Hey guys!

Today we are going to pick up where we left off on June 22nd’s post, “How the Waste-to-Profit Network Facilitates Synergies: Introducing Cirrus.”

For those of you who follow my blog regularly, you may have noticed a theme emerging…

Starting with the SPC’s suggestion for “collective reporting” among its member companies (company-specific analysis of environmental inputs and outputs), and deepened with Dordan’s Score on the “Green Strategy Index” (see May 30th’s post), the theme of “operational environmental optimization” continues to come up in conversations pertaining to taking sustainability at Dordan to the next level. While Dordan has developed many tools that aid our clients in developing sustainable packaging systems and prides itself on being a lean manufacturer as a critical component to being a successful medium-sized custom thermoformer, we have yet to quantify our environmental “performance;” that is, how Dordan’s operations compare to the industry average and/or how our “lean” manufacturing practices equate to environmental savings, in the form of carbon emissions, waste to landfill, etc.

At first I considered conducting a full-blown LCIA of Dordan’s conversion process per some type of functional unit i.e. 100,000 packages produced and/or per 6th months of production. After starting “The Hitchhikers Guide to LCA,” however, it became apparent that performing a blank-slate LCIA via SimaPro or Gabi required an extremely intensive investment, including that necessary for a third-party reviewing process, where the outcome dictates the validity of the entire study: its methodologies, assumptions, parameters, metrics, and findings. In order to try and quantify the value of conducting such a sophisticated analysis of Dordan’s production process I reached out to a friend in the LCA and packaging world; here it was communicated to me that one should only make the investment in a blank-slate LCIA platform IF one assumes that ones production process is more sustainable than the industry average and/or if said production process is completely innovative and new, in which case, no LCIA data exists.

Ok, so how do I know how Dordan’s operational environmental performance compares with the industry in order to determine if a full-fledged LCIA is warranted? Research but of course! My LCA-practitioner friend indicated I conduct an “inventory analysis” of Dordan in which all expenditures pertaining to environmental requirements i.e. electricity, water, waste, etc. are collected and reviewed. This information will indicate Dordan’s main environmental requirements, providing a metric i.e. water consumption, to compare with publically available LCI data via the US Life Cycle Inventory Database or Ecoinvent. Neato!

While walking down this prim rose path of data mining and compilation, I met with representatives from the Chicago Waste-to-Profit Network, which as per June 12th’s and 22nd’s posts, is a regional working group where manufacturers share environmental input and output requirements with the Network, discovering “by-product” synergies. Examples include using one company’s waste as feedstock for another company’s production i.e. recycling in its most pure form, piping one firm’s off gasses to another as power for another production process, etc. Perhaps Dordan could discover by-product synergies via Network companies in regards to its waste to landfill, aiding us in working towards zero-waste; an initiative that has all but lost its steam due to the realities of waste management in which quantity necessitates the economic feasibility of commercial recycling. Moreover, perhaps the Network could provide the tools for Dordan to better execute its operational environmental performance LCIA-prep work? An energy audit? Quantifying operational environmental performance in a functional, easy-to-comprehend metric, like GHG emissions per package produced x packages produced per 6th months? Am I operating in stream of conscience mode?!? I think so!

Obviously I got quite excited about the potential of the WTP Network and approached my father and Dordan CEO to test the waters around this new sustainability direction at Dordan. I proposed I be allowed to investigate the potential of operational environmental optimization at Dordan via inventory analysis compared with industry average coupled with application to the WTP Network to serve as a support team for this ambitious project. I explained how I believed I could save Dordan money in purchasing via WTP Network by-product synergies AND reduce the waste to landfill; also, develop an operational environmental performance benchmark that would allow us to gauge optimization progress.

To my total and utter surprise my father wasn’t super gong-ho about this proposition. He explained how Dordan already operates extremely efficiently and any savings incurred would pale in comparison to the cost of my time (aw, shucks!). Furthermore, while Dordan’s sustainability efforts have branded us a thought leader and generated a ton of media interest, few opportunities generated via sustainability services have facilitated sales.

Like marketing, how to you quantify the ROI of sustainability investment, he inquired?

Goodness gracious we are back to business again! Since my employment at Dordan I have discovered that at times, the academic challenge embedded in the investigation, like the clamshell recycling initiative, overshadows and distorts the primary goal; that is, to increase profit. While I believe conducting the initiatives described above would be super awesome and demonstrate Dordan’s unwavering commitment to sustainability, how is it going to help us sell more thermoformed packaging?

GAAAAA, frustrated, I returned to my cubicle.

I emailed the WTP Network that Dordan would not be able to sign on, and tucked my “Dordan Operational Environmental Optimization” folder deep into my filing cabinet. I know I am being dramatic but that is just because I am trying to set the stage for THIS:

Several days later I received an email from the WTP Network, explain how they understand how hard it is to “sell” the membership to companies for the inability to understand its value at the point of application. Consequently, they are offering a FREE TRIAL to qualifying companies, which allows said companies access to the transparent data management software Cirrus AND registration to several working shop meetings, where synergies are investigated and illuminated. NO WAY.

