Update from SPC meeting, 2:3

November 22, 2011

Hello!

Wowza it’s been a long time since I posted. My only excuse is that I was bed-ridden for close to a week with the worst case of “sore throat” imaginable, which is a pretty good excuse in my opinion.

Today we are going to continuing discussing feedback from the SPC meeting I attended in Dallas.

Let’s see where did we leave off…that’s right, after a discussion of the new working group looking to assess the role of transport packaging in sustainable supply chains we moved on to updates on COMPASS, the SPC’s LCA-based comparative packaging assessment software. For those of you unfamiliar, this tool is a super easy way to quantify the environmental repercussions of different packaging in the design phase. It assesses packages on resource consumption, emissions, material health and solid waste. The only information a practitioner of COMPASS needs to perform a comparative packaging assessment is the material type and weight of each packaging component (primary or secondary depending on objective) for both the existing and proposed packaging. Then the practitioner selects the conversion process i.e. thermoforming vs. paper cutting and the data set:because each country has their own waste management system and hence packaging recovery rates, it is helpful to select the data set (US, EU, CA) where the package will be distributed and assumingly disposed of to achieve a more accurate end of life data output. The updates coming to the software include rolling out recovery data sets for China and Mexico, thereby presenting a more international model of production and consumption in the context of packaging end of life recovery. Also new to the software is RPET and RHDPE LCI data, allowing users to compare virgin to reprocessed PET and the like. This is great because we have for so long assumed using RPET is “more sustainable” then PET and now we will have the hard LCI data to prove it (though Franklin Associates confirmed this assumption last year via their LCI report the new data has yet to make it into any third-party vetted LCA-based assessment software). So that’s all really cool. And as I described vaguely in my last post, I believe COMPASS is looking to create a transport packaging feature that will allow users to quantify the LCA impacts of different transport packaging schemes, be it a reusable or disposable model.

The other two presentations going on during the COMPASS session included “tapping the potential of energy recovery” and “what does the WBCSD vision 2050 mean for packaging?”

That night we met at the Frito Lay headquarters for the SPC welcome reception. I can’t begin to explain how GLORIOUS this meet n greet was. We had top chefs from all over Dallas prepare multiple courses for us, which consisted of everything from a poached egg atop lentils smothered in a bolognaise reduction to a deconstructed wedge salad and more! After the delectable journey through taste bud heaven a couple representatives from Frito Lay presented on their company’s efforts and Holley Toledo have they done some great work! I don’t recall the details except being extremely impressed. If you would like a copy of their presentation please let me know and pending approval I will forward on.

Our next post will discuss updates on the material health project; this is pretty heavy so make sure you eat your Wheaties!

AND, check out my brother’s looking all fly at the MCEDC Annual Dinner where Dordan was awarded with it’s Business Champion Award!

Happy Monday Funday!

May 24, 2010

Happy Monday Funday!

The company that I made the “Sustainability and Packaging” presentation for, which I posted to my blog on Friday, sent me the following email after receiving said powerpoint (I sent it early for confirmation of its content):

“180 slides is way too long, even for a medical convention…”

Ha!

How do you provide an “overview of sustainability” in 60 slides, which is what this company suggested? I guess I am just as dilligent a powerpointer as I was a student; I was one of the special few who had to speak with my professors about exceeding the page limits for term papers—old habits die hard…

Anyway, tomorrow’s the day: My big presentation for a giant company on all things “Sustainable.” I am going to wear my new power business suit and fab heels AND I took my face piercing out several weeks ago so I look totally business-like.

For today’s post I thought I would reflect on a recent happening in our industry, which was convered on greenerpackage.com, PlasticsNews, and other misc. packaging publications. Because the company in question is a competitor, my superior was hesitant about me articulating my questions in a public forum i.e. on greenerpackage.com. Therefore, I decided to address this tid bit in my blog as it is not an in-your-face forum because I totally respect this company and the work they are doing in sustainability.

Consequentially, all reference to this company has been removed so as not to ruffle anyone’s tail feathers.

