Hey guys!

Happy July! I have a super-awesome blog post coming your way but FIRST, let us recap exciting developments in PET thermoform recycling!!! Afterall, this was the ENTIRE focus of my blog for the first two years of its life; consequently, I think it only fair to tip our hats to the industry and all those involved in the impressive journey to recycle clamshell packaging, narrated below.

On June 27, 2011, Plastics News published a story announcing that “Canada’s five grocery chains will require its suppliers to shift to PET clamshell thermoformed packaging in a move designed to simplify the product stream and increase recycling” (Miel, Canada’s Grocers: PET for Clamshells).

As described in my Recycling Report, developing the quantity necessary to sustain the process of recycling itself is crucial to the economic recovery of any packaging/material type. In encouraging suppliers transition thermoforms from PE/PS/etc. to PET, it is assumed that the amount of material available for recovery should increase, allowing for the efficient collection and repossessing thereof. In addition, replacing other resins with PET will reduce the amount of “look-alikes” in the recycling stream, limiting the likelihood of contamination from PVC, PETG, CPET, etc.

Kudos to Canadian grocers!

Click here for the full article.

On July 4, 2011, Plastics News reports, “Transitioning to adhesives that don’t hinder recycling could be one of the stickiest challenges that packaging thermoformers face in meeting the new mandate by the Retail Council of Canada that clamshell food packaging be made from PET by next year” (Verespeji, Adhesives Complicate Packaging Mandate). The article goes on to explain how most food thermoforms use pressure sensitive labels, which when recycled, gunk up the recyclate due to the aggressive properties of the adhesive. Consequently, retailers are working with “Adhesive and Sealant Council Inc. and the APR on a set of guidelines for labeling adhesives that will eliminate contamination from glues and labels” (Ibid).  

As per my Report, inks, labels and adhesives were another obstacle to PET thermoform recycling; thanks to the efforts of those cited above, these barriers (no pun intended) will soon be overcome. Awesome.

Click here for the full article.

On July 25, 2011, Plastics News announces that NAPCOR and SPI are to collaborate “in an initiative to propel the collection and recycling of thermoformed PET packaging…in a model program to demonstrate the economic feasibility of capturing the material” (Verespej, SPI Jumps on Thermoformed PET Recycling).

In my Recycling Report I emphasis the need for investment in recycling infrastructure and technology (collection, sortation, nourishment of domestic end markets, etc.) in regards to establishing the foundation on which PET thermoform recycling can thrive. I am SO proud of SPI, NAPCOR, and its member companies for developing this model program to determine the feasibility of nation-wide PET thermoform recycling.

Click here for the article.

On March 19, 2012, Plastics News announces the winners of the SPI/NAPCOR model PET thermoform grant! Click here for the winner descriptions!

AND, on June 29, 2012, Packaging Digest reports that, “…beginning immediately residents of single-family homes receiving recycling pick-ups [in Montgomery County, Maryland] can now add PET thermoform plastics to their recycling bins” (Spinner, SPI Boosts Recycling of PET Thermoforms in MD).

Click here for the full article!

Making moves in PET thermoform recycling! Can you believe our Green Manufacturer cover story narrating our efforts to recycling clamshell packaging came out almost a year ago!?! How time flies when progress is being made! I am so thrilled to have been part of the discourse on thermoform recycling and tickled pink to see the progress resulting since I first discovered that clamshell packaging was not recycled in 2009. I can’t believe that soon I will be able to say, without a doubt, that clamshell packaging IS recycled; take that paper people!

…[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 guys!

Sooo guess what: I have been invited to speak at Green Manufacturer’s Zero-Waste-to-Landfill workshop in NC with a tour of Burt’s Bees to boot! I am soooo excited to see where Burt’s Bees products are manufactured as I, for the most part, have only been to packaging manufacturing and fulfillment plants. I hope there are free samples!

I was invited to speak by FMA—the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International—, which is the publishing house behind Green Manufacturer. I am to be part of the Vendor Panel “Best Practices for Landfill Elimination” and present on what steps might be taken and when to facilitate PET thermoform recycling. The event organizer said that the audience at these workshops is generally of a more informed level and often lively! My kinda crowd!

Because I hate presenting on the same content more then once as I like the thrill of pending public humiliation, I thought it would be cool to begin moving the dialogue on our clamshell recycling initiative forward. See the email below to see what’s what.

Hey!