How can my boss object to a FREE trial in order to determine if any of my assumptions outlined above are even feasible?!?!

He didn’t. 🙂

Stay tuned!

Hello!

Today we are going to discuss the next portion of the Walmart SVN meeting I attended on May 7th; this was scheduled in conjuncture with the Walmart/Sam’s Club Sustainable Packaging Expo in Bentonville, Arkansas. For feedback from the first portion of the meeting, visit May 9th’s post.

After a quick break the Packaging SVN re-assembled inside the conference hall. Soon after, Ron Sasine took the stage, exclaiming excitement for the next presenters, the “Future Packaging Team.” Quickly a group of High School students from Wisconsin filed on stage and the SVN was introduced to a packaging case-study that demonstrated an item-specific approach to packaging sustainability, as encouraged by the former presenters.

Narrating the case study, the students each took a turn describing their efforts, which began with isolating “fluffy” products, like pillows and blankets, as a Walmart product that could use a packaging makeover. Because said “fluffy products” contain so much air, the shipping is presumably ineffective when compared with a more condensed format. The students decided to focus their initiative on pillow packaging, hoping that if a solution was developed, it could be applied to other fluffy products sold at retail.

The students began their investigation by visiting the pillow manufacturer and Walmart inventory, where it was discovered that the pillows were packed inside a tall, rectangular corrugate box. Issues of package bowing and seam busting were observed, leading the students to conclude that if the pillows were to be further condensed, thereby allowing for more efficient shipping, outer support would be needed to keep the corrugate container intact.

Subsequently, they approached a binding machinery manufacturer, where they proposed the idea of developing a binding machine that could be used on the exterior of the box. The students then developed a more compact corrugate box, which would fit the same amount of pillows in a box that consumed around 40% less material. They added rivets to the box’s exterior, providing a valley for the plastic binders to rest.

Though still in the pilot stage, the students determined that if Walmart were to replace its pillow packaging with the new, condensed format, it would save in shipping the equivalent of removing 884 trucks from the roads a year; not to mention, the savings in inventory and shelf space.

The students then informed the SVN of their upcoming appointment with the pillow buyer at Walmart AND the pillow manufacturer sold at Walmart to pitch the idea of condensed packaging and exterior binding to the stakeholders.

The kids finished to a standing ovation as the SVN was delighted by the simplicity yet functionality of the students’ proposal.

Who knows…maybe we will see a new, condensed pillow packaging format at Walmart stores soon!

The implication of this presentation is clear: Walmart wants its suppliers to take an item-specific approach to sustainability gains and cost savings, demonstrated by the students’ isolation of pillows as an item that could be re-engineered to yield higher value in the eyes of the retailer.

Hey guys!

Boy howdy do I feel like a real business woman now! Had my first terrible plane debacle—but I’m alive—so its obviously not that bad.

In a nut-shell I booked a flight to Northwest Arkansas to attend the Walmart/Sam’s Club Sustainable Value Network meeting Monday; from which, I was scheduled to fly to Dallas to connect to Miami in time for my presentation at the Bioplastics Compounding and Processing Conference the next day. Due to intense thunderstorms in Chicago Sunday night, flights Monday morning out of Chicago were delayed, which made me late for the SVN meeting. I ran in heels and everything. Then my flight from Arkansas to Dallas was delayed, due to roving thunderstorms over Dallas. So, I would have missed my connection to Miami, even if I made it to Dallas that night, which I didn’t. While at the rebooking agent in Arkansas, I was completely floored to discover that there was no possible way for me to get to Miami by noon the next day. The last flight out of Arkansas was the flight I was scheduled to be on, which was at 5:50 PM! CRAZY. So the moral of the story is: don’t assume that all airports are like O’Hare; and, try to keep things in perspective— even while trapped on the jet bridge for HOURS with a hysterical baby and crabby flight attendants. As my father says, “nothing is that important.”

Luckily, I attended a large chunk of the SVN meeting regardless of my late arrival, so I have some updates to share.

The section titled “New Packaging Implementation” began with Director of Packaging for Walmart Chet Rutledge and his Sam’s Club counterpart Robert Parvis performing a skit: Chet was playing a Walmart buyer and Robert was playing a supplier trying to pitch “magical pixie dust,” which renders all packaging material nonexistent when disposed in landfill; and, “even taste like chicken!”

The metaphor here is that Walmart has heard it all before, and what they encourage from their suppliers is due diligence when investigating new packaging innovation: “do your homework.” Instead of trying to sell just for selling’s sake, suppliers to Walmart should align their objectives with those of the retailer; this is to deliver the best valued product at the lowest cost—using sustainability as the vehicle for driving change. Urging an item-specific approach, Walmart looks to collaborate with its suppliers to facilitate improvements throughout the supply chain, like those communicated in the “Packaging Success Stories” to accompany the next days’ Expo proceedings.

