Hey guys! My presentation to Woodstock High School science students went swimmingly! The kids were totally great and I was surprised how much fun I had! And, they were SO normal—not what I remember from living the dream in High School, ha!

The teacher had already introduced them to The Story of Stuff so they were familiar with life cycles, providing a nice foundation for discussions of life cycle analysis. Also, the AP class had been researching material health laws (ROHS, CONEG, etc.); this served as a great introduction to extended producer and voluntary responsibility programs. They especially enjoyed my profiling of TerraCycle and Ecovative as two “hip” sustainable start-ups and LOVED Ecovative’s Mushroom Duck! Hopefully I wet their whistle for an appetite of sustainability. But I was totally right—the environment IS seen as “cool” by students: they seemed to completely understand the less than favorable state of environmental affairs we had inherited and the need for more sustainable systems of production and consumption, even at the cost of convenience and altered social behaviors.

The concept I really nailed home—as it is the closest thing to a sustainable philosophy I could articulate— was that there is no waste in nature; everything serves to stimulate another perpetuation of life. This idea was first communicated to me in Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things (the students had heard of this book!!!!)—via the symbol of the cherry tree: its cherries feed birds, the leaves perform photosynthesis feeding the tree, the pits of the cherries grow new trees, the fallen leaves decompose and fertilize the soil, and so on and so on. The authors encourage that we model human systems off those in nature—as nature is the ultimate closed loop system. Pretty neat! While I didn’t get a picture of the kids because we spent the leftover time taking about college and life abroad and the like, I DID snap this prom invite; enjoy!

Today we are going to pick up where we left off re: feedback from Sustainability in Packaging.

The last presentation in the “GPP and Proliferation of Tools” panel was titled “Are all Lifecycle Oriented Tools to Evaluate Packaging Created Equal?” by Tony Kingsbury of the Sustainable Products and Solutions Program at UC Berkeley.

Kingsbury began his presentation explaining how many tools have proliferated to meet the demand for sustainable packaging assessment resources; however, few understand how the resources differ. Consequently, UC Berkeley “tested” several popular packaging assessment tools by comparing the data outputs when comparing “apples-to-apples” within the different softwares; in other words, evaluating multiple product packages from the same category using different tools. Kingsbury postulated, “Are all life cycle tools created equal?”

Wow, I thought to myself. I had never heard of anyone comparing the data outputs of the different softwares when comparing the same packaging systems…I had always understood each tool as providing a different snapshot into the “sustainability” of a package/product/service…this outta be interesting…

The study compared the data outputs of popular packaging assessment tools COMPASS, GaBi, SimaPro, Sustainable Minds, and the Walmart Packaging Scorecard. The product package categories selected were cookies, milk, diapers, and 16 oz. cups; and, the scenarios considered were source reduction, recycled content, and shipping distance.

Check out the screen shots from Kingsbury’s PPT below as these demonstrate the study findings:

As per these findings, different tools treat different materials…differently.

Kingsbury then went on to draw some conclusion from the test findings, insofar as the best way to capitalize on the tools is concerned. For Kingsbury, source reduction is the best way to improve your Score, regardless of the tool used, as weight is such a dominating factor in life cycle analysis. Recycled content is good, as long as it doesn’t add weight. Shipping long distance is “always a poor choice;” and, end of life scenarios differ so distinctively between tools that this should not be a high priority.

Lastly, Kingsbury described some of the inherent inadequacies of LCA tools today, insofar as inaccurate data, data holes, and built-in assumptions and methodologies are concerned.

The final study will be available in a month; I will be sure to include a link when it goes live.

And by the way, that’s what I am talking about in this video interview at Sustainability in Packaging.

Thanks yall! Talk soon!

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.

Hello and happy Friday!

Today we are going to discuss the second part of the Walmart SVN/Expo. For a discussion of the first part, visit April 20th’s post.