After brainstorming on how best to present my content, I think it would be a good approach to just explain Dordan’s story (as narrated in the Green Manufacturer article), the progress in PET thermoform recycling resulting thereafter, and what further steps may be taken and when to facilitate increased PET thermoform recycling. Do you think it would be in the audience’s interest to expand into a discussion of the initiative’s “take-aways” i.e. how to divert consumer product packaging from landfill through industry collaboration, investment in infrastructure, development of domestic end markets, etc.? In a nut shell, how focused should I be on recycling thermoformed containers exclusively and what attention, if any, should I give to barriers keeping consumer product packaging in general from being recycled in America?

I think it would be cool to begin with a microcosmic approach on thermoform container diversion and expand to a macrocosmic assessment of how to increase the diversion of CPG packaging waste post-consumer. Let me know your thoughts and I will begin working on a PPT.

Thanks!

Chandler

Upon completion of my mini-presentation I will post here for your viewing pleasure. After which, I will post on updates from the Material Health working group of the SPC as per the last meeting in Texas; and, hopefully give you some feedback from the Walmart SVN November 17th, which I was unable to attend due to stupid tonsils.

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!

Hey!

As introduced in last week’s post, I had an interesting conversation with a representative of one of the largest waste haulers and recyclers in America in regard to the market potential of recycling PET thermoforms post-consumer.

She found me via my blog and wanted to ask some follow up questions from my Recycling Report—specifically—what is the current market for PET thermoform recycling? Once she assesses the supply/demand of this waste stream, she will be better equipped to determine if recycling PET thermoforms would be a value-added endeavor for her company. Let’s just say I was THRILLED.

She began contextualizing her interest in PET thermoform recycling by noting that PET is the most recycled plastic resin by material type, as is it the most demanded. As noted many times over, industry insight suggests that the current demand for PET recyclate outweighs the supply 3:1. Due to aggressive Chinese buyers and the high cost of domestic sortation, about 2/3rds of all plastic scrap collected for recycling is sold overseas. Issues such as supply and demand, domestic vs. foreign end markets, contamination concerns, sorting technology, etc. were all touched upon over the duration of our conference call.

Data she was looking for specifically was how much PET thermoforms are generated in the waste stream annually, available for recycling/reprocessing. I referenced my Recycling Report, which cites a PlasticsToday.com article that states, “1.4 billion pounds of PET thermoforms were produced in North America in 2008;” this far exceeds the “critical mass” necessary to economically justify the collection of this package/material type in the context of material generation. However, when I attempted to further investigate this figure, I was unable to find the original article from which it was taken. After rummaging through all my files for the better part of the morning, I threw in the towel. Consequently, I sent the following email to my contact at ACC:

Hey there!

How’s it going?

A waste hauler and recycler contacted me in regard to the market potential of recycling PET thermoforms post-consumer. As you know, I have been working on researching this issue for some time, so I was thrilled to discover a venture capitalist group through this hauler/recycler was investigating the potential of recycling non-bottle rigids.

Part of this group’s research in this area is to “assess the current PET thermoform market;” that is, how many PET thermoforms are produced in North America annually that are available for post-consumer collection. When I wrote my Recycling Report, attached above, I referenced a PlasticsToday.com article that stated 1.4 billion lbs of PET thermoforms were produced in North America in 2008. When this company inquired into where I got this statistic from, I referenced PlasticsToday.com, but was surprised to discover that I couldn’t find said article after a thorough website search.

Anyway, I was wondering what data you have in regard to the following in the context of non-bottle rigid recycling:

Data on the type, volume and destination of non-bottle rigid plastic currently being collected and the potential volume available; and, non-bottle rigid bale specifications.

Any insight you could provide would be very well received. After about an hour on the phone, we parted ways, with an agreement to continue the research and dialogue.

One thing that this company representative did share is that NIR automated sorting systems are unable to sort PET from PETG, CPET, and other –PET based materials that have barrier resins or other components considered a contaminant to the PET recycling stream. That stinks! This is the first time I had heard that NIR automated sorting systems are unable to sort PET from other PET-based materials, wow! I wonder what sorting technologies they are using elsewhere to allow for a “quality” stream of PET recyclate, derived from thermoforms as opposed to bottles…

CRAZY!

Check out this article posted today on PlasticsNews.com.

