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!

YUM!

June 13, 2011

Hi!

Sooo my long-winded rebuttal to the NYT’s article generated 150+ hits in two hours, a recyclablepackaging.org record! Hurra my packaging and sustainability friends; let the truth rein free! I plan to submit a more concise and possibly sassy letter to the editor, though I am not sure how much more time I want to devote to this silliness. Stay tuned!

Anywhosie, our organic Victory Garden is coming along swimmingly!

We now have several different types of lettuce, arugula, leeks, beans, radishes, bell peppers, tomatoes, basil, and much much more growing as we speak! YUM!

OH, and I totally forgot to tell you guys—remember how last summer we started composting Dordan’s food and yard waste in our journey toward zero waste; and, remember how we threw some “Vincotte OK to Home Compost” certified resins into the composter to see if the plastic disappeared over the winter (check out October 21st post)? Well guess what: it did! The farmers emptied the contents of the compost early this summer to spread on the plot as fertilizer and did not detect any plastic bits in it. CRAZY!

Check out the phresh off the press photos below!

AND, coming soon to recyclablepackaging.org:

The truth about ocean debris as per the SPC’s panel discussion thereof

Dordan’s updated Bio Resin Show N Tell for Pack Expo 2011 featuring two NEW non-traditional resins

More paper vs. plastic goodness, yippee

AND, my article contribution to Plastics Business, a quarterly publication for injection molders, blow molders, and thermoformers; in other words, my people!

Stephanie Clifford’s “Devilish Packaging, Tamed,” appeared in the June 2nd addition of the New York Times’ Energy and Environment section. What follows is a critical analysis thereof from the perspective of a Sustainability Coordinator at a family owned and operated clamshell manufacturing company.

Clifford makes the following assumptions in “Devilish Packaging, Tamed:”

Retailers are instigating the shift from clamshell to trapped blister packs because (1) increased plastic packaging prices; (2) the desire to reduce packaging material use (re: Wal-Mart’s goal of 5% packaging reduction by 2013); (3) trapped blister packs are more “green” than clamshells; and, (4) trapped blister packs are easier to open than clamshells.

In discussing these assumptions, it will become clear that not only are the claims made in this piece incorrect, but the perception about “green packaging” created therefrom a disservice to the always-progressing dialogue about sustainability and packaging.

Assumption 1:

Retailers are instigating the shift from clamshell to trapped blister packs like MWV’s Natralock because of increase plastic packaging prices.

Trapped blister packs are not new to the packaging market; hence, the assumption that the recently unstable resin market motivates the transition from clamshell to trapped blister packs is incorrect. Since Natralock’s introduction years ago, it has been marketed as the “sustainable alternative to clamshell packaging.” Consequently, referencing the unstable resin market as reason for why clamshell packaging is being replaced with trapped blister packs is an after-the-fact justification that meets MWV’s PR story more that the realities of supply and demand.

Due to the contemporary “death of print” phenomenon—a repercussion of our digital age—the fiber market has been cutting prices to allow for market gains in areas formally controlled by other mediums. This, in conjuncture with other global economics (like the unsuccessful cotton crop in Asia resulting in increased international demand for RPET driving up prices for RPET for packaging converters, like clamshell manufacturers), paints a more accurate picture of the intricacies of the resin vs. paper market than assumed by Clifford. Seeing as how industry publications such as PlasticsNews devote entire sections to explaining and contextualizing the fluctuating resin market (see Material Insights), it is silly to assume that something so complicated as the international production and consumption of commodities be so simply reduced as Clifford would have it.

Assumption 2:

Retailers are instigating the shift from clamshell to trapped blister packs Like MWV’s Natralock becasue the desire to reduce packaging material use.

It is misinformed to assume that packaging material reductions are achieved by switching from clamshell to trapped blister packs, which this article postulates. In fact, as per the Wal-Mart Packaging Success Stories presented during the Wal-Mart Packaging Sustainable Value Network meetings, most packaging reductions are achieved by attaining lower product to package ratio via package redesign and/or moving into a lighter packaging medium i.e. PP shrink wrap vs. corrugate boxes. The reason-by-association tactic employed by Clifford assumes that the retailer’s desire to reduce packaging is achieved by transitioning into trapped blister packs; this is overly reductionist and negates the role of the packaging engineer in understanding how each packaging medium allows for different savings depending on the application of the package. In short, packaging material reductions are the result of extensive R&D within a specific distribution context and are made with consideration of the unique market demands inherent in any consumer product.