Next, Chet and Robert moved on to a discussion of “Best Practices for Product Suppliers,” emphasizing sales, profit, inventory and SKUs as the talking points through which product/packaging improvements be facilitated via sustainable packaging systems. Only if a proposed change addresses these concerns will Walmart buyers consider it. Conversations of cost implications are also crucial, for if neglected, imply no savings to be incurred. Product suppliers were urged to look to their packaging suppliers for help, welcoming proactive innovations over a retailer-proposed agenda. Chet concludes, “Innovation is good…change is difficult; keep it simple— Walmart’s system and scale will complicate the most simple of tasks.”

My next post will provide feedback Ron Sasine’s “Future of Packaging Team,” PACNEXT, and AMERIPEN.

Hey!

Dr. Karli Verghese definitely knows a thing or two about a thing or two when it comes to life cycle analysis.

She is the author of a book chapter titled “Selecting and Applying Tools,” which comes highly recommended for those investigating the various LCA packaging-specific tools available. You can find this resource via the following reference information:

Selecting and Applying Tools, Karli Verghese & Simon Lockrey, Pages 251-283, in Packaging for Sustainability, Editors: Karli Verghese, Helen Lewis, Leanne Fitzpatrick, ISBN: 978-0-85729-987-1 (Print) 978-0-85729-988-8 (Online).

Also, as explained during her presentation at Sustainability in Packaging, she authored the book “Packaging for Sustainability,” to be published in April 2012 and available at http://www.springer.com.

Ok so I am trying to do the best job describing the insights outlined in Verghese’s presentation BUT please note that she spoke quickly and my fingers can only type notes so fast!

Verghese began explaining how the conversation about packaging sustainability has evolved from a materials focus (material A vs. B) to a systems focus, where the interaction between the product and packaging in a supply chain system becomes paramount. She qualified this statement with reference to several examples, the first of which, an Australian study that investigated the environmental impact of corn chips. Verghese inquired “Is it the corn chips or the bag (400 gram packets of corn chops, aluminum foil retail bag, corrugated box)”?

The study determined that the environmental impacts in CO2 equivalents are as follows:

Life cycle stage 1, pre-farm= 6%
Life cycle stage 2, on-farm= 36%
Life cycle stage 3, post-farm= 58%

Within this analysis, packaging accounts for 21% of overall systems environmental impacts; supply chain transport accounts for 9%.

Verghese’s next example inquired, “Is it the wine or the bottle?” By reference to another LCA-base study, Verghese demonstrated that the environmental “hot spot” was during the production of grapes for the wine i.e. viniculture.

These types of analysis supported Verghese’s assumption that a systems approach to packaging sustainability is favorable to the previous materials-focus i.e. paper vs. plastic.

Verghese then moved onto a discussion about how to select the “right” packaging assessment tool, based on a variety of considerations stemming from one’s business and sustainability strategy(s) and packaging sustainability policy.

Because the insights to follow via Verghese’s presentation were SO valuable, I decided to compile them—- in addition to those previously discussed in the panel session—- into a Report that should aid interested parties in understanding the available tools for assessing packaging sustainability; and, provide guidance for how to select the “right” tool based on one’s specific business question. Click the following link to download the Report; please consult the footnotes for proper reference of information sources.

How to Assess Sustainable Packaging

My next post will discuss a recent UC Berkely study that compares the data out puts of the various LCA packaging specific tools.

Hey! 

The second session of day one at Sustainability in Packaging was titled “Global Packaging Project and the Proliferation of Tools: How to Quantify the Data and Choose the Tools that Work,” including presentations from Procter & Gamble, RMIT University, UC Berkely, and PepsiCo.

First up was Alan Blake of Procter & Gamble, to present on “Practical Applications of the Global Packaging Project.”

Blake began by contextualizing the work of the Global Packaging Project, which as I have blogged about before, grew out of the Consumer Goods Forum and looks to develop a common language for packaging and sustainability. The action plan of the GPP was to begin by developing common metrics and indicators for assessing sustainable packaging; after which, test the established framework and measurement system via pilots. Consequently, pre-existing internationally recognized metrics balanced across the spectrum of sustainability were investigated, culminating in the GPP’s “dictionary of metrics;” this consists of 13 environmental attributes, 14 LCI indicators, 2 economic indicators, and 11 social indicators. After conducting 30 pilots via Walmart and P&G participation, the GPP released the Guidelines, which are intended to aid firms in answering specific business questions in the context of packaging/product environmental performance. Blake suggested visiting the GPP’s website, http://globalpackaging.mycgforum.com/ concluding, “GPP metrics should be integrated into the way you work today.” 