After a discussion of Metrics, the SVN Packaging leadership team discussed changes to the Scorecard. Since its introduction to the packaging community, the Scorecard has been used as a tool for information entry, not action facilitation. What this means is that Walmart suppliers have only, for the most part, demonstrated the “completion of Scores,” as opposed to how said Scores inform procurement. Now, however, it is not just Scorecard completion per item file encouraged, but total impact and progress.

The Walmart SVN packaging leadership team intend on orchestrating this by allowing software users to calculate total GHG equivalents emitted per CMUM (“consumer meaningful unit of measure,” i.e pair of socks or 16 oz bottle of water), in order to establish a baseline off which to gauge progress. This will be accomplished by multiplying the selling unit (CMUM) sales by GHG equivalents emitted per item. The progress of Walmart’s goal of reducing GHG emissions across all stores (and clubs?) by 2013, therefore, can be quantified and qualified by performing reports on item level (CMUM) GHG emissions from 2008 vs. 2013; if a 5% reduction is observed, Walmart has reached its GHG reduction goal. The take away? Vendors should demonstrate a change in GHG/CMUM by 2013 when compared with 2008 Scores (assuming they were entered and active).

A representative of the Walmart SVN packaging leadership team then encouraged the following actions by the SVN participants:

Product suppliers: look at item files and make sure all are active and verify Scorecard entry per item; cancel the non-active files. Work to decrease resource and energy use, thereby reducing GHG equivalents emitted per selling unity/CMUM.

Buyers: ensure vendors complete above mentioned tasks; be ready and informed for how to read reports when they come.

Packaging suppliers: understand what is driving buyers (GHG reduction per selling unit/CMUM) and work to aid progress in this area.

Have a splendid weekend!

Hello!

It has been raining in Chicago for almost a week and it is forecast to rain throughout the weekend, too. UGGGG. I hope you are all reading this from much more attractive climates.

I am about a third of the way through “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things,” and boy is it a downer, though an extremely thought-provoking one at that! I know the book is a bit dated (published in 2002), but I find it extremely relevant to today’s “sustainability” discussions. That which I enjoy so much about authors McDonough’s and Braungart’s treatment of how humans interact with their natural environment is the way they contextualize everything—from the way we design cities to packaging—in regards to the Industrial Revolution, capitalism, and the prevailing social systems of the times in which these concepts took root in the social imagination of the masses. They not only intertwine history (the replacement of guilds and craftsmen with the mass migration into cities due to the demand for increased production resulting from a variety of technology innovations), but philosophy, politics, art, religion, etc. into their discussion of how humans have come to understand our natural environmental and our place therein. They basically argue that we need to dramatically redefine the way we design things to replicate those designs found in nature: instead of using the earth’s resources to fuel economies, designs should engage in mutually beneficial relationships with the resources inherent in the specific system in which they exist to create systems of sustainment. Think of the way the sun is a “free” feedstock that is responsible for the sustainment of all life on this planet. Plants consume this resource, which is infinite and results in no negative environmental emissions to the environment, and the circle of life begins…whenever I say the circle of life I instantly think of the Lion King.

Wow, that was quite the tangent! Anyway, I encourage everyone to read this book as it illuminates how a lot of the dialogue today around “packaging and sustainability” sort of misses the boats insofar as everything we have created—the systems of our sustainment—are themselves inherently unsustainable do to the way capitalism informs our understanding of our natural environment. What I am implying is that while baby steps towards sustainability are always encouraged (like switching from one packaging material to another due to lower GHG emissions per selling unit), they are but a drop in the gigantic bucket that is the inefficiencies of our current approach to production, distribution, and consumption. Bummer, right? But again, this is an argument, and as with all arguments, please take with a grain of salt.

I feel like I am in Environment and Society 101.

Today we will discuss the happenings of the Walmart SVN, which I attended in Rogers, Arkansas, on April 11th.