Here is the article:

Company X  has announced that it will construct a closed-loop recycling facility in Somewhere America to grind and wash post-consumer bottles and thermoforms for processing into its namebrand sheet products. The company says it is reducing the total carbon footprint of its product by bringing the material supply chain closer to production and offering its customers more choices of materials, including up to 100% post-consumer content PET.

 “We’re excited to bring bottle cleaning and sheet production together in a continuous process loop,” says company CEO. “Our factory design will streamline operations while delivering the recycled sheet products the market requires.”

Company X notes that it is among the first thermoforming companies in the food and consumer packaging industry to implement its own in-house recycling. With the new facility, the company will receive curbside-collected bottles to clean, grind, and extrude into sheet. Reducing the number of bottles going to landfills while providing high-quality material for customers has long been a goal for the company. Company X has been using recycled content in its packaging for more than 15 years, and over the last seven, it has diverted more than 1 billion discarded bottles from landfills.

While Company X has extruded sheet for internal use for 20 years, this marks the first time it will sell its namebrand sheet on the open market.

In addition to namebrand post-consumer rPET, the facility will produce LNO (letter of non-object) flake, allowing food contact with recycled material. Company X  has also commercialized an RF-sealable rPET grade of material to address customers’ bar sealing requirements for PET. Company X says that with only minor process adjustments, this material is a direct replacement for PVC sealing applications.

The recycling facility will be completed in two phases. In phase one, Company X will be adding an additional extruder for its namebrand rollstock. This will be completed in the third quarter of 2010. Phase two will be the addition of the bottle washing equipment, which is scheduled to be operational in the first quarter of 2011, with plans for additional extruders to follow.

Company X’s CEO said that integrating the bottle washing and grinding makes sense, given the amount of post-consumer material the company uses. With the completion of the in-house recycling facility, the firm will be able to streamline the recycling process to ensure that raw material meets Company X’s high standards.

Seeing as how I have been trying to figure out a way to integrate our RPET thermoforms into the existing PET bottle recycling infrastructure, I have A TON of questions for Company X. 

If any of you fine packaging and sustainability friends have any insight, please don’t hesitate to share!!! Sharing is caring!

  • What are the specs of the bales of thermoforms Company X is buying from the MRF?
  • Are they only PET thermoforms or are they mixed material thermoform bales?
  • If only PET thermoforms, is there enough QUANTITY of these types of packages available for the recovery of PET thermoforms to be economically sustainable?
  • How do they collect ONLY PET thermoforms without collecting “look a likes” like PVC, which will completely compromise the integrity of the PET bale, or PETG, which has a lower melting temperature and therefore adds inconsistencies to the recovery process?
  • Are you planning on integrating the PET thermoform scrap with the PET bottle scrap and extruding together? If so, how will you handle the different IVs between sheet grade PET and bottle grade PET?
  • If buying mixed material thermoform bales from the MRF i.e. PET, PETG, PP, etc., how are the different resins sorted for recovery? Are they blended together to create a low-grade, mixed resin flake for down-cycling applications? If so, who is buying this low-grade, mixed resin flake?
  • What kind of sorting technology is utilized to be able to generate a clean, quality stream of PET thermoforms for Company X to grind, clean, and extrude for direct food-contact packaging?
  • How are you competing with Asia for PCR PET?

While I am tickled pink that Company X is recovering thermoforms post-consumer in a closed-loop system, I don’t know how they are doing it! Perhaps the point, no?

That’s all for now; wish me luck tomorrow on my presentation!

Guess what!

May 11, 2010

Hello world!

UG don’t hate me for my failure to post AGAIN; it has been a heck of a day!

But guess what: I have been invited to assist a major retailer in their attempts to achieve zero waste for PET packaging, both thermoforms and bottles! But not only assist; be a CO-LEADER! I will be a research junky, therefore, as I hope to compile abstracts for the other co-leader and committee members to summarize my research over the past 6 months. And what that means to YOU my fellow blog readers is that I will be extra awesome with blogging because it has become a priority, again.