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you will remember that in preparation of speaking on progress being made in recycling PET thermoforms in Orlando for Pira International’s/Packaging World’s Sustainability in Packaging conference, I reached out to Coca Cola’s joint recycling venture, NURRC, to see if they minded providing information on their experiences with recycling PET thermoforms. And if I could back up even further—it was because a rep for NURRC approached me after I presented at Plastics News’ Sustainable Plastics Packaging conference in Atlanta on recycling thermoforms, explaining that his facility recycles curb-side collected PET thermoforms—that I wanted to use NURCC as a case study of progress being made in recycling PET thermoforms. In March 2nd’s post titled “New Insight into Recycling PET Thermoforms,” I discuss my dialogue with NURRC and how up until right before my presentation in Orlando, they were comfortable with me discussing their experience with recycling PET thermoforms, which included sensitive information like sorting technology used, end markets, etc. Perhaps the discussion reported in the PlasticsNews article above is part of the reason they became uncomfortable with me highlighting them as a case study into the progress of recycling thermoforms post consumer. YIKES! Hopefully these realities are just growing pains for this new closed-loop infrastructure that’s discovering how to navigate the world of recycling in the context of using post-consumer PET material for remanufacturing into second generation high-value PET products, like bottles and clamshells…

This week I will discuss feedback from the Walmart SVN/Expo. After which, we will pick up on summarizing Dr. Narayan’s presentation on the science of bio-based/biodegradable resins and conclude with the happenings of the SPC meeting in San Diego that I attended.

Happy Monday funday!

Waa wa. It turns out Dr. Narayan’s PPT requires a more recent version of Adobe Reader, which I can’t download on my work computer because I am not the administrator of the network. Therefore, I will work from home tomorrow and be sure to upload his PPT, along with my notes and a summary of what I took away from the workshop, by lunch time tomorrow at the latest. Sorry friends.

Real quick: On yesterday’s post I got a comment from a TerrayCycle rep; it turns out that the article I referenced about Scotts Miracle Grow merging with the Worm Poop division of TerraCycle was an April Fools joke by a friendly blogger! I don’t know why but I find that extra funny. It’s nice to see companies in this industry not taking themselves too seriously. Kudos!

Sooo in the world of recycling thermoforms, I was delighted by this PlasticsNews article, which reports on the APR’s recently issued bale specifications for non-bottle rigids. In my post titled “New Insight into PET Thermoform Recycling,” I dance around the “do specs for thermoform bales exist” question, and was never really ever able to conclude if they exist, and if so, what that implies for the industry. For those of you familiar with my Recycling Report, one of my arguments was that MRF’s will not collect thermoforms for recycling if specs for thermoform bales don’t exist. Hopefully, thermoform containers will be included in the seven new bale specs for non-bottle rigids being developed by APR. The new spec categories, as explained in the above sited PlasticsNews article, are as follows: bulky rigid plastics, tubs and lids, all-rigid bales, olefin bales, household containers, bottles and containers, and pre-picked rigid bales. I already sent an email to my contact at APR, congratulating her for their work, and inquiring into what this means for recycling thermoform containers. I will keep you posted.

Shall we discuss the third and final part of the Walmart SVN meeting I attended in Rogers, Arkansas, in December?!? For a description of the first and second parts, visit the posts with the associated titles.

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

In January 28th’s post, I describe the Sustainability Consortium, which is working with Walmart and others in the collection of data necessary to facilitate the construction of Walmart’s Product Index. The PI looks to contain LCIA data on every product sold at Walmart. In preparation of this massive undertaking, the University of Arkansas—either apart of or partnered with— the Consortium, is in the process of executing 5 pilots. These pilots are based on collecting the research necessary to create standards and therefore develop tools to increase the sustainability profile of Walmart’s products. And forgive me if this information isn’t 100% accurate—my notes are scribbled on 3”X5” “Embassy Suites” stationary, which is special. Anyway, one of the pilots introduced was the “electronics sector;” another, “food and beverage,” and lastly, “home and personal care.” I believe Walmart is looking to develop a SMRS (sustainable measurement and reporting standard), which will facilitate research and reporting from business to business, business to retail, and business to consumer. AND I am pretty sure that Walmart will allow suppliers to enter in their own LCIA data, if the industry averages do not do justice to their specific manufacturing processes.

Next we moved onto a discussion of how packaging informs the PI, highlighting the progress made by the GPP and how the Scorecard will kind of get sucked up into the former’s metrics. The GPP is super cool—anyone can join and get updates on the progress being made and how to get involved. Anyway, I drew an umbrella right about here in my notes, with “INDEX” scribbled on the top of the umbrella, and “scorecard” and “SSA” placed underneath, implying that the Scorecard and Supplier Sustainability Assessment will be a COMPONENT of the overall product’s sustainability profile within the index. Kind of like the big fish eating the little fish.

