Hello and happy Monday funday!

Sooooo guess what?!? It turns out that my “Truth about Plastics Packaging” report isn’t due into the publishers to be distributed with Packaging World’s August New Issue Alert until August 8th! HURRA! I am about half-way done outlining Freinkel’s Plastic: A Toxic Love Story and plan to have the final draft ready for you, my packaging and sustainability friends, by the first week of August. Stay tuned!

On another note, I found BABY MICE in the composter! Uh oh. While they are very cute (see the picture below), I don’t believe they are ideal for composting.

The process of composting Dordan’s food and yard waste has been a learning process, insofar as it is a bit of a formula between wet (food) and dry (yard) waste. So far we have had a disproportionate amount of dry to wet waste, which has resulted in the compost pile being a bit stagnant. Oh well, live and learn! We will continue to work on getting the “perfect” mix in the composter to produce quality compost for our organic Victory Garden, which is coming along swimmingly! Last week we harvested basil and several types of lettuce. The peppers and tomatoes are getting bigger and bigger each day! Look out for new pictures in a latter post!

And, our online booth for Pack Expo is now LIVE! Check it out here!

And, sort of random, but Dordan released a press release introducing our redesigned corporate website, though I don’t think it was interesting enough to be picked up by any industry publications, wa wa. Check it out below!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact:
Rob McClurg
TurnKey Digital, LTD.
815.334.9300
rmcclurg@turnkeydigital.com

Dordan Manufacturing Unveils Redesigned Corporate Website

Woodstock—July 6th 2011—Dordan Manufacturing Company Inc., third-generation family owned and operated custom thermoformer, unveiled a redesigned corporate website July 1st, 2011 at 5:30 PM CST. The new website, designed by Dordan’s internal Marketing Department and media house TurnKey Digital of Woodstock, IL, aesthetically aligns itself with Dordan’s newly-focused brand identity; such identity took root with Dordan’s integrated marketing campaign introduced in 2010 via Summit Media Company. While enjoying the reputation that comes with almost 50 years experience in the industry, Dordan CEO Daniel Slavin wanted to increase its brand recognition through the development and execution of a marketing campaign that worked on several media platforms—the last of which the redesign of the corporate website, http://www.Dordan.com.

Previously dominated with highly saturated hues and minimal content, the new website is light, modern, and easy-to-use. High-quality photographs with a click-and-zoom feature accompany each product page, allowing for ease of product recognition. A package design rendering video is included on the package design service page, illustrating one of the many design renderings Dordan offers its clients in the package development process. Also included is company-specific information, like how tools are machined, how many thermoforming lines are available, and what materials Dordan has experience thermoforming. In short, the new website is content-rich and aesthetically pleasing, aiding Dordan in communicating its corporate goals of transparency, sustainability, and package design and plastic thermoforming excellence.

New to the site is Dordan’s Morphing Sustainability Logo, which represents the corporation’s integrated approach to sustainability that draws on the social, economic, and environmental aspects thereof. The “Mega-Logo,” available on the Dordan Sustainability Initiatives page, represents this three-tiered approach to sustainability with its three green leaves denoting each aspect of sustainability. The Economic Sustainability page contains the first rendition of the morphing logo, displaying a tomato plant “growing” out of the branded “D” for “Dordan,” symbolic of the company’s Organic Victory Garden and relationship to the local economy. The Social Sustainability page contains the next rendition of the morphing logo, represented by a school growing out of the “D;” this is intended to convey the company’s involvement with the Woodstock School District. The Environmental Sustainability page includes the last rendition of the morphing logo, this time with flowers growing out of the “D” representative of Dordan’s goal of zero-waste. The Sustainability Morphing Logo is viewable in its entirety on the Dordan.com homepage and Harvard-based artist Gabriel Karagianis designed it.

Dordan CEO Slavin explains, “While we have always considered ourselves one of the premiere custom plastic thermoforming companies in the industry, we wanted our branded identity to convey that. Consequently, we invested in a 6-month process redesigning and re-writing the corporate website, in hopes that the new look would resonate with those looking for a full-service design and plastic packaging manufacturing company. We are thrilled with the result and are happy to share the new feel with our friends and colleagues, clients and industry.”

