Feedback from Pack Expo

October 26, 2011

Hey!

Sooo Pack Expo was awesome! It’s the first time we exhibited at that show and were really glad we did—tons of traffic and new opportunities. And Vegas is awesome! We stayed at the Cosmopolitan, which is probably the nicest hotel in a super tacky yet classy sort of way, if that’s possible. Here is a picture of the view from my room:

And here is me in a large shoe:

We had A LOT of interest in the Bio Resin Show N Tell at the Show, which acted as an awesome way to “lure” attendees into our booth. I find that when you have some type of interactive exhibit that establishes a foundation for talking points, it’s a lot easier to engage with booth passerbyers. Show attendees seemed impressed with our level of insight into “sustainability” and packaging and appreciated how we didn’t sugar coat anything in regards to myths of THE sustainable material or package. It also seemed as though the level of understanding around issues of sustainable packaging has increased throughout the industry as a lot of people articulated a pretty thorough grasp of the realities of “green” packaging insofar as cost and performance is concerned. That which seemed enlightening to those who participated in the Bio Resin Show N Tell, however, was the clarification between bio-based plastics and compostable/biodegradable plastics. Contrary to popular belief, just because something is bio-based doesn’t mean it is “biodegradable.” In discussions of bio-based PET, in which the PlantBottle is a prime example, the only difference between PET and bio-PET is where the carbon comes from: fossil fuel or agricultural bi-products. Therefore, the chemistry of the polymer is identical to traditional, fossil-based PET, though its feedstock comes partially from a new (plants), as opposed to old (fossil fuel), carbon source. It wasn’t until I sat through a 4-hour workshop with professor Dr. Ramani Naraya that I finally understood this seemingly simple concept, which initially appeared as complicated as the physics of worm holes.

Also appreciated were the COMPASS LCA-tutorials. Here we introduced the comparative packaging software and described how to use it to design more sustainable packaging and have the data to back up the assumed sustainability improvements. Everyone was pretty surprised at the ease of useability and how the tool could be used to provide marketing departments with concrete data to inform environmental marketing language. i.e. this package releases 20% less GHG emissions throughout it’s life when compared with the previous design! At the same time, however, we emphasized data gaps in the LCI metrics and how the tool should be understood more as a COMPASS (tells you where you are going) than a GPS (where you are).

Probably the silliest happening from the Show was in constructing our booth the day before when we realized we brought the wrong company name sign! Instead of reading “Dordan,” the name of the company, it read “custom thermoformed packaging solutions since 1962!” Quite the mouth-full, ha! I loved the bewildered look on people’s faces as they consulted their Show itinerary to verify our booth location only to learn the Marketing Manager, ahem, me, made a boo boo. C’est le vie!

Our next post will provide feedback from the SPC meeting. Adios!

Hello and happy Friday!

Guess what! My article titled “Assessing Sustainable Packaging through Life Cycle Analysis” was featured in the summer edition of Plastics Business Magazine as the industry insight!!! Check it out here. This is the most words I have ever been allowed to submit to a print publication, AWESOME! Love the fancy formatting, too.

As an aside, I am in the process of updating The Facts, released in 2009 via our website, to reflect new US EPA data on recycling. Therefore, The Facts is no longer available for download on our website. Once we polish off the new and improved version, you will be the first to know, my packaging and sustainability friends! Exciting stuff!

In my last post I included excerpts from the not-published Truth about BPA & PVC. Ironically, in the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s August Newsletter, received yesterday, BPA is discussed as it pertains to thermal paper. Check it out here. Weird bears!

Next week’s post will include new pictures of our organic garden! The tomatoes and peppers are looking good!

AND, click here for a SNEAK PEEK of Dordan’s Bio Resin Show ‘N Tell to be unveiled at Pack Expo as advertised in Packaging World’s August New Issue Alert!

Have a grand weekend!

Hey guys!

Did you see this terribly sad article detailing the mass extension of our oceans?!?! Goodness gracious sometimes being required to read all things about the environment is such a bummer! I will discuss the truth of marine debris in tomorrow’s post, because as per this article, it is a rather timely topic! Here is a picture of me petting a dog shark at the zoo, which speaks to my utter LOVE of our fine finned fellas!

AND, I have updates on PET thermoform recycling as per a colleague who attended Walmart Canada’s SVN meeting today. EXCITING!

In early June I was contacted by the editor of Plastics Business Magazine, which is a quarterly publication for plastics processors supported by the Manufacturers Association of Plastics Processors. She found me through Twitter, compliments of the Packaging Diva, who is a super successful independent packaging professional with like thousands of Twitter followers—that’s right, thousands. Anyway, the editor was looking for a packaging converter with a bit of sustainability know-how to write an article on sustainable packaging choices, specifically geared towards plastics molders, and asked me as per the Diva’s suggestion! Thanks ladies!