Then we switched to an introduction of the EPA’s new working group titled “Sustainable Financing for Waste Management for Packaging Materials.” This is when we queued the jumbotron (LOVE jumbotrons), and were connected with an office in Washington, where I spotted some familiar faces from the world of sustainable packaging. After the traditional greetings, it was explained how this group is in the process of researching different approaches to managing the financial responsibility of waste, hoping that they can bring several ideas to the table, weighing the pros and cons of each approach before moving forward with policy and implementation. I guess this working group is composed of 8 states (NC, MN, Wisconsin, NY, Iowa, Nebraska, Washington, and one whose name I can’t decipher), 4 governments (VT, Seattle, CA and NY), and 12 brand owners that focus on food/beverage, health/beauty, and home care. This group is hoping that their well-researched dialogue will inform legislation, where they attempt to bridge the gap present in our current approach to waste management by developing more efficient, and sustainable means to finance the recovery of packaging waste. While the US EPA rep did say that there is or would be a website dedicated to describing the agenda of this group, I just googled “Sustainable Financing for Municipal Management of Packaging” and nothing came up…I put in an email to my contact at the EPA so I will let you know what I find. This is all very exciting I think! And, this may or may not be the same thing as AMERIPEN, which was just covered in this article, though I honestly am not sure what the relation, if any, is. Hmmmmmm

The meeting closed with a couple presentations from fellow SVN members/trade associations. The first was by a representative of the tab/label manufacturers, who introduced their certification program titled L.I.F.E. Then a representative from TetraPak presented on how his company and competitors worked together to develop the composite carton recycling stream, which as per this gentleman, is at an impressive 30%!?! Lastly, a gentleman from, perhaps, the metal association (?) presented on how BPA is not bad and is a necessity of modern consumption. I care not to comment on the BPA situation as it is one of the several topics of my upcoming research project and I don’t want to speak without doing my due diligence.

And, not to poke fun or anything, but I just received this email from an unknown contact… thought I would share it with you to get your salivary glands ready for tomorrow’s feast!

I am curious. I saw you Power Point and feel that if and when we can get the recycling of more products, it is a loss of a valuable product that can be reused. So have you considered adding a biodegradable additive that will enable the plastic to biodegrade in landfills AND will not affect its ability to be recycled with mainstream plastics? I have been in biodegradables for 9 years and feel the a landfill biodegradable product is the answer until we get the infrastructure to recycle more.

AND, check out this great Advertising Age article, which summarizes today’s post!
Alright, that’s that. Until tomorrow!

Hello my packaging and sustainability friends!!!

I have so much to tell you! Where to begin where to begin…

Well, let’s talk about recycling thermoforms, as that is my first love—after Italian beefs—of course.

Prior to my presentation at Sustainability in Packaging in Orlando last week, I wanted to make sure that all my information on the state of blister/clamshell recycling AND progress being made in recycling thermoforms was as accurate and up to date as possible. After all, I wrote the original Recycling Report over a year ago, so I assumed that some things had changed. I don’t know if I had told you guys this before but a colleague from the SPC sent me an email several weeks back with an attachment outlining specs for mixed PET bales, including thermoform containers. Check it out here:

Mixed PET specs, ISRI

I sent this gentleman a follow up email, inquiring into what was implied by these specs: ARE thermoforms and bottles collected for recycling, as indicated by these specs for mixed PET bales? If so, who is collecting them i.e. private entity vs. municipality? What is the sorting technology used to separate the PET thermoforms from other “look-a-likes?” Where is this sorting happening i.e. MRF vs. PRF? AND, where do these mixed PET bales go after collection i.e. what is the end market?

After not hearing back from said gentleman, I reached out to ISRI, which is the organization that published the specs. Several unsuccessful attempts later, I finally got a hold of the Marketing Manager, who explained he is no expert on specs. He was very nice, however, and asked that I rephrase my inquiry in an email and he will see to it that the necessary party gets back to me ASAP. So, I sent him this email:

Hey!

This is Chandler with Dordan. As per our conversation, I have spent a lot of time researching recycling plastic packaging, specifically thermoform packaging, like clamshells and blisters. I have become an industry educator, explaining why thermoform containers are not recycled in most American communities, due to economics, sorting technologies, etc., in hopes that in understanding the problems, the industry can begin developing solutions (they are).

