Welcome to Dordan's blog

REGISTER: The McHenry County Economic Development Corp's Business Breakfast Series

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Aug 28, 2015 1:36:00 PM

Hello and happy Friday!

Attention McHenry County business community: Register to attend the McHenry County Economic Development Corporation's Business Breakfast Series, featuring speaker Patricia Miller, CEO of Woodstock injection molder Matrix IV. The breakfast is taking place September 15th at the Crystal Lake Country Club. I was fortunate enough to meet Patricia last winter after reading her story in Plastics News; she is definitely a woman in business I admire and is sure to give an insightful presentation.

And I'll be there, too!

For some background, Dordan was selected as the MCEDC's Business Champion in 2011. Here is an article from the Northwest Herald on Dordan, which was published shortly thereafter. I remember 2011 well; it's when I decided to go blonde, a terrible, terrible mistake for any natural brunette.

Here's a photo from the night of the award reception; and there's my brother and Dordan Sales Manager Aric Slavin (center) looking like a boss!

Hope to see you at the MCEDC Business Breakfast Series September 15th!


New Packaging Digest Article Preview: Bioplastics for thermoformed packaging, where are they now?!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Aug 24, 2015 3:04:00 PM

Hey guys!

When I became Dordan's Sustainability Coordinator in 2009 we created our Annual Bio Resin Show N Tell, a profile of the available bioplastics for thermoforming with comparative performance and price analysis; we'd showcase this exhibit at Pack Expo, which included thermoformed samples of each profiled bioplastic. What started with just a few bioplastics in 2009 grew to a Show N Tell of over 9 materials by 2013. It was fun testing all the exotic materials coming onto the market for inclusion in our Annual Bio Resin Show N Tell and we were happy to educate packaging professionals on the applications and draw backs of this new class of "green plastics." 

The two years that followed I lost touch with innovations in bioplastics, making no additions to Dordan's Annual Bio Resin Show N Tell. The exhibit became tired, no longer a point of interest for our clients and prospects as we witnessed a stronger demand for recycled, rather than biodegradable or bio based, thermoformed packaging solutions. This was largely because, as our Show N Tell demonstrated, the application was limited for bioplastics in thermoformed packaging for retail due to performance and cost issues: When we sampled PLA in 2010, for instance, the material was too brittle to pass shipping drop tests and had to be transported in refrigerated trucks due to the low heat deflection temperature; this was clearly not ideal for most retail packaging applications and therefore not appropriate to most of Dordan's clients. Different versions of the same story repeated itself with each material profiled in our Show N Tell, unfortunately, and we shifted our attention on sustainable packaging solutions from bioplastics to PET thermoform container recycling.

And then I saw a presentation from Dr. Molly Morse at SUSTPACK15 in Orlando; she is the CEO of methane-based PHA supplier Mango Materials. She and a team of researchers from Stanford discovered that it is "biologically favorable" to convert methane to PHA rather than sugar, which makes for a much more efficient process and therefore cheaper PHA bioplastic material!!! Read my Q&A with Dr. Morse here.

My interest in bioplastics became reinspired hearing Mango Materials' story, and I wondered what other innovations in bioplastics had transcended since my withdrawal from this space.

I pitched the idea of a "Bioplastics, where are they now?!" E! True Hollywood type story (I'm kidding/not really kidding) to the Editor at Packaging Digest Magazine and she liked it! So my next article for Packaging Digest Magazine is on developments in bioplastics for thermoforming; a review of the last 5 years of bioplastics' performance in the thermoformed packaging market.

I have been interviewing the material suppliers profiled in Dordan's Bio Resin Show N Tell on what is going on with their respective bioplastic and green plastic offerings, in their companies, and in the thermoform and larger packaging market segments; and, my MIND IS BEING BLOW.


Some materials are no longer available, some companies no longer exist, some companies have completely restructured their market focus or approach, and some have fundamentally innovated; but, they all have a story to tell.

Hear from Natureworks, ALGIX, Mango Materials, Metabolix, Solegear, OCTAL, LOLIWARE and more on innovations in bioplastics and "green plastics" for thermoforming in my next article for Packaging Digest, coming September.

From the Archives: 1989 Packaging Digest Case Study on Dordan and Bosch

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Aug 12, 2015 9:29:00 AM

Hey guys!

As many of you know, Dordan is a 53 year-old family owned and operated custom thermoformer of packaging and components. My Dad has been the active CEO since 1974 ish, and our current VP and General Manager have worked at Dordan practically since then. Our corporate culture reflects this longevity and loyalty, and we are proud of it. This pride has motivated us to collect all the press and worthy memorabilia about Dordan over the years, which we keep safely tucked away in our archives. I was going through these archives last week and found this awesome, may I say vintage, Packaging Digest case study from 1989 describing how Dordan and Bosch collaborated on this "thermabook"; I can't believe Dordan has been providing innovative thermoformed packaging solutions since before I was BORN. Anyway, I thought it was so cool I wanted to share with you all. Forgive the weird resolution; it is a screen shot of a scan of an old magazine article. You may have to zoom in to read the text or you can download the pdf here.

For a more recent package design case study from Dordan, check out our retail clamshell case study!










New content coming soon! PET recycling in Europe, Bioplastics, and Benefit Corporations

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Aug 7, 2015 8:53:00 AM

Hello my long lost packaging and sustainability friends!

Pardon my absence! But fear not! New content is coming VERY soon.

In early July I received an inquiry from one of our customers over the recyclability of PET thermoformed trays in Europe; are they, or are they not, recyclable?

I honestly had no idea! I know near and dear the state of recyclability of PET thermoformed containers in North America (hurray!), but insofar as in other countries, I had close to nothing.

So I reached out to my network: My next post to discuss the state of postconsumer PET thermoform packaging recycling in Europe as per the good people at Reclay Stewardedge, RECOUP, and PETCORE Europe.

Fast-forward to my interview with Dr. Molly Morse, CEO of Mango Materials, on methane based bioplastic PHA. She is AWESOME and actually speaks faster than I type; I had to keep telling her to slow down during our phone call! Her enthusiasm for what she does is palpable; it was so cool learning her story. ANYWAY, speaking with Molly made me realize how confusing the topic of "bioplastics" is, and I am somewhat well versed on the available bioplastic materials for thermoforming. What is the difference between PLA and PHA? What is the difference between biobased materials and biodegradable materials? Are all bioplastics biodegradable? What are the larger implications for bioplastics on global food supply and carbon cycles? The list of questions goes on and on.

And light bulb! I pitched the idea for an article on "bioplastics, exposed" to Lisa Pierce at Packaging Digest Magazine and she loved it! So, look out for my next article for Packaging Digest Magazine on bioplastics for thermoforming (and a lot of other cool stuff) in early September.

Last but not least, at the Sustainable Manufacturer Conference in May I watched a presentation from Saskia van Gendt, Captain Planet at Method's new plant in the historic Pullman District on the Southside of Chicago. Check out this article about Method's green soap box, and here is a recent article about their 100% postconsumer recycled PET detergent bottles. Needless to say, they are kinda the cool cats of the "green" cleaning products space, and Saskia's presentation only reinforced this reputation. And it was during her presentation that I first learned of the concept of a Benefit Corporation; that is, a type of for profit company that includes positive social and environmental impact in addition to profit as it's legally defined goals. In other words, B Corps don't operate under the Milton Friedman notion that the only social responsibility of a company is to increase profit for