Assumption 3:

Retailers are instigating the shift from clamshell to trapped blister packs like MWV’s Natralock because it is more “green” than clamshells.

What is “green?”

How does Clifford understand “green?” At the last SPC meeting attorney general of the FTC discussed their recent efforts to understand the consumer’s perception of ambiguous marketing claims like “green,” “sustainable,” “environmentally friendly,” etc. After conducting a survey, it was found that consumers didn’t really understand these terms, which lead the FTC to conclude that such ambiguous environmental marketing terms should be avoided in order to alleviate consumer deception. Consequently, if a marketer is going to make a claim of sustainability/environmentally friendliness, he/she must qualify it with further information like: “Made with 30% post consumer recycled content;” or, “complies with ASTM D6400 Standard for Industrial Compostability.” Hence, the postulation that ALL paper packaging is more sustainable than ALL plastic packaging and, via reason-by-association, that ALL trapped blister packs are more sustainable than ALL clamshells is not only manipulative insofar as no qualifying language is provided, but again, overly reductionist; as such, lacks the legitimacy seemingly assumed in a news article worthy of publication in the NYT.

Environmental marketing claims aside, I would like to take the moment to clear the air re: the sustainability of clamshell packaging.

Sustainability of clamshells vs. trapped blister packs, like MWV’s Natralock:

I am no expert in sustainability. However, I have learned that when discussing the “sustainability” of any product, package or service, it is helpful to take a life-cycle based approach; this looks to quantify the environmental requirements of production, conversion, distribution and end of life management. Only when a full life cycle analysis is conducted can the “sustainability” of any product be understood.

In regard to the first life cycle phase in the context of packaging material production, issues such as feedstock procurement (what is consumed and emitted during the process of raw material extraction?) and feedstock conversion (what is consumed and emitted during the process of raw material conversion?), are important to consider when discussing the “sustainability” of any packaging material.

In the context of pulp and paper production for conversion into trapped blister packs, trees are needed as feedstock, and extensive amounts of water and electricity are required to convert the material into useable fiber-based packaging materials. Consider this excerpt from TreeHugger.com, which attempts to answer to age-old paper vs. plastic conundrum by discussing the production of paper bags:

Paper comes from trees — lots and lots of trees. The logging industry…is huge, and the process to get that paper bag to the grocery store is long, sordid and exacts a heavy toll on the planet. First, the trees are found, marked and felled in a process that all too often involves clear-cutting, resulting in massive habitat destruction and long-term ecological damage.

Mega-machinery comes in to remove the logs from what used to be forest, either by logging trucks or even helicopters in more remote areas. This machinery requires fossil fuel to operate and roads to drive on, and, when done unsustainably, logging even a small area has a large impact on the entire ecological chain in surrounding areas.

Once the trees are collected, they must dry at least three years before they can be used. More machinery is used to strip the bark, which is then chipped into one-inch squares and cooked under tremendous heat and pressure. This wood stew is then “digested,” with a chemical mixture of limestone and acid, and after several hours of cooking, what was once wood becomes pulp. It takes approximately three tons of wood chips to make one ton of pulp.

The pulp is then washed and bleached; both stages require thousands of gallons of clean water. Coloring is added to more water, and is then combined in a ratio of 1 part pulp to 400 parts water, to make paper. The pulp/water mixture is dumped into a web of bronze wires, and the water showers through, leaving the pulp, which, in turn, is rolled into paper.

Whew! And that’s just to MAKE the paper; don’t forget about the energy inputs — chemical, electrical, and fossil fuel-based — used to transport the raw material, turn the paper into a bag and then transport the finished paper bag all over the world.

Please note that this account of pulp and paper production is too simplistic; for a full discussion of the life cycle attributes of pulp and paper production, consult the SPC’s Fiber-Based Packaging Material Briefs, available here for download.