The editor explained that the magazine is targeted to upper-level executives/management operations staff, providing industry trends, strategies, etc. Because a lot of blow molders are involved in some type of post-mold packaging for their customers, she thought it was important to address sustainable packaging options, as this is obviously a trend with some staying power.

AND she gave me 1,500 words, which is by far the most space I have gotten in a print publication EVER, yippee!

Check out my first draft below. It is a bit academic, but I didn’t know how else to handle such a complicated topic as sustainable packaging in causal discourse.

It Aint Easy Being Green

Chandler Slavin, Sustainability Coordinator, Dordan Manufacturing Co. Inc.

“Sustainability” is a concept commonly defined as development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Since the early nineties, “sustainability” as concept has been integrated into how we understand different process of production and consumption, products and services.

As the Sustainability Coordinator of a medium-sized family owned and operated plastic thermoforming company, I believe my employment speaks to the extent to which “sustainability” has percolated industry. By taking an informed, systems-based approach to sustainability, I believe plastic processors can develop truly sustainable packaging options for their customers. What follows is a discussion of some of the tools, materials and resources available to those that wish to embark on the journey towards sustainable packaging. It is important to understand, however, that there is no “silver bullet” when discussing sustainability; compromise is required whenever assessing how certain materials or processes will inform the overall environmental and economic performance of a given product or service.

Life cycle analysis is a popular approach to understanding the environmental requirements of different products and services. By considering the entire life cycle of product—from material extraction to production, distribution, and end of life—one can begin to understand its sustainability profile. This type of assessment provides quantified, scientific data, which can be used to facilitate sustainability improvements across the supply chain. Discussion of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s life-cycle based, comparative packaging assessment software COMPASS will make clear the importance of LCA and how such intelligence can aid in sustainability improvements in packaging systems.

COMPASS s a design-phase web application that provides comparative environmental profiles of packaging alternatives based on life cycle assessment metrics and design attributes. Created by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (hereafter, SPC)—an industry-working group dedicated to a more environmentally robust vision for packaging—this tool provides the environmental data needed to make informed packaging design decisions early in the developmental process. COMPASS assess packages on resource consumption (fossil fuel, water, biotic resource, and mineral), emissions (greenhouse gas, human impacts, aquatic toxicity, and eutrophication), and attributes such as material health, recycled or virgin content, sourcing, and solid waste.

Dordan began its subscription to COMPASS in 2010 in response to inquiries from clients into the sustainability of one material vs. another, one design vs. another, etc. Because COMPASS contains life cycle impact assessment data (LCIA) from raw material sourcing/extraction, packaging material manufacture, conversion, distribution and end of life, it details the life cycle impacts of different packaging systems in a comparative format; this allows the practitioner to understand the environmental performance of package A vs. package B, which allows for informed design decisions that results in quantified marketing claims.

To utilize COMPASS, one needs the following information: The weight of the various packaging material constituents of the primary and secondary packaging for the existing and proposed packaging; the conversion process i.e. calendaring with paper cutting vs. thermoforming; and, the data set i.e. US vs. EU vs. CA (end of life data is geographically specific). COMPASS data output consists of colored bar graphs corresponding to the existing and proposed designs, indicating the emissions generated and resources consumed as listed above.

COMPASS was created by stakeholders in industry, academia, NGOs and environmental organizations and funded in part by the US EPA. The LCIA data is taken from the two public life cycle databases available, the US Life Cycle Inventory Database and Ecoinvent, a Swiss life cycle database. This tool should be incorporated into the package development process in order to facilitate more sustainable designs that allows for informed environmental marketing claims. Examples of claims Dordan has made as result of COMPASS utilization includes: “25% reduction in GHG equivalents emitted throughout life cycle when compared with previous package” or, “40% reduction in biotic, mineral, and water resources consumed when compared with previous package.”

In addition to investing in a life cycle based, systems approach to packaging sustainability as manifest through subscription to COMPASS, it is important to invest in industry-specific sustainability R&D. Because each industry is unique in its demands and applications, it is difficult to speculate on what type of sustainability service will resonate best with each demographic. As thin-gauge thermoformers, Dordan found that “bio-plastics” were something in need of investigation because of their feedstock/end of life sustainability implications. By being proactive and sampling each available bio-based/biodegradable/compostable resin as it came to market, Dordan was able to provide its clients with a variety of options that may aid in the attainment of their sustainable packaging goals. Resins sampled include: PLA, PLA & Starch, Cellulous Acetate, PHA, TerraPET, Aeris InCycle. A comparative spec sheet detailing each resins’ physical properties, environmental profiles and cost as understood through density and yield was provided alongside the thermoformed samples, allowing for a holistic representation of this new class of resins.