About Dordan Manufacturing Co. Inc.

Incorporated in 1962, Dordan is a Midwestern based, National supplier of custom designed thermoformed packaging solutions like clamshells, blisters, trays and components for a variety of industries. Dordan will be exhibiting at Pack Expo in Las Vegas September 26th-28th, booth #6007.

AND, last but not least, but some exciting developments in recycling PET thermoforms hit the press last week! Check out the PlasticsNews article below!

NAPCOR and SPI team up to help recycle thermoformed PET
By Mike Verespej | PLASTICS NEWS STAFF

WASHINGTON (July 18, 5:15 p.m. ET) — In an initiative that officials hope will propel the collection and recycling of thermoformed PET packaging, trade groups representing plastics and recycling companies are collaborating on a model program to demonstrate the economic feasibility of capturing that material.

The program represents the first major recycling initiative by the industry’s largest plastics association, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.

“Thermoformed packaging is the fastest-growing packaging segment in the U.S. and Canada,” said Dennis Sabourin, executive director of the Sonoma, Calif.,-based National Association for PET Container Resources, which is partnering with SPI. “This represents a tremendous opportunity to build the supply of recycled plastic materials,” as the amount of thermoformed packaging in the U.S. and Canada is expected to be 3 billion pounds by 2014 — or half the size of today’s PET bottle market.

In addition, the largest Canadian grocers last month told their suppliers to switch to PET clamshells for most food packaging by Jan 1, 2012.

Click here for the full article.

I leave you with a legend on how modern plastics were born, as per Freinkel’s Plastic: A Toxic Love Story…

Legend has it that one day John D. Rockefeller was looking out over one of his oil refineries and suddenly noticed flames flaring from some smokestacks. “What’s burning?” he asked, and someone explained that the company was burning off ethylene gas, a byproduct of the refining process. “I don’t believe in wasting anything!” Rockefeller supposedly snapped. “Figure out something to do with it!” That something became polyethylene (59).

HA! LOVE IT.

AND LOOK– my mom caught a picture of a female Cardinal feeding a motherless baby Robin bird! So much for survival of the fittest (though my mother informed me that the baby Robin was washed away in Friday’s thunder storm…that’s kind of a bummer).

Helllooooo my packaging and sustainability friends!

Today I am going to begin discussing the insights of the SPC meeting I attended in San Diego last week. As alluded to in yesterday’s post, these meetings are conducted under the “chatham house rule,” which means that “participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

I flew into San Diego on Monday to catch part of the pre-conference workshops—specifically—the “SPC Labeling for Recovery Update” as I spend a lot of time researching end of life management of packaging materials. One of the arguments I make in my Recycling Report is that the SPI ID code on the bottom of plastic packaging is an inefficient means of segregating plastic by resin type for its end of life reprocessing in manual sortation systems. Do note, however, that sortation by resin type post-consumer was never the SPI’s intention with these codes—it was more constructed as a form of intra-industry communication. ANYWAY, the SPC’s Labeling for Recovery Pilot looks to model itself a bit off the UK’s Labeling for Recovery scheme insofar as it is intended to communicate to CONSUMERS what packaging materials are recycled, what may be recycled, and what currently are not recycled. For those of you unfamiliar with the UK’s labeling scheme, it began as a project by WRAP, which was subsequently re-identified as OPRL Ltd. (On Pack Recovery Label). OPRL is now used on more than 90% of grocery packaging in the UK and has reportedly resulted in increased understanding by consumers of what is recyclable and what is not, thereby elevating recovery rates of packaging waste post consumer. The catch, for lack of better words, is that companies wishing to use this labeling scheme on their packaging must pay the “distributors” of this scheme an agreed upon annual fee. Like most “certifications,” I believe, –be it SFI, USDA Organic, Green Dot, etc.—money must be generated by those wishing to use said label/certification in order to ensure the proper distribution and implementation there of. I just read this article, which explains how SFI is in some hot water as many Fortune 500 companies that previously used said certification are removing it from new product packaging due to the unethical implications of this entire certification system. Therefore, it is very, very important when using/issuing a labeling scheme/certification that due diligence is taken throughout the supply chain to ensure that the label conveys to consumers what it is intended to convey, without falling into the deep, dark waters of GREENWASHING, dun dun dunn. Sorry I am getting way off track.

