Today we are going to pick up on the old’ integrating a sustainability management program at Dordan discussion. As those of you who follow my blog know, I have begun investigating how to implement a program for optimizing Dordan’s production efficiency—be it by working towards zero waste to landfill or reducing energy consumption—ever since the SPC’s call for “collective reporting” among its member companies. However, we all know you can’t manage what you can’t measure, which lead me to consider conducting an LCA of Dordan’s thermoforming process; this would allow us to compare our performance to the industry average, establishing a baseline off which progress can be gauged. That assumption directed me to the book “The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to LCA,” an insanely intimidating treatment about life cycle assessment methodology and application. I contacted my friend—a practitioner of LCA—inquiring into the value of performing a blank slate LCA (SimaPro, Gabi) for Dordan’s manufacturing process. Here it was articulated that one should only invest in such an analysis if one believes that their process is more “sustainable” than the industry average and needs to document it for business development goals. Obviously there are many benefits to performing a company-specific LCA from the internal management perspective, but in the context of bottom line performance, such an investment for a medium sized manufacturer like Dordan can only be warranted in the anticipation of transparent data that communicates optimized performance.

“Okkk…but how do I know if Dordan has optimized performance when compared with the industry average, thereby warranting a blank slate LCA,” I asked my friend?

“You perform an inventory analysis” he explained, “in which data is collected pertaining to some key performances metrics, like energy and water consumption as per monthly bills, and compare THAT to the average consumption for your specific industry. This simple assessment can be performed via an Excel spreadsheet and will quickly illustrate how your process compares to the average.”

Cool, I thought to myself. I began the inventory analysis process, during which I was introduced to the Chicago Waste to Profit Network where I was offered a free trial of their transparent data-management tool, Cirrus; this platform allows participating companies to discover “by-product” synergies i.e. one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. By imputing data pertaining to materials going to landfill (and looking for a home) and needed materials, companies are granted insight into “the industrial food chain;” this facilitates the recovery and reuse of a lot of materials otherwise being landfilled.

Dordan announced the goal of zero waste to landfill some time ago, after which I performed a waste audit, segregating the “low hanging fruit” like corrugated for “recycling.” The problem was it cost more for Dordan to “recycle” the corrugated material than landfill it. This discovery quickly killed the mojo of the initiative, which I later revisited after attending The Green Manufacturer Network’s zero waste conference at Burts Bees. This is where I learned about the “milk man” concept; that is, if one company doesn’t generate enough of one type of material destined for landfill to warrant the cost of recycling, companies could collaborate, using one truck to pickup the material from each location, after which, the participating companies split the material rebates.

One more random story and then I will tie all these loose ends together.

Remember some time ago I published “How to Assess Sustainable Packaging: An Overview of the Tools and Resources Available” (click here to download)? This, as the name would imply, describes the differences between a blank slate LCA, a streamlined LCA tool, and a company specific LCA tool. Anyway, this Report, which derived most of its content from a presentation given at Sustainability in Packaging by Dr. Karli Verghese, caught the attention of a representative of EarthShift; this is a soon to be commercialized software, created by the people who brought us PackageSmart. Like PackageSmart, this is a simplified LCA tool that allows manufacturers, like ME, to quantify their environmental footprint without going through the meticulous implementation of a blank slate approach. SWEET. Problem is, its expensive.

Ok, so here I am, wanting to perform an environmental assessment of Dordan’s thermoforming process in order to implement an Environmental Management program (establish baseline off which progress can be measured). The best way to do the former is by conducting a blank-slate LCA, which I don’t know is warranted because I don’t know how Dordan’s production process compares to the industry average as I have yet to complete the suggested “inventory analysis”…and even if it were, I doubt Upper Management would be super thrilled about such a hefty investment. EarthShift is an awesome option, but again expensive, and it only pulls industry data while one builds out their process flow chart in order to provide a streamlined approach…this will provide no competitive angle to Dordan vs. its competitors’ environmental performance; consequently, I would have a hard time “selling” Dordan Upper Management on the initial investment. We now have access to Cirrus, which shows us what materials are available at other facilities, but I don’t have upper management support to work cross-functionally i.e. production & purchasing. Today I input some of the materials Dordan is currently sending to landfill based on the waste audit but quickly discovered that again, our quantities don’t warrant the shipping necessary to cement the by-product synergy. AHHHH what is a Sustainability Coordinator supposed to do????