Next Blake moved onto a discussion of how the Guidelines are actually applied via several case studies that began with a specific business question:

Case study 1: what is the benefit of 20% less HDPE in a bottle? Bottle= 100 g –> 80 g 

GPP Common Metrics

Current

Proposed

Packaging Weight and Minimization

315 g

195 g

Case study 2: What is the benefit of 2X compacted product?

GPP Common Metrics

Current

Proposed

Packaging Weight and Minimization

315 g

195 g

Transport Packaging Cube Efficiency

75%

68%

Packaging to Product Weight Ratio

4.92g/load

3.04/g/load

Climate Change (GHG)

 

Transportation savings? 

Case study 3: What is the benefit of HDPE sourced from sugar cane? Bottle= petro –> renewable

Attributes of business question include: renewable content, material waste, chain of custody, water from stressed resources, environmental management system, energy audits.

The life cycle indicators of business question include all life cycle metrics (14); the social indicators of business question include all social metrics (11); therefore, in order to answer this business question, a total of 31 GPP metrics need to be consulted. 

Blake states, “The range of metrics depends on the business question.”In the first case study where the proposed packaging change was light-weighting, only 1 GPP metric pertained; in the second case study where the proposed change was compaction, 4 GPP metrics pertained; and, in the third case study where the proposed change was new HDPE source, 31 metrics needed investigation. Therefore, depending on your business sustainability strategy and sustainable packaging policy, different business questions re: sustainable packaging will appear more “appealing” than others due to the commitment required with data collection inherent in the different changes proposed.

Blake finishes his discussion by providing the following template for using the Guidelines of the GPP:

1. Define question

2. Determine scope

3. Select metrics

4. Gather data

5. Review data quality

6. Communicate business decision

My next post will discuss Dr. Karli Verghese’s presentation, “Developing the Corporate Strategy or Packaging Sustainability and Integrating Tools into the Product-Packaging Development Process.” Dr. Verghese is the Program Director of the Sustainable Products and Packaging Center at the Centre for Design at RMIT University. 

Heyo!

Long time no chat! As per a previous post’s statement, I spoke with a representative from Algix a couple weeks back in regards to their algae-based plastic that has been successfully injection molded into different parts. Unfortunately I have misplaced my notes from the call, which detailed the technicalities involved in synthesizing a resin from an algae-based feedstock, including the unique chemistry of this process. But fear not! Check out the inquiries below I just emailed to my friend at Algix who defiantly is the go-to guy for all things algae-based-technology related.  

  • Please describe the relationship between textile manufacturers/dairy producers and algae. In other words, how does algae become a waste product of these industries’ processes and how is it ideal for manipulation into bio-based plastics?
  • How is post-industrial algae synthesized into bio-based plastics? In other words, how is the protein in algae bound to the plastic components to allow for application to injection molding? What additives are required to allow for the synthesis OR used to increase the properties of the material? I remember discussions of protein-based materials (cellulous) vs. carbon-based (bio-PET) and how the former “connects” to the plastic molecule similar to how the calcium carbonate connects to the PP polymer, for example.  Please expand on this analogy.
  • What is the preferred end-of-life treatment of this unique bio-based plastic? Is it similar to the approach taken by PLA supplier NatureWorks, which looks to generate the quantity necessary to sustain the creation of a closed-loop recycling process in which PLA would be recycled in its own post-consumer stream?

Hopefully, more details to come!

NEXT, Dordan’s collaboration with material science company Ecovative in regards to the design of their thermoformed “grow trays” was recently covered in several industry articles: First published on GreenerPackage.com and then Packaging World the story subsequently made its way into HealthCare Packaging! Thereafter,  a different version of the story appeared on PlasticsToday.com; this focused more on how the limitations of Ecovative’s manufacturing processes, couple with those inherent in thermoforming, dictated the overall design of the grow trays. Obviously I am biased, but I think this story is super clever insofar as it demonstrates how different packaging suppliers can collaborate in new and exciting ways, leveraging existing technologies like thermoforming and innovations in material science (ahem, growing packaging!) to facilitate process efficiencies  within the supply chain. I especially like how Ecovative’s Sam explained how thermoforming, unlike a lot of engineering processes, is “a bit of an art form,” giving merit to one of Dordan’s marketing slogans: “Dordan, the perfect blend of art and engineering.”  Neato! You may recall a video from Pack Expo that shows Sam and I discussing this collaboration; the GreenerPackage.com/Packaging World feature is as follow up to that discussion. I hope you like the photos of the thermoformed grow trays—I roamed around Dordan’s factory sticking the 21X21 inch tray here and there, finally finding a home for it sandwiched between a narrow cavity in one of our skids, ha!

 Next, our efforts to recycle thermoformed packaging are being featured in the Reporter’s Notebook series of Machine Design Magazine. This is one of the more technical interviews I have experienced, with questions as complex as: describe the waste management industry in America, yikes! Expect a digital version of the story latter this afternoon…(two hours later)…and here it is!