So, the SPC’s Labeling for Recovery Project attempts to present a legitimate, uniform labeling scheme that educates consumers on what types of packaging can and cannot be recycled currently in America. The workshop got in somewhat of a debate, however, over what percentage of recovery/REACH data per packaging material is considered “recyclable,” vs. “check locally,” vs. “not currently recycled.” Obviously, most participants in the workshop represented some type of packaging material, and no one wants to have a “not currently recycled” label on their packaging, regardless of if that is the reality of the situation. At first it was articulated that the FTC’s recently revised Green Guides would be used to determine what is considered “recyclable” (60% or more American communities have access to facilities that can recycle packaging X post-consumer) vs. “check locally” (20%-60% “…”) vs. “not currently recycled” (less than 20% “…”). This type of data collection, that is, what percentage of Americans/American communities have access to recycling facilities that can reprocess packaging material X, is called “REACH” data, though I myself am a little confused about the difference between having access to recycling facilities vs. actually recycling packaging…

ANYWAY, the workshop spent a considerable amount of time discussing:

Holes in existing data sets, be it REACH data or recycling/recovery data (American data sets don’t consider incineration with energy recovery as a form of “recovery,” which is part of the reason that the “recovery” rates of packaging waste in the EU far exceeds that of America);

How incineration with energy-recovery would be incorporated into the labeling scheme, though little post-consumer waste is incinerated in America due to its sour reputation from the early 1990s;

AND how private/closed loop recycling schemes, like those implemented by RecycleBank and TerraCycle, would be included into the construction of this labeling scheme as these non-national facts and figures are not currently incorporated into the US EPA/ACC data sets on packaging waste recycling/recovery.

As you can see, something so simple as trying to educate consumers about what is recycled and what is not recycled is not NEARLY as easy as it seems—you have to deal with lack of uniform/accurate data sets, conceptual discrepancies between using data set A (REACH data) vs. data set B (recycling data), plus how to incorporate compostability data, incineration with energy recovery data, private/closed loop recovery scheme data, and much much more! Fun stuff, eh!??!

After the slighty around the bush workshop, I had some time to kill before the “networking reception” that night, so I took a walk along the coast, and spotted a mini gondola, see!

Can you spot Waldo?!?

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.

Greetings all!

Today’s post is a continuation of yesterdays and details exactly how Phil built us a composter out of post-industrial materials. Enjoy!

After we gathered our composter materials and the needed tools and amenities, we started talking through the concept

After conversing, Phil thought that it would be cool if we had two compartments for our composter because, as alluded to yesterday, this allows us to have different batches of material based on how long the material has been “composting.” Also, in having two compartments for the composter, we can play mad scientist with the bio-based resins we have sampled and see how they do in fact break down, and if so, over what kind of time frame. As discussed in a previous post, we have some concern about bio-based resins breaking down completely i.e. being completely consumed by the microorganisms present in the disposal environment. If bio-based resins do not completely break down, then we walk the risk of introducing a ton of teeny tiny plastic particulates into the environment, which could travel into our waterways, be consumed by tiny things that get consumed by bigger things and on it goes until humans are ingesting tiny bits of plastic. Yuck! The fancy term is “bioaccumulation” and it is no good.

Where was I going…oh yea: so while we won’t be able to tell, obviously, if the bio-based material breaks down completely because we don’t have insane microscopic vision, we will be able to watch the degredation process in real time, which I think is pretty neato! In theory, the second compartment could be devoted entirely to watching different bio-based resins breakdown; the remaining compost, therefore, would not be used on our farm next spring because the risk that it may contain plastic particulates. Perhaps we could even send this compost to a “lab” to determine if the plastic particulates have in fact been entirely consumed…imagine the possibilities!

Please note, however, than most bio-based resins are certified to breakdown in an industrial composting facility, which is much more sophisticated than our composter. Therefore, I am unsure if most of these materials, certified with the ASTM D6400 Standard for Industrial Compostability, will break down at all, as our composter resembles more of a home composter than an industrial one. We did, on the other hand, just sample a new bio-based resin, which has received certification for “OK to home Compost.” This stuff is definitely going in our mighty composter to see how it breaks down!

