Heyyyyyyy! I just booked my flights to Orlando to speak at Sustainability in Packaging, Feb. 22nd-24th. Hurray!

AND, drum roll please, DA BEARS! It is going to be an awesome showdown between the Packers and the Bears—I can’t wait!

Sooo today is going to be a longer post, providing feedback from Sustainable Plastics Packaging and the Walmart SVN I attended the second week of December.

Let’s see…I know I summarized most of the SPP conference…where did I leave off…

That’s right: My December 29th post finished with my comments about Brandimage—an industrial designer firm, which developed a silly molded pulp water bottle.

The next presenter was Patty from Klockner Pentaplast—she has always been very nice to me and when I found out she was presenting at the same conference I emailed her saying good luck and explaining how nervous I was. She replied that I should think of the audience as the fathers, brothers, daughters, mothers—real people— they are and how I wouldn’t be nervous presenting in front of my own mother, sister, etc.; therefore, why should I be nervous presenting in front of these people? I thought that was really awesome advice…

ANYWAY, Patty gave a really great presentation insofar as she made an argument for plastic packaging in the context of sustainability. By describing a case study in which her company and its partner worked with a pizza producer to redesign its packaging to be more efficient, Patty illustrated how in switching the fiber-based box for a flexible plastic tray and lid, the shelf life of the pizza itself was greatly extended. Because a TON of our natural resources are consumed in the production of food, it is super duper important to ensure that the package medium used to get the foodstuff from the point of production to consumption is efficient and protects the product from spoilage and other health/quality concerns. PlasticsNews reporter Mike Verespej does a great job tying Patty’s argument that packaging can reduce total system waste i.e. food spoilage, into some of the other points made throughout the conference in this article.

And before I forget, it is important to understand that fiber-based pizza boxes are not usually accepted for recycling due to the high concentration of food contamination; be it plastic or paper, the liklihood that this packaging type is or will be recycled is very, very low, due to the economics of cleaning this material for reprocessing.

AND I loved Patty’s reference to “Frustration Free” packaging. As most of you know, I represent a thermoformer of clamshells, which are often times blamed for igniting RAGE in consumers due to their inability to penetrate the cold, plastic exterior of the package to get to the product itself. I wrote a satirical piece on wrap rage in the perceptive section of PlasticsNews; check it out here, it’s sort of funny.

Anyway, Amazon.com came out with “Frustration Free” packaging, which supposedly is mostly fiber-based and allows consumers to easily remove their products, without falling into the much-feared WRAP RAGE state of confusion. The specific example she gave were for CDs: previously packaged in a plastic clamshell to ensure product protection throughout the shipping supply chain, Amazon now packages CDs in a paper envelope with padding. According to customer accounts, numerous CDs were received broken, which ultimately resulted in more supply chain waste when compared with the plastic clamshell package that resulted in no product rejects. Go figure! I guess it depends what your priorities are: an intact product or a package that allows you to tear into it with your bear claws…

OH, before I forget, Mark of Brandimage did make some really great points about how consumers make decisions. He referenced Harvard academic Zaitman, who spent extensive time researching how consumers react to ads and products, concluding that most consumers’ decisions to buy or not to buy are based on 5% conscious thought and 95% unconscious thought. CRAZY! So much for market research, ha! No, but in all seriousness, I do think there is something to say with how a lot of our decisions are based on emotion instead of logical reasoning. After all, I really don’t think I need a crystal Chicago skyline paperweight, but when I saw it at the checkout counter just staring at me in all its reflectivity and gloss, I couldn’t help myself! So yea, he called this immeasurable reality between conscious and unconscious thought in the context of dictating consumers’ reactions to products, “creative economy.”