To be fair and get both sides of the story, below is TreeHuger.com’s description of converting fossil fuel bi-products into plastic packaging:

Unlike paper bags, plastic bags are typically made from oil, a non-renewable resource. Plastics are a by-product of the oil-refining process, accounting for about 4% of oil production around the globe. The biggest energy input is from the plastic bag creation process is electricity, which, in this country, comes from coal-burning power plants at least half of the time; the process requires enough juice to heat the oil up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit, where it can be separated into its various components and molded into polymers. Plastic bags most often come from one of the five types of polymers — polyethylene — in its low-density form (LDPE), which is also known as #4 plastic.Again, this account of plastic packaging production from a bi-product of the oil-refining process is too simplistic, failing to take into account the different processes/materials required for the production of PET vs. PVC vs. PP; each resin has its own production profile and it’s important to understand how each informs the overall “sustainability” of said resin.

For the full discussion of the paper vs. plastic bag debate re: TreeHuger.com, click here.

When trying to understand the sustainability of clamshells vs. trapped blister packs, it is also important to distinguish between fiber-based packaging IN GENERAL and Natralock, which is a specific type of clamshell alternative produced and marketed by a specific company. Unlike the majority of fiber-based packaging on the market, Natralock incorporates a special type of adhesive/laminate that allows these packages to be deemed “tear-proof.” After a quick search of the US patent database, the following description about BlisterGuard—a trapped blister pack similar to or the same as Natralock (I couldn’t find any patents for Natralock but believe that Colbert Packaging licenses the tear-proof technology to MWV)—is provided:

A packaging laminate is formed by a paperboard substrate with a plastic blister layer sealed to the substrate. The packaging laminate comprises a paperboard substrate for providing a base layer, a tear-resistant polymer layer applied to said substrate, and a heat seal polymer layer applied to said tear-resistant polymer…

The tear-resistant polymer layer 14 may be polyamides, such as nylon 6, nylon (6,6), nylon (6,12) or other polyamides, polyester, polyurethane, block copolymer, unsaturated block copolymers such as styrene-butadiene-styrene, styrene-isoprene-styrene and the like; saturated block copolymers such as styrene-ethylene/butylene-styrene, styrene-ethylene/propylene-styrene, and the like) or other material possessing high tear-resistant properties. The polymer used to make the tear-resistant layer may be blended with another polymer selected from the group including ethylene copolymers such as ionomers, vinyl acetate, methylacrylic or acrylic acid copolymers.For a full description of the patents from which the above excerpts were taken, click here and here.

The motivation for referencing the tear-proof laminate found on Blisterguard and perhaps Natralock is to demonstrate that these fiber-based alternatives to clamshells are not just a paper version of a clamshell; they are multi-material/chemical compositions that are only marketable as “tear proof” due to the addition of a variety of chemicals during the process of production. Without implying that the chemicals used in the Natralock adhesive/laminate are toxic/pose a hazard to human health as I am not privy to such information, it is important to acknowledge the following statistic about the inks/adhesives/laminates used in fiber-based packaging from the USA EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory Report :

Coated and laminated paper products are associated with significant reporting of releases and other waste management of toxics chemicals…Pollutants associated with various coating materials and processes have included emissions of volatile organic compounds and discharges of wastewater containing solvents, colorants, and other contaminants (EPA, TRI Data for Pulp and Paper, Ch. 5).

It would be great to conduct an LCA of a trapped blister pack like MWV’s Natralock vs. a, let’s say, RPET clamshell via the SPC’s comparative packaging assessment software COMPASS. Unfortunately, LCA tools like COMPASS don’t contain metrics for toxicity resulting from the inks, laminates and adhesives used in fiber-based packaging because: lack of life cycle data availability, lack of risk data beyond MSDS information, and that hazard is not easily correlated to toxicity based on mass of material. A respected LCA practitioner did explain to me that this need for risk data re: inks, laminates and adhesives used in fiber-based packaging like trapped blister packs IS being investigated via GreenBlue’s CleanGredients. He writes, “The fact that possibly the most toxic part of a package is not being assessed [by LCA tools like COMPASS] has not been missed by the LCA community.”

