…[please see yesterday’s post for context as today’s post picks up where that one left off]…Also invited to participate in the task force meeting was the President of Plastics Forming Enterprise LLC., who was heavily involved with the development of APR’s Design for Recyclability Guidelines for PET bottles in the early 1990s. To make a long story short, this guy knows a thing or two about plastics recycling. His company is marketed as “an independent full service testing and R&D company serving the plastics, packaging, recycling and consumer products industries worldwide with a range of services.” As such, he is very well versed in the technical barriers keeping certain packaging/materials from being recycled and how recycling markets are generated and sustained.

His presentation titled “Recycling of PET Labeled Thermoforms and Bottles,” was one of the more precious compilations of insights into the technicalities governing PET bottle vs. PET thermoform recycling I have stumbled upon: For those of you who follow my blog regularly, you will recognize that the approach to PET thermoform recycling (and therefore what is considered a contaminate) has always been ambiguous—do you recycle PET thermoforms WITH bottles or in a separate stream? According to this gentleman, the answer is to recycle PET thermoforms WITH PET bottles eventually; it is just a matter of time, investment, and trial and error until recyclers and buyers gain the confidence into the value of PET thermoform material to sustain the collection and reprocessing there of. Good news, right?!?

What follows are some take-aways from this presentation:

Pressure-sensitive labels are the majority of labels used on thermoformed containers sold at retail. They consist of adhesives, substrate (paper vs. plastic), inks, coating, and laminate.

The known obstacles to recycling thermoforms with label/adhesives include: Sorting/contamination removal, material variability, mechanical engineering issues, misc. technical issues.

The known obstacles to recycling thermoforms with labels include: Look-alike contaminates i.e. PVC thermoform looks like a PET thermoform, wide variability in IV, package shape, direct print, different adhesives, different additives, fluorescence, flake bulk density, paper labels.

There are physical differences between PET thermoforms and PET bottles. While bottles have high IV, high bulk density and a unanimous design and material i.e. thin screw-top PET bottle, thermoforms have low IV, low bulk density, and heterogeneous shapes and material constituents.

The labels on PET bottles are typically plastic; the labels on retail point of purchase thermoforms are predominantly paper and continuously be increasing to plastic.
o It is generally understood that the move away from paper labels is the current issue at hand in the plastics recycling market (see APR’s Design Guidelines, pg. 12).
o However, the practical side of recycling PET thermoforms will need consideration of paper in the future i.e. POP label application.

The APR Thermoform Label and Adhesive protocol follows these steps:
o Apply label
o Grind
o 1st Elutriation
o Wash/Sink float
o 2nd Elutriation
o Plaque
o Analysis

PFE has developed a screening evaluation that focuses on adhesive performance (this takes a label and adhesive that has been applied to a specific package):
o Ground per APR guidelines
o Washed per APR guidelines
o The resulting flakes are analyzed for separation of the label from the flake (paper vs. plastic label impacts this test insofar as paper labels tend to “stick” to flake)
o The resulting flakes are analyzed for impact of inks and the impact of residual adhesive on the flake

In Europe, a common test evaluates the solubility of adhesives; this protocol does not look at the potential impact of:
o Soluble adhesives that have gone into solution during the wash and rinse process and redeposit onto the processed PET flake;
o Residual adhesives that remain tacky are causing problems where labels and flake become stuck together during reprocessing, hindering the removal potential of a given label.

Ideal PET label substrate properties:
o Floatable
o Light weight
o Maintain printed inks
o Physical properties for better separation

Ideal PET label adhesive properties:
o Needs to dissolve into solution and not reapply itself OR
o Adhesive to remain with the label and not be tacky

PFE’s Screening Evaluation is designed to understand three basic areas where label and/or adhesive performance is crucial to meeting the guidelines set by the APR:
o Separation from flake
o Removal through Elutriation and Sink Float
o Adhesive solubility and potential impact on flakes
o Impact of inks on wash water and flakes (if printed)

It was concluded that pressure sensitive labels are a critical part of the entire package. Therefore it should not be isolated as the main indicator of adhesive contamination potential without considering the interaction of the other label components.

Whoa!

Hey guys!

As introduced in my last post, I had a conference call with Calvin Frost, a representative of TLMI—the Tag and Label Manufacturers Institute—about the impact of APR’s protocol for adhesives/labels used on thermoform packaging in Canada on the TLMI membership. For background on APR’s initiative as reported via Plastics News, click here. In a nutshell, NAPCOR found that adhesives used on labels for thermoformed packaging act as contaminant to the PET recycling stream—they then created a protocol that attempts to test the adhesives’ and substrate materials applicability to the established PET recycling process.

