Day 28: Nov. 27th, 2009

March 18, 2010

Hello! I am sorry I didn’t post yesterday but guess what: I have been invited to participate in a committee in Canada that looks to find a way to recycle thermoforms! I am positively thrilled that this movement i.e. sustainability, is catching on. Hopefully it is here to stay! In Canada, as is the case in the U.S., thermoforms are not recycled. Canada does have some EPR legislation in place, however, such as the Ontario Stewardship Act, which makes producers (brand owners) and private label suppliers responsible for financing 50% of packaging waste recovery. Because of this legislation, Canada has a much better packaging recovery rate than the U.S., although I am not sure what their percentage of recovery is. Additionally, Canada has a much better infrastructure for industrial composting; apparently, of all the municipalities in Canada, 40% have access to industrial composting facilities. This is good because as PLA makes its introduction into the Canadian market it can actually be composted, which in the U.S. is not the case due to the limited availability of industrial composting facilities.

I suppose I have rambled enough. Shall we resume our recycling narrative?

After my interview with the Environmental Director of Starbucks I felt as though I had a better understanding of how to implement a pilot recycling program in order to provide justification for integrating a new material into an existing materials’ recovery infrastructure i.e. Starbucks cups in corrugated recycling infrastructure; however, I still felt discouraged. As the email from my most recent post implies, clout is necessary for the implementation of a corporately-motivated recycling program. While Dordan is a very respected thermoformer with loyal customers and a tight supply chain, we are not a mega-huge corporation that is able to bring together governmental bigwigs and other movers and shakers in order to facilitate the introduction of a new material into the recycling infrastructure. From what I understand, municipalities decide what can be recycled based on the market and available contracts with collectors, processors, etc. Therefore, it is a top-down sort of thing, and unless we get those at the top interested, it is difficult to introduce a new material into the recycling infrastructure i.e. clamshells in the PET bottle infrastructure. And, Dordan is a quality thermoformer i.e. we run less quantity in order to maintain a higher quality, thereby resulting in less of our packages on the market than some other large-production houses. Perhaps if we were responsible for putting an insane amount of packaging on the market that ends up in a landfill post-consumer we would have a better shot at reclaiming our packages post-consumer because we would have the quantity necessary to find an end market. That is why in previous posts I had emphasized the necessity of collaboration among other thermoformers because of the issue of critical mass: unless there is enough of one kind of material, there is not going to be an end-market for it. Because there are so many PET bottles on the market, the quantity is there, and an end market exists. Therefore, if we all used the same, lets say, resin for consumer goods packaging, then there would be enough of this one type of material to collect and source out to interested parties.

You dig?

Tune in tomorrow to learn more about recycling in America!