The Packaging SVN is comprised of one representative from each company that is involved directly, or indirectly, with the packaging sold at Walmart/Sam’s Club stores or the systems used to move packaging through the supply chain to distribution. Other attendees include members of trade organizations/academics/and packaging service providers. The SVN convenes twice a year so the Walmart/Sam’s Club packaging professionals can discuss with their Network progress/changes to packaging goals and other areas of interest to the Walmart packaging community. Issued covered previously, as narrated in my post describing the events of the December SVN, include, but are not limited to: Walmart Scorecard, Global Packaging Project, US EPA environmental packaging working group, developments in sustainable packaging, packaging success case studies, etc.

The SVN leadership team began by discussing metrics. For those of you immersed in the sustainable packaging scene, you are probably all too familiar with the “metrics dilemma,” which I understand as follows: Metrics can be understood as a description of a component of a package’s sustainability i.e. GHG emissions per selling unit. For each metric considered, LCI data is needed to quantify the specific environmental packaging attribute in question with hard data, from a life cycle based approach per system of investigation. While the SPC, GPP, Walmart and others have done a fantastic job creating “metrics” describing how to gauge and understand the sustainability of a package, the reality is that regardless of the tool used to quantify said metrics (COMPASS, Scorecard, etc.), not enough LCI/LCA information is available to allow for accurate results. As a revered LCA practitioner said at the SPC meeting in San Diego, “LCA is a COMPASS, not a GPS.” What this means is that because there is not enough data history, existing data, and relevant LCI data per packaging material and/or specific system of production, distribution and end of life, all metrics/LCA tools can do is help point you in the direction of where you should be heading; they are not representative of where you actually are. The Walmart Scorecard, SPC COMPASS, and other LCA-based packaging modeling softwares all use the same publically available data provided via the ACC, US EPA, Eco-Invent, etc.; consequently, these tools don’t have access to all the information needed to holistically represent the “sustainability” of a package/system from an LCA-based approach.

We began the SVN meeting discussing the state of “metrics” as they are available for use in LCA-based packaging modeling tools. LCI data for nine virgin resins and two recycled resins (I believe RHDPE and RPET) have been submitted and approved; LCI data for recycled paper and paperboard has been submitted and I believe may have been approved and/or is pending approval; LCI data for virgin paper and paperboard was submitted but not approved by the US EPA’s WARM model— updated LCI data is expected end of 2012; LCI data for corrugate was submitted but not approved by the US EPA’s WARM model—updated LCI data is expected end of 2012; LCI data for glass has not been submitted; I am blanking on aluminum…

What all this means, that is, the state of the available LCI data as it applies to metrics used to quantify the sustainability of a package/system from an LCA-based approach, is that we are attempting to put science to something that doesn’t really have ALL the science available…yet. By using COMPASS to quantify the environmental profile of different packaging concepts in the design phase, engineers attempt to understand how to design packages that have less of a burden on the environment throughout their life cycle than the existing package; however, if the LCI data for, lets say, virgin paperboard is from 1980 (I may be wrong but I believe that is the most recent LCI data set used), then changes to manufacturing processes implemented thereafter or holes in data resulting from uniformed LCA practice from when the study was performed may provide a hazy picture of the actual “sustainability” of a package. We are on the right track, but until we have accurate, up-to-date and verifiable LCI data for all dimensions of the packaging chain, it is difficult to use the existing packaging modeling softwares to perform accurate LCA case studies of different packages/concepts.

So yeah, the Walmart Packaging leadership team discussed how they are working to incorporate more accurate LCI data into the Scorecard, once that data is available.

Wow, today’s post has been a bit involved. I am going to stop here and let you all digest. And please note that I in no way shape or form pretend to be an expert on LCI/LCA; this discussion is the result of what I have taken away from recent conferences and the Walmart SVN.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walmart SVN, feedback 1:3

January 21, 2011

Hello and happy Friday! I am taking a much-needed break from sketching Dordan’s new website “information architecture,” which is really just a fancy way of saying website organization and navigation. For those of you who are considering launching a new website or redesigning an existing one, I thoroughly recommend the following—I would have had no idea what to do without these sources!

