Dordan LCA?

May 11, 2012

Hey guys. In a recent post I alluded to the investigation of a new sustainability initiative, indicating details to come. Well, here are the details!

As those of you who read my blog regularly will recall, at the last SPC member’s only meeting the idea of “collective reporting” was proposed to the membership; this entails the collection and reporting of environmental performance indicators, like water consumption and/or landfilled material, per membership company. Basically, a company-specific “LCA” that demonstrates the firms’ environmental inputs and outputs, akin to, though perhaps not as detailed as, the international standards for LCA, ISO 14040-14043. Some multi-national, publically-traded firms already collect and report environmental performance data via Corporate Sustainability Reports; this communicates to stakeholders the company’s environmental commitment and actualization of said commitment via sustainability initiatives.

The SPC intended that in encouraging this type of data collection, the value of SPC membership would be more concretely communicated to non-member entities. Such efforts would demonstrate the packaging industry’s commitment to sustainability, insofar as to my knowledge, no other cross-industry NGO working group like the SPC has been able to generate such environmental data collection and reporting among its membership. Moreover, in aggregating primary, LCIA data per industry vertical i.e. thermoforming, the membership would be in a position to submit said data for review to the available life cycle inventory databases, to which, all LCA-based software platforms derive data for comparative assessments. Because the lack of accurate data/data holes/outdated data is often sited as one of LCA’s shortcomings when it comes to presenting an accurate snapshot of a product or service’s environmental footprint, being in a position to provide new and verifiable LCIA data would put the membership in a position of value for the sustainability and LCA community.

After introducing this proposal to the membership, the SPC staff were met with a resounding NO. This may be in part to the composition of the membership itself, which includes a lot of small and medium sized firms and manufacturers that don’t have the means to collect the data requested. Moreover, while transparent CSR reports may benefit large, publically-traded firms insofar as it aids in communicating shareholder value, the same may not hold for privately-held companies; here, reporting consumption and emissions metrics may provide too much insight into the business’s internal operations.

So the suggestion pretty much died there.

Then, while attending Sustainability in Packaging I had the privilege of seeing Dr. Karli Verghese’s presentation on the available LCA tools and how different tools are designed for different functions (click here to download my report based on presentation findings): while blank-slate LCA tools like SimaPro can be used to answer any type of environmental performance question for any type of product or service, tools like LCA-based comparative packaging assessment COMPASS have already been designed with certain methodologies, parameters, and assumptions built in, thereby allowing the non-LCA expert practitioner access to this powerful environmental assessment.

This got me thinking— Dordan already uses COMPASS to assess the “sustainability” of its package designs; this tool pulls industry averages for materials manufacture i.e. PVC vs. PET, conversion i.e. thermoforming with calendaring vs. paper cutting, distribution, and end of life. COMPASS is helpful for indicating how different materials/designs/conversion processes inform a package’s environmental profile. That’s cool in all, but what about the “sustainability” of a Dordan thermoformed package vs. a competitors’ package? Because most LCA-based tools use industry averages, which are outdated and don’t reflect the implementation of lean manufacturing processes, how is Dordan supposed to understand it’s company’s “carbon footprint” in opposition to that of its competitors or the industry or other conversion industries for that matter?

I approached the SPC with this inquiry; that is, what tools and resources is the SPC willing to provide to its member companies looking to perform an environmental assessment of its process, as encouraged at the last meeting? Moreover, would the SPC be interested in developing a streamlined LCA tool like COMPASS for packaging converters looking to perform a company-specific LCA?

The SPC staff suggested I propose this idea to the membership to see if other companies were interested in this type of initiative; perhaps if other thermoformers were interested in this type of environmental assessment, we could collaborate on developing a methodology for performing a conversion-specific LCA?

The SPC staff articulated that the organization is not in a place to provide LCA consulting to its membership, and when it encouraged collective reporting, it was implying said data maintenance be performed independent of the SPC, via consultants or LCA practitioners.

A friend of mine recently conducted an LCA of his company’s innovative new packaging material, for which, no LCIA data existed; hence, no claims of environmental impact could be postulated. He used the SimaPro software and created all study parameters and methodologies. That inspired me: Just because LCIA data exists for packaging conversion via thermoforming doesn’t mean it reflects Dordan’s thermoforming environmental profile; we shouldn’t be complacent with the status quo; and, we shouldn’t talk the talk of sustainability without walking the walk. Ya dig?

I am reading The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to LCA and WOWZA is this stuff awesomely complicated; I feel like I am finally starting to understand the great debates of LCA and its application to business.