And, how cool is this, but when we decide to start playing mad scientist, I will take pictures of the degredation process over time so you can see how a converted package morphs and breaks down in the disposal environment in which it is intended for. Splendid!

Alright, let’s continue with our how-to construct a composter:

So yeah, we decided on two compartments.

Then Phil suggested that we add some kind of mechanism, which would allow us to access the compost pile without having Go Go Gadget arms. After all, the composter is over 4 feet tall, which would make access to the material difficult as would it make “tending” to the compost problematic. Phil came up with another solution: why not add a tracked, wooden component to one side of the composter, which would then receive a thin piece of wood that you could move up and down along the track! Sort of like a curtain, this wood veil could be easily manipulated by the person tending to the compost, moving it up to access the mix and moving it down to conceal the pile from critters and excessive wind, rain, sun, etc.

So that was the approach Phil took toward constructing our compost: two compartments with a retractable side wall built out of post-industrial wood pallets.

Once we were all in agreement, Phil began working on “piratizing” our pallets. This consisted of him breaking down the pallets with a pry-bar in hopes of gathering enough material to carry out his vision. 

Basically, Phil intended on have two pallets per side of the composter, with a “divider” that cut the area of the composter in half, thereby creating two compartments. In order to accomplish this he began by attaching two skids together via a drill and nails. See:

After assembling one side of the composter, Phil repeated this process and created another side wall. He then attached these together, creating an “L” form.

Prior to calling it a day, Phil attached one pallet to the newly constructed “L,” which would serve as the divider between the other compartment, yet to be created. Check it out:

The next day, Phil finished the divider wall by attaching another skid, and created the entire second compartment. Check out the skid organization:

He also designed and constructed our “opening mechanism,” illustrated here:

And TA DA, we have a fully functioning and arguably adorable composter; I’m so proud:

I can’t wait to paint it! I’m thinking polka dots!

Tune in tomorrow to learn about oxo-degradables and other biodedradable plastics.

Compost baby ya!

August 24, 2010

Helllooooooo everyone and happy day!

A quick mention before I get into the meat of today’s post, which discusses how to construct a home composter!

I am beginning a new research project on all things “oxo-degradable.” One of our customers expressed interest in these “magical little additives,” which supposedly render a resin biodegradable in a landfill? I am totally confused after my conference call with a rep from a company marketing this “innovative new technology” but I will keep you all posted with what I find. I didn’t even know things broke down in a landfill, really, let alone can receive certification for such a process, which according to this company rep, they have? Go figure!

If any of you, my diligent blog followers, know of the validity of these additives from a holistic, sustainability-based approach, please advise!!!

OK….drum roll please….

Dordan Manufacturing Company Incorporated is proud to announce completion of its composter construction! Dordan is now open for composting! Yehawww!

So this is what I learned: building a composter is just as easy, if not easier, then buying one. When I first received word from upper management that Dordan was considering getting a composter, I began researching what kinds and was quick to learn that there are a million different kinds, brands, styles, requirements, capacities, etc. For those of you who follow my blog, you will remember that this inspired me to conduct Dordan’s first waste audit, insofar as I was trying to quantify how much “compostables” Dordan generates via our employees and yard in order to determine what kind of composter to purchase. While I was never able to get a good reading of our compostables because I was too much of a sally and couldn’t separate our “wet waste” i.e. week old food, from our “dry waste” i.e. industrial scrap, I did intend on training our employees to separate the food waste from the other waste. In separating out the food waste, I assumed that we could get a much more accurate reading of how much compostables we generate per week, month, etc., therefore indicating what kind of composter to buy. Makes sense, right?

And enter Emily and Phil.

As some of you know, several weeks ago we had offered the use of Dordan’s land to a local farmer, Emily, for growing organics next summer as the land she is currently using is no longer available. Ironically, Emily also knows how to construct composters! When she and her father came out to access the land before committing to using it next summer, I indicated that I was researching composters and having a difficult time finding “the right one.” She explained how she and her father had just finished building a composter for one of the restaurants they provide organics to, and emphasized that it was super easy.