Steve Krug’s Don’t Make me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

Rosenfeld’s and Morville’s Information Architecture for the World Wide Web

As an aside, yesterday I went to The Brat Stop, which is sort of a historical icon on the border of Illinois and Wisconsin in Kenosha. It was AWESOME—I felt like I walked into an 80’s movie! I had the best garlic Bratwurst that I piled sky-high with raw onions! If you are ever in the area, I suggest you make a stop—the fried cheese curds are reason enough!

OH, and while there, I discovered this wonderful piece of art: a 3D sculpture of the Chicago Bear mascot hung with a noose. Those jerks…we will see Sunday; Go BEARS!

OK, so today I’m going to discuss the Walmart Sustainable Value Network meeting I attended in Rogers, Arkansas, December 14th, 2010. For those of you unfamiliar, Walmart hosts bi-annual meetings for its “preferred suppliers,” wherein members are updated on Walmart’s sustainability initiatives. These meetings also serve as a platform where suppliers can asks questions and get answers in real time.

Shall we begin?

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

The first topic introduced at the meeting was the new “Sustainability Leadership” team at Walmart. For various reasons, there had been some dramatic restructuring of the sustainability team. New names were introduced, accompanied by new faces and punctual speeches.

After each new team member had said his/her part, the host began explaining some revisions to the metrics of the Walmart Scorecard.

To begin, the Scorecard was put into its intended context; that is, to assist suppliers in helping Walmart achieve its 20 million metric ton GHG emissions reduction target via overall packaging reductions, among other things. Consider the following statements:

By January 2011, Walmart suppliers should provide companywide emissions reductions through packaging improvements.

By mid 2012, SKU-level reductions in emissions for companies/divisions/and categories should be reported.

The reporting audience is intended to be a compilation of the following: The buyer/supplier/management/SVN/etc.

I do not know what the status of these suggestions are, however.

Next, the host explained that contrary to popular belief, it is not just Scorecard completion that will influence a suppliers’ standing within the system, but the result of how the supplier uses the Scorecards’ data output. In other words, in completing one’s Scores, a supplier is granted access into how to improve said Score; be it through changing materials or the way in which the fulfilled package cubes out, it is only when you complete a Score that you can begin to understand how to improve it.

Next was an explanation of the “cube utilization” metric within the packaging Scorecard; this attempts to quantify how the relationship between the product volume and package AND fulfilled package and transport packaging informs its overall supply chain efficiency and therefore sustainability.

Previously suppliers had been required to provide the cube utilization for the selling unit and transport unit. In other words, you first had to determine the ratio between product and package in the context of volume for the selling unit i.e. fulfilled package, AND the ratio between the packed out product and its transport shipping in the context of volume. In a nut shell: cube utilization tries to see how efficiently the product exists within the package and how efficiently the package exists within the transport packaging.

NOW, in the name of simplicity, suppliers only have to provide information on the selling unit cube utilization, thereby eliminating an entire calculation of transport cube utilization. These are the notes I have from this discussion; hopefully you can make more sense out of them than I can…

Cube utilization:

Selling unit + transport unity–> pallet load efficiency

*Volume of transportation cube utilization

Volume of transport unit/volume of product

Next, the host explained that while previously suppliers had to enter two separate Scores for the merchandise unit and the unit for sale, now they only have to enter one for the unit for sale. In other words, instead of having the supplier treat the same product that is sold in different parts of the same store as two different products by entering two different Scores, now the supplier can report one Score, for both SKUs. After all, the selling unit is the same if it is sold as a unit for sale within its category or as a promotional merchandise unit; therefore, why double the work?

Lastly, it was articulated that Walmart now has devoted an entire team to helping suppliers with the Scorecard, contacted via the retail link of the Scorecard support. Seeing as how the above described changes to the Scorecard metrics are just as impossible to write about as they are to truly understand, I am glad that Walmart has made this investment!

Tune in Monday to learn about updates with Walmart’s Supplier Sustainability Assessment, its latest goals, and its Sustainability Index!

Have a great weekend. And go BEARS!!!