While I applaud the efforts of NAPCOR / APR and the various PET thermoform recycling stakeholders involved in this protocol, others find fault with the approach taken for the following reasons: little consultation was made to the various constituents of the packaging supply chain that is involved with the adhesives and labels on thermoformed packaging; for instance, the adhesive manufacturers vs. the label manufacturers vs. those who apply the adhesive to the label vs. the inks, dies and laminates applied to the label vs. the substrate of the material the label is being applied to. In other words, Calvin Frost from TLMI with whom I spoke indicated that isolating adhesives used on labels as the low-hanging fruit of design barriers keeping thermoforms from being recycled is flawed for it neglects the complexities of the market and the interaction between the labels, adhesive, ink/laminate, and overall packaging substrate. Yowza!

I was subsequently invited to participate in TLMI’s “Recycling Friendly Adhesive Formulations and Compounds Task Force,” which consists of TLMI’s member-companies looking to become educated on the implications of APR’s protocol and how to proactively engage with the changing landscape of packaging material procurement as provoked by retailers in Canada…

More details to come, pending approval from the task force’s presenter! 

As an aside, did I mention that I have been nominated for Waste & Recycling News’ Rising Star award?!? Click here for the details. Fingers crossed!

Hey yall!

Sooo I know I said I was going to post today on the SPC meeting BUT I recieved a response to yesterday’s post from Ron Sherga who is super duper well versed in PET recycling. He is currently an advisor on recycling and sustainable strategies at Heritage Environmental Services, as per his LinkedIn profile.

Check out our exchange below:

Chandler, here are the challenges in regards to your question.

Basically, there are two ways to sort on a large scale commercial level.

One is using optic sorting equipment, or more accurately, near infrared or NIR. this will not work on black . There is no fast way to discern a black colored materials composition using fast scanning technology.

The second method is to size reduce and process thru a system where materials are separated based on their specific gravity. This is done using centrifuge machinery and various fluid designs…. But let’s call it a salt water medium.

Other than these and hand sorting (which relies on eyesight and touch); that’s about it.

And my response:

Hey thanks!

I understand that the sortation technologies you describe are usually employed at the MRF/PRF facility…what I am interested in are the types of machines companies like S+S Sorting manufacture, which are often bought by the big wigs of PET recycling (Coke), and therefore more proactive in recycling PET materials into RPET flake, bottles, etc. In other words, I am trying to learn more about the privatization of PET recycling technology and why this technology is only being designed to recycle PET bottles. Does this make sense? I confuse myself sometimes!

Hmmmmm…

More details to come following my conference call with S+S Sorting!

Tomorrow’s post WILL discuss feedback from the SPC meeting, specifically, the SPC’s suggestion of “collective reporting” amongst it’s member companies.

AND, did you guys know of this conference!?! It was just brought to my attention, but looks AMAZING!

OH, and check out this Packaging Digest article— your powerhouse in stilletos is quoted, ha! I think if my head gets any bigger, it’s going to explode! But in an awesome way.

Tootles!

Hello and happy Halloween! Here is a pic of me and my sister, who is dressed as Morticia from the Addams Family!

As per my post titled “Humbled by the Machine,” I sense a hole in my analysis of the recyclability of clamshell packaging in the context of machine technology. Below is the email I alluded to in said post, which I sent to a representative from S+S Separation and Sorting Technology GmbH following our meeting at the Polyester Extrusion and Recycling Forum.

Hello,

This is Chandler with Dordan—we presented in the same panel at the Polyester Extrusion and Recycling Forum in Chicago on October 11th. I presented on obstacles to recycling PET thermoforms within the existing municipally-owned waste management infrastructure. Remember?

I hope this email finds you well!

I was hoping you could help explain why the sorting technology your company manufacturers is only designed to reprocesses PET bottles, as opposed to PET thermoforms or other variants of PET. Is there a technical difference between bottle-grade PET and thermo-grade PET insofar as your machines’ ability to reprocess the material successfully? In other words, if your machines accepted mixed bales of PET bottles and thermoforms would they be able to “reprocess” the material into bottle-grade PET flake/pellets? Would the thermo-grade PET be interpreted as a contaminate or undetectable to the sortation technology?
I am just trying to better understand your technology and its application to our market.

If you would prefer to arrange a time we can chat via phone, please let me know your availability for the next week or two.

I look forward to hearing from you soon!

And his response:

Hi Chandler,

Nice to hear from you. I am travelling at the moment and will be back in office next Wednesday.
For sure there will be time to discuss your questions.In addition to this my colleague in the USA is also available for any direct support.I am looking forward to contact you next week.

Best regards.

Nice! And the journey of inquiry continues!

Have a ghoulishly good Halloween my packaging and sustainability friends! Tomorrow’s post will discuss feedback from the members-only Sustainable Packaging Coalition meeting I attended in Dallas. Stay tuned!