Solutions are just around the corner; stay tuned!

Hey guys!

Today I am going to pick up where I left off on May 30th’s post, investigating how to assess Dordan’s “carbon footprint” and/or develop operational sustainability initiatives at Dordan. The motivations for this new, internally focused sustainability initiative is multi-faceted: first inspired by the SPC’s call for collective reporting and then catalyzed by conversations with LCA practitioners into the value of performing a company-specific LCA, this inquiry was met today with further support via The Chicago Waste to Profit Network, a program U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Do you remember in mid-May me mentioning a meeting I was to attend at The Plant in Chicago, organized by the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development? It was intended to introduce local manufacturers to The Chicago Waste to Profit Network, which is basically a collaborative space where manufacturing commonalities are communicated, closed-loop relationships built, and savings incurred. Well, I never made it to The Plant as I was recovering from falling ill in Toronto for the SPC meeting. Luckily, the organizers of the Network were available to meet TODAY, using this opportunity to bring me up to speed about the value of the Network.

And if I could diverge, for just a moment, and emphasize how wonderful it is when an opportunity—which you didn’t even know you were looking for—presents itself at such an opportune moment it pushes you forward down a path you didn’t even know you were taking…

In other words, in mid-May when I was invited to The Plant I had not delved as deeply into my inquiry about how to take sustainability at Dordan to the next level as I have as of recent. While the Green Manufacturer’s Zero-Waste-to-Landfill workshop at Burt’s Bees I attended this spring introduced me to some of the resources available to companies looking to work towards zero-waste, I didn’t know how to apply said resources to Dordan’s scale. After all, Dordan doesn’t have the economies of scale that say…Subaru of Indiana has, making it difficult to quantify the price/savings of a zero-waste program. Moreover, when Dordan discovered corrugate was the “low hanging fruit” insofar as material diversion from landfill was concerned via internal waste audits and began collecting for recycling, we could not find anyone to take it off our hands! Consequently, it became Upper Management’s assumption that zero-waste at Dordan may not be an economically sustainable program. If only there was a support system out there that allowed manufactures to discover synergies between their process’s inputs/outputs and those within the same geographical boundary, creating economies of scale and facilitating environmental and economic savings. And enter the Chicago Waste to Profit Network.

Details to come!

Hey guys!

Happy Friday!

I received permission from the representative of Freightliner Custom Chassis who presented at the ZWTL workshop in Durham to post his presentation here! As my last post described, manufacturers like Freightliner have been able to implement financially successful ZWTL programs that create value for the company in the form of material rebates. While I encourage you to review the entire presentation (presentation owner requested I remove PPT from blog), check out the slide below as it best describes the financials of their ZWTL program:

[After posting, the presentation owner requested I remove the financial information from my blog; I apoligize for the inconveniance and will work to recieve approval from their corporate headquarters to re-post ASAP]

So yeah, pretttttty cool. The representative from Freightliner was so cool and so helpful that I intend to pitch the idea of implementing a more aggressive ZWTL program at Dordan to upper management. As the representative from Freightliner articulated, without the support of upper management, it is nearly impossible to achieve ZWTL.

As I continue to research the business incentives of ZWTL programs I wonder what value, aside from that generated via material rebates, is available…

My new friend at Freightliner explained how since aiding his company in achieving ZWTL (and being awarded the cover feature of Green Manufacturer), he has been invited to speak at numerous events, received awards and grants from municipal entities, and was even featured on a Disney Channel commercial! As companies continue to look to new avenues to generate PR and branding, perhaps implementing a ZWTL program—though first and foremost seen as an environmental and economic initiative—may begin to be seen as a viable, and corporate-endorsed, marketing initiative.

The attention I have received since the publication of my Green Manufacturer cover feature continues to produce opportunities not previously available to Dordan. Had we not developed this clamshell recycling initiative—motivated completely by notions of environmental stewardship as opposed to PR—we would have never been considered by Green Manufacturer for their cover story nor would we have enjoyed the positive industry exposure resulting therefrom. So what I am trying to say is for those of you who don’t have the substantial marketing/sustainability budgets that large companies have, as is the case with Dordan, I believe there are creative, out-of-the-box ways to get your name out there by developing altruistic initiatives: everyone likes to do the right thing; why not do so and get free PR in the process?