As I am sure some of my more diligent followers are aware, my blogging ebbs and flows with my existing work load AND the perceived value of continuing to investigate the logistics and economics governing the recycling of clamshells. Because of this recently ignited interest in my work on recycling PET thermoforms, I have been given the green light to (again) delve into researching waste management and recycling in America. YIPEEEEEE! I don’t think I would make a very good Sales woman anyway…J Work from home, here I come!

So tomorrow I will, and I promise, present the results of our RPET samples’ test and discuss how to move this initiative forward. If Canada can do it, so can we!

See you soon my packaging and sustainability friends!

It’s GO TIME

May 10, 2010

 Happy Monday Funday! This post is to inform all of my packaging and sustainability friends that tomorrow is GO TIME! I have totally gotten my ducks in a row and can resume my clamshell recycling initiative narrative first thing in the morning. Get excited because I will finally release the results of our RPET samples’ test via the optical sorter (are they “read” like bottle-grade PET) AND bring you up to speed about why the results of this test are, unfortunately, another bread crumb, and not the end-all-be-all that I had hoped for at the onset of our recycling initiative.

WOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Day 31: Dec. 8th, 2009

March 25, 2010

Good day!

It’s official—I am going to Ontario next week to participant in a Committee that looks to find a way to recycle thermoforms! I am totally tickled pink by this news; I will keep you all posted!

And guess what: this is sort of funny, well not funny, but something to note…Some of my research on paper versus plastic in the context of sustainability was distributed to the members of the Committee as pre-reading material and a member voiced concern that this research favored plastic over paper; therefore, my research was removed from the list of pre-reading material because this Committee looks to be unbiased, and my research was very pro-plastic. You can read this research at http://www.dordan.com/sustainability_the_facts.shtml.

Is it super duper pro plastic? I think not…

While I do admit that it does make an argument for plastic over paper, all of the information is referenced and from publicly available records via the EPA and other environmental agencies. Moreover, I believe that the best way to understand a concept/situation/problem/topic is to understand ALL the different arguments; therefore, I would love to see a pro-paper argument, a pro-plastic argument, and any other argument that would inform discussion on packaging and sustainability. Perhaps I am still clinging on to the classroom etiquette where every argument is valid if supported with facts, regardless of if it is biased. I was always taught that it was my role as an academic to identify people’s objectives/biases in order to fully understand the argument (we live in a post modern world where one’s social location informs their perceptive). As a plastics girl, I obviously have a goal to make people understand that plastic IS NOT BAD; it just gets a bad rap in the eyes of the public because of lack of education and poor marketing. Therefore, my research on plastic and paper was more of an “in the defense of plastic” piece as everyone, even my college buddies, think plastic is bad and paper is good because plastic comes from oil and paper from trees.

On that note, check out this blog post from the Nashville Wraps Blog; it is all about recycled paper and it’s often times ethically-compromised point of origin: http://www.nashvillewrapscommunity.com/blog/?p=1275.

This is a great blog, by the by. Check it out!

Okay, shall we resume our recycling narrative?

Where were we…?

On  December 8th I arrived to the office feeling a little unmotivated; I still had not received the results from our RPET samples’ “test” via the MRF’s optical sorting technology and my Superior told me to shelf the recycling initiative for a bit because it wasn’t an economic priority for Dordan. So, while I waited for the results and my enthusiasm to return, I focused on other sustainability concerns. One of which is the life cycle impacts of recycled PET. After all, my clamshell recycling initiative is all about RPET and increasing its feedstock via the incorporation of RPET clams into the PET-bottle recycling infrastructure…love me my RPET. At the same time, however, I couldn’t find any industry data about the energy required/GHG emitted during RPET production to validate that RPET was the route we wanted to go as a sustainable plastics company.

I shot my contact at an industry-working group the following email, hoping he could provide some insight:

Hello!

Hope your having a lovely in-between holiday time.