Humbled by the Machine

October 21, 2011

Hello and happy Friday!

So last week I presented at the Polyester Extrusion and Recycling Conference in Chicago on progress in recycling thermoforms since I published my Recycling Report in 2010. I’m really glad I went to this conference though the content diverged dramatically from the usual packaging and sustainability conferences I attend. As the name would imply, those speaking and attending this event were stakeholders in the extrusion and recycling machinery market; hence, I was amongst the ranks of representatives from Starlinger, Kreyenborg, EREMA, S + S Sorting, etc. These gentlemen (I was the only woman speaker) held extremely prestigious degrees in mechanical and chemical engineering from a variety of domestic and international universities, most having 10+ years experience in the plastics industry. Holy Toledo.

It is not a fair assessment to say I was intimidated by these gentleman and their extensive knowledge into plastic extrusion and recycling but I was humbled by their insights insofar as it presented yet another dimension to the complexities surrounding recycling in America. To date, my research into the recycling of clamshells has been dictated by a certain perspective, which can best be explained as a macroscopic view of waste management that focuses exclusively on post consumer residential waste and the market and technological requirements necessary for the economical recovery of a specific packaging material/type in the North American context. What was not included in this paradigm, therefore, was the privatization of the recycling technology market and the disconnect between those designing packaging and those designing machines capable of recycling said packaging. In other words, I have spent almost two years trying to understand the barriers to recycling thermoforms from a waste management perspective i.e. what waste management needs to begin collecting new materials for recycling; issues discussed include critical mass i.e. material generation in the waste stream available for recovery, supply and demand, international vs. domestic consumption of recyclables, sortation systems, specs for collection and baling, etc. What was not included in said analysis was the technical aspect to recycling, that is, how machines are designed or not designed to recycle/reprocess a specific material/packaging type. Several speakers in the recycling machinery market discussed their machine innovations and how said innovations allow post-consumer PET bottles to be reprocessed into an array of products from direct-food contact sheet and containers to strapping and/or polyester fiber/textiles. The technology was so sophisticated that it would maintain a homogenous IV, eliminate any spec of contaminant, be it dirt, sand, metal, etc., and produce clean flake, pellet, or product. It was crazy the level of sophistication that these machines seem to offer. However, most of the machinery discussed requires bales of PET bottles for reprocessing, with no attention given to PET thermoform bales or PET thermoform and bottle bales. Though it was not touched upon exclusively and I may not be well versed enough in these issues to comment, it seems as though these machines are developed primarily and exclusively to reprocesses PET bottles and any other derivative of PET, specifically thermoforms, are not considered nor desired. This observation leads one to conclude that if we are serious about recovering PET thermoforms, either within the PET bottle stream or as its own thermoform-PET exclusive stream, we need to collaborate with those manufacturing the recycling machines and technology.

I sent one of the presenters from S + S Sortation an email looking for more information on thermo-PET vs. bottle-PET in the context of what their recycling machines are capable of reprocessing and get more information on why the machines favor PET bottles exclusively. In a nut shell, I want to understand why there are no machines that were discussed at this conference that cater to recycling PET thermoforms + PET bottles OR PET thermoforms exclusively: Is it because lack of supply, investment, economics, etc.

Stay tuned!

AND, for your viewing pleasure, check out this video from Pack Expo—it’s my friend from Ecovative and I discussing the collaboration between our two companies on the design of their thermoformed “grow trays” for their new cooler product line.

Hellllllloooooooooooo my packaging and sustainability friends! I have returned to my beloved Chicago after two weeks of traveling: First, to the SPC’s member-only meeting in Dallas; then, to Las Vegas for Pack Expo! I have tons of awesome stuff to report, but unfortunately, am strapped for time as I have been invited to speak at the Polyester Extrusion and Recycling Conference last minute. Check out the description of my presentation below, super cool!

Presentation Title: Reflections on “Recycling Report©”

Presentation Description: In early 2010, Chandler Slavin released “Recycling Report: The Truth about Blister/Clamshell Recycling in America with Suggestions for the Industry©.” This report was the culmination of over a year’s work of independent research into the realities of waste management in America, with attention to the economical and infrastructural requirements of post-consumer PET thermoform recycling. Reflections on “Recycling Report©” discusses this research in abstract while highlighting the new developments in PET thermoform recycling as initiated through the industry and its associations. Slavin will report on the progress made in these regards after establishing a foundation for understanding the economics of recycling in America as described with reference to the 2010 Report.