OK, next I want to talk about Terry of the Shelton Group. Her company provides LCA software that allows product producers to quantify the environmental profile of their products in the design phase. Like COMPASS, this software allows you to build a product archetype i.e. toaster, and then manipulate different aspects of the product i.e. material and/or electrical components, to see where your environmental “hot spots” are in order to work to elivaite said hot spots in your supply chain. So, if you were sourcing your toasters from aluminum mined in the Far East (I am being vague because I have NO idea how this resource is procured for industry) and found out that the process of aluminum production for your toaster results in the highest concentration of VOC emissions, or something, you could choose to source your aluminum from a recycled aluminum mill domestically located, thereby reducing the total supply chain and overall “carbon footprint” of the product. She also referenced the Storyofstuff.com, which is a cartoony representation of the inefficiencies of most product productions’ supply chain. Check out there most recent cartoon, the Story of Electronics, here.

Terry suggested that from a competitive standpoint, one could use this software to conduct LCAs of a concept vs. a manufactured good vs. your competitor’s good and make an argument depending on the software data output in the context of sustainability.

OH, and for more information on this product LCA software (she did some live demos and it seems AWESOME), visit sustainableminds.com and sign up for their free webinars.

Next I want to summarize Sean of ModusLink’s presentation, as it was the first time I was ever introduced to such a macrocosm view of “sustainability.” For those of you unfamiliar, ModusLink is a company that specializes in taking consumer electronic products from the point of conception i.e. an awesome new invention or product, to the point of production through fulfillment, distribution, and consumption. Because most of their clients are large consumer electronic manufacturers, which is itself an extremely competitive market, ModusLink uses various tools that allow them to take a supply-chain approach and determine the most efficient, and therefore “sustainable” way to move product throughout the supply chain. In order to put the audience in a total supply-chain frame of mind, Sean gave the following example of how manufacturing, assembly, logistics, and environment must all be taken into account when assessing a product’s total supply chain:

Ex1: Overseas manufacturing of product and packaging

Low cost of labor
Low raw material costs
High logistics costs
High green house gas emissions

VS.

Ex2: Domestic manufacturing of product and packaging

High cost of labor
High material costs
Low logistic costs
Low GHG emissions

In a nut shell: there is always a tradeoff; ModusLink will assess the tradeoffs via fancy software and present clients with the most efficient option for supply chain management.

The software cited during Sean’s presentation, which I know so little about, are:
Lllamasoft/Tableau/CAD/ESKO.

And that’s the last presentation of the day I saw! I skipped out and had non-hotel produced food for the first time in days with Sean!

And again, for more feedback on this conference, check out the editorials in PlasticsNews!

AND, to end today’s post, check out this abstract art collection of environmental disaster photographs. My favorite is the “Facial Tissues” image showing the pollution resulting from pulp mills in the production of Kleenex and what not.

Tootles!

I’m famous!

January 12, 2011

HIIIII!

I have some exciting news!!! The interview conducted after my presentation at Sustainable Plastics Packaging is now live on Plastics News’ website!!!

Aside from the awesome freeze-frame mugshot, I think it is quite good! Check it out here.

AND, I am just about finished summarizing the happenings of the Walmart SVN… I will post them tomorrow; I just didn’t want to over-bombard you with goodness!

Have a lovely day!

I heart PlasticsNews!!!

January 6, 2011

Hello 2011!!!

I am back from beautiful Mexico and am happy to report that I have beaten my addiction to Chap Stick; all it took was some fun in the Mexican sun. Hurray!

Dordan started off 2011 with a bang, thanks to the January 3rd print addition of the lovely PlasticsNews.

For starters, lil ole’ me was quoted several times (10 in fact!) in regard to my presentation at Sustainable Plastics Packaging, as reported in Mike Verespej’s “Container Recycling Effort Remains Daunting.” To read the piece in all its glory, click here.

THEN, Dordan was given an entire half-page spread in the special report “Plastics and Packaging,” where reporter Dan Hockensmith summarizes our interview during Pack Expo 2010. They include a picture and everything! It is the most Dordan-centric editorial we have received thus far, so we are thrilled! Click here for the full article.

Thanks PlasticsNews!!!

Next week’s post will provide the second portion of my feedback from Sustainable Plastic Packaging and begin discussing the Walmart SVN that I attended December 14th. Sorry, trying to play catch up!

Greetings!