Okay I will now get off my soapbox. Let us switch gears and quickly recap the tour of Burt’s Bees I participated in while attending the ZWTL workshop in Durham two weeks ago.

Burt’s Bees’ manufacturing facility smells SO GOOD you salivate. When we first entered I was greeted by whiffs of peppermint and pomegranate; a flying bumblebee Burt hangs on the wall, welcoming visitors.

More to come! HA!

Greetings my packaging and sustainability friends! Last week’s zero-waste-to-landfill (hereafter, ZWTL) workshop in Durham, North Carolina was totally awesome! It was so cool to be around fellow American manufacturers, and I have to say, I am completely floored by the industry’s enthusiasm for sustainable manufacturing processes. Perhaps I am biased, but I definitely think the North American manufacturing sector is blazing the way towards sustainability: Maybe this is because we are the ones who have the direct control over the resource inputs and waste outputs inherent in the manufacturing process; therefore, are able to monitor and reduce said consumption and emission habits more easily then those scattered throughout the various supply chains? Regardless of the reasons behind American manufacturers’ desire to become more sustainable—be it cost savings, positive PR, or a genuine commitment to doing “the right thing”—I am delighted by the application of these desires to real world sustainability efforts, like ZWTL.

The first speaker at the workshop was a representative from Heritage Interactive Services, which is “a wholly owned subsidiary of Heritage Environmental Services;” he was the project manager responsible for Subaru of Indiana achieving ZWTL. First off, in all honesty, I didn’t even know that ZWTL was literally possible—I thought it was a sexy goal but one that never came to full fruition insofar as there would always be a small waste stream as certain by-products of manufacturing processes are inherently without value and therefore can’t be resold for reprocessing/reuse without cost to the manufacturer; as such, achieving ZWTL in the truest sense of the word is counter-intuitive to business’s primary goal of increasing shareholder profit (good ole’ Milton Freidman) because it costs money better used towards increasing profit. But boy howdy was I wrong! Not only can manufacturers achieve ZWTL, but they can do so in a way that creates additional value not previously accounted for via rebates. While each company is different and what may work for one may not for another, the main take-away from the workshop was that while a ZWTL program may cost money initially, overtime it pays for itself, and ultimately, begins to create value for the company. Hopefully I will receive approval from Heritage Interactive Services to post the presentation to my blog so you can see how their ZWTL program for Subaru—while costing money initially—ended up creating value for their client.

I was also relieved to discover that other manufacturers had a problem with composting insofar as it is more complicated then throwing a bunch of organic matter in a pile and voila, resource-rich compost! While composting is a good approach to reducing organic waste sent to landfill, it is more tricky then assumed and requires the correct ingredients and conditions. Also, if you intend to use the compost for commercial reasons—be it selling or donating to other companies/organizations—there is a whole bunch of legal hoopla that needs to be considered. The representative from Heritage Interactive Services joked that achieving certification for their compost to be used commercially was more difficult then achieving ZWTL, ha! AND he said that 100% organic “waste” equates to about 8.4% compost, which means that a little compost comes out of a lot of waste, providing insight into why most industrial composters prefer organic matter to inorganic (ahem, “compostable” packaging)…

There were other manufacturers who presented on their journey towards ZWTL– Honda, Freightliner Custom Chassis, Burt’s Bees. All discussed similar approaches to implementing ZWTL programs: conducting waste audit (“if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it”); diverting the “low-hanging fruit” first i.e. the “waste” with the highest rate of generation; separation at the source (“why sort twice?”); warehousing unrecyclables until the quantity necessary for economic sustainment is achieved; rewarding employees for their participation; engaging community partners; being creative about reducing and reusing (Subaru reused their EPS protective packaging seven times!); and, utilizing WTE for the “waste” without a home. Good stuff.

And for your viewing pleasure, a photo of yours truly BEFORE I conducted my first waste audit at Dordan last summer— my enthusiasm quickly dissipated as I sifted through the dumpster in 100 degree weather!

My next post will discuss feedback from the tour of Burt’s Bees, stay tuned!

Hey guys!

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

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

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


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

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



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