Don’t let your efforts stop with industry-specific sustainability R&D, however: sustainability is a complicated concept and one that requires full time investigation and participation. In order for plastics processors to capitalize on packaging sustainability in the context of environmental and economic savings, it is helpful to divert resources to sustainability education. Dordan began its sustainability education by joining the SPC, which offered a variety of research crucial to discussions of sustainability. Research available includes: Environmental Technical Briefs of Common Packaging Materials, Sustainable Packaging Indictors and Metrics, Design Guidelines for Sustainable Packaging, Guide to Packaging Material Flows and Terminology, Compostable Packaging Survey, etc.

In joining an industry alliance dedicated to developing more sustainable packaging systems, Dordan was introduced to all the issues that concerned not only the thermoforming but also larger packaging industry; in doing so, it illuminated the obstacles faced and the opportunities available. A discussion of how Dordan developed a clamshell recycling initiative based on insights generated from SPC participation will make clear what is encouraged with sustainability education.

At Dordan’s first SPC meeting it became clear that very few types of consumer product packaging is recycled as per the FTC Green Guides’ definition. Upon this discovery, Dordan aggressively began investigating why thermoformed packaging, like the clamshells and blisters it manufacturers, is not recycled in 60% or more American communities; therefore, couldn’t be considered recyclable. After performing extensive research in this area, I was invited to be the co-lead of Walmart Canada’s PET Subcommittee of the Material Optimization Committee; this looked to increase the diversion rate of PET packaging—bottle and thermoform grade—post consumer. My involvement with stakeholders in PET recovery prompted multiple speaking invitations, allowing Dordan to achieve industry thought leadership status. In investigating issues pertinent to the sustainability of our industry, in this case recycling, Dordan was able to add to the constantly evolving dialogue around sustainability; this not only increased Dordan’s exposure within the industry, but allowed for said exposure to be one of genuine commitment to the sustainability of the thermoforming industry.

I was approached to write an article detailing what sustainable packaging is. According to the SPC, sustainable packaging: meets market criteria for both performance and cost; is sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy; is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices; is made from materials healthy in all probable end of life scenarios; is physically designed to optimize materials and energy; and, is effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial closed loop cycles. While this definition is conceptual correct, I argue that it does not reflect the current reality of sustainable packaging: all commodities consume resources and produce waste during production, distribution, and at end of life. Our jobs as packaging professionals, therefore, is to educate ourselves about the trends, terminology, materials and tools available, so we can work towards achieving our definition of sustainable packaging. Only through education, supply chain collaboration and industry initiatives can we begin to develop truly sustainable packaging systems that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Hey yall!

Guess what?!?! Tomorrow is my 24th b-day, big girl!

In preparation of becoming another year wiser, I thought I would share with you some fun paper vs. plastic facts. The information accessible via the PPT below is taken from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s Common Packaging Material Technical Briefs, available here for download.

Paper vs. Plastic PPT for blog

And be sure to “play” the Power Point to see all the snazzy fly-in animation! Neat!

Hello!

It has been raining in Chicago for almost a week and it is forecast to rain throughout the weekend, too. UGGGG. I hope you are all reading this from much more attractive climates.

I am about a third of the way through “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things,” and boy is it a downer, though an extremely thought-provoking one at that! I know the book is a bit dated (published in 2002), but I find it extremely relevant to today’s “sustainability” discussions. That which I enjoy so much about authors McDonough’s and Braungart’s treatment of how humans interact with their natural environment is the way they contextualize everything—from the way we design cities to packaging—in regards to the Industrial Revolution, capitalism, and the prevailing social systems of the times in which these concepts took root in the social imagination of the masses. They not only intertwine history (the replacement of guilds and craftsmen with the mass migration into cities due to the demand for increased production resulting from a variety of technology innovations), but philosophy, politics, art, religion, etc. into their discussion of how humans have come to understand our natural environmental and our place therein. They basically argue that we need to dramatically redefine the way we design things to replicate those designs found in nature: instead of using the earth’s resources to fuel economies, designs should engage in mutually beneficial relationships with the resources inherent in the specific system in which they exist to create systems of sustainment. Think of the way the sun is a “free” feedstock that is responsible for the sustainment of all life on this planet. Plants consume this resource, which is infinite and results in no negative environmental emissions to the environment, and the circle of life begins…whenever I say the circle of life I instantly think of the Lion King.