Stay tuned!

Hey guys!

Boy howdy do I feel like a real business woman now! Had my first terrible plane debacle—but I’m alive—so its obviously not that bad.

In a nut-shell I booked a flight to Northwest Arkansas to attend the Walmart/Sam’s Club Sustainable Value Network meeting Monday; from which, I was scheduled to fly to Dallas to connect to Miami in time for my presentation at the Bioplastics Compounding and Processing Conference the next day. Due to intense thunderstorms in Chicago Sunday night, flights Monday morning out of Chicago were delayed, which made me late for the SVN meeting. I ran in heels and everything. Then my flight from Arkansas to Dallas was delayed, due to roving thunderstorms over Dallas. So, I would have missed my connection to Miami, even if I made it to Dallas that night, which I didn’t. While at the rebooking agent in Arkansas, I was completely floored to discover that there was no possible way for me to get to Miami by noon the next day. The last flight out of Arkansas was the flight I was scheduled to be on, which was at 5:50 PM! CRAZY. So the moral of the story is: don’t assume that all airports are like O’Hare; and, try to keep things in perspective— even while trapped on the jet bridge for HOURS with a hysterical baby and crabby flight attendants. As my father says, “nothing is that important.”

Luckily, I attended a large chunk of the SVN meeting regardless of my late arrival, so I have some updates to share.

The section titled “New Packaging Implementation” began with Director of Packaging for Walmart Chet Rutledge and his Sam’s Club counterpart Robert Parvis performing a skit: Chet was playing a Walmart buyer and Robert was playing a supplier trying to pitch “magical pixie dust,” which renders all packaging material nonexistent when disposed in landfill; and, “even taste like chicken!”

The metaphor here is that Walmart has heard it all before, and what they encourage from their suppliers is due diligence when investigating new packaging innovation: “do your homework.” Instead of trying to sell just for selling’s sake, suppliers to Walmart should align their objectives with those of the retailer; this is to deliver the best valued product at the lowest cost—using sustainability as the vehicle for driving change. Urging an item-specific approach, Walmart looks to collaborate with its suppliers to facilitate improvements throughout the supply chain, like those communicated in the “Packaging Success Stories” to accompany the next days’ Expo proceedings.

Next, Chet and Robert moved on to a discussion of “Best Practices for Product Suppliers,” emphasizing sales, profit, inventory and SKUs as the talking points through which product/packaging improvements be facilitated via sustainable packaging systems. Only if a proposed change addresses these concerns will Walmart buyers consider it. Conversations of cost implications are also crucial, for if neglected, imply no savings to be incurred. Product suppliers were urged to look to their packaging suppliers for help, welcoming proactive innovations over a retailer-proposed agenda. Chet concludes, “Innovation is good…change is difficult; keep it simple— Walmart’s system and scale will complicate the most simple of tasks.”

My next post will provide feedback Ron Sasine’s “Future of Packaging Team,” PACNEXT, and AMERIPEN.

WOW! As per my last post I was hoping my friend from Algix would get back to me with a more technical discussion of the company’s technology synthesizing bio plastics from algae and BOY HOWDY did I! Check out the awesome responses below.


Please describe the relationship between textile manufacturers/dairy producers and algae. In other words, how does algae become a waste product of these industries’ process and how is it ideal for manipulation into bio-based plastics?


Many types of algae and aquatic plants have been used for cleaning waters rich in inorganic nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus compounds. The high nutrient content accelerates the growth rates and increases the protein content of a variety of “nuisance” algae and aquatic plants or “aquatic macrophytes”. The enormous “algal blooms” are seen as not only a nuisance but an environmental hazard due to the oxygen demand the algal cells require during night time respiration which can suffocate fish and other animals if the excess nutrients run off or leach into nearby water bodies. Many industries produce large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus-rich waste-water, such as the agricultural livestock farms, i.e. dairies and swineries, fisheries, etc; as well as industrial sources such as processing plants for textiles, municipalities, distilleries, biorefineries, etc.