Helllllllooooo all! Guess what: Dordan is now tweeting! I have always been a little slow to jump on the latest and greatest techie endeavor: personally I didn’t join facebook until I was studying abroad and had strep throat and was feeling a little… disconnected. Same goes with Twitter. However, as the marketing manager at Dordan, I have been researching like crazy on how to create and nourish an integrated marketing campaign; and, everything I have read emphasizes the need for a presence in the social networking sphere of our ever-expanding media cosmos. So I began tweeting, and it’s really fun! In the last two days, Dordan has 15 new followers—most of which are green organizations or packaging publications—and its super cool because I can read all about their efforts and they can read all about Dordan’s. Soooo, now that I have jumped on the bandwagon, “Follow us on Twitter”!

Alright, all sorts of exciting stuff at Dordan!

We have begun composting our food and yard waste. Check out our cute compost bins, which are located in the cafeteria and the office, to collect food scraps and other compostable materials, like paper towels.

If you are trying to decide what kind of bin to get to collect food scraps for composting, I would suggest something with a lid, to keep the smell in and allow ease of disposal. Also, it is convenient to have something that locks the bag in place, which again, allows for easier disposal and maintenance.

So far everyone at Dordan is doing a great job segregating out the compostable material (organic matter) from the non-compostable material, like glass, aluminum, and animal products. We had a bit of a hiccup because I thought we could compost everything food related, except meat and bones, which resulted in someone discarding cheese in the bin and boy was it stinky!!! So now the compost bins are accepting no animal products, including dairy, and the office is happy. Hurray!

While we have only been collecting food scraps for composting for a week, we already have a little pile, which I have mixed with yard waste (fall is a great time to start composting!), and am observing daily. Yesterday I stuck my hand into the composter (not the decaying matter) and felt heat, which I think is a good sign. AND, because Dordan has sampled some bio-based and certified “OK to Home Compost” resins, we tossed some scrap into the mix, to see if the material does in fact biodegrade in the marketed time. Check out the photo:

Obviously you can’t see much, but our modest but growing compost pile is under the green bio-based/compostable material. I will be sure to update you with pictures as the material begins to break down. Neat!

Ummmm Pack Expo begins next week; yikes! In preparation for our Bio-Resin Show N Tell, we have collected all pertinent information for the several alternative resins we have sampled this year, and thermoformed the material so attendees can decide for themselves what they think of the latest thermoformable bio-based/compostable resins. And, for your viewing please, check out the photos below:

This material is cellulous acetate, which means that it derives its feedstock from cellulous, as opposed to fossil fuel. It is certified to biodegrade in home compost piles and industrial composting facilities, and is classified as a paper product if sold into a country with EPR legislation on the books.

This stuff is a cornstarch-based product that is, according to the supplier, “renewable, biodegradable, home compostable, and water dispersible.” Because it can break down in water, which is crazy, it actually absorbs water from the air, which makes processing it super tricky, see:

This guy is PHA…I honestly don’t know much about PHA vs. PLA because I have not gone through the research yet. It is marketed as biodegradable in home composts, industrial composting facilities, marine environments, and basically anywhere else, like the side of the road. Crazy! It actually looks kind of cool…

Next we got a starch based resin, which is certified to biodegrade in industrial composting facilities:

Last, a PLA sample, which I don’t have a picture of…but use your imagination.

So ya, I think it will be a pretty cool exhibit because not only are we actually showing the bio resins we have sampled this year, but we are presenting all sorts of crucial information, like what kind of certifications the materials have, what kind of disposal environments the materials are intended for i.e. industrial composting facility vs. marine biodegradation, price points, performance, specs, etc.

Ok, I got to go; Oh, but check out my SupplierHub blog contribution below. I haven’t received approval yet from the blog designer, so I don’t know if this will be THE blog contribution, but it’s what I came up with thus far…

It is a very exciting time for business ethics: the Milton Friedmanian notion that the only responsibility of a corporation is to increase the profit of its shareholders is now being reconstructed; thrown into the mix is a new desire for corporate responsibility—from consumers and CPGs/retailers alike—in both the social, economic, and environmental spheres.