If I could reflect for a moment…how awesome is the PR/publishing industry in the packaging space?!? From blogging about our efforts to recycle thermoform packaging to having said efforts awarded the cover feature in Green Manufacturer Magazine to creating a press release describing our collaboration with Ecovative that subsequently caught the attention of Greener Package editor Anne Marie Mohan at Pack Expo, I can’t believe the success we have experienced getting our story out to a large and targeted audience via these news channels. So HOOHA to the packaging industry and its fabulous representation in the news via these proactive and innovative publishing houses.

Let’s see what now. I sent a follow up email to my friend at S+S sorting in regards to the results of their pilot looking to investigate the technical differences between reprocessing bottle-grade and thermoform-grade PET. Thanks for those of you who participated in my poll following my last post; more polls to come!

Last but not least, meet the Dordanites! As per a reporter’s request for inclusion in an upcoming publication, my father and Dordan CEO Daniel and my brothers and Dordan Account Executives Sean and Aric and yours truly participated in a photoshoot last week. Obviously there are a lot of other Dordanites—aside from those that carry the Slavin name—that make Dordan such a lovely place to work. From engineering to production to management, we are proud of our employees and while little to they know, they will soon be beckoned for a company photoshoot, muhahahaha.

Enjoy!

Dordan CEO Daniel explaining thermoforming

<

Dan expanding on art of thermoforming

Dordanites looking all fly; Sales Manager Aric far right, CEO Dan second from right, Account Exec Sean left of Dan, and ME far left

Our more normal demeanor

My boys!

HA! I think this is silly

Do we see a pattern developing?!?

There we go!

Awwwww

Because you should never take yourself too seriously...

In my next post I will discuss (FINALLY) feedback from the SPC’s material health working group, which looks to develop indicators and metrics to assess the safety of materials used in packaging. This stuff gets pretty heady so make sure you bring your thinking cap!

Hello and happy 2012!

Today I am going to discuss all sorts of things.

First, as per the last several posts, I am reinvestigating implementing a zero-waste-to-landfill program at Dordan. Inspired by those who presented at Green Manufacturer’s ZWTL workshop, I hope I can find a way to economically manage all of Dordan’s post-industrial waste. I am currently reviewing the figures associated with our efforts to recycle corrugate in 2011, though they aren’t too promising: It appears as though the cost of recycling—mainly transportation to the reprocessing facility—exceeded the value of the recyclate; hence, Dordan was paying to recycle its corrugate. Weird bears!

Next lets briefly discuss the tour of Burt’s Bees following the ZWTL workshop. First of all, I didn’t know that BB was purchased by Clorox in 2007; regardless, it appears to continue to uphold the original brand identity of quality, all natural products produced in America. The plant itself resembles any other manufacturing plant with portions of the production automated while others manually operated. Chap stick is BB’s bread and butter, though the exact quantity produced annually slips my mind. Check out the photo below, yum!

I guess the backstory to BBs is as follows: Burt harvested bees for honey. Not sure what to do with all the excess bees wax, Burt’s wife came up with the brilliant idea to make chapstick and other wax-based health and beauty products and TA DA, a company is born. Behind every great man…

The tour guide was a super nice guy from BB who seemed genuinely excited about its ZWTL program and overall zest of the company; that is, one of employee and community engagement and an outstanding commitment to social and environmental sustainability. BB belongs to like a million different agencies that work on the behalf of earth’s dwellers and sponsor various community-based programs, like cleaning up a waterway or what not. I just thought it was so neat that BB allowed a bunch of manufacturers into its facility to learn from its experiences working towards ZWTL. The biggest takeaway, aside from the fact that they make bats of lotion the size of bathtubs (how cool is that!), is SEPARATION AT THE SOURCE. Instead of collecting everything together and then separating by material type for recycling, why not separate it on the floor, in the café, in the bathroom, etc. where the “waste” is produced? BB implemented this separation at the source logic by creating a color-coded system in which employees were trained to place different materials in material-specific bins segregated by color (for example, red for plastic, yellow for paper, etc.); these bins were scattered throughout the entire facility, allowing every employee to easily dispose of the material in an efficient and non-disruptive way. It actually became easier to segregate at the source via color-coded bins then walk to the garbage can, which were increasingly nonexistent in the plant. Clever!

Do you remember how I kept alluding to feedback from the SPC meeting in regards to the organization’s request for collective reporting? Anyway I am going to pick up on this thread now—sorry for the insanely long delay!

At the last SPC meeting, the staff of the SPC summarized the impact the organization has made on sustainability in packaging: releasing tons of research reports, creating the LCA-based tool COMPASS, conducting member-led working groups, etc. As a 7-year-old organization, however, the SPC staff articulated that they felt it would be in the memberships’ interest to investigate the potential of collective reporting, thereby communicating to those outside of the organization the impact such membership has made. In other words, the SPC—through the collective reporting of its membership—wants to demonstrate the value of the organization to private and public sectors. As a non-profit, the SPC has to serve some type of public interest, as per the requirements of the tax code. As such, by encouraging its membership to quantify the environments requirements of its processes in order to establish a baseline off which progress can be gauged, the SPC hopes to communicate how it is serving a private and public good by facilitating sustainability throughout its member companies. Does that make sense?

