Feedback from Pack Expo

October 26, 2011

Hey!

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

And here is me in a large shoe:

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

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

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

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

Hello and happy almost Friday day!

Today we are going to talk about the process of deriving carbon from annually-renewable resources for synthesis into bio-based polymers. As per yesterday’s discussion, substituting bio-based carbon for petro-based carbon provides a value proposition in the context of material carbon footprint for plastic packaging.

Slide 7: Carbon Footprint Basics—Value Proposition

Consider the following chemical process for manufacturing traditional, fossil-based plastics:

Fossil feedstock (oil, coal, natural gas)–>Naptha–>ethylene/propylene–>polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP)

Now, consider the process of manufacturing bio-based plastics from a renewable feedstock:

Bio/renewable feedstock (crops and residues i.e. corn, sugarcane, tree plantations i.e. lignocellulosics, algal biomass i.e. algae)–>BIO monomers, sugars, oils (continue)

These BIO monomers, sugars and oils can then be synthesized into EtoH, which is then used to make ethylene/propylene, the building blocks of PE and PP;

OR, these BIO monomers, sugars and oils can be synthesized to make PLA and PHA.

The difference between something like PLA and the PlantBottle, therefore, is that the PlantBottle derives its carbon from biomass, as explained in the process above, yet has the same chemical composition as tradition, petro-based PET. Therefore, it is not designed to “biodegrade” in an industrial composting facility or others, whereas PLA, which is of a different chemical composition though it derives its carbon from, like the PlantBottle, an annually renewable source, is designed to “biodegrade” in the intended disposal environment as stipulated by the manufacturers of PLA. Check out the molecular structures of PLA vs. PP on the 7th slide of Narayan’s presentation; as you will see, the carbon, highlighted in red, can come from petro-based or bio-based feedstocks. Cool, huh!?!

Slide 8: Understanding the value proposition for bio carbon vs. petro/fossil carbon

Narayan then went on explaining the difference between old carbon (fossil fuel) and new carbon (crop residue/biomass). Consult the 8th slide of the PPT for an explanation of how old carbon is synthesized from new carbon.

Consider the following processes of synthesizing new vs. old carbon:

CO2 (present in atmosphere) + H20–>photosynthesis (1-10 years)–> (CH20)x +O2–>NEW CARBON (biomass, forestry, crops)

Vs.

C02+H20–>photosynthesis (1-10 years) –>(CH20)x–>–>–>(10,000,000 years)–>OLD CARBON (fossil resources i.e. oil, coal, natural gas)

He then argued that all the criticism about manufacturing plastics out of non-renewable sources is misplaced because it doesn’t really matter where you get the carbon from—be it old or new carbon. The issue, however, is the rate and scale at which we have been taking old carbon (oil) out of the earth: it is inherently unsustainable to continue to derive carbon from fossil fuel for synthesis into disposable plastic packaging because it takes millions of years to create old carbon from the process described above, whereas it takes just 1-10 years to derive new carbon from crop residue/biomass.

Does that make sense?

He concludes: “Rate and time scales of CO2 utilization is in balance using bio/renewable feedstocks (1-10 years) as opposed to using fossil feedstocks.”

Goodness!

And, for your viewing picture, here is a picture of my pops (and Dordan CEO) and I for our feature in the May edition of Plastics Technology magazine!