The domestic packaging industry was first introduced to issues of sustainability with the release of the Wal-Mart Scorecard in 2006. For the first time in history, packaging was being assessed not only on aesthetics, quality, efficiency and cost, but “sustainability.” The dialogue around packaging and sustainability continued to evolve and reached new heights with the formation of the Global Packaging Project from the Global CEO Forum and other industry associations in 2008. In the summer 2010, the GPP released 52 metrics for assessing the sustainability of a package within a global dialogue, taking into consideration those packaging metrics found in the Walmart Packaging Scorecard and SPC’s metrics for assessing sustainable packaging, among others.

What the GPP’s metrics make clear is the need for corporate transparency, not only from packaging suppliers, but the whole supply chain, in the context of environmental and social performance. By requiring certain sets of information from your suppliers, Private Brand suppliers to Walmart can enjoy increased ease of reporting, compliance, and performance on the Packaging Scorecard; which consequentially, will facilitate the continued assessment and therefore improvement of the Supply Chain Score.

Things you should require from their packaging suppliers:

Knowledge of Scorecard metrics: Packaging suppliers should demonstrate proficiency with the metrics of the Walmart Scorecard in order to understand how to design and manufacture the most eco-efficient package based on the specific product requirements. Private Brand suppliers should encourage that their packaging providers be well versed with the Software in order to demonstrate reduction in Scores with any new package proposal/redesign.

Documentation validating all environmental claims:

According to the FTC Green Guides, for a package to be labeled “recyclable,” “the majority of consumers/communities” must have access to facilities that recycle that type of package. If a packaging supplier claims their package is “recyclable,” documentation should be provided, like recovery rates for the packaging type via the US EPA’s MSW data.
For a package to be marketed as “reusable,” packaging suppliers should present evidence that said packaging type has a system for post consumer collection and reuse.

For a package to be marketed as “biodegradable,”/”compostable” packaging suppliers should present qualifying information, like in what disposal environment does said packaging type “biodegrade”/”compost” i.e. industrial composting facility, marine environments, etc. Depending on the disposal environment cited, proper certification should be presented i.e. ASTM D6400 for industrial composting.

Understanding of life cycle of package: Packaging suppliers should demonstrate an understanding of the life cycle impacts of their packaging designs and manufacturing processes. Life stages encouraged for consideration include: manufacture, conversion, end of life, and distribution. Tools like the SPC’s comparative packaging modeling software COMPASS allow packaging suppliers to quantify the life cycle impacts of a packaging design; as such, Private Brand suppliers should encourage their packaging suppliers to provide LCA data demonstrating consideration of their packaging’s life cycle.

With all things considered, Private Brand suppliers should encourage their packaging suppliers to be transparent and accountable for all environmental claims made, packaging produced, and distribution channels utilized. Tools like the Walmart Scorecard, COMPASS, knowledge of the FTC Green Guides, and an understanding of contemporary developments in packaging and sustainability should be considered by packaging suppliers in order to make your job as Private Brand suppliers easier in the context of packaging procurement.

Happy Monday Funday! I hope everyone had a nice weekend and one full of relaxation!

As most industry-folk know, the Global Packaging Project released its “A Global Language for Packaging and Sustainability: A framework and a measurement system for our industry” a week ago-ish, which discusses, as the title implies, a global metric for assessing the sustainability of a given package or packaging system. Pack World’s/Greenerpackage.com’s Anne Marie Mohan provides a good summary of the project here with the report(s) available for download: http://www.greenerpackage.com/metrics_standards_and_lca/gpp_releases_global_framework_measurement_system_sustainability.