After the SPC proposed this idea to the membership, several things happened: lots of eyebrows arched, many throats were cleared, and uncomfortable chair shifting throughout the conference room was observed. Perhaps unaware of these reactions, the SPC requested that we break into groups to discuss the feasibility of this proposition. I, sitting in the front row of course, turned around to engage with my neighbors sitting behind me. Though hesitant to discuss at first, a sort of domino effect happened in which one by one SPC members discussed how this was a really, really bad idea. The reasons sited include: not enough resources; not enough information; who will be the audience of the collective reporting? To whose purpose does collective reporting serve? Perhaps I should back up: when I say “collective reporting” I mean that each SPC member company would have to measure the environmental inputs (energy, water, materials, etc.) and outputs (GHG emissions, waste, etc.) associated with their companies’ processes and then report these figures to the SPC, who would assumingly compile the data to compare with industry averages? I don’t know as it wasn’t discussed. All I know is that data must be collected to establish a base line that progress can be charted against when discussing sustainability improvements. Without a baseline, how can anyone communicate sustainability improvements? Think of it as a company-specific LCI. So yeah, lets just say that this proposition is a MASSIVE undertaking, as speaking from Dordan’s perceptive, we don’t have the staff/resources to embark on a project in these regards without proper investment. I know that tools exist for these purposes—SimaPro being one—but they are expensive and time-consuming—the tutorial itself is over 500 pages long! So yeah, that idea kind of just…died.

That’s all for now guys! I just registered for Sustainability in Packaging! It looks really, really good. I hope to see some of you there, though I wouldn’t know as I don’t know who reads my blog!

OH, and I contributed to this Plastics Technology article. The writer Lilli explained that she was new to issues of sustainability in packaging; I think she did a great job!

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!

Hey!

Exciting news! Dordan WON the McHenry Country Business Champion award for 2011! We got a big shinny trophy and everything! AND, a reporter from the Northwest Herald is going to write a profile on us—love me my free press!

Today I am going to discuss the SPC members-only meeting I attended in Dallas in September. I didn’t get elected to the Executive Committee, wa wa, but salute those that were nominated! Congs!

We began the meeting with a field trip to the GreenStar Recycling Center, which as per the meeting agenda is “the second largest Material Recovery Facility in Texas, housed in a 150,000 sq. ft. facility that processes over 400 tons of residential single street and commercial commingled material daily.” This place was organized chaos. They led us through the plant in the direction the material moved once dumped on the floor by the hauler. To be honest, I had a hard time hearing the tour guide explain the various sortation technologies employed, though both manual and automated systems were referenced. A lot of the material was segregated by size by falling through slits in a tumbler and more material was isolated by…I really don’t know. But somehow they were able to bale corrugate, paperboard, PET plastic bottles, HDPE milk jugs, and aluminum. Perhaps I was distracted from the tour by my silly footwear, which were high-heels; apparently I didn’t get the memo saying high-heeled shoes were not permitted inside the recycling facility—woops! To make a long story short, I suggest you go to your local waste hauler/reprocessor and see waste management in action!

After lunch, we reconvened for an update from the SPC about their Labeling for Recovery project. For those of you who missed the launch, this project’s website is now live! Check it our here. I have blogged on this project before, so fish around for a previous post in these regards. Topics discussed were the objective of this project, which is to “make recycling make sense;” it is a consumer-focused labeling scheme that will inform consumers what types of packaging is recycled (REACH data suggests that material X is “recycled” in 60% or more American communities), what packaging is of limited recyclability (REACH data suggests 30-60% of communities have access to recycling), and what packaging is currently not recycled (REACH data indicates material X is rarely recycled). The ability of a community to recycle a packaging material type is called REACH data, which is not the same of actual recycling rates. This project is now endorsed by the Keep America Beautiful campaign and is looking to partner with Earth 911 insofar as it will pull geographical information based on area code of residence so consumers know where different materials ARE collected for recycling, if of limited recyclability. A similar pricing structure to the EU’s Green Dot program is suggested, in which companies pay to license the labeling scheme. This is necessary to eliminate manipulation of the label or unintended green washing along with paying for the maintenance of the program and other administrative functions. From what I understand, the main motivation for this project is to increase recycling rates by educating consumers on how to recycle what and where. So kudos to all those involved!

Next were updates on the different member-led working groups within the SPC. Perhaps after the last SPC meeting it was surveyed that the SPC member companies wanted to be further involved with the work of the SPC, as opposed to just spectators, after which, the member-led working groups were created. I participated in the AMERIPEN EPR working group, which I will touch upon in a future post. First, representatives from the working group on Consumer Outreach and Education presented; they emphasized the desire for positive stories around the role of packaging, like how it reduces waste through product protection, extends the shelf life, etc. Basically, those who participate in this group want consumers to understand the necessity and benefits of packaging, as opposed to assuming it is a waste of resources, which seems to be the prevailing misconception. So YAY for packaging!