In regard to COMPASS, the environmental packaging assessment tool created by the SPC: I am trying to utilize the software to compare a corrugated package of similar dimensions with a plastic package. The plastic package is RPET with a certified minimum of 70% PCR but I am unable to input this into the software. I know you had explained that this is because there is no industry data about RPET available at this time; my question, however, is how can that be when RPET is the new “hot” material in the professional packaging world. How can you have data on PLA and not RPET? When will this material be available for selection within the softwar

Thanks for your time!

And his response came later that afternoon:

Hi Chandler,

PCR is a funny thing. The marketplace has run head first to incorporate recycled content, yet the industry associations have not released any of the LCI data for folks to use for comparative purposes. These LCI data do not come from entities like GreenBlue, but from companies that make the materials. NatureWorks released the data for PLA because it was in their interest to show their product to have a better environmental profile than other traditional polymers. But, the rPET folks have not released the requisite data. Makes you wonder if the profile for rPET is really as good as we assume. Neither USLCI nor ecoinvent have such data, so we are unable to model r-anything yet.

I was at the LCA conference in Boston and the noise was about new data points. ACC – the folks who have the plastics data, intend to release them, but no eta. Unfortunately, data are the limiting factor to environmental assessment and will probably be that way unless there is some kind of legislative push or some other incentive that could induce industry to release data.  Everyone (us and all other LCA practitioners) are waiting on LCI data. There aren’t even good proxy data that we can use in the meantime.

Hope that helps.

Later I found this article in Packaging Digest, which provides further insight into the RPET “situation:”

The need for data grows as PCR content becomes more common

Given the popular consumer perception that packaging is wasteful, there is an intensive effort to improve packaging performance and recoverability, with manufacturers evaluating material and design alternatives to differentiate their packages on-shelf. Recycled content appeals to consumers and directly responds to concerns of packaging waste. Brand owners are testing ways to incorporate post-consumer-recycled (PCR) content into packaging where virgin material had been the norm.

Packaging developed with recycled polymers has been particularly in demand. Increasing recycled content across the packaging spectrum is perceived to have enhanced environmental profiles over virgin-content counterparts. In many instances, this is true, particularly with plastics, but it’s often hard to quantify these environmental benefits due to a lack of data for recycled materials.

Life-cycle assessment (LCA) methods can help quantify the benefits and illuminate tradeoffs of virgin and recycled materials. Yet a methodology is only as accurate as the data collected. There are hundreds of industrial processes that contribute to the creation of a single package. The LCA methodology requires detailed data about all the processes that go into bringing a packaged product to market, not just the obvious ones.

Enterprising companies have made great strides in introducing packaging with a high percentage of PCR content, even for food contact applications that have stricter regulations. Many of these innovations can be attributed to leader companies that have set up unique relationships for material collection and conversion to produce a small set of products.

These companies have made significant investments and are paying higher prices to produce packaging with green attributes. However, to accurately communicate what the environmental benefits are, manufacturers need to be able to quantify the specifics of the environmental advantages of using PCR content in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, material usage, water consumption and other environmental metrics.

Using LCA methodology to compare a recycled plastic package with a virgin one will allow companies to credibly quantify a package’s environmental savings, as well as justify the investment in PCR materials. Yet one needs life-cycle inventory (LCI) data, or the inputs and outputs for the entire life cycle for both materials, to make these calculations. LCI data are essential not only for assessing packaging applications, but also for all sorts of product development that uses the same commodity materials. The requisite LCI data for some virgin materials are publicly available, though some are outdated or incomplete, and we have a reasonable understanding of the various human and environmental impacts associated with their production and use. Unfortunately, the same kind of detailed and current data for most recycled forms of the commodity materials used in packaging are not yet publicly available. Efforts are underway to ensure the data for recycled materials become publicly available. Until then, the lack of LCI data for many commodity materials is a serious impediment to measurable progress along sustainability goals.

This article is accessible at: http://www.packagingdigest.com/article/447099-The_need_for_data_grows_as_PCR_content_becomes_more_common.php?rssid=20535&q=minal+mistry.