Wow, that was quite the tangent! Anyway, I encourage everyone to read this book as it illuminates how a lot of the dialogue today around “packaging and sustainability” sort of misses the boats insofar as everything we have created—the systems of our sustainment—are themselves inherently unsustainable do to the way capitalism informs our understanding of our natural environment. What I am implying is that while baby steps towards sustainability are always encouraged (like switching from one packaging material to another due to lower GHG emissions per selling unit), they are but a drop in the gigantic bucket that is the inefficiencies of our current approach to production, distribution, and consumption. Bummer, right? But again, this is an argument, and as with all arguments, please take with a grain of salt.

I feel like I am in Environment and Society 101.

Today we will discuss the happenings of the Walmart SVN, which I attended in Rogers, Arkansas, on April 11th.

The Packaging SVN is comprised of one representative from each company that is involved directly, or indirectly, with the packaging sold at Walmart/Sam’s Club stores or the systems used to move packaging through the supply chain to distribution. Other attendees include members of trade organizations/academics/and packaging service providers. The SVN convenes twice a year so the Walmart/Sam’s Club packaging professionals can discuss with their Network progress/changes to packaging goals and other areas of interest to the Walmart packaging community. Issued covered previously, as narrated in my post describing the events of the December SVN, include, but are not limited to: Walmart Scorecard, Global Packaging Project, US EPA environmental packaging working group, developments in sustainable packaging, packaging success case studies, etc.

The SVN leadership team began by discussing metrics. For those of you immersed in the sustainable packaging scene, you are probably all too familiar with the “metrics dilemma,” which I understand as follows: Metrics can be understood as a description of a component of a package’s sustainability i.e. GHG emissions per selling unit. For each metric considered, LCI data is needed to quantify the specific environmental packaging attribute in question with hard data, from a life cycle based approach per system of investigation. While the SPC, GPP, Walmart and others have done a fantastic job creating “metrics” describing how to gauge and understand the sustainability of a package, the reality is that regardless of the tool used to quantify said metrics (COMPASS, Scorecard, etc.), not enough LCI/LCA information is available to allow for accurate results. As a revered LCA practitioner said at the SPC meeting in San Diego, “LCA is a COMPASS, not a GPS.” What this means is that because there is not enough data history, existing data, and relevant LCI data per packaging material and/or specific system of production, distribution and end of life, all metrics/LCA tools can do is help point you in the direction of where you should be heading; they are not representative of where you actually are. The Walmart Scorecard, SPC COMPASS, and other LCA-based packaging modeling softwares all use the same publically available data provided via the ACC, US EPA, Eco-Invent, etc.; consequently, these tools don’t have access to all the information needed to holistically represent the “sustainability” of a package/system from an LCA-based approach.

We began the SVN meeting discussing the state of “metrics” as they are available for use in LCA-based packaging modeling tools. LCI data for nine virgin resins and two recycled resins (I believe RHDPE and RPET) have been submitted and approved; LCI data for recycled paper and paperboard has been submitted and I believe may have been approved and/or is pending approval; LCI data for virgin paper and paperboard was submitted but not approved by the US EPA’s WARM model— updated LCI data is expected end of 2012; LCI data for corrugate was submitted but not approved by the US EPA’s WARM model—updated LCI data is expected end of 2012; LCI data for glass has not been submitted; I am blanking on aluminum…

What all this means, that is, the state of the available LCI data as it applies to metrics used to quantify the sustainability of a package/system from an LCA-based approach, is that we are attempting to put science to something that doesn’t really have ALL the science available…yet. By using COMPASS to quantify the environmental profile of different packaging concepts in the design phase, engineers attempt to understand how to design packages that have less of a burden on the environment throughout their life cycle than the existing package; however, if the LCI data for, lets say, virgin paperboard is from 1980 (I may be wrong but I believe that is the most recent LCI data set used), then changes to manufacturing processes implemented thereafter or holes in data resulting from uniformed LCA practice from when the study was performed may provide a hazy picture of the actual “sustainability” of a package. We are on the right track, but until we have accurate, up-to-date and verifiable LCI data for all dimensions of the packaging chain, it is difficult to use the existing packaging modeling softwares to perform accurate LCA case studies of different packages/concepts.

So yeah, the Walmart Packaging leadership team discussed how they are working to incorporate more accurate LCI data into the Scorecard, once that data is available.

Wow, today’s post has been a bit involved. I am going to stop here and let you all digest. And please note that I in no way shape or form pretend to be an expert on LCI/LCA; this discussion is the result of what I have taken away from recent conferences and the Walmart SVN.

Hello and happy Friday!

Want a sneak peek of Dordan’s feature in the May issue Plastics Technology?!?