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas! I know I was working at Dordan this time last year but boy howdy do I feel extra unmotivated this time around! I have even put off blogging—one of my favorite work past times—because I just don’t feel like it. Hopefully I will resume my normal workhorse-ness after the New Year…

In my time-killing attempts this morning, I came across the Pack Expo Report, which is basically a summary of all the happenings of this enormous event. While flipping through its contents, I was delighted to discover that Dordan got a shout out! Check it our here on page 16 and 17. They even include our comparative spec sheet from our Bio Resin Show N Tell! Neato!

I know I promised you all some SPP and Walmart SVN feedback, so here it goes:

Sustainable Plastics Packaging 2010, Crain Communications, December 8th and 9th, Atlanta

I arrived at the hotel that was hosting the conference early so I could work on my presentation and meet with the IT gentleman to make sure everything worked correctly. That night I met with three reporters from Crain, all of whom were very nice! I didn’t know this at the time but Crain Communications houses all these fine publications:

• Advertising Age
• American Coin-Op
• American Drycleaner
• American Laundry News
• Automobilwoche
• Automotive News
• AutoWeek
• Business Insurance
• BtoB
• Crain’s Chicago Business
• Crain’s Cleveland Business
• Crain’s Detroit Business
• Crain’s New York Business
• Creativity
• European Plastics News
• European Rubber Journal
• InvestmentNews
• Media Business
• Modern Healthcare
• Modern Physician
• Pensions & Investments
• Plastics News
• Plastics News China
• Plastics & Rubber Weekly
• Rubber & Plastics News
• Staffing Industry Analysts
• TelevisionWeek
• Tire Business
• Urethanes Technology International
• Waste & Recycling News
• Workforce Management

CRAZY!

Anyway, one of the gentlemen I met with, who was in charge of the conference itself, was one of the founders of PlasticsNews in the early eighties! So let’s just say, these guys know a thing or two about a thing or two as it pertains to plastic and packaging!

After I ran through my presentation and made the necessary tweaks (I got the presentation down from 80 slides to 62, simplified my language, etc.), I was off to bed to prepare for a very busy and thought-provoking day!

The first presentation on the 8th was Suzanne Shelton’s (SHELTON GROUP) “Challenging the Perception that Plastic is Bad.”

What was cool about this presentation, aside from the fact that it drove home the point that people like buying products that are “environmentally friendly” yet don’t really know what that means, was that it showed live footage of consumers talking about packaging. Imagine a round table where a handful of “normal” consumers are asked questions about plastic packaging and the environment and then the fun that is their responses. Good times! What I took away from this presentation is that depending on your product category (dairy, electronics, detergent, etc.), certain sustainability attributes—be it “made with recycled content” or “biodegradable” or “no GMOs”—provoke consumers’ willingness to buy when compared with products that have no environmental marketing claims. What is important to remember, Shelton emphasized, is that preferences for environmental attributes change between product category groups; therefore, when designing new product packaging, marketers should be familiar with what environmental buzz words consumers identify with within their product category.

Next, Aaron Brody of Packaging/Brody Inc. presented on “Packaging Role in the World Food Crisis.” Because I was busy rehearsing my presentation in my mind, I didn’t get all I should have out of this presentation, which I heard was really good! All I really remember is that Brody made an argument that the global production and distribution of food stuff was much more sustainable than locally sourced food stuff… check out the presentation here for more information.

I missed the next several presentations because I went to my room to present again and again and again to make sure I had it down. Nothing like being over prepared!

And then I presented. And it was really fun! And I think the crowd was engaged…at least as engaged as you can be when discussing recycling!

After I presented, the previous two presenters and myself came on stage for a “panel discussion.” And guess what: most if not ALL of the questions were directed at me! I think this means that the content was interesting and thought provoking. I felt as though I was playing professor, which is super awesome, being that I wanted to be one! I was really glad too because no one asked me a question I could not answer…there was a Chinese woman in the crowd who I may have offended in my discussion of shipping the majority of our post consumer plastic to Asia due to the extremely low cost of manual separation compared with the high cost of automated sorting technologies in North America…

AND even more exciting, after my presentation, this gentleman from NURRC approached me and invited me to tour his plant! Apparently NURRC is a joint venture with Coca Cola that recycles ALL PET; bottles AND thermoforms. He said that they have no problem sorting the PET thermoforms from those destined for landfill via their sorting technology and that he would love to host me at their plant. AWESOME. Check out their website here.