Awesome, I thought to myself; it certainly makes my job easier; and, it’s cheap!

After Emily and Phil agreed to help us construct a composter, it took literally 3 days for its completion!

What follows is a description of what I learned from observing Phil and Emily as they built our composter. Please note that the materials used for the construction of our composter are post-industrial, often times available at manufacturing facilities. Perhaps you can apply these insights to the construction of your own composter; after all, as Phil’s shirt said on day 1 of building our composter, “a rind is a terrible thing to waste!”

First, you need to find a material that will become the composter; Phil suggested wood or a combination of wood and chicken wire. The composter, in concept, should be open to the ground and the sky but have a retractable “roof” to keep rainwater and critters out. It should have at least one 4-walled compartment for the compost and preferably another for the compost that is farther along in the “process.” In other words, in having two compartments for compost, one can move a batch of compost to the compartment reserved for the more “mature” compost mix, while keeping the other compartment for the freshies. Make sense? It will!

As per Phil’s and Emily’s ingenious suggestion, we decided to use post-industrial wood pallets for our composter. We have a ton of wood pallets in-house, as that is what our material comes on when we receive it. While normally we recycle these pallets by selling them to wood re-processors, Dordan just so happened to have a bunch in-house waiting for shipment. Coincidence? I think not!

After inspecting our wood pallet selection (Dordan uses many different shapes and sizes of wood pallets and therefore we had several “types” to choose from), Phil determined that those of a more “narrow” disposition would be the best for conversion into a composter. These more narrow pallets measure roughly 4 ½ feet by 2 feet, are made of solid pine wood, and have no iky additives added. Here is a picture of the skids selected, for your viewing pleasure:

We collected about a half a dozen of these wood pallets and Phil went on to “piratize” them into a very sophisticated composter, consisting of two compartments with a retractable “side.” This retractable side will allow us to mix the concoction, add more materials without having to lift it the 4 ½ feet required to access the compartments, and check in on the status of the compost.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

After we decided on what type of material to use in the construction of the skid, we selected a location. Dordan CEO Daniel Slavin suggested it be behind the future farm plot but close to a Dordan entrance/exit to make for easy maintenance. This is what we decided on:

The types of tools and amenities needed for a construction project of this character are:

Air gun

Extension cord

Electrical outlet 

Reciprocating saw

Circular saw and ear muffs

Hammer

Nails, screws

Measuring tape

Pry bar

And some handy-man know how!

After we gathered our composter materials and the needed tools and amenities, we started talking through the concept.

Tune in tomorrow to learn what Phil and Emily come up with!!!

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!

I heart Dordan!

August 5, 2010

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

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

Read the press release here:

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

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

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

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

Okay, enough personal embellishments for the day.

Actually, I have one more; humor me.

Drum role please…

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

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

SPC Executive Committee Nominee Description

Chandler Slavin, Sustainability Coordinator, Dordan Manufacturing Company Inc.

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

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

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

Okay, let’s talk sustainability.

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

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

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

Frequently Asked Questions

Is thermoformed plastic packaging recyclable?

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

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

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

Dear Ms. Slavin:

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

GROOVY!

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

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

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

Tootles!

Hello my packaging and sustainability friends! This is officially my 50th blog post! Hurray for dedication to all things sustainable packaging!

Sorry that the link to the water scarcity mapping tool from yesterday’s post was broken…I fixed it and added another link to another tool; go crazy!

Ok, this is gunna be a biggie.

Several weeks ago I began investigating what kind of composter would be appropriate for the amount of food and yard waste generated at Dordan. To my surprise, there were like a million different kinds with different properties and I couldn’t actually speak with a Sales Rep because most of the composters available for sale via were done so through distributors and brokers and in a nut shell, a computer.

Do we want a vermin composter, I asked myself?

Do we want a tumbler?

Do we want one capable of handling a lot of material or a bit…oh I just don’t know!

I then went to my network, sending inquires to anyone I could think of that would know a thing or two about composting.