Hmmm…time to speak with our material suppliers of RPET to see why they haven’t released any LCI data…looks like we are about to travel into “proprietary” waters again; great.

Tune in tomorrow to get the much anticipated results of our RPET samples’ “test!”

Day 30: Dec. 1st, 2009

March 24, 2010

Hello! Sorry I didn’t post yesterday! I am now a new resident of the West Loop, Chicago. Moving yesterday was a total debacle: movers came early, I didn’t have enough boxes, I got lost on the way to my new place and ended up too far West for one’s own good, and then I got locked out of my new place and had to call a lock smith. Fun times…

Well I’m back and ready to talk about recycling in America!

Where were we?

Two days later I arrived to the office anticipating the results of our RPET samples’ “test” to determine if our RPET is “read” like bottle-grade PET. Here’s the thinking: If our RPET moves through the MRF’s optical sorting technology like PET bottles, then we would have some leverage to approach our suppliers of post consumer regrind PET with and suggest they accept bales of PET bottles with our RPET thermoforms in the mix. It’s worth a shot, right? I swear, as this recycling initiative moves forward it keeps changing. For those of you who are new to my blog or have not followed the narrative, these are some possible solutions to finding a way to recycle thermoformed packaging:

  1. Integrate our RPET thermoforms into the existing PET bottle recycling infrastructure. This is large scale and regionally a-specific.
  2. Work with our supplier of PCR PET to create a pilot program that works as follows:
    1. We would work with WM to designate a bale for PET bottles AND RPET thermoforms (either just our packages, so we could certify the integrity of the resin feedstock, or all RPET thermoforms, which may get a little messy depending on which domestic/international markets said material is originating from);
    2. This bale would sit at WM collecting PET bottles and RPET thermoforms until full;
    3. This mixed bale of RPET thermoforms and PET bottles would be purchased by our material supplier who would clean, grind, and extrude the mixed bale to create sheets for us to thermoform;
    4. We would ensure that we would buy this mixed thermoform and bottle-grade RPET sheet, providing security for the material supplier to engage in this initiative;
    5. We would test this mixed sheet with our machines and see what the output is.
  3. Create a new end market for low-grade, mixed rigid plastic packaging, as is the case in some communities on the East and West coasts where all plastic, once the PET bottles and HDPE jugs are removed for recycling, are collected for reprocessing. Sometimes this reprocessing manifests itself in lumber applications and sometimes this low-grade plastic mix is sold to international markets for WTE or perhaps feedstock for resin production.

So yeah…don’t really know what the best approach is…any suggestions?

Now that we have recapped, let us return to December 1st, 2009.

Upon arrival to the office I shot my contact at WM the following email:

Good day!

I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend.

I just wanted to drop you a quick email inquiring into the status of our samples’ analysis via optical sorting. At your earliest convenience, please let me know if you have received the status of said analysis.

Thanks again for your time; I owe you lunch!

Best,

Chandler Slavin

Later that day I received the following response:

Hi Chandler,

Thanks for the note, yes, it was a nice Holiday break. I will reach out to my contact and our Grayslake plant manager this week to see if there’s any update.  The big issue as I think you know is on the buyer’s end….even if WM can accept and sort your PET material, the buyer’s of PET typically only recover the bottle grades, any other plastic is typically discarded. 

TICK TOCK.

Tune in tomorrow to learn more about recycling in America!

Day 25: Nov. 20th, 2009

March 9, 2010

Goooooood day! I finally finished my report on Extended Producer Responsibility/Product Stewardship. Look out for it at www.dordan.com under the sustainability tab!

Let us resume our clamshell recycling initiative narrative:

The next day I arrived to the office feeling much better having received Robert’s insightful email. I felt as though my journey of discovering an end-of-life market for thermoformed packaging was slowly making progress. I had established that if our RPET packages are “read” like PET bottles via the MRF’s optical sorting technology, we could integrate our RPET packages into this recycling infrastructure. I also learned that we could develop a new market for mixed rigid plastic packaging post-consumer (that is, non-bottle grade plastic material), as is often the case in CA. I wonder which would be more cumbersome…Ha!