WOWZA—in all my procrastinating it’s time for me to go! I will continue this post tomorrow!

Hey!!!

I am writing you from the comfort of my hotel room moments before I have to leave and catch my plane back to sweet home Chicago. BUT I wanted to upload my presentation for you, my packaging and sustainability friends, as I told you I would pending its successful delivery. The conference was jammed packed with all sorts of goodness, which I will obviously discuss on Monday when I return to the office. SO, enjoy!

Recycling Report Presentation

Playing catch up

November 22, 2010

Hello and happy Monday funday!

Boy howdy do we have lots to talk about!

Drum roll please….I FINALLY finished my presentation on my Recycling Report for Sustainable Plastics Packaging 2010 in Atlanta, December 8th and 9th! I had no idea how hard it would be to convert a 10 page report into a half an hour presentation while not boring the audience to death with all the technicalities that is recycling. It sort of reminded me of when I was invited to present my Senior Thesis to a class of freshmen at DePaul—not that the audience of this Conference is comparable to college freshmen—but insofar as there is way too much to explain in the confines of a half an hour. Before I could even begin talking about the state of recycling clamshells in America, I had to set up a foundation for understanding the economics of recycling in general, including the “process” of recycling from collection through reprocessing/remanufacturing. All I know is that I have over 80 slides, which means I have to go through almost 4 slides a minute. I talk fast, but that is super fast…

Here is the structure of my presentation:

Introduction: What is “recyclable,” why, and why we care
Part 1: Explain the economics of recycling packaging in America with reference to abstract concepts
Part 2: Contextualize said concepts by explaining them in tandem with the state of recycling thermoform packaging in America:
Section 1: Supply and Demand Considerations
Section 2: Sortation Considerations
Section 3 Specs and Baling Considerations
Section 4: Contamination Considerations
Part 3: Discuss where we should go from here to work towards recycling thermoforms.
Conclusion: Discuss what progress is being made in recycling thermoforms with reference to NAPCOR

While normally I would post my presentation to my blog for your viewing pleasure, I am going to wait until after my presentation because I think it gives the content a sense of drama! And, who doesn’t like creating drama via anticipation?

That which was also difficult to convey in my presentation was the “why” component: that is, why do we care about recycling in general, and recycling thermoforms in particular? After all, while I am interested in recycling because I am interested in just about anything (ahem, degree in Religious Ethics anyone?), the audience for this conference will be anyone from brand owners to material suppliers; each of which, has different motivations for attending the conference. Therefore, while creating the content for this presentation, I thought it was important to situate recycling within the larger picture i.e. what does this do for me as a packaging professional? Granted I think recycling in and of itself is the “right thing to do” because it conserves our natural resources and therefore should be discussed in an open forum, most “business people” are more concerned about the bottom line than saving the planet. SOOOO this is what I came up with:

We care about recycling packaging because…

• Introduction of Walmart Packaging Scorecard;
• Increase demand for sustainable packaging and products by CPGs/retailers/consumers;
• Increased awareness that a products’/packages’ end of life management is crucial to its “sustainability.”
• Increased demand for PC content in packaging and products by CPGs and retailers.
• Advances in Extended Producer Responsibility.
• And, an increased understanding that our Earth’s resources are finite.

Obviously for each point I expand; hence, the point of a “presentation.”

I then talk about the “green consumer” and reference various market research that shows that if deciding between competing brands/products, consumers are more likely to buy the “green” product than the product not touting any environmental benefit (assuming same price, performance and quality).