Plastics Technology May Dordan feature

Next week’s post will provide feedback from the Walmart Expo and SVN meeting. I apologize for the delay; I have been swamped playing catch up!

Have a great weekend!

Paper vs. plastic

February 4, 2011

Happy Friday!

Today’s post is going to be a lot. And it’s about one of my most favorite concepts: plastic vs. paper dun dun dunnnn.

This whole paper plastic thing started last week, when someone from one of my Linkedin groups reached out to me with some questions about sustainable packaging. He is a package designer for an outdoors company and wanted to know what I thought of the “sustainability” of 100% recycled paper packaging vs. that of FSC-certified fiber. While on the phone he explained that his company started on the journey towards sustainable packaging two years ago and have almost entirely eliminated plastic from their product line. When I asked why he said because the process of manufacturing resin for plastic packaging releases a lot of pollutants in the air, consumes a lot of energy, and so forth. I began telling him how contrary to popular belief, the pulp and paper industry is the largest industrial consumer of water in America (though I am currently investigating this assumption conveyed via US EPA’s TRI Report) AND how in the process of converting pulp to paper, a lot of energy is needed and a lot of things are omitted into the surrounding ecosystems. Please understand, of course, that these assumptions are contingent on the available public data that the Pulp and Paper sector is required to report to the US EPA; therefore, it is not necessarily a wholistic representation of the entire industry, just the average, I believe, but again I am further investigating this. Because I wanted to support these claims, I sent him an array of emails, which attempts to illustrate how I understand “sustainability” as it pertains to packaging materials from a research-based analysis. Check em out!

Email 1

Hey!

The point of this email is to provide you with some research on paper vs. plastic in the context of sustainability. Hurray!

The first attached document, titled (title has been removed for consideration of publisher) is provided via an NGO organization that Dordan is a member of.

This document discusses, in great detail, all the environmental inputs and outputs of manufacturing resin for packaging applications. Nine resin profiles are discussed and it is interesting to note that each resin has an extremely unique environmental profile, depending on its chemical composition and synthesis process. If you are interested in the life cycle impacts of plastic for packaging in the context of sustainability, I urge you to read this.

This information can be found via the Franklin Associates LCI study titled, “Cradle-to-Gate Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) of Nine Plastics Resins and Four Polyurethane Precursors.” Download it here.

Next, the document titled (title has been removed for consideration for publisher) is the same type of document about fiber-based packaging materials. Like the plastic environmental briefs, it provides a holistic representation of the entire life cycle of manufacturing packaging from pulp in the context of sustainability. Again, I urge you to read it—and I guarantee you will be surprised! I will provide you with a list of organizations who provided the data for the report in the very near future so you can get your hands on some hard numbers.

AND, if you want to skip all the technicalities and just get an overview of the classic paper vs. plastic debate, follow the link below and down load The Facts about fossil fuel consumption and green house gas emissions. Please note that this research does not discuss end of life management, which is an important component to the overall “sustainability” of a packaging material. AND, I wrote this almost two years ago, so the info may need a refresher– I will put that on my list of things to do.

http://www.dordan.com/sustainability_the_facts.shtml

The Facts documents draw all of their data from the attached technical briefs, which reference the Department of Energy, the US EPA, and others. For the full citation for each graft/data point, consult the footnotes below the text.

The last attached document is a <a href="<a href="plasticvspaper“>”>brochure advertising the Freedonia Group’s most recently published market research report comparing the projected markets of paper vs. plastic for 2014 and 2019. This is just a tiny bit of information that I believe illustrates how plastic will always be a viable packaging material for its versatility and lightweight nature.

I still have more! Get excited!

You can buy the reports here

Email 2:

Hello again!

Ok the purpose of this email is to try and illustrate in real time what the environmental technical briefs convey in regard to the sustainability of paper vs. plastic.

Again, COMPASS is the SPC’s life cycle based environmental packaging modeling software that allows users to quantify the environmental impacts of different packaging materials in the design phase. For more information on COMPASS visit https://www.design-compass.org/about.gsp.

I performed four COMPASS case studies that I believe speaks to my point that plastic is a strong packaging material choice in the context of packaging material sustainability. As this information shows, and I would argue is the underlying framework for understanding any discussion on “sustainability”, is that there is no “silver bullet” and each material has its advantages and drawbacks in the context of its impact on the environment throughout its life cycle.