To my surprise, I received an email from the Environmental Director at Starbucks, responding to the email I sent yesterday.

Chandler,

Thanks for the email.

I am traveling in Los Angeles this afternoon and won’t return until Friday evening. I will be in the office next week, so please feel free to give me a call at your convenience. The best time to catch me is between 7:30 and 8:00 on weekdays, before meetings start up.

Cheers!

GROOOOOVVVVVVYYYYYYY. It looks like I may get my interview after all! My father, who is also coincidently the owner of Dordan, told me “not to hold my breath” about actually getting to speak with the Environmental Director of Starbucks. Not to be a jerk, but I love proving him wrong, at least for the better.

And another beneficial development: I had several responses to the discussion I started on greenerpackage.com about trying to recycling non-bottle PET thermoforms. The most insightful was from the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, who I discussed briefly in an earlier post.

Check it out:

The Plastic Recyclers Viewpoint…

Posted on behalf of the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR):

Back when the world was younger and more uniform, there was one fairly simply defined PET resin used for 2 liter soft drink bottles. PET makes an excellent 2 liter soft drink bottle. Then more packagers wanted to use PET bottles for other products with other needs. The result today is that the PET used for bottles encompasses a range of molecular weights and potential additives.

Thermoformed packaging made from PET may use similar resin as is used for bottles or may use even lower molecular weight (lower IV) plastic. The technical needs for thermoformed packaging are not necessarily the same as for bottle packaging. There is an overlap in IV ranges used for bottles and for thermoformed sheet. Does the potential for IV difference preclude recycling the two forms together? No. End use markets dictate how significant are the differences for recycled plastics from different first uses. Are there additive conflicts? Unlikely, but not assuredly.

So why the reluctance to include thermoforms with PET bottles? There are at least two current reasons. First, the risk of serious contamination is great. A thermoform of non-PET can visually look like PET and be a huge problem. Think inclusion of PVC with the PET. This problem has been a showstopper in North America. In China, hand sorting can overcome the problem if the resin code is accurate. The second problem is a materials handling problem. Crushed thermoforms do not behave like crushed bottles. They do not “fly” the same in autosorting equipment and they do not bale the same. If bales are made too dense, the material does not process as efficiently as it should. Adjusting to the differences takes time and effort.

Does this mean PET thermoforms cannot be recycled? No. Thermoforms are recyclable, once we get through the growing pains of special needs and critical mass. Would sustainability be better served by switching all thermoforms to a different material? Probably not as non-PET, non-polyolefin resins are even more problematic in being accommodated in existing collection and sorting systems.

So why are multiple resins used? In some cases that decision is for aesthetic or performance reasons. Usually, economics dominate. And sometimes tradition keeps on happening. As has been the case for bottles, there does seem to be a gravitating by decision makers to a few resins. The challenge is to develop the infrastructure that allows for efficient handling and sorting to useful resin categories and then to develop markets for those categories.

This response was written by Dave Cornell, Technical Director for APR. For more info on the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, including published Design for Recyclability Guidelines, www.plasticsrecycling.org

Posted November 19, 2009

Radical! Design for Recyclability Guidelines, eh? Sounds right up my alley. Time to do some more research!

Tune in tomorrow to learn more about recycling in America!

Day 24: Nov. 19th, 2009

March 8, 2010

Happy Monday! I am already on my second cup of joe and not feeling too perky. Ug! I hope everyone is feeling a little more motivated than I…

Shall we resume our recycling narrative?

The next day I arrived to find an email waiting from Robert Carlson of the CA EPA. This is in response to the email I sent updating him on the status of my clamshell recycling initiative. It is jammed packed with goodness so enjoy! Thanks Robert!