Once I polish off my PPT, I will provide the following updates generated from my experiences the last two weeks:

SPC meeting feedback, including updates on following SPC projects: Labeling for Recovery Project, EPR AMERIPEN/SPC working group, Material Health working group; additionally, I will discuss the SPC’s call for “collective reporting” and the member-companies reaction thereto. And, second times the charm, I have been nominated to the Executive Committee! Ballots went out last week and the election closes this Friday; good luck to my fellow nominees!

Feedback on all things Pack Expo!

OH and I saw the mock-up for my Sept/Oct. feature in Green Manufacturer and am positively thrilled! It is by far the nicest thing anyone has every written about me, I am just tickled pink!

Untill next time!

Hey!

It’s official! Check out the email I got from Cal Recycle last night:

Plastic Collection and Recycling Listserv

The National Association for PET Container Recources (NAPCOR) and SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association (SPI) have just issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a grant of up to $100,000 to be awarded for development of a model PET thermoform recycling program. Funds are available to any United States’ MRF or recycling program operator that can affect the variety of elements necessary for a successful program, as described more fully in the RFP.

The RFP is available for reviewing or download on the NAPCOR web site at http://www.napcor.com/PET/thermoRFP.html. Proposals are due on or before September 30, 2011.

AWESOME!

Go NAPCOR and SPI!!!

Hello and happy Monday funday!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dordan Manufacturing Unveils Redesigned Corporate Website

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

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

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

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

About Dordan Manufacturing Co. Inc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for the full article.

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

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

HA! LOVE IT.

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

Good news!

October 13, 2010

Good news everyone!

The progress that is being made in recycling thermoforms will be available to the public sometime next week in the appendix of APRs/NAPCORs Report on PET Container Recycling Activity. Look out for it!

I am working on an abstract of my report on recycling thermoforms for publication in PlasticsNews. Upon its completion, I will post it here, so you—my packaging and sustainability friends—can read it first!

Have a splendid afternoon!

Ok, so I think I have dragged out the inevitable long enough. And resume recycling narrative:

Ring…Ring…

“Good Morning Dordan this is Sarah how can I help you? One moment please…”

Beep. “Chandler, Waste Management on Line 1…”

“Thanks.”

Suddenly I realized that this was the call I had been waiting on for almost 7 weeks: the results of our RPET clamshell samples’ test via the MRFs optical sorter. If our supplier-certified 70% post-consumer regrind PET clamshell packages are “read” like PET bottles via the recovery facility’s optical sorter, then perhaps we could integrate our clamshells into the existing PET bottle recycling infrastructure. If anything, the results would tell us if one of the many obstacles facing the inclusion of PET/RPET clamshells into the PET bottle recovery stream is NOT the inability to sort these two packaging types together.

I reach for the phone.

“Hello?”

“Hey Chandler!”

“Hey, nice to hear from you; how’s it going?”

“Great, thanks. I have the results from the MRF regarding your samples.”

“Ok, what are they; did they pass with the bottles?”

“Yes, there was no difference between the PET bottles and RPET samples as read by our optical sorter. So if RPET clams and PET bottles were moving down the line together, there would be no luminescent difference between the bottles and clams as they moved through our plastic sorting station. Again, the main point of the optical sorter is to see the difference between PVC and PET bottles, which look dramatically different when viewed via the optical sorter.”

“This is wonderful news!”

“Well, keep in mind that regardless of this, buyers of baled PET bottles DO NOT want clams in the mix.”

“And this is because fear of contamination, different IVs and perhaps melting points, no specs for mixed bales and on and on…?”

“Pretty much hit the nail on the head.”

“Well, I really appreciate you and WM going out of your way to help us figure this stuff out. We just want to recycle our packages—didn’t know how complicated it is!”

“Well we wish you the best of luck with your recycling initiative. Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you…”

“Truly, thanks again.”

“No problem; take care.”

“You too!”

I hung up the phone.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm…what does this mean, I asked myself?

I think it means that the molecular structures of clamshell RPET and bottle PET are the same, at least was read via the optical sorter.

So how will this help us recycle our RPET thermoforms?

It illustrates that the reason RPET clams are not recycled with bottles has nothing to do with an inability to sort the two packaging types together. So if our RPET clams and PET bottles are read the same, they could be collected and baled, with no need for different sorting technology.

Good to establish, Chandler.

Suddenly I snapped out of my internal discussion; my two colleagues were waiting tentatively outside my cubicle, eager for the results.

“They passed!” I said.

“Sweet!” they replied in unison.

“So what does this mean for us?”

“Haha, I’m not quite sure yet…”

Tune in Monday for a summary of the different obstacles hindering the inclusion of RPET clams in the PET bottle recovery stream. Once established we will move on to discuss how the following determine the recyclability of a material/packaging type: supply, demand, and technology.

Have a splendid weekend! Its Friday, woop woop!