The first attached document titled “<a href="25 grams 100% Recycled Folding Boxboard vs. 25 grams PET“>25 grams 100% Recycled Folding Boxboard vs. 25 grams PET” is the data output from the first COMPASS case study. Basically I entered in the same packaging weight for the paper and plastic (25 grams), chose the correct converting process i.e. thermoforming or carton making, selected the desired material (I chose PET as an example; each plastic is different), and tada! What the bar graphs illustrate is the assumed life cycle impacts of this amount of specific material type. The three phases considered in this LCA, which are indicated via a “tick” through the bar graph are: manufacture, conversion, and end of life. Because we are speaking conceptually, I didn’t feel the need to input information in regard to the distribution of the packaging material from the point of production through fulfillment.

I chose 100% Recycled Folding Boxboard because I thought it would be a good representation of your current packaging material’s impacts.

The second attached document titled “<a href="96 grams 100% Recycled Folding Boxboard vs. 36 grams PET“>96 grams 100% Recycled Folding Boxboard vs. 36 grams PET” is the data output from the second COMPASS case study. Basically what I tried to do was present a more “real life” situation because plastic weighs less than paper generally speaking. For instance, it takes less plastic to package the same product when compared with a paper medium and therefore the impacts throughout the package’s life cycle are dramatically different due to this weight differentiation. The reason I used the weights I did (96 grams paper vs. 36 grams PET) is because I had performed a similar COMPASS case study previously where I actually had two packages for the same product in paper and plastic, which allowed me to weigh them in real time and input into the COMPASS software. Therefore, I used the same weight distribution for your COMPASS case study in order to present the real life cycle impacts of a product packaged in paper vs. plastic.

If you are interested in further validating this approach, visit the link below that will take you to our third-party verified listing in greenerpackage.com’s database for sustainable materials/suppliers.
http://www.greenerpackage.com/database/converted_packages/dordan_manufacturing_inc/cs-002_clamshell_package

Have I completely confused you?

I have several more emails for you…

Email 3:

Hey,

In my opinion, the end of life management of packaging materials is crucial to its overall “sustainability.” Because most packaging is intended for single use, it is important to find a way to recover these materials to remanufacture into second generation products or packaging.

There is a lot of confusion over recycling. I have spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out why some packaging materials, like PET bottles, are recycled, while others, like PET thermoforms, generally are not. This is how I believe you found me—I have been getting some good industry exposure due to my work on recycling clamshells, which is why I have been invited to speak at Sustainability in Packaging. Anyway, attached is my recycling report, which outlines the economics dictating recycling in America. I hope you will understand if for an analogy to recycling packaging materials in general, as even within the paper recovery stream, TONS of packaging is land filled each year.

And, to shatter more myths about paper vs. plastic, check out the attached information from the US EPA titled “<a href="msw2008data“>msw2008data.” This represents what type of materials and how much was recycled in America in 2008. If you scroll to page 22 (Table 20), you will see what types of paper and plastic products were recovered from the MSW stream. In the paper category, for the sections titled “Other Paperboard Packaging”/”Other Paper Packaging,” there is no recovery data (neg.), which means that this types of packaging materials are not recycled. Crazy, right?!? Feel free to peruse the document to get a better handle on the realities of recycling in America.

Let’s chat soon after you have had a chance to digest all this information. I will try you sometime next week in the office.

Walmart SVN, feedback 1:3

January 21, 2011

Hello and happy Friday! I am taking a much-needed break from sketching Dordan’s new website “information architecture,” which is really just a fancy way of saying website organization and navigation. For those of you who are considering launching a new website or redesigning an existing one, I thoroughly recommend the following—I would have had no idea what to do without these sources!

Steve Krug’s Don’t Make me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

Rosenfeld’s and Morville’s Information Architecture for the World Wide Web

As an aside, yesterday I went to The Brat Stop, which is sort of a historical icon on the border of Illinois and Wisconsin in Kenosha. It was AWESOME—I felt like I walked into an 80’s movie! I had the best garlic Bratwurst that I piled sky-high with raw onions! If you are ever in the area, I suggest you make a stop—the fried cheese curds are reason enough!

OH, and while there, I discovered this wonderful piece of art: a 3D sculpture of the Chicago Bear mascot hung with a noose. Those jerks…we will see Sunday; Go BEARS!

OK, so today I’m going to discuss the Walmart Sustainable Value Network meeting I attended in Rogers, Arkansas, December 14th, 2010. For those of you unfamiliar, Walmart hosts bi-annual meetings for its “preferred suppliers,” wherein members are updated on Walmart’s sustainability initiatives. These meetings also serve as a platform where suppliers can asks questions and get answers in real time.

Shall we begin?

December 14th, 2010
Sam’s Clubs Headquarters, Rogers, Arkansas
Walmart’s winter SVN meeting

The first topic introduced at the meeting was the new “Sustainability Leadership” team at Walmart. For various reasons, there had been some dramatic restructuring of the sustainability team. New names were introduced, accompanied by new faces and punctual speeches.