As Mohan explains, the GPP looks to create a GLOBAL metric for quantifying the “sustainability” of a package/packaging system. While the Walmart Scorecard and the SPC’s Metrics for Sustainable Packaging exist in isolation, this project looks to be the over-arching governance on sustainable packaging metrics, absorbing the work of both the SPC and Walmart. From what I believe, if a new metric wishes to be added to the Walmart Scorecard, it must first be presented to the GPP for consideration and validation.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of “sustainable packaging metrics,” a “metric” can be understood as an “attribute” that a given package or packaging system has in the context of the environment from a life cycle approach. For instance, packaging weight could be a metric taken into consideration when trying to quantify the environmental profile of a given package, as is the case with the SPC’s COMPASS packaging life cycle assessment modeling software and the Walmart Scorecard (packaging weight informs the energy required to transport the product/package throughout the supply chain and consequentially impacts GHG emissions, fossil fuel consumption, etc.)

Unlike the Scorecard and COMPASS, however, this global set of metrics takes into account social and economic indicators, in addition to the environmental ones; in my opinion, this integration makes the GPP’s approach to assessing packaging sustainability a much more holistic and therefore efficient tool than those currently in use.  

Taken together, the GPP proposes 52 metrics that need to be recognized in the discussion around issues pertaining to packaging and sustainability. 52, isn’t that wonderful!!!

And here are some of my favorites:

Environmental—chain of custody: This questions if the production/cultivation of the feedstock (cellulous vs. fossil fuel) is done so “sustainably.” Think Forest Stewardship Council…AWSOME!

Environmental—water used from stressed sources: This metric questions where the water comes from that facilitates the production/cultivation of the packaging feedstock. Check out the Global Water Tool, based on several independent sources, which provides a global water scarcity mapping function for the identification of production activities occurring in stressed or scarce watersheds:

http://www.wbcsd.org/templates/TemplateWBCSD5/layout.asp?type=p&MenuId=MTUxNQ&doOpen=1&ClickMenu=LeftMenu=LeftMenu

There’s this, too:

http://www.ifu.ethz.ch/staff/stpfiste/index_EN

Economic—packaged product wastage: this metric questions the value of packaged product lost due to packaging failure. I like this one because it is so simple; it reaffirms the number one function of packaging, which is, to protect the product. In a time when “smaller product to package ratio”, “material reduction” and “downgauging” has become, for the most part, our industries’ approach to “sustainability,” it is nice to be reminded of the necessity for excess…

Social—community investment: This metric questions the role a corporation plays in its community. Because Corporate Social Responsibility reports are so in vogue, it’s nice to see that such efforts will be quantified with this assessment, hopefully influencing purchasing decisions.

For the other 49 metrics, check out the report here:

http://globalpackaging.mycgforum.com/allfiles/TCGF_Packaging_Sustainability_Indicators__Metrics_Framework_1.0.pdf

Ok folks, that’s all I got for today. I am researching how to perform a waste audit so we can determine what type of composter would be the most appropriate for Dordan’s food and yard waste generation. Details to come!

Holly Toledo!

May 21, 2010

Happy Friday!

So I have been working on a presentation on everything sustainability for one of Dordan’s customers. Sustainability and Packaging 101, per se.

Anywoo, it took me two days and 190 slides to finish, but I am FINALLY DONE!

It’s jam packed with good stuff–basically a summary of all my work to date–so check it out!

Sustainability and Packaging Presentation, Blog

Enjoy the heat-wave this weekend, my fellow Chicagoians!

Also, please do not reproduce or distribute without my written consent. Thanks!

Happy Monday Funday! I hope the weather is as beautiful for you as it is for me—sunny and 70, what more can a girl ask for?

 SO where were we…that’s right, recapping the SPC spring meeting.

Oh, before I forget, there was one more thing I wanted to tell you about the Walmart Expo.

Prior to the Expo, in preparation for the Walmart SVN meeting (Sustainable Value Network), we were asked to do a little homework: this entailed going to a local Walmart and finding a package that needed a “sustainability makeover.” We were supposed to fill out a “packaging opportunities template,” which basically inquired into how one would redesign the package to increase its environmental profile while saving costs. This is what our team came up with:

PackagingOpportunitiesTemplate, FINAL

We decided to pick on a thermoformed package because we are thermoformers, although this one looks as though it was manufactured overseas, due to the perimeter sealing. Therefore, it’s not like we would be able to steal the business…I wonder what the sustainability profile is of an overseas manufacturer versus a domestic supplier…Ha!