Chandler,

First I wanted to address the issue of collecting rigid plastics for recycling (providing the source for PVC contamination).  I’m not terribly aware of the recycling infrastructure in your part of the country, but here in California, most jurisdictions do in fact accept mixed plastics.  A lot of jurisdictions moved away from the 3-bin system which often took only beverage containers to a single-stream approach to recycling where you dump all recyclables into a single bin and it’s sorted at the MRF.  Where I live, the city picks up 1-7 plastics of any kind for recycling then sorts later.  So…this situation is one that would introduce a PVC bottle or clamshell into a stream where it could be confused for PET or some other plastic for that matter (even paper).  Also, if there are commercial recycling centers/retail bins etc…an errant PVC container may find its way into the bin and be sent with the rest for recycling.  Some of the plastics that are collected do get separated and disposed of, but others are sent to be recycled as a low-grade plastic mixture that’s often used in plastic lumber applications where it’s mixed with sawdust or something and used for fencing or benches or sometimes decking.

Second, you idea about having consumers separate their goods from its packaging before they leave the store and deposit it into appropriate bins for recycling is a good one.  It is in fact being done in Europe and I believe parts of Canada (don’t quote me on that) where they have EPR programs in place.  If you do in fact pursue that option I would LOVE to follow it since it’s an approach that we think would allow a high level of recovery while maintaining a clean stream.  BUT of course it introduces the problem of financing and retail acceptance (they don’t always want to put bins in their stores…particularly in the front where everybody can see them) not to mention changing the consumer’s behavior to unwrap their product in the store instead of at home where they are accustomed to doing it.  The other issue I’ve heard is related to returns (often you’re required to return the product in its original packaging).  Not that these are issues that can’t be addressed, but they would need to be though about and dealt with somehow.  Again…VERY exciting and if you go that way, I’d love to watch or be more involved somehow.

Third, as I think I’ve mentioned before, Pyrolosis may be the best option for you and if it works and meets your goals and expectations, then by all means pursue it.  It’s not really an option for us (in California) right now, but who’s to say what will happen in the future?  Keep me updated on it if you go that direction.

Fourth, your assumption that your PET clamshells should be compatible with the PET bottle stream is correct.  If you could somehow guarantee a certain level of cleanliness (both free of food/product contamination as well as free from various other resin contamination) then it should in fact be compatible.  From what I understand, Starbucks first had a University test the recycling process of corrugated containers with their cups and proved that they did in fact work.  Then they started piloting the project, collecting the cups and sending them to be mixed into a real-life recycler with corrugated.  The recycler is then sending samples of the finished board for testing to be sure it meets the same specs as recycled board with NO cups.  This recycler though is known for being able to take and separate ANYTHING so they may not work for everybody, but it’s a foot in the door.  People can see that it can be done and it won’t degrade the product.  Then it’s a matter of finding the contamination level that other recyclers are comfortable with and making the stream clean enough for them (that’s the next step).  If you were collecting at retail, you’d have some control over stream cleanliness.  Of course, if PVC were banned…it’s help your cause immensely as well as you’d no longer have to deal with recyclers worrying about PVC messing up the clamshell stream.

I’m busy dealing with synthetic turf field issues and recycled paper issues at the moment, plus of course my usual EPR related issues.  Meetings, reports, dealing with lobbyists!!  My life is busy in a boring way!!

Whew!!!  That was a marathon of an email, huh?!?!? 

We’ll have to chat again soon, but maybe next time parceled out into smaller portions.  I’m a number of years out of college and not as mentally nimble as you are anymore!!  God…getting old at 30!  That’s terrible!!

Maybe if you have any specific questions about any of these topics, we can get together on the phone so that we can discuss a bit more casually rather than having to get everything down in an email.

Take care…gotta go to yoga now and relax my brain for a few moments!

Robert

Tune in tomorrow for some feedback from the Environmental Director of Starbucks! Good luck getting through the rest of the day!

Cheers!

Day 23: Nov. 17th, 2009

March 3, 2010

Its sunny today, which in Chicago in March is no small feat!

Sorry if today’s post seems repetitive…if you hadn’t noticed, I am trying to describe my attempts at finding an end-of-life market for thermoformed packaging as a story, a narrative of sorts, which moves chronologically through time on the vehicle of email exchanges between myself and others in the plastics, sustainability, and recycling industries. I realized that I had omitted an email exchange between myself and Robert Carlson of the CA EPA from November 16th, so I edited yesterday’s post to be more “real.”