At my last industry presentation, I explained that MRFs do not collect PET clamshells for recycling because there is no end market and there is no end market because there is none collected for reprocessing (with the exception of international consumption of mixed rigids due to low labor costs for manual separation) i.e. the chicken and the egg of supply and demand. While there is a very strong PET bottle recycling infrastructure, the same can’t be said for PET clamshells because lack of investment, technology, etc.

ANYWAY, one of my arguments explaining why thermoforms are not collected for recycling is because there are no specs for collection and baling. After making such a statement, a colleague emailed me the attached document (PET specs.), indicating that there ARE specs for PET thermoforms as per ISRI.

So these are my questions:

Is post consumer PET packaging (rigid containers, bottles, jars, tubs and trays) collected at MRF’s for recycling, as per the spec sheet attached?

If so, do you know what MRF is collecting these materials for recycling; who purchases the mixed bales; and, what the material becomes after reprocessing? I know that that is a loaded question—I am just trying to understand if these types of materials are in fact collected for recycling, and if so by whom, how, where, and what the end market is.

Check out my attached PowerPoint Recycling Report: the truth about blister/clamshell recycling in America for clarification on my goal– which is to educate packaging/sustainability professionals about the economics/realities of recycling packaging post consumer in America, with special attention at recycling PET clamshells (thermoforms).

Does this make any sense?!?

Wowza!

Any feedback you could provide would be well received.

Thanks!

Chandler

While in Orlando, I received an email from my ISRI contact explaining that he had forward my inquiry onto the necessary party who would get back to me ASAP. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a hold of this gentleman before my presentation, so I hinted at the possibility that specs for mixed thermoform and bottle bales exist, though I explained I was currently investigating the implication of this information.

Also, as articulated in a previous post, after my presentation in Atlanta several weeks back at Sustainable Plastics Packaging, a gentleman from NURRC approached me, explaining that his company recycles post consumer curb side collected PET thermoforms and bottles at their southeastern facility. After this proclamation, I received an invitation to tour the facility, to confirm with my own eyes that the recycling of PET thermoforms was very much a reality (EXCITING!!!). While I had to push back the trip due to other work commitments, I have every inkling to follow through with his suggestion to see the recycling of thermoforms in action. I wonder if they would let me take pictures or even FILM their recycling process…that would be soooo cool! But now I am getting a head of myself.

ANYWAY, I thought that NURRC would serve as a fabulous case study in regard to progress being made in recycling thermoforms, so several weeks before leaving for Orlando, I contacted my NURCC rep and asked if I could use his company as an example of closed-loop progress in recycling thermoforms. He was super thrilled at the opportunity—explaining he could even send pictures—but said he just needed to receive the company’s partners’ blessing, because this entity funded the installation of a lot of the sorting and reprocessing technology. A half an hour before my presentation was scheduled to begin, I still had not received the partners’ approval—my NURRC contact explained that this entity had a holiday the day before and it wasn’t a top priority so he would therefore be unable to grant permission for me to use NURRC as a case study of progress being made in recycling thermoforms. DANGIT. While I still had every intention of highlighting the progress being made in the infrastructural approach to recycling thermoforms i.e. NAPCOR’s Thermoform Division, I was totally bummed I couldn’t highlight another, more privatized approach.

Sitting pool side, I was racking my brain for a good way to finish the “progress in recycling thermoforms” section…without NURRC’s blessing (I had received information on sorting technology used and other possibly sensitive information), I was unsure how to end on a bang. What I finally decided on was to highlight Dordan’s commitment to transparency: I explained that while some people just don’t get why I would go around saying thermoforms are not really recycled—at least in 60% or more American communities—I thought it was my responsibility to be honest because nothing ever changes if you don’t challenge the status quo. And I really, really, want to see our packages recycled in the future—it is not some marketing ploy but a genuine commitment to do good business and good by the environment. And I have to say, I think my presentation overall was received SO much better this time around because I was myself, explaining where I and my company were coming from in regard to our journey to sustainability, and didn’t make any excuses. I am very happy with the reception of my presentation, as I had numerous people approach me afterwards complimenting me on my honesty and articulating support for Dordan going out on a limb to move the dialogue around sustainability forward.

At the networking reception that night, the president of AMUT approached me, explain that his company makes machinery for thermoforming, extruding, AND recycling. He highlighted the recent developments at Ice River Springs in Canada (they are the first bottle-to-bottle recycling and bottling facility in North America) and others who esteem that they have purchased the equipment necessary to recycle PET thermoforms and bottles together. This guy definitely knows his stuff! I can’t WAIT to talk to him further about the different types of recycling machinery available in the context of PET recycling and how the machinery AMUT offers works to alleviate the previously articulated technical barriers to recycling PET thermoforms. Pending his approval, I will upload his presentation to my blog, as it provides the most technically holistic treatment of the process of recycling thermoforms for reprocessing into second generation thermoforms. Perhaps I can finally start working on Dordan’s next marketing campaign: “Our packages are made out of our competitors’ packages!” I don’t think I came up with that, but it certainly has a ring to it!!!