Then I move onto a quick discussion of why we care about recycling thermoforms specifically, quoting NAPCOR’s 2009 Report on Post Consumer PET Container Recycling:

The dramatic growth in PET thermoformed packaging has resulted in pressures… for a recycling end-of-life option. Although additional post-consumer RPET supply is arguably the most critical issue facing the industry, a variety of technical issues have prevented existing PET bottle reclaimers from including PET thermoforms in the bottle stream. As a result, the potential value of this growing PET packaging segment is not being successfully realized.

By emphasizing NAPCOR’s opinion that additional PC PET supply is a critical issue facing the industry, I imply that only by adding PET thermoforms into the PET recycling stream, either within the PET bottle stream or a PET thermoform only stream, can said demand be met. In other words: recycling thermoforms will provide additional PC PET material for application in a multitude of end markets, be it bottles, thermoforms, or other.

Are you convinced that recycling is the way to go?!? Perhaps this will persuade you.

I plan to present my presentation to my Dordan colleagues sometime next week to get their feedback…my main concerns is that there is too much content and not enough time to get though it all…more details to come!

Shall we move on to a brief recap of Pack Expo, as I have yet to give you any feedback from this insanely huge event?

Pack Expo 2010 was a roaring success: Dordan had more direct traffic (people looking for Dordan as opposed to just wandering by) than any other year we exhibited past! Our booth looked super great and our Bio Resin Show N Tell and COMPASS tutorials generated a lot of interest among the Show attendees.

Our Bio Resins Show N Tell definitely got the most attention, as Show attendees explained how nice it was to have objective research accompany the latest alternative resins, which Dordan converted via thermoforming for seeing and feeling pleasure. I was happy to hear that like Dordan, the onslaught of environmental marketing claims in the context of bio based/biodegradable/compostable resins was confusing the heck out of packaging professionals, as every study you read contradicts the last study published. After the Show, Dordan was contacted by a ton of Show attendees, who all requested the information displayed alongside our Bio Resin Show N Tell. Due to Dordan’s ethic of corporate transparency, we were thrilled to share our research with the interested parties. Hopefully interest like this will move our industry in the right direction, away from confusing environmental claims and towards a more qualified understanding of packaging and sustainability.

AND, check out this special picture of me and my brother/Dordan Sales Manager Aric at CardPak’s Sustainability Dinner at the Adler Planetarium during Pack Expo:

Good times.

This is sort of random but one of my old college professors, with whom I still speak, was featured on NPR Friday. His interview was really cool, and while on the NPR site, I found a session within the “Environment” heading that dealt specifically with the plastic vs. paper debate.

Check it out here.

That which I found the most interesting, however, was around the 15 minute mark when Jane Bickerstaffe of INCPEN explains how packaging has become the scapegoat for the perceived problems with how humans relate to our natural environment. She explains…

We did some research looking at the average household energy use for everything:

81% of energy is consumed by the products and food we buy, central heating and hot water in homes, and private transport. Packaging, however, accounts for just 3% of our energy expenditures.

She concludes:

People need to get a sense of perceptive…they drive their SUVs to the grocery store and then stand there agonizing over whether to choose paper or plastic; it’s actually a tiny tiny impact.

Right on! Granted the way in which we produce and consume things can always become more “sustainable,” the bag and bottle bans make my head hurt because the concern is so misplaced when you are wearing Gucci shoes manufactured by children in Indonesia. Alright, now I am getting a little melodramatic, but you get the idea, right? And speaking of overseas manufacturing, I just bought this book. My next research project is on the ethics of sourcing product/packaging from China. Exciting!

And how ironic, Dordan CEO says the EXACT same thing in our recently published interview in PlasticsNews.

Hurray for PlasticsNews!

Alright, I got to go: I am on a deadline to research and write a white paper providing evidence that “seeing it sells it” i.e. market research demonstrating that consumers’ identification of the product via transparent packaging results in higher sales. While all the sustainability research in the context of paper vs. plastic I have complied is helpful (see this), Dordan Sales Force tell me again and again that regardless of the environmental profiles of the different packaging materials, packaging buyers want the packaging medium that will sell the product. Period. Time to sales savvy marketing piece to our bag of tricks! Wish me luck!