Because Robert with the CA EPA seemed extra-curious about what I meant by “I have so much to tell you,” I sent him the following email upon my arrival to the office on November 17th:

Hey Robert,

So here’s the update on everything:

I have been talking with various people in WM, SPI, SPC, etc. to determine what the feasibility is of establishing: (1) either a new end market for mixed rigid plastic packages or, (2) integrating our RPET packages (non-food) into the existing PET bottle recycling infrastructure.

In regard to the former option: This seems more difficult to implement in the near future because the quantity is not there, as is the case with PET bottles. Moreover, because of all the different materials in various kinds of plastic packaging (food, medical, consumer goods), it is difficult to collect enough of any one material to find an end market for it. At the same time, however, I am cooking up an idea where we would form a partnership with a retailer in order to provide them with guidelines for all plastic packaging. Our guidelines would dictate that all plastic packages sold at this retailer would have to be of the same type of material, in order to establish the quantity necessary to find an end market for it. We could even go so far as to require customers to open their consumer goods’ packages in store and place the plastic and paper components into collection bins, to be hauled away by a contracted third-party. I believe they do this at some European retail chains. I am trying to find more information on the logistics of this approach.

There is also the option to “down-cycle” as you put it. I have a dialogue going with a rep from Polyflow who explained that they would buy mixed rigid and flexible plastic packaging, with or without food contamination, and convert it to gasoline diesel fuels. I have attached a white paper from Polyflow, which discusses its capabilities. Apparently, the cost to landfill is comparable to the cost to process this unwanted material in the Polyflow facility. I know you explained why this option is seen as less superior to recycling but I believe that this may be a better option for the polymer industry, especially as new additives and materials emerge on the market. Please see the attached sheet, if interested, and let me know what you think of this as an option for waste management.

In regard to the second option: As you alluded to, PVC packages are a problem because they contaminate the PET waste stream. I received a similar perceptive from an anonymous non-profit, who explained that plastic packages, even if PET or RPET, are not recycled because of the possibility of having a PVC package get into the bale. What I don’t understand, however, is where are mixed rigid packages even collected for recycling where the PVC contamination would be an issue? My rep at WM explained that buyers of baled PET bottles don’t want plastic packages (clamshells) in the bales because the possibility that one may be PVC. This, however, implies that there could be a market for rigid plastic packages (PET, RPET) outside of the PET bottle recycling infrastructure. Do you know where or by whom mixed rigid plastic packages are collected for recycling?

Currently, I have sent out 50 RPET clamshell samples to my contact at WM to run through their optical sorting technology to see if our RPET material is compatible with the PET bottle material (same IVs and what not). If so, we could maybe find a buyer of a mixed bale of PET bottles and RPET plastic packages (non food). After all, we have certification from our suppliers that our RPET has a minimum 70% recycled content (from PET bottles); therefore, one would assume that our material would be very similar to the PET bottle material and as such, have an end market because the quantity is already there, we are just adding to it. Moreover, if we can ensure that our plastic packages are compatible with the PET bottle material, we may be able to have our material supplier buy the mixed baled PET bottles and RPET packages to be reground and sold back to us, thus being closed loop.

I am still waiting to talk with the Environmental Director at Starbucks in regard to how the buyers of baled corrugate are dealing with the introduction of a new material (coffee cups). I believe we have a similar situation with buyers of baled PET bottles—they don’t want to introduce a new type of product (RPET clams, blisters, etc.) into their collection protocol.

We also just subscribed to COMPASS, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s comparative life cycle packaging assessment tool, which allows us to see the environmental ramifications of our material choices in the design phase; cool beans!

AND, I am kicking off a new marketing campaign for Dordan for 2010—I’ll keep you posted!

So that’s that. How are things with you? What is making you so busy?

Best,

Chandler Slavin

Tune in tomorrow to see where my recycling initiative takes me next!