I can’t believe how much I have rambled. I hope I haven’t been a bore! I am waiting to hear back from the Marketing Director of the conference to ensure there are no policies against me discussing the content of the conference in my blog. Stay tuned!!!!

Greetings world!

We have made it through the BLIZZARD! Man oh man has it been crazy! The night of the storm the wind was swirling so fast you didn’t know from which direction it was coming! AND I witnessed “Thunder Snow,” which is basically a thunderstorm with snow instead of rain! Who knew!?! And my street, which is in the West Loop, just got paved TODAY so I have been stranded here since Tuesday! And the Metra trains, which I normally take to work, were super backed up and basically you couldn’t really get anywhere! It was sort of exciting…

Check out these pictures of Lake Shore Drive, which is a main artery of the city; at 8:00 on Tuesday they shut it down and all these cars were abandoned. Everyone was calling it a “Snowpocalypse!” Ha!

Anyway, for today’s post I thought I would give you an update on the progress of Walmart Canada’s PET Subcommittee of the Material Optimization Committee. For those of you who may be new to my blog, I was invited to be the co-lead of Walmart Canada’s PET Subcommittee in winter 2009, due to my research on recycling clamshells. To download the full research report, which draws on my involvement with this Committee, visit http://www.dordan.com/dordan_sustainability_research.shtml and select “Recycling Report.”

While the “goal” of the Committee was never really carved in stone, I was operating under the assumption that we were working towards achieving zero waste for PET packaging—bottle grade and thermoform grade—in the main Provinces of Canada. And while the approach too was a bit fuzzy, we investigated the plausibility of recycling PET bottles with PET thermoforms. The thinking was that because the PET bottle recycling infrastructure was so sophisticated, it may be easier to piggy back on it then create an entirely new recovery stream. Like the Starbuck’s cup recycling pilot that piggy-backed on the already established corrugate recycling stream, we hoped that if we could demonstrate to reclaimers that PET thermoforms do not contaminate the PET bottle recyclate stream, then we could begin integrating them into the existing PET recycling stream. After all, all the research I had done explained that there was nothing technically problematic about recycling PET bottles with thermoforms, just that it would be expensive to sort the PET thermoforms from other look-a-likes considered a contaminate to the PET bottle stream.

After several meetings, each member was assigned a task, which was “due” in by a specific date. I was instructed to summarize the APR’s Design for Recyclability Guidelines for PET bottles in hopes of using it as a template for creating Design for Recyclability Guidelines for PET thermoforms. After I submitted my summary, which you can find if you search my blog, I didn’t hear from my co-lead for several months. While I called him several times over the summer of 2010, it was conveyed to me that this project was put on the back-burner in favor of other, more important projects.

Yesterday my co-lead called me, however, to discuss the progress being made. This is what he had to say:

The Committee, which now seems entirely staffed by Walmarters, is making progress! The progress explained, however, does not seem that different than the progress reported by NAPCOR in our previous discussions. Like NAPCOR, my co-lead explained that after performing some pilots, it was found that it is easier to recycle PET thermoforms with PET thermoforms then within the PET bottle stream. The reason for this is multi-faceted, but in a nut shell, it is because no one wants to contaminate the PET bottle stream. Therefore, it is easier the develop processes and technologies for recycling PET thermoforms together then figure out what about them is problematic for the bottle stream. After all, a lot of time and investment has been made into the PET bottle recycling stream, thanks to NAPCOR and others, so trying to introduce a new packaging type into this system would probably do more harm than good.

Next it was articulated that for some reason, PET thermoforms manufactured in South America turned the PET recyclate fluorescent, which was making the reprocessing of the thermoform-grade RPET problematic. They are currently investigating why that is…

Lastly, it was reported that some type of adhesive on labels intended for food packaging is tinting the RPET beige during the process of recycling. Apparently Walmart is working with a Label Association trying to figure out what type of adhesive on these labels is contaminating the stream; once known, it was reported that Walmart will begin drafting suggestions for their suppliers in the context of sourcing labels for thermoform food packaging containers.

That’s all for today folks!

See you soon!