But I will leave you with this informative article about recycled plastic markets from Recycling Today. Enjoy!

Environmental Task Force

October 4, 2010

Hello and happy Monday Funday!

So, as I am sure you assumed, I have not gotten the green light to share with you the progress that is being made in recycling thermoforms. I’m sorry.

I do have a plan, however, which may be a win-win for all involved. But again, due to the sensitivity of the information and parties concerned, I can’t divulge my plan right now…but know that I am routing for you, my packaging and sustainability community, and I will do my best to get this information to the industries concerned in a timely manner…

Sooooooo the website for the Sustainable Plastics Packaging conference went live last week, which I am speaking at. Check it out: http://www.sustainableplasticspackaging.com/. Be sure to look at the agenda; I’m on it!

Ok, last Wednesday I went to Woodstock High School for the first meeting of the Environmental Task Force. The ETF is a group of administrative-type folk that discuss and implement various sustainability initiatives at the D200 Schools. This year they are having an energy contest where the different D200 schools (elementary, middle and high school) compete to see who can reduce their energy consumption the most, compared with last years’ consumption. The winner gets some kind of cash prize, which can be reinvested in other cool sustainability initiatives, like an organic garden, solar panels, or whatever.

I was invited to participate in this meeting because I had contacted the assistant to the Superintendent at the beginning of the summer to see how I could get involved and he suggested I start by sitting in on the ETF meeting.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me back up.

Last winter I contacted the City of Woodstock to see what types of packaging materials are recycled in Woodstock and by whom as part of my contextual research on recycling thermoforms. During my conversation with a rep from the City, it was articulated that funding for recycling education had been cut, due to the economy. Consequentially, students were not being taught anything about recycling.

Because I had been studying issues pertaining to waste management for several months and believe that the best way to increase recycling rates is through education, I suggested that I could fill the void left from cutting this program’s funding. Subsequently, the City rep put me in contact with the Superintendent of District 200 schools, who then put me in touch with the Assistant Superintendent. I met with Assistant Superintendent in early summer to introduce myself and what I wanted to do and he invited me to the EFT meeting to introduce me to the rest of the group so we could determine where I would fit best.

And that brings us up to last week, at the ETF meeting.

It was fun going to high school again but it was weird to be seen as on par with the administrative folk and not a student. The other participants of the ETF were the administrators of transportation, health, food, building and construction, the principal, and another guest, from SIEMENS Energy Company.

After we discussed the energy contest, I was introduced, as was the SIEMENS rep. I explained that Dordan is a company in Woodstock that wants to become further involved in the community and sees an opportunity in the context of providing free recycling education. I articulated the desire to present to students about the ABCs of recycling and perhaps help the Green Club implement different waste reduction tactics. With all things considered, I think I was well received for my enthusiasm and my ability to articulate myself well; hopefully I will become more involved in this committee and others at the Woodstock high school as the year unfolds.

The gentlemen from SIEMENS had a really cool story to tell because he works with different public schools to implement energy saving measures in exchange for allowing the students that participate in said efforts a shot at working with Northwestern Students in the implementation of their sustainability initiatives. A sort of big brother relationship, if you will, and certainly a resume booster!

The end of the meeting concluded and I emphasized to the group my eagerness to help the school with its sustainability initiatives in what ever way they see fit. I am going to present to the AP Science class about “sustainability as a career” in addition to whatever else the students are interested in a couple weeks. I will be sure to keep you posted!

That’s all for now, my packaging and sustainability friends.

I have been researching like crazy trying to find market research that proves that visual packaging not only adds to the perceived value of the product, but that “seeing it sells it,” which is attainable only through a plastic packaging medium. AND, I am so tired of hearing about the trials and tribulations of wrap rage (the reported frustration of consumers not being able to open clamshell packaging) that I am finding statistics on paper cuts vs. plastic cuts in the context of emergency room visits and in the process, found that more people injure themselves trying to pry apart frozen food then many more commonly-assumed accidents. Go figure!

See you tomorrow!