Anywhoozy, it turns out that during the SVN meeting several of these “packaging opportunities” were to be presented to the entire conference—and guess what—I was one of the lucky four selected to present.

Basically I suggested that the package be right-sized and thermoformed out of RPET instead of PVC. The panel then inquired into how I would convey the same marketing presence with a reduced package AND prevent against pilferage. I was stumped. Perhaps include a recyclable paperboard backing, I offered? That totally stunk, however, because it suggested that paperboard is more “sustainable” than plastic, which I would not argue having performed extensive research on the topic. AND, according to the recent E.P.A. reports, the paperboard used in clamshell alternatives (labeled “other paperboard packaging” in the MSW report) HAS NO RECOVERY DATA—literally it is listed as neg., which means negligent. I wish I had known this during my presentation as it would have served our industry well. Rats!

Visit http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/msw2008data.pdf to see the break down of what is recycled and what is not in the paper world.

I guess my obsession with the recycle-ability of paperboard versus thermoforms can be summed up as follows:

I am at the Walmart Expo, working the booth. A prospect comes by, with whom I have had casual conversation in the past. Having seen his product at a competitor’s booth, I hassle him saying, “I saw your thermoformed trays at our competitor’s booth…and here you have been blowing me off all year…not very nice!” And he responds with, “we are getting out of thermoformed trays because they are not recycled.”

UG! What do you say to that? Prior to knowing that paperboard, which would be the alternative used for his packaging application, has no data for recovery post-consumer according to the E.P.A., I assumed that it was the more sustainable material because of its end-of-life recovery. But now that I know that in most cases, both thermoformed trays AND paperboard trays end up in landfills, I should have articulated a better argument for why thermoformed trays are still a wonderful packaging option.

It’s like when you have some kind of social confrontation and find yourself tongue-tied only to later come up with the best “come-back” ever! That’s what this was like; I needed a good come back, both for the “packaging opportunities” presentation and the fellow who thinks paperboard is better due to its end of life recovery. Next time…

A couple other points about the Walmart Expo:

As discussed in a previous post, the Walmart Scorecard has a “transport module,” which takes into account the inputs/outputs of shipping a package from the point of conversion/manufacture to the point of fulfillment. Supposedly the filled packages’ journey to the point of purchase is covered in another metric…

Anyway, I asked if the scorecard takes into account/intends to take into account the environmental ramifications of overseas manufacturers versus domestic manufactures. After all, long before my appointment at Dordan, we lost business to China because of the super duper low prices of labor and therefore commodities. And considering all this sustainability jazz, one would think that sourcing domestically would have some kind of impact on ones Score (think shipping, environmental regulations, labor regulations, etc. in China versus the States)…unfortunately, that is not the case. According to a member of the SVN, Walmart considered having a “point of origin” metric but determined that it was unquantifiable and would not resonate with their suppliers. Go figure!

A SVN member then articulated the following inquiry, which tickled me pink: Is the Scorecard going to take into account the inks, laminates, and sealants used on paperboard packaging? The member who voiced this inquiry qualified this question with some data, specifically, that even the tiny amounts of hazardous material in these various substances can have a high toxicity on the social and environmental environments.

This inquiry was answered as follows: Again, they considered adding this metric into the Scorecard but did not because they didn’t believe that these factors had a large enough effect on the overall “environmental profile” of a package. Supposedly, if we prove otherwise, they will consider adding this metric into the scorecard…

Lastly, Walmart is rolling out their Scorecard to other countries. I asked if each Scorecard used different recovery rates depending on the country it was being utilized for. In other words, Canada has a better recovery rate for most packaging materials that the U.S.; therefore, is their Scorecard going to use Canadian recovery data or American? According to the SVN, each Scorecard will be country specific, using recovery data from the country considered.

Wow, another marathon of an email. I’m sorry to keep rambling, I just have so many thoughts! I will continue tomorrow with the SPC recap and quickly move into resuming my clamshell recycling initiative.

Go packaging!