While we can’t conduct a holistic LCA of a trapped blister pack vs. a plastic clamshell because of the realities outlined above, we can conduct one comparing a PET clamshell to a corrugate box of similar dimensions via COMPASS; this is what I did to facilitate entry to GreenerPackage.com’s Database for Sustainable Packaging Suppliers–click here to see the third-party reviewed entry. Please note that I was only able to claim that the submitted RPET clamshell package “releases less GHG equivalents throughout life cycle than fiber-based packages of similar dimensions” because I provided this COMPASS LCA. As the data illustrates, the corrugate box releases more GHG and consumers more water, biotic, and mineral resources and results in higher concentrations of water toxicity and eutrophication than the plastic clamshell counterpart. Eutrophication is what contributes to the Gulf Dead Zone, which is where the absence of oxygen in the water has resulted in female fish growing testes as described in this National Geographic article.

Please understand that LCA tools like COMPASS are a constantly evolving tool; more LCI data is needed to paint a more accurate picture of the “sustainability” of any product. As such, this tool is appropriately deemed “COMPASS;” it helps illuminate where you are going but doesn’t always tell you where you are. In addition, though implied, I do not have information on how much paper and pulp production contributes to dramatic cases of eutrophication like the Gulf Dead Zone; it’s inclusion in this discussion was to demonstrate the complexities of “sustainability” as it pertains to different packaging materials and modes of production.

Next one should focus on the end of life management of trapped blister packs vs. clamshell packaging. As per the FTC Green Guide’s definition, in order to claim a package is recyclable, 60% or more American communities must have access to the infrastructure/facilities capable of sorting and reprocessing this material for remanufacture into new products and/or packaging. Unfortunately, as per this MSW report from the US EPA, clamshell packages AND trapped blister packs are not classified as recyclable insofar as there is no data on these packaging/material combinations (see table 21). As you can see , the high rates for paper recovery is attributed to newspaper and corrugate and those for plastic are attributed primarily to HDPE jugs and PET bottles. Those packaging categories listed “Neg.” like “other paper packaging/other paperboard packaging” means that not enough data is collected; this implies that all fiber-based packaging materials that fall outside of the categories listed are not recycled, contrary to popular belief.

The recyclability of materials used in combination to create the package depends entirely on the ability of someone (the end user or MRF) to separate the material constituents. After performing extensive research in the area of post consumer materials management, I have a hard time understanding how trapped blister packs, like MWV’s Natralock, are recycled due to the multi-material/chemical composition inherent in the package design…

Assumption 4:

Retailers are instigating the shift from clamshell to trapped blister packs like MWV’s Natralock because it is easier to open.

Consider the following excerpt taken directly from the NYT’s article:

“As a guy in packaging, I get all the questions — there’s nothing worse than going to a cocktail party where someone’s asking why they can’t get into their stuff,” said Ronald Sasine, the senior director for packaging procurement at Wal-Mart. “I’ve heard over the years, ‘How come I need a knife to get into my knife?’ ‘How come I need a pair of scissors to get into my kid’s birthday present?’”

That’s all fine and good—I am aware that consumers get frustrated trying to open their product packaging. The reason for the hard-to-open nature of the clamshell packaging is, as this article explains, to deter shop-lifters; it was Sam Walton himself who explained that products over a certain price point had to be packaged in clamshells to reduce shrinkage. However, clamshell manufacturers do not design their packaging to be frustrating to the consumer—in fact, most domestic manufacturers offer easy-open features and design the packaging to snap together, eliminating the need for secondary RF sealing. However, by the time the fulfilled package makes its way to a retail shelf, it has been RF sealed due to the requirements of the RETAILER, not the manufacturer. Don’t hate the players hate the game.

Now, consider this factoid taken directly from MWV’s webpage explaining Natralock: “The polymer-reinforced paperboard, along with our unique sealing process, makes the package virtually impossible to tear open by hand” (http://www.natralock.com/WhatIsNatralock/SecurityDurability/SecurityLossPrevention/index.htm).

Call me crazy, but doesn’t this imply that the package requires scissors, or another tool, to get into? If you can’t open it by hand, what can you open it with? Sooo how are trapped blister packs easier to open than clamshells?

Taken together, it is clear that this NYT’s article presents an overly simplified account of the requirements and realities of retail product packaging in the context of “sustainability.” As a representative of the plastics industry and a third-generation plastic clamshell manufacturer, I believe it is crucial that we combat these biased and scientifically unfounded perceptions about the “evils” of clamshell packaging; if we do not, clamshell packaging will continue to be targeted by self-serving actors looking to capitalize on the anxiety produced from notions of environmental destruction via our consumption habits.

Hello!