Next was the role of transport packaging in sustainable supply chains. This project seems really cool—it is working with COMPASS designer Minal Mistry of the SPC to create a more focused transport unit within the software, allowing users to understand the environmental repercussions of the entire packaging system. I am a bit confused as to what this group is doing that differs from the current transport feature within the software, which like the Walmart Scorecard Modeling software, quantifies the distance materials must move to be manufactured into the final selling unit. I believe that they are working towards a more holistic approach to this transport module, insofar as it is just not the supply chain movements of material manufacture, conversion and distribution but how a packaging system as a transport package, say a skid, can be used and then returned in a reusable system. AH here is what the project description says: “The Transport Packaging Working Group…[work to] develop actionable plans that will further optimize the benefits of transport packaging via increased supply chain collaboration. The team has identified many important objectives including: knowledge transfer of transport packaging data to various technology solutions such as COMPASS, review of packaging and supply chain testing standards in relation to transport packaging, and collaboration with supply chain partners to optimize transportation packaging utilization and reuse and recovery rates.” Sounds heavy!

My next post will continue discussing feedback from the SPC meeting. Tootles!

Hey guys!

Did you see this terribly sad article detailing the mass extension of our oceans?!?! Goodness gracious sometimes being required to read all things about the environment is such a bummer! I will discuss the truth of marine debris in tomorrow’s post, because as per this article, it is a rather timely topic! Here is a picture of me petting a dog shark at the zoo, which speaks to my utter LOVE of our fine finned fellas!

AND, I have updates on PET thermoform recycling as per a colleague who attended Walmart Canada’s SVN meeting today. EXCITING!

In early June I was contacted by the editor of Plastics Business Magazine, which is a quarterly publication for plastics processors supported by the Manufacturers Association of Plastics Processors. She found me through Twitter, compliments of the Packaging Diva, who is a super successful independent packaging professional with like thousands of Twitter followers—that’s right, thousands. Anyway, the editor was looking for a packaging converter with a bit of sustainability know-how to write an article on sustainable packaging choices, specifically geared towards plastics molders, and asked me as per the Diva’s suggestion! Thanks ladies!

The editor explained that the magazine is targeted to upper-level executives/management operations staff, providing industry trends, strategies, etc. Because a lot of blow molders are involved in some type of post-mold packaging for their customers, she thought it was important to address sustainable packaging options, as this is obviously a trend with some staying power.

AND she gave me 1,500 words, which is by far the most space I have gotten in a print publication EVER, yippee!

Check out my first draft below. It is a bit academic, but I didn’t know how else to handle such a complicated topic as sustainable packaging in causal discourse.

It Aint Easy Being Green

Chandler Slavin, Sustainability Coordinator, Dordan Manufacturing Co. Inc.

“Sustainability” is a concept commonly defined as development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Since the early nineties, “sustainability” as concept has been integrated into how we understand different process of production and consumption, products and services.

As the Sustainability Coordinator of a medium-sized family owned and operated plastic thermoforming company, I believe my employment speaks to the extent to which “sustainability” has percolated industry. By taking an informed, systems-based approach to sustainability, I believe plastic processors can develop truly sustainable packaging options for their customers. What follows is a discussion of some of the tools, materials and resources available to those that wish to embark on the journey towards sustainable packaging. It is important to understand, however, that there is no “silver bullet” when discussing sustainability; compromise is required whenever assessing how certain materials or processes will inform the overall environmental and economic performance of a given product or service.

Life cycle analysis is a popular approach to understanding the environmental requirements of different products and services. By considering the entire life cycle of product—from material extraction to production, distribution, and end of life—one can begin to understand its sustainability profile. This type of assessment provides quantified, scientific data, which can be used to facilitate sustainability improvements across the supply chain. Discussion of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s life-cycle based, comparative packaging assessment software COMPASS will make clear the importance of LCA and how such intelligence can aid in sustainability improvements in packaging systems.

COMPASS s a design-phase web application that provides comparative environmental profiles of packaging alternatives based on life cycle assessment metrics and design attributes. Created by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (hereafter, SPC)—an industry-working group dedicated to a more environmentally robust vision for packaging—this tool provides the environmental data needed to make informed packaging design decisions early in the developmental process. COMPASS assess packages on resource consumption (fossil fuel, water, biotic resource, and mineral), emissions (greenhouse gas, human impacts, aquatic toxicity, and eutrophication), and attributes such as material health, recycled or virgin content, sourcing, and solid waste.