The first inquiry I sent was to the Marketing Manager of Cedar Grove, which is a super sophisticated industrial composting facility in the greater Seattle area. I met this rep at the SPC Spring meeting in Boston, so I thought she may be open to providing some guidance…

I wrote,

Hey,

This is Chandler Slavin with Dordan Manufacturing—we met briefly at the SPC meeting. I articulated gratitude for your presentation as it was really very insightful. I hope this email finds you well.

This email is sort of silly but I was wondering if you had any insight in regard to the following:

Dordan is investigating buying an on-site commercial composter for the food and yard waste generated at our facility and by our employees. Do you have any suggestions in regard to what kind of composter would work best for us or what brand to choose? I would love to talk with a Sales person of commercial composters but can’t find anyone who would be able to aid in our selection…

If you have any suggestions, please do not hesitate to ask.

Thanks for your time!

Chandler

And her response,

Thanks for the nice note, Chandler. The only small technology for on-site composting I am familiar with that I see with some regularity is the Earth Tub (link below).

http://www.compostingtechnology.com/invesselsystems/earthtub/

If you wanted a wide range of options to consider, you might want to check in with the USCC. There are many consultants that are members that may be closer to you in proximity that could offer some great advice. http://www.compostingcouncil.org/contact/

Thanks for reaching out, and good luck with your composting!

I knew I liked her…

If you follow the link embedded above, you are taken to a description of Earth Tub, which is a small and sophisticated COMMERCIAL composter. From what I understand, there is a big difference between home composting and commercial composting: home composting is for a much smaller quantity of material while commercial is usually reserved for large quantities of material. AND commercial composters are generally employed in hopes of generating quality compost for market, while home composters usually enjoy more of a trial-and-error approach, with the resulting compost consumed by the home composter’s garden or community or what not.

Okay…this is definitely too big, I thought to myself as I tried to conceptually walk through the diagram.

Next I sent an email to my friend who works in the sustainability packaging field as I assumed he would be a pro-composter knowing his genuine commitment to sustainability and all…

Hey,

Do you guys compost your food and yard waste at your company? Do you do home composting? Dordan is investigating composters for the food and yard waste our facility and employees generate and don’t know what kind or what brand is the best to go with. Any insight you could provide would be very well received.

Thanks buddy!

And his response,

Hey Chandler,

I do compost at home. I used to have a naturemill which was okay, but not odor and noise free as advertised. The benefit is that it can accept meat and dairy scraps. Now I’m doing some experimental stuff, which I would not recommend at this point. Several of my friends have had great success with vermi-composters (worms). 

Have a great weekend!

Hmmm, experimental you say? Sounds far out!

Lastly, I sent an email to good ole’ Robert Carlson, previously of the California Board of Integrated Waste Management, which now is CalRecycle. For those of you who have been following my blog for a while now, I am sure you remember Robert as the one who gave me tons and tons advice as I struggled to understand “sustainability,” let alone care out mine and Dordan’s space therein…

Anywhoo I wrote,

Hey bud,

Happy Friday!

Ok, do you have any insight in regard to the following?

Dordan is investigating buying an on-site composter for the food and yard waste our facility and employees generate. Do you have any suggestions in regard to what kind, what brand, or do you know anyone that would be willing to talk with me about the above questions? I know next to nothing about this and would really like some perspective before pulling the trigger.

Thanks!

Chan

Several minutes latter Robert called me and we discussed composting. Following the conversation, he sent me the following information, which was super helpful!

Visit these links:

http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/organics/homecompost/

http://www.composters.com/compost-tumblers.php

http://www.composters.com/vermiculture-worms.php

If you go the worm route…be sure to get the red wigglers…not the nightcrawlers.  I can point you to some sources for the worms themselves if you need that.

This is the sort of worm bin that we keep under our desks (they can be made rather easily too).

http://www.composters.com/vermiculture-worms/friendly-habitat-worm-compost-bin_50_4.php

This is the sort that many people use at home (there’s also a very popular square one).

http://groworganic.com/item_GCO201_CanOWorms.html

I like this one (regular composter, not vermi)…it’s kinda sexy and it’s so expensive that I’ve never been able to justify it for myself.

http://www.compostbins.com/general/compostumbler2composttumbler.cfm?TID=PBM004&source=channel_intelligence_gbase&ci_src=14110944&ci_sku=PBM004

Don’t forget the rain catchment system for your little victory garden!

http://www.composters.com/rain-barrels.php

http://www.gardeners.com/Two-Rain-Barrels/Watering_RainBarrels,38-665RS,default,cp.html

Let me know if you have other questions or if you find one you like but want another opinion!