ALGIX, LLC is located in Georgia, hence we are focusing our efforts on industries in the southeast where we have longer growing seasons, a warmer climate and an abundance of water compared to north or southwest. The “Carpet Capital of the World” is located in Dalton, Georgia, which has over 150 carpet plants which produce millions of gallons of nutrient rich waste water. Research conducted at the University of Georgia, has demonstrated high growth rates from various strains of algae and isolated top performing microalgae strains for further development. ALGIX is in discussions with companies there to scale up biomass production and use cultivated algae as a bio-additive in their polymer containing flooring products. Likewise, we are also talking to a variety of compounders that can co-process and blend the aquatic biomass with other base resins, such as PE, PP EVA, PLA, PHA, etc. As product development progresses, various end use applications for algae-blended thermoplastics and bioplastics will arise, which will increase the demand for the raw aquatic feedstocks. The advantage is that industries can effectively capture their lowest-value waste product, i.e. nitrates and phosphates, through bioremediation using algae and aquatic macrophytes. Photosynthesis captures solar energy and converts the waste water nutrients into biomass which can then be used as a raw material for composite formulations to make resins and bioplastics.

As the demand for algal biomass increases, there will be an incentive for other industrial plants to build out algae based water treatment systems and sell the biomass. Livestock operations such as Dairies, Fisheries, etc located in the southeast and southwest can use algae to treat their manure effluents and provide additional biomass to the market. We are in discussions with large dairies companies for building out algal ponds for water treatment and biomass recovery. Over time the aquatic biomass will become a commodity product traded like other traditional agricultural crops. Currently, large amounts of corn are being diverted from food production and enter biofuel or bioplastic production. Thereby, introducing a new, low-Eco footprint biofeedstock will help alleviate the demand on food based crops for plastics and liquid fuel conversion.


How is post-industrial algae synthesized into bio-based plastics? In other words, how is the protein in algae bound to the plastic components to allow for application to injection molding? What additives are required to allow for the synthesis OR used to increase the properties of the material? I remember discussions of protein-based materials (cellulous) vs. carbon-based (bio-PET) and how the former “connects” to the plastic molecule similar to how the calcium carbonate connects to the PP polymer, for example.


Algae produced from wastewater treatment has been grown under nitrogen rich conditions, providing an abundance of nitrogen to make protein. During exponential growth phases in algae and aquatic plants, the composition of the biomass is dominated by protein, in the range of 30-60% depending on species. The higher protein content algae or post processed meals may have 50% or more protein which is similar to soy protein meal. Although some companies have announced efforts to refine the algal oils or ferment into ethanol, these approaches require additional refining for synthesizing into “bio-based” monomers and polymers identical to their petroleum counterpart, such as Bio-PET, or bio-polyethylene, etc.

The protein in the biomass is what our process uses as the “polymeric” material in the blends. Proteins, by definition, are polymer chains of amino acids, which offer a variety of hydrophobic and hydrophillic interactions based upon the amino acid profile. Through thermomechanical processing, such as twin screw extrusion, the heat and shear forces exerted on the native protein complexes force them to denature and unfold providing a network of elongated polymer-like threads when blended with a base resin. The proteins have hydroxl groups available that can hydrogen bond and covalently bond in the presence of polar side groups on polymer chains as well as maleated chemical interactions. By adding conventional coupling agents, tensile strength and moisture absorption can be significantly improved.

The remaining portion of the non-protein biomass is usually composed of carbohydrates such as cellulose, hemicellulose, polysaccharides, but have little to no lignin. The crude fiber portion of the biomass has been shown to act like a reinforcing agent, increasing stiffness and tensile strength, but reduces elongation. The Ash fractions can range from 10-30% depending on cultivation method, however we believe the ash or minerals, will behave like a mineral filler, similar to calcium carbonate as it will be homogeneously blended throughout the matrix along with the biomass. Algae grown for bioremediation generally have a low lipid content, around 10% or less, and in cases where algae is being grown for biofuels, with high oil contents, the oil will be extracted leaving a protein-rich post extracted meal which will be well suited for compounding. Other value added compounds, such as high value pigments and antioxidants may also be extracted which will help in being able to modify the plastic color from dark green or brown to a lighter color which is easier to mask with color additives. Biomass particle size is also an important variable and needs to be optimized depending on conversion technology and application.

We have been successful compounding algae blends with some base resins up to 70% bio, however the majority of our formulations used in injection molding are set at a 50/50 blend which provides stronger performance characteristics. However, pure 100% algae dogbones have been made under compression molding, but do not have the performance properties compared to the injection molded blends.


What is the preferred end-of-life treatment of this unique bio-based plastic? Is it similar to the approach taken by PLA supplier NatureWorks, which looks to generate the quantity necessary to sustain the creation of a new closed-loop recycling process in which PLA would be recycled in its own post-consumer stream?