After each new team member had said his/her part, the host began explaining some revisions to the metrics of the Walmart Scorecard.

To begin, the Scorecard was put into its intended context; that is, to assist suppliers in helping Walmart achieve its 20 million metric ton GHG emissions reduction target via overall packaging reductions, among other things. Consider the following statements:

By January 2011, Walmart suppliers should provide companywide emissions reductions through packaging improvements.

By mid 2012, SKU-level reductions in emissions for companies/divisions/and categories should be reported.

The reporting audience is intended to be a compilation of the following: The buyer/supplier/management/SVN/etc.

I do not know what the status of these suggestions are, however.

Next, the host explained that contrary to popular belief, it is not just Scorecard completion that will influence a suppliers’ standing within the system, but the result of how the supplier uses the Scorecards’ data output. In other words, in completing one’s Scores, a supplier is granted access into how to improve said Score; be it through changing materials or the way in which the fulfilled package cubes out, it is only when you complete a Score that you can begin to understand how to improve it.

Next was an explanation of the “cube utilization” metric within the packaging Scorecard; this attempts to quantify how the relationship between the product volume and package AND fulfilled package and transport packaging informs its overall supply chain efficiency and therefore sustainability.

Previously suppliers had been required to provide the cube utilization for the selling unit and transport unit. In other words, you first had to determine the ratio between product and package in the context of volume for the selling unit i.e. fulfilled package, AND the ratio between the packed out product and its transport shipping in the context of volume. In a nut shell: cube utilization tries to see how efficiently the product exists within the package and how efficiently the package exists within the transport packaging.

NOW, in the name of simplicity, suppliers only have to provide information on the selling unit cube utilization, thereby eliminating an entire calculation of transport cube utilization. These are the notes I have from this discussion; hopefully you can make more sense out of them than I can…

Cube utilization:

Selling unit + transport unity–> pallet load efficiency

*Volume of transportation cube utilization

Volume of transport unit/volume of product

Next, the host explained that while previously suppliers had to enter two separate Scores for the merchandise unit and the unit for sale, now they only have to enter one for the unit for sale. In other words, instead of having the supplier treat the same product that is sold in different parts of the same store as two different products by entering two different Scores, now the supplier can report one Score, for both SKUs. After all, the selling unit is the same if it is sold as a unit for sale within its category or as a promotional merchandise unit; therefore, why double the work?

Lastly, it was articulated that Walmart now has devoted an entire team to helping suppliers with the Scorecard, contacted via the retail link of the Scorecard support. Seeing as how the above described changes to the Scorecard metrics are just as impossible to write about as they are to truly understand, I am glad that Walmart has made this investment!

Tune in Monday to learn about updates with Walmart’s Supplier Sustainability Assessment, its latest goals, and its Sustainability Index!

Have a great weekend. And go BEARS!!!

Heyyyyyyy! I just booked my flights to Orlando to speak at Sustainability in Packaging, Feb. 22nd-24th. Hurray!

AND, drum roll please, DA BEARS! It is going to be an awesome showdown between the Packers and the Bears—I can’t wait!

Sooo today is going to be a longer post, providing feedback from Sustainable Plastics Packaging and the Walmart SVN I attended the second week of December.

Let’s see…I know I summarized most of the SPP conference…where did I leave off…

That’s right: My December 29th post finished with my comments about Brandimage—an industrial designer firm, which developed a silly molded pulp water bottle.

The next presenter was Patty from Klockner Pentaplast—she has always been very nice to me and when I found out she was presenting at the same conference I emailed her saying good luck and explaining how nervous I was. She replied that I should think of the audience as the fathers, brothers, daughters, mothers—real people— they are and how I wouldn’t be nervous presenting in front of my own mother, sister, etc.; therefore, why should I be nervous presenting in front of these people? I thought that was really awesome advice…

ANYWAY, Patty gave a really great presentation insofar as she made an argument for plastic packaging in the context of sustainability. By describing a case study in which her company and its partner worked with a pizza producer to redesign its packaging to be more efficient, Patty illustrated how in switching the fiber-based box for a flexible plastic tray and lid, the shelf life of the pizza itself was greatly extended. Because a TON of our natural resources are consumed in the production of food, it is super duper important to ensure that the package medium used to get the foodstuff from the point of production to consumption is efficient and protects the product from spoilage and other health/quality concerns. PlasticsNews reporter Mike Verespej does a great job tying Patty’s argument that packaging can reduce total system waste i.e. food spoilage, into some of the other points made throughout the conference in this article.

And before I forget, it is important to understand that fiber-based pizza boxes are not usually accepted for recycling due to the high concentration of food contamination; be it plastic or paper, the liklihood that this packaging type is or will be recycled is very, very low, due to the economics of cleaning this material for reprocessing.