He then sent me a picture of the composting bin in his office; ha! Oh those crazy Californian environmentalists…just joshing; they are my people!

Check it out, how silly:

WORRMMSSS

I spent the next several days visiting the above links, learning about the composting “formula,” and trying to determine what kind of composter Dordan should buy.

Still a little unsure, though feeling much more educated, I contacted the U.S. Composting Council, which the Rep from Cedar Grove referred me to in her email, copied above.

I went to the link she provided, spoke with the receptionist, and was transferred to the USCC’s Education Director. This guy was AWSOME! He spoke with me for as long as I desired, and provided AMAZING insight. Here is what I learned:

In order to determine what kind of compost one should buy, one needs to determine how much material will be added to the compost. Once can determine this by performing a WASTE AUDIT.

For us he recommended getting a 3X3X3 home composter, which is open to the ground.

He did not advocate a tumbler or worms because: the former doesn’t work well; the latter is used if ONLY food waste is going into the compost. Because we wish to compost our food waste along with our yard waste and possibly office waste and packaging, including bio-based plastics, this type of composter would not be the best.

As an aside, he did say that for the biodegration of bio-plastics, usually an industrial composting facility—not a home compost—is required. Regardless, we are still going to play a little mad scientist and run some internal tests to see the rate at which some of the bio-based plastics we have access to break down, if at all. We are also waiting on a sample roll of a bio-based plastic that is certified to break down in a home compost; therefore, should biodegrade in Dordan’s compost, too.

Okay, before I get off track, I sent the following email to this contact from the USCC, thanking him for his awsomeness.

Greetings,

This is Chandler with Dordan—we spoke earlier today about what kind of composter I should get for my company’s food and yard waste. Remember? Ha!

Anyway, I just wanted to say mucho gracias for chit chatting with me about composting; if you have any further suggestions, please don’t hesitate. Real quick: Do you have any information on waste audits? It sounds super fancy so I don’t know if it is necessary for our initiative, but I would like to see what that all entails…

Again, thanks a bunch for your time today!

Chandler

That day he responded,

Hi Chandler.

A quick google of “How to perform a waste audit” brought up some good examples.

Basically you need to know who much compostables you could collect per day or month.  Then you can put together a system to compost them.

There was a sustainability coordinator for a brewery at our last compost class, so I copied her on this email (Hi!) in case she has some of those resources at her fingertips.

Fall is always a great time to start a project like this because leaves are the perfect bulking agent (“brown”) to balance your food scraps (“green”) and get you pile off to a good start before winter.

Best of luck!

And to my surprise, the sustainability coordinator for a brewery responded that day! She wrote,

Chandler,

In my experience, a waste audit is far from technical or “fancy”! It literally involves digging through your trash or recycling receptacles and finding out what you have in there. We’ve done trash audits in the past and we usually do them by weight. We have one central dumpster for the brewery which we periodically take a few hours, put some gloves on, and dig through bags of trash to see what we are throwing out. We separate the trash into categories and weigh as we go so we can get a profile of what are trash consists of. Some of our categories were general as in food waste, recyclables, and breakrooms, and then we had department specific categories like brewing, filtration, sensory lab, bottle shop, etc….

You can do the same process for your recycling streams. These are VERY helpful in establishing where you are and what is the next thing to tackle. After we did a couple trash audits we realized we still had a lot of recyclables in our trash which meant we needed to do some more and/or better education for our employees on using the recycling bins etc… We also found that a significant portion of our trash was empty plastic bags from a brewing ingredient- we are looking at switching which company we buy from in order to find one with a recyclable or compostable package. We also had a lot of empty sugar bags which our paper mill decided they didn’t want because the residual sugar “gums” up their machinery- again, we’re trying to find an alternative to purchasing in that form.

In short, a trash/recycling audit can tell you a lot and give you ideas on what to do. Again, its is really simple. All we had was some gloves, a notebook and pen, a scale, and a bin to put the material in for weighing. It’s a little dirty and time-consuming but easy and well worth it.