In the case that Algae is compounded with biodegradable base resins such as PLA, PHA, PHB, TPS, PBAT, and others, the final bioplastic will have the same or higher degree of biodegradability. Since we are dealing with biomass, the algae component is consumable by microbes, and the slight hydrophillic nature of the resin allows water to penetrate and accelerate the biodegradation process under the proper composting conditions. ALGIX still is testing the biodegradability rate and cannot not comment on degradation curves yet, as most of our research has been on formulation, co-processing, and performance related milestones.

When biomass from any source is compounded with a base resin, the resulting formulation becomes distinct from the recyclable pure resin. This is even the case with different polymer composites that may have two or more resin constituents. Although the biomass will be able to sustain some level of recycling, due to the more fragile nature of the resins bio building blocks, the performance will likely decrease, as with most other conventional recycled resins. We do not necessarily see a unique algal-blended stream of plastics, just due to the numerous variables in the formulations. A recent study by the American Chemical Council found that the US has a dismally low recycling rate below 10% but the state of New Hampshire has an exceptionally high recovery rate of over 40%. Instead of recycling these materials, which requires sophisticated sorting equipment or lots of manual labor, an easier approach was to convert the non-recyclable plastic waste steam into energy using boilers for steam and electricity production. I believe they still recycled some of the more easily sorted materials, like plastic water/soda bottles, just used any non-spec plastic for waste-2-energy…This not only reduced the cost associated with handling and processing the numerous recycling streams, it provided a substantial amount of alternative energy. If algae blended with synthetic non-biodegradable polymers increases in usage, the biomass fraction essentially acts as a bioenergy source at the end of its lifecycle. The conclusion that the ACC drew was that there is a dramatic shift in the amount of states shifting their focusing from complex sorting/recycling to a more direct and streamlined waste-to-energy approach. As Waste-2-energy increases, the concern about having closed loop recycling, although a wonderful concept, will be alleviated because the “other” non-recyclable plastics now can be converted to energy instead of being landfilled. The algae fraction of the plastics represents a carbon neutral component of the resin and energy feedstock.

ALGIX is initially focusing on product streams of plastic that have a low or absent recycling rate due to various factors; these include paint cans, pesticides, fertilizers, mulch films, and carpet products. There exists active programs for recycling carpets by shaving the fibers and grinding the backings for use in new carpets (at some minor percentage) as well as pure post-consumer-grade base resins, usually PP based. New product lines can be generated using post consumer grade resins with post-industrial grade algae biomass to provide a bioresin with a very low eco-footprint. We have a research proposal pending on conducting an LCA based on the algae biorefinery approach for bioplastics to further quantify these environmental and economic benefits.

That should be enough for yall to chew on for a bit…

Let’s all give a big digital THANK YOU to Algix for being so informative and transparent with their exciting new technology!


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.

“Seeing it Sells it!”

December 13, 2010


Oh man was Chicago hit hard by the snow storm this weekend—it looked like we were hit by a frozen monsoon! I hope you all are staying warm!

So Sustainable Plastics Packaging 2010 was really good! The presentations were all very insightful, especially Suzanne Shelton’s of SHELTON GROUP, Patty Enneking’s of Klockner Pentaplast, Terry Swack’s of Sustainable Minds, and Sean Sabre’s of ModusLink. I will give you the main highlights in a moment but first, drum roll please…

Dordan’s NEW Consumer Research Report, How Package Design Dictates Product Sales, “Seeing it Sells it!” is now circulating the plasma that is the internet! Distributed first to Dordan Newsletter subscribers on December 8th and then to the 70,000+ Packaging World New Issue Alert subscribers on the 9th, I now would like to share this Report with you, my packaging and sustainability friends. Click on the link below to access this research; I assure you it is worth the read!!

Consumer Research Report

AND I leave tomorrow morning for Bentonville, Arkansas, for Walmart’s Sustainable Value Network meeting. Keep your fingers crossed that I can make it out of Ohare!

When I return: SPP 2010 feedback; Walmart SVN feedback; and, much much more!!!


June 14, 2010

Happy Monday Funday!!!

I have returned from my travels. GO BLACK HAWKSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!

While I will fill you in on what I learned in tomorrow’s post (busy day!), I thought I would include a response to my post. Check it out (notice the “anonymous”…)

June 9, 2010, Anonymous (not verified) wrote:

Chandler – One point that can’t be argued. Packaging from trees is a sustainable option. Packaging from oil (like plastic films) is not – once its pumped out and converted into film products, there will be no more. It would be ideal to compare apples to apples and determine which causes less harm to the planet, however, the opportunity to replant trees and convert paper back into usable pulp is an obvious advantage. And the article makes a solid point that regardless of what might be possible for recycling films, consumers or municipalities rarely have the facilities for taking advantages of the possiblities of recycled film products.

