined scope/goal:
    • Scope: RESIDENTIAL and NATIONAL
    • Goal: Harmonize products on shelf with recovery infrastructure
  • Material 1, PS:
    • PS is 98% air 2% resinàbecause of its density there is no economical way to COLLECT the material for recovery (shipping a truck of air exceeds value of resin).
    • Demand is for DENSIFIED PS.
    • Purchase a densifier for each municipality
      • Cold densifier: Don’t need an air omissions certificate;
      • Thermal densifer: Do need an air omissions certificate;
    • Drawbacks: Expensive and pay back depends on QUANITY.
  • Material 2, PET
    •  “Thermoformers can use bottle-grade PET but bottles can NOT use thermo-grade PET.”
      • Why: Different IV’s and fear of contamination
        • Carbonated soda drinks use one IV, water bottles use another, thermos use something else, etc. AND one PVC clam in a bale of bottle-grade PET contaminates the entire feedstock for reprocessing.
      • Also, a chicken and egg syndromeàthere is no end-market for thermo-grade PET because the quantity isn’t there; but the quantity isn’t there because it is not collected because there is no end-market.
      • Solution: Identify end market FIRST; collect thermoforms and conduct pilot to determine the quality of mixed material.
      • Mimic the corrugated recovery specs: Corrugated council conducted testing on alternatives to OCC compliance and determined that 21 alternatives to corrugated can be recycled along with corrugated.

We actually didn’t spend much time on bio-based resins, aside from discussing the appropriate vernacular for describing this new family of agriculturally-based resins. For the record, the proper language is “bio-based” polymers as cellulous is a bio polymer of a different sort and therefore the distinction should be advocated to eliminate confusion in the market. Good times.                                                                           

I met two girls from the Ministry of the Environment; they were super cool and gave me a ride back to the city, thereby saving me some 90 odd dollars. They were both policy girls, which means they spend a lot of time on issues of waste management and product stewardship. We hit it off because shared interests and because they sat next to me and I am a chatty Cathy, especially when nervous and out of my element.

That’s all for now. Tomorrow’s post will describe my experiences at the Walmart Expo in Arkansas.

Thanks for listening! And thanks Canada!

Bye Bye!