Hope that helps.

WHAT A DOLL, I thought to myself. While I do get bogged down from time to time when I come across people that use “sustainability” while disregarding its main principles, I get super excited when I meet people that are willing to go out of their way to help, regardless of what’s in it for them. I love my “sustainability people!”

OK. Step one of action plan: Conduct a waste audit.

Tune in tomorrow to hear about my experiences dumpster diving; my first audit is this afternoon I have a fancy suit and everything!

Greetings!

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

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

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

Enjoy!

Dordan Manufacturing Co. Inc.

Our Story to Sustainability

Dordan Bio:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dordan’s Story to Sustainability:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello and happy new month! I have to say, I think July is my second favorite month after June, which I have an affinity for because it is the month I was born!

I know I have been slacking on my daily posts—I apologize. I have a lot of catching up to do after the Holiday and I am up to my ears in information about composters. I will have a really good blog post for you about composting soon; think of it as business composting 101, per se, but I have not finished my research quite yet so I don’t want to jump the gun…

Speaking of guns, I got to fire my first “riffle” this past weekend; granted I fired it at a target that I apparently did not even come close to, it was still fun, although the “kick back” was almost enough to kill me. So that’s how I spent my Holiday—in a farm in the middle of nowhere, driving tractors and shooting guns. Well, only one gun.

Okay wow really off target, Chandler (no pun intended). I am beginning to have way too much fun with this blog.

Let’s recap: Work on recycling PET thermoforms is moving at the pace that the Committee I am co-leading is moving; that is, slowly. If it helps put the pace of work in perspective, I sent out my notes from the last Committee meeting to my co-lead who forwarded them to legal four weeks ago; we still have not heard back from legal…

I will readdress these issues in a week or two; in the meantime, I am focusing on Dordan’s action plan for its goal of achieving zero-waste. In doing so I am now completely restructuring our website to house these new sustainability efforts. Once I get the website changes finalized and reach out to different publishers who may be interested in covering our sustainability story, I will aggressively design our action plan; I assume this will be way more difficult than I am anticipating as we have several hard-to-place materials, like the corrugated tubs inside the rolls of plastic we buy…

Also, for all those creative folk out there, we are brainstorming on a brand for our new sustainability efforts. As discussed in a previous post, most of my work on sustainability thus far has been from a macro- level. What I mean by this is I was focusing on the sustainability of different packaging materials in general, waste management of packaging materials in general, plastics’ reputation in general, etc. (think my rebuttal to The NYT’s The Haggler: http://plasticsnews.com/headlines2.html?id=17268&q=chandler+slavin). Now that we are actively pursuing our own intitaives, we need to brand said efforts. A lot of companies out there have their own “green team” or what not, which overseas all the sustainability works. We need some kind of green team, too. Well, we don’t need the team; we just need the brand. Get it? Again, our new sustainability initiatives are social and environmental: social insofar as I will be doing grassroots education about recycling with schools and we will be donating the food from our Victory Garden to local charities and events; and environmental insofar as we are working towards zero-waste and trying to recycle thermoforms. If anyone comes up with a brilliant idea you will win a fabulous prize, like oh I don’t know…research about recycling! Fun fun!

OKKKKKKK and for the meat of today’s post: I am happy to report that the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, in partner with Metaphore, just created an awesome new website, which discusses the life cycle of paper. Check it out: http://www.thepaperlifecycle.org/.

I really like this website because it is pretty and brings to light a lot of issues about sourcing paper that people don’t often recognize such as deforestation, exports, illegal logging, etc. Again, kudos to all those involved!

Also, I was really tickled pink with today’s Chicago Tribune article titled, “Green Choices.” Unlike most coverage of “sustainability,” author Monica Eng did a splendid job highlighting the pros and cons of different materials and situations. No reductionstic stances here! Check it out: http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/ct-met-eco-questions-20100706,0,3618266.story.

I gotta find this Monica…I am a big fan!

That’s all for today my wonderful packaging and sustainability friends. Again, I apologize for the “light” content of today’s and the previous days’ post. I promise I will bring the bull back; in the meantime, go packaging!

Tootles!