June 11, 2010, Chandler Slavin wrote:

Thank you for your comments and I understand your perspective; however, I am a little confused by this statement: “Packaging from oil (like plastic films) is not [sustainable] – once it’s pumped out and converted into film products, there will be no more.” Are you simply making the argument that paper is sustainable because it comes from a renewable resource while plastic is not because it comes from fossil fuel, which is ever depleting, as dramatically illustrated by the tragic Gluf Coast Spill? If so, that argument is acceptable, but very one dimensional, in my opinion. The reason I feel that this argument is sub par is because it only highlights the different feedstocks used in the production of fiber-based packaging materials or fossil-fuel ones; what about the energy required to convert this feestock into its end-product, that is, paper or plastic? What about the resources consumed in this converstion process; the GHG equivalents emitted therefrom, the inks, laminates, or chemicals added, etc.? I guess the whole point of my post was that to view “sustainability” from one metric, be it renewable versus unrenewable feedstock, is unacceptable in trying to quantify the overall burden a specific packaging material has on the environment.

As an aside, the point about the complexities of recycling plastic packaging is appropriate; with the exception of PET bottles, the rates of recycling plastic packaging in the States is very low. However, Japan, the UK, Belguim, Germany, and many others have very high diversion rates for plastic packaging post-consumer, usually with the aid of waste-to-energy technologies. Because we live in a global market, I am sure that the products of a large CPG company, like Kodak, end up on many international shelves; therefore, the probability that the packaging will or will not end up in a landfill is constituent on the region in which it is distributed. Consequentially, it is difficult to speculate on how much packaging material a company diverts from the landfill by switching from one material to another without specifying what geographical region said packaging material resides in.

In addition, there is a lot of interest in diverting PET thermoforms from the waste stream, as there is an every growing demand for this recyclate. Many companies are now investing in the sorting and cleaning technologies necessary to reprocess these packages with PET bottles to remanufacture into new packages or products. Hence, it is only a matter of time until plastic packaging begings to be recovered post-consumer because of the inherent value of the recyclate.

Thank you for your comments; it is always good to move the dialogue forward!

Mahahahahahahhahaha. See you tomorrow!

Holly Toledo!

May 21, 2010

Happy Friday!

So I have been working on a presentation on everything sustainability for one of Dordan’s customers. Sustainability and Packaging 101, per se.

Anywoo, it took me two days and 190 slides to finish, but I am FINALLY DONE!

It’s jam packed with good stuff–basically a summary of all my work to date–so check it out!

Sustainability and Packaging Presentation, Blog

Enjoy the heat-wave this weekend, my fellow Chicagoians!

Also, please do not reproduce or distribute without my written consent. Thanks!

Recap # 3: SPC meeting

April 29, 2010

Greetings my packaging and sustainability friends!

Guess what: I have a meeting with our City Official on Monday to determine what the economics are governing waste management in our region (Woodstock, IL). After all, municipalities are the bodies that dictate to haulers like Waste Management what materials should be recovered post-consumer. If we want to figure out why non-bottle rigids (clamshells) are not recycled in our region, perhaps we should talk with those who determine what materials should be collected in the first place!

Before I get ahead of myself (I still have to summarize all my recent findings about non-bottle rigid recycling and PET recycling via the American Chemistry Council’s research), shall I recap my experiences from the SPC meeting in Boston last week?

Well, Boston itself is a BEAUTIFUL city; it is the most “European-like” city I have been to in the States. Like Chicago, Boston has lots of classic architecture juxtaposed with modern, glass and steel structures, which makes for a very aesthetically interesting skyline.


The lonnnggeesttttt building


While there, I went to my first professional hockey game: The Bruins in the first game of the playoffs! It was totally radical! Very barbaric and hedonistic, with all the fighting, cheering, eating and drinking; I now know why it is one of America’s favorite past-times!


The spring conference for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition was okay. Granted the volcanic eruption made it difficult for several international speakers to attend—thereby making SPC staff scramble to find new speakers last minute—the content of the presentations was still a little “fluffy,” in my opinion. Perhaps my disappointment with the content can also be attributed to the fact that the only other SPC conference I attended marks the beginning of my career at Dordan. Consequentially, all the information presented at that conference was super new and exciting and I acted as a sponge, sucking it all up. Because I have been doing nothing but researching since the fall SPC conference, maybe my understanding of “sustainability” has reached an elevation that requires increasingly technical presentations in order to satiate my appetite. That being said, I did learn several things from the presenters.

The first presentation I sat in on titled “Using the SPC’s Indicators and Metrics Framework” discussed how to use the SPC’s metrics for sustainable packaging in the procurement of LCA and LCI data. It appears as though these metrics can be used to determine life cycle inventory data for certain processes, thereby helping to establish a base line for companies such as ours to measure sustainability improvements upon. This is what I learned:

  • “Gate-to-gate” means the environmental inputs (energy, water, etc.) and outputs (greenhouse gas equivalent emissions) required/emitted during the production of extruded roll stock through the conversion phase for the manufacture of thermoformed packages. In other words, data that pertains to Dordan’s operations of ownership i.e. the roll stock we buy to convert to thermoformed packages. You dig?
  • “Cradle-to-gate” means the inputs and outputs required/emitted during the raw material extraction. This term can also extend further throughout the supply chain i.e. to the converter or CPG company. Basically, it is a designated point along the supply chain that aids those in the procurement of LCI data.
  • “LCI” means life cycle inventory data and it takes into consideration the inputs and outputs required/emitted throughout the entire life cycle of a product/material/etc. This is organizational-specific data and is concerned primarily with the environmental profiles of PROCESSES i.e. extrusion, conversion, fulfillment, etc.
  • Eco-invent is a free LCA database; however, many LCA databases are proprietary and costly to gain subscription tooL.
  • At least three different LCI data entries are required to validate the industry average data (LCA)…this is confusing to me, too.

Because of the “rules” governing the conference, I am unable to provide the name of the presenter/speaker or the company/organization that he/she represents.

That being said, the key note speaker for the conference was speaking on behalf of a very prominent NGO dedicated to the environment. This speaker gave a very insightful but somber presentation on how our world’s current approaches to production and consumption are NOT sustainable; not even close. According to this presentation, “the current demand for the Earth’s resources is 1.25 times what scientists believe our plant can sustain. And by the way, that’s with 6 billion people—not the 9 billion world population predicted by mid-century.” The main argument of this presentation was that we need to increase the production on our already-producing land (land for agriculture) while not further depleting our natural resource reserves (water, top soil, biotic resources, etc.). Basically, we need to be much smarter and innovate in order to continue utilizing our land for the production of food. This argument curtailed on another, which was further explicated in a latter seminar titled “Bio-material Procurement;” in a nut shell, we should not use our already strained agricultural land to grow materials like corn for the feedstock of the next generation of bio-based polymers because this land is already required for the production of FOOD for our ever-growing and consuming population.

WOW, I have already rattled a lot. How about I stop for today and continue to expand on the conference in tomorrow’s post.

Thanks for listening!

Oh, and just for fun, here are some pcitures of a Bostonian street performer and our Sales Manager, so eager to assist!

Juggling mean things

Ha! Go Aric!

Recap # 2: Walmart Expo

April 27, 2010

Greetings world! I feel like a million bucks—finally cleaned my office and organized all the information I gathered the last several weeks traveling. I will now resume my diligent blogging!

Soooo, where did I leave off? That’s right, I still need to fill you all in on the Walmart Expo in Arkansas.

Well, first of all, Arkansas is really nice! The drive from the airport to Bentonville was beautiful—very lush and it smelled so good! It appears as though the entire town of Rogers-Bentonville has been created to sustain the Walmart community, which is crazy! All the main buyers and movers and shakers for and to Walmart live around the headquarters, which must make company outings easy and enjoyable! Everyone we met was super duper nice and the whole “dry county” thing didn’t really apply because every restaurant we went to suggested you “sign in” thereby giving the establishment the status of a “club” and consequentially allowing them to serve us booze!

The Expo itself was really exciting! It being my first time “working the booth” I was thrilled to get in front of the packaging community and talk about Dordan and all our exciting new happenings! All the passerbyers were, again, super awesome and polite and all in all it was a good show! I got to see some old packaging buddies from the SPC and meet more people within the industry. Because I have only been to one or two other conferences, I was surprised to run into people that I had met previously—I didn’t realize what a small community the sustainable packaging realm was!

Check out our beaut of a booth:

AND all the Walmarters are really, really nice. Some of the top guys came by our booth and asked how the show went and thanked us for coming. We couldn’t believe the hospitality of the entire event and look forward to participating next year! If any of you Walmarters are reading, thanks again, we had a blast!