Dordan began its subscription to COMPASS in 2010 in response to inquiries from clients into the sustainability of one material vs. another, one design vs. another, etc. Because COMPASS contains life cycle impact assessment data (LCIA) from raw material sourcing/extraction, packaging material manufacture, conversion, distribution and end of life, it details the life cycle impacts of different packaging systems in a comparative format; this allows the practitioner to understand the environmental performance of package A vs. package B, which allows for informed design decisions that results in quantified marketing claims.

To utilize COMPASS, one needs the following information: The weight of the various packaging material constituents of the primary and secondary packaging for the existing and proposed packaging; the conversion process i.e. calendaring with paper cutting vs. thermoforming; and, the data set i.e. US vs. EU vs. CA (end of life data is geographically specific). COMPASS data output consists of colored bar graphs corresponding to the existing and proposed designs, indicating the emissions generated and resources consumed as listed above.

COMPASS was created by stakeholders in industry, academia, NGOs and environmental organizations and funded in part by the US EPA. The LCIA data is taken from the two public life cycle databases available, the US Life Cycle Inventory Database and Ecoinvent, a Swiss life cycle database. This tool should be incorporated into the package development process in order to facilitate more sustainable designs that allows for informed environmental marketing claims. Examples of claims Dordan has made as result of COMPASS utilization includes: “25% reduction in GHG equivalents emitted throughout life cycle when compared with previous package” or, “40% reduction in biotic, mineral, and water resources consumed when compared with previous package.”

In addition to investing in a life cycle based, systems approach to packaging sustainability as manifest through subscription to COMPASS, it is important to invest in industry-specific sustainability R&D. Because each industry is unique in its demands and applications, it is difficult to speculate on what type of sustainability service will resonate best with each demographic. As thin-gauge thermoformers, Dordan found that “bio-plastics” were something in need of investigation because of their feedstock/end of life sustainability implications. By being proactive and sampling each available bio-based/biodegradable/compostable resin as it came to market, Dordan was able to provide its clients with a variety of options that may aid in the attainment of their sustainable packaging goals. Resins sampled include: PLA, PLA & Starch, Cellulous Acetate, PHA, TerraPET, Aeris InCycle. A comparative spec sheet detailing each resins’ physical properties, environmental profiles and cost as understood through density and yield was provided alongside the thermoformed samples, allowing for a holistic representation of this new class of resins.

Don’t let your efforts stop with industry-specific sustainability R&D, however: sustainability is a complicated concept and one that requires full time investigation and participation. In order for plastics processors to capitalize on packaging sustainability in the context of environmental and economic savings, it is helpful to divert resources to sustainability education. Dordan began its sustainability education by joining the SPC, which offered a variety of research crucial to discussions of sustainability. Research available includes: Environmental Technical Briefs of Common Packaging Materials, Sustainable Packaging Indictors and Metrics, Design Guidelines for Sustainable Packaging, Guide to Packaging Material Flows and Terminology, Compostable Packaging Survey, etc.

In joining an industry alliance dedicated to developing more sustainable packaging systems, Dordan was introduced to all the issues that concerned not only the thermoforming but also larger packaging industry; in doing so, it illuminated the obstacles faced and the opportunities available. A discussion of how Dordan developed a clamshell recycling initiative based on insights generated from SPC participation will make clear what is encouraged with sustainability education.

At Dordan’s first SPC meeting it became clear that very few types of consumer product packaging is recycled as per the FTC Green Guides’ definition. Upon this discovery, Dordan aggressively began investigating why thermoformed packaging, like the clamshells and blisters it manufacturers, is not recycled in 60% or more American communities; therefore, couldn’t be considered recyclable. After performing extensive research in this area, I was invited to be the co-lead of Walmart Canada’s PET Subcommittee of the Material Optimization Committee; this looked to increase the diversion rate of PET packaging—bottle and thermoform grade—post consumer. My involvement with stakeholders in PET recovery prompted multiple speaking invitations, allowing Dordan to achieve industry thought leadership status. In investigating issues pertinent to the sustainability of our industry, in this case recycling, Dordan was able to add to the constantly evolving dialogue around sustainability; this not only increased Dordan’s exposure within the industry, but allowed for said exposure to be one of genuine commitment to the sustainability of the thermoforming industry.

I was approached to write an article detailing what sustainable packaging is. According to the SPC, sustainable packaging: meets market criteria for both performance and cost; is sourced, manufactured, transported, and recycled using renewable energy; is manufactured using clean production technologies and best practices; is made from materials healthy in all probable end of life scenarios; is physically designed to optimize materials and energy; and, is effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial closed loop cycles. While this definition is conceptual correct, I argue that it does not reflect the current reality of sustainable packaging: all commodities consume resources and produce waste during production, distribution, and at end of life. Our jobs as packaging professionals, therefore, is to educate ourselves about the trends, terminology, materials and tools available, so we can work towards achieving our definition of sustainable packaging. Only through education, supply chain collaboration and industry initiatives can we begin to develop truly sustainable packaging systems that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.