AND I loved Patty’s reference to “Frustration Free” packaging. As most of you know, I represent a thermoformer of clamshells, which are often times blamed for igniting RAGE in consumers due to their inability to penetrate the cold, plastic exterior of the package to get to the product itself. I wrote a satirical piece on wrap rage in the perceptive section of PlasticsNews; check it out here, it’s sort of funny.

Anyway, Amazon.com came out with “Frustration Free” packaging, which supposedly is mostly fiber-based and allows consumers to easily remove their products, without falling into the much-feared WRAP RAGE state of confusion. The specific example she gave were for CDs: previously packaged in a plastic clamshell to ensure product protection throughout the shipping supply chain, Amazon now packages CDs in a paper envelope with padding. According to customer accounts, numerous CDs were received broken, which ultimately resulted in more supply chain waste when compared with the plastic clamshell package that resulted in no product rejects. Go figure! I guess it depends what your priorities are: an intact product or a package that allows you to tear into it with your bear claws…

OH, before I forget, Mark of Brandimage did make some really great points about how consumers make decisions. He referenced Harvard academic Zaitman, who spent extensive time researching how consumers react to ads and products, concluding that most consumers’ decisions to buy or not to buy are based on 5% conscious thought and 95% unconscious thought. CRAZY! So much for market research, ha! No, but in all seriousness, I do think there is something to say with how a lot of our decisions are based on emotion instead of logical reasoning. After all, I really don’t think I need a crystal Chicago skyline paperweight, but when I saw it at the checkout counter just staring at me in all its reflectivity and gloss, I couldn’t help myself! So yea, he called this immeasurable reality between conscious and unconscious thought in the context of dictating consumers’ reactions to products, “creative economy.”

OK, next I want to talk about Terry of the Shelton Group. Her company provides LCA software that allows product producers to quantify the environmental profile of their products in the design phase. Like COMPASS, this software allows you to build a product archetype i.e. toaster, and then manipulate different aspects of the product i.e. material and/or electrical components, to see where your environmental “hot spots” are in order to work to elivaite said hot spots in your supply chain. So, if you were sourcing your toasters from aluminum mined in the Far East (I am being vague because I have NO idea how this resource is procured for industry) and found out that the process of aluminum production for your toaster results in the highest concentration of VOC emissions, or something, you could choose to source your aluminum from a recycled aluminum mill domestically located, thereby reducing the total supply chain and overall “carbon footprint” of the product. She also referenced the Storyofstuff.com, which is a cartoony representation of the inefficiencies of most product productions’ supply chain. Check out there most recent cartoon, the Story of Electronics, here.

Terry suggested that from a competitive standpoint, one could use this software to conduct LCAs of a concept vs. a manufactured good vs. your competitor’s good and make an argument depending on the software data output in the context of sustainability.

OH, and for more information on this product LCA software (she did some live demos and it seems AWESOME), visit sustainableminds.com and sign up for their free webinars.

Next I want to summarize Sean of ModusLink’s presentation, as it was the first time I was ever introduced to such a macrocosm view of “sustainability.” For those of you unfamiliar, ModusLink is a company that specializes in taking consumer electronic products from the point of conception i.e. an awesome new invention or product, to the point of production through fulfillment, distribution, and consumption. Because most of their clients are large consumer electronic manufacturers, which is itself an extremely competitive market, ModusLink uses various tools that allow them to take a supply-chain approach and determine the most efficient, and therefore “sustainable” way to move product throughout the supply chain. In order to put the audience in a total supply-chain frame of mind, Sean gave the following example of how manufacturing, assembly, logistics, and environment must all be taken into account when assessing a product’s total supply chain:

Ex1: Overseas manufacturing of product and packaging

Low cost of labor
Low raw material costs
High logistics costs
High green house gas emissions

VS.

Ex2: Domestic manufacturing of product and packaging

High cost of labor
High material costs
Low logistic costs
Low GHG emissions

In a nut shell: there is always a tradeoff; ModusLink will assess the tradeoffs via fancy software and present clients with the most efficient option for supply chain management.

The software cited during Sean’s presentation, which I know so little about, are:
Lllamasoft/Tableau/CAD/ESKO.

And that’s the last presentation of the day I saw! I skipped out and had non-hotel produced food for the first time in days with Sean!

And again, for more feedback on this conference, check out the editorials in PlasticsNews!

AND, to end today’s post, check out this abstract art collection of environmental disaster photographs. My favorite is the “Facial Tissues” image showing the pollution resulting from pulp mills in the production of Kleenex and what not.

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.