It was really cool too because our engineers had JUST finished running our samples that we designed for the Expo literally hours before we flew out of Chicago, which gave us the ammo we needed to initiate conversations with anyone. They looked great and showcased our thermoforming capabilities; and, demonstrated the different materials we were now offering! Basically it is a fancy business card holder with cool engravings and what not and the tray is made out of a bio-based, certified compostable resin and the lid is made from supplier-certified 100% PCR PET, which derives its feedstock entirely out of bottles post-consumer. We found that having something tangible to give to passerbyers really helped initiate discussion and we got a lot of attention because of the clarity of the PCR PET. For those of you not familiar, high concentrations of post-consumer content in PET often times give the resin a sort of orangy-brown tint; our source for 100% PCR PET, however, ensures a level of clarity that we have not been able to find elsewhere. In a nut shell: Good times all around.

This is a sort of poopy picture of our sample offer; but you get the idea:


During the Expo there were education sessions, too. I found the content of these sessions very interesting and compiled my notes to debrief our sales and marketing departments upon my return. I have included these notes below, FYI.

Walmart Expo Summary:

  • Scorecard seminar, misc.
    • ECRM created the software for the Walmart Scorecard
      • “Efficient collaborative retail marketing”
    • Direct suppliers are REQUIRED to enter packages into scorecard
      • Via “retail link” i.e. per vendor number and item number
      • Allows you to compare with packages in same product category i.e. dairy. ECRM is working to narrow the categories down so you are only compared with direct competitors.
    • Indirect suppliers do not have access to retail link.
    • Focus of Score: Material type, material weight, material distance, packaging efficiency
      • Distance: the point the package travels from point of conversion to point of fulfillment.
    • Completion rate of Scores:
      • Each item sold in Walmart has its own number. Suppliers are required to fill out a Score for each item number. Currently, COMPLETION of scores is the easiest way to influence purchasing decisions. In other words, suppliers that have more than 85% of their Scores completed receive an “A” in the Walmart world; suppliers that have 55% complete receive a “B;” everything below comes up as a “red flag” in Walmart-internal. 
    • Package modeling software: Different than the Score card but formatted the same way; this is what we subscribe to.
      • Intended for indirect suppliers to utilize the modeling software in such a way that they can approach their customers (direct suppliers to Walmart) and explain how by doing X you can improve your score and here is the proof.
      • “Reversed engineering;” encouraged doing this on competitor’s packages, too.
  • Paperboard Packaging Council seminar, misc:
    • Fiber-based packaging is a by-product of the lumber industry? I need to look into this…
    • I asked why the recovery rates for corrugated were higher than paperboard…
      • Answer: Difference is attributed to post-industrial collection (corrugate) vs. post-consumer (paperboard). I need to examine this further.
    • Fibers can be recycled 6-8 times before the fibers become too small to reprocess
    • China currently buys most of our post-consumer mixed paper and reprocesses it; we need to find a domestic source for recycled fibers.
    • All corrugated has 46% post-industrial content in the U.S.
    • SBS is almost ALWAYS virgin fiber, with the omission of MWV’s Natralock.
    • I asked what the difference in energy demands are for virgin vs. recycled paper; I received a very ambiguous answeràapparently a controversial topic.
  • Plastic fundamentals seminar:
    • Discussed the benefits of plastic such as:
      • Keeps food fresher for longer;
      • Lightweight;
      • Didn’t address fossil fuel consumption;
      • Didn’t discuss MSW rates;
      • Did say that recycling for non bottle-PET has grown from 7.5% to 11% in the last year;
    • ACC supports re-writing the Toxics Control Act, which we referenced in our first Newsletter.
    • The ACC released LCI data on RPET and recycled HDPE. HURRAY!
  • SVN meeting:
    • There are a ton of different organizations that Walmart has its involvement in; I will try to explain the various relationships as follows:
      • ISTA—transit assessment; I don’t know what this is.
      • Global Packaging Project: Walmart funds this but is not the only CPG company on the board; this looks for a GLOBAL metric for assessing the sustainability of packages and product; this is bigger than the Scorecard, as the Scorecard will be a component of these metrics; the metrics used will be country-specific. This grew out of the CONSUMER GOODS FORUM, which was originally called the GLOBAL CEO FORUM. The GPP metrics look to take into account the Scorecard metrics, COMPASS, and other existing and legitimate metrics. If one wants the inclusion of another metric, it must be reviewed for application prior to being incorporated into the GPP metrics.
      • ISO project for Sustainable Packaging: I don’t know.
      • Scorecard: For packaging only; scores based on ITEM level.
      • Supplier Sustainability Assessment: Consists of 15 questions, which are asked of all product suppliers to Walmart; “scores” based on CORPORATE level.
      • Sustainability Index: the Assessment is part of the Sustainability Index, which is a project of the Sustainability Consortium. Again, Walmart funds this organization but is not the only CPGs company that participates.
  • Points of discussion:
    • “Sustainable material” metric: What does this mean? What are the limitations?
      • Should everyone get the same “score” until clarified?
      • Should we remove the metric?
      • Is Recovery taken into consideration?
      • Is it a LCA approach?
      • Does it consider conversion or primary production?
      • What about toxics?
      • Sourcing certificates?
    • Determined that it would be helpful to have a health and safety metric AND a sustainable sourcing metric.
    • Should inks/adhesives be included in GPP and Scorecard?
      • Not until proof that it has an impactàI have proof and will see that it gets into the right person’s hands.

Sorry if the format of my notes are a little confusing. Please let me know if you would like me to expand on any of these points or provide clarification.

AND I met a gentleman that gave me a PLETHORA of information about non-bottle plastic recycling and I am forever indebted to him. Seriously, good stuff and AMAZING feedback in regard to the various approaches I was considering for our clamshell recycling initiative. Once I get through recapping my recent travels, I will resume my clamshell recycling narrative. I think we are getting somewhere

Stay tuned!

And resume scene:

As I waited for Recycle America’s educational tour guide’s response to my inquiries, I followed up with Robert about Polyflow. As you will recall, I sent Robert an email asking if he knew about Polyflow and if so, what he thought of this form of waste management.

This is what I learned:


What Polyflow is describing is called Pyrolysis and the technology is not unique to this company.  I’m not sure about the “vapor” part though…  There are discussions regarding this method in CA and elsewhere.  In CA, we don’t use energy recovery as a part of recycling (or diversion) so the portion of the pyrolysis that results in diesel or other fuels would not be counted in our recycling numbers.  Also, some people are afraid that if the “easy” option is presented (the same goes for incineration) then recycling for higher and better uses will have no appeal.  Using plastics for energy is seen as a lower use than using it for a new product.  For some plastics, there are not other mechanical recycling options available, but the fear is that this kind of thing would prevent new technologies being developed, that people would stop trying to find better options if the easy option is available.

Further, the analyses I’ve seen on the environmental/energetic impacts of mechanical recycling versus pyrolysis puts mechanical ahead of the game pretty much under every circumstance (assuming there is infrastructure). 

I don’t mean to shatter your hopes…it’s a good technology, and would be appropriate for a few materials that have no other options (in my personal opinion), however I think there would be challenges to implementing it wholesale (at least in CA…perhaps Il is different).

I’m surprised that the Sustainability Director of Starbucks hasn’t contacted you, he seemed interested in speaking.  I wonder if perhaps your email simply got buried.  Have you tried sending him the email again?  I’ve looked around here and I’m not sure that we really have a person on the local level that would be particularly suited.  I suppose I’m it…sorry!!


Hmmmmmm using plastics for energy is seen as a lower use than using it for a new product? That’s interesting; I didn’t know there was a hierarchy to waste management. If most plastic packaging ends up in a land fill, wouldn’t a better option be waste-to-energy? If easier, why not utilize the technology until the recycling infrastructure catches up? I wonder why CA doesn’t count this form of recovery into their recycling numbers. This seems sort of odd…

As I tried to sort through the implications of Robert’s response, I received an email from the Sustainability Director at Starbucks, yippee! He agreed to chat with me about implementing a pilot-recycling program in several NY Starbucks stores.

Little old me, I remember thinking. This is big time!

The actual email has not been included for privacy considerations.

Upon setting up a phone interview with the Sustainability Coordinator of Starbucks, I sent the following email to Robert:

Hey Robert,

Thanks for your feedback. I feel so silly; the rep from Polyflow didn’t even mention Pyrolysis, which I know about and know is not unique to this company. Thanks for clarification!

As it turns out, the Sustainability Director of Starbucks is available to talk with me, and my email did get lost in the plasma that is the internet, so thank you! I also have been engaging in dialogue with various people in Waste Management trying to figure out a way to recapture PET clamshells and what not, so I feel as though I am on the right track.

So until next time, take care and thanks again for all your help; I really appreciate it!

What are you doing for Halloween? I dressed up as a man for our office party and just got done handing out candy to everyone in the plant. It is fun to be a man for a day!


Tune in tomorrow to learn more about recycling in America.