Today we are going to discuss some of the happenings from the SPC meeting I attended the end of March in San Diego. For a discussion of the “Labeling for Recovery” workshop that preceded the conference, visit April 13th’s post.

The first session of the conference was titled “Vision 2050: Pathways for Global Sustainability,” which was described in the conference literature as follows:

“The Vision 2050 project lays out a pathway that will support a global population of some nine billion people living well and within the resource limits of the planet.” As per the presenter’s discussion, The Vision grew out of the leadership of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, where 29 companies—led by Alcoa, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Storebrand, and Syngenta—“worked together to rethink the roles that business must play over the next few decades to enable society to become more sustainable” (SPC meeting pamphlet).

That which I appreciated about the presenter’s treatment of this project was her emphasis on economics—how companies will face difficult economic realities as the price of doing business becomes more volatile due to the understanding that fewer resources will be available to sustain an ever-expanding population. Statistics referenced include: “1/6th of humanity is poor; two billion people live on less than $2 a day; 20 million people die each year from lack of food/water/sanitation; 20% of the world lives in water-scarce areas; etc.” Consequently, it should be every business’s business to investigate how its current model to production may need revision in this fast-approaching resource-scarce world. YIKES. This project’s description reminds me a bit of the World Wildlife Fund’s presentation at a previous SPC meeting insofar as the WWF made a similar argument that we are consuming the earth’s resources faster than is sustainable with the projected population of future decades. As such, we need to dramatically rethink the way we produce and consume so that future generations will not inherit a resource-less planet. And, if I continue on with this thought bubble, both the WWF and The Vision make an argument similar to that which I am discovering in “Cradle to Cradle: remaking the way we make things:” they all imply that our current models of production and consumption are out-dated and rooted in an immature social imagination where the earth’s resources are perceived as plentiful and ours for the taking, which obviously is inherently unsustainable…

The company that spoke on behalf of The Vision was a gigantic timber company, that harvests trees for almost every fiber-invested industry, from packaging to construction. This company representative explained how in 2010, 60% of trees harvested for industry/consumption were done so in natural forrest; the work of The Vision, therefore, is to identify issues such as these and work within the structures of business to develop more sustainable models, like harvesting all wood-derived products from “planned forrests,” or those that are grown with then intention of harvesting.

The next session was titled, “Corporate Cultures that Inform Packaging Design Decisions,” which consisted of representatives from an environmentally aligned household cleaning products company and a representative from an organic foodstuff company speaking about how their companies implement “sustainability” into their business practices. The former company articulated a recent package redesign that consisted of moving from a PCR HDPE container to a “bag N a box” wherein a LDPE bag was enclosed in a molded pulp bottle, which was manually compactable at the end of its life for easy material separation for recycling. This company began their presentation with all sorts of terrible images of plastic marine debris and Albatrosses with plastic bits in their slowly decaying carcasses to set the mood as that which was extremely anti-plastic. It was kind of a bummer. After their whole schpeel about eliminating plastics from this product line, it was time for questions, my favorite! A hand quickly shot up and with reluctance, they took my question. I began, “why is plastic elimination the most important environmental aspect you are focusing on in this package redesign…did you take into account water consumption, aquatic toxicity, eutrophication, GHG, etc. over the life cycle of the previous PCR HDPE container vs. the new bag N a box?”

They replied that they did not perform any LCA’s comparing the former package with the new…they said that the PCR HDPE container “probably had a more attractive carbon footprint overall [when compared with new package],” but that the molded pulp bottle “told a better story to their consumers.” UG. I fail to comment.

The other company discussed their transition from PS to PLA for one of their organic product lines’ multi-pack form/fill/seal containers. This presenter did a superb job outlining where they were now and where they were trying to go in regard to implementing their vision of “sustainability.” She also eloquently walked us through their approach, trials, and results, making for a wholistic treatment of one company’s journey down the path of sustainable packaging. I was also delighted to hear that this company invested in a third-party contracted LCA study comparing the PS to PLA container before moving forward with consumer market research gauging their customers’ attitude toward this product’s packaging…

Alright, that’s all for now. By the by, I had an extremely interesting conference call today with one of the largest waste haulers and recyclers in America in regard to PET thermoform recycling. I will post a description of our conversation pending this contact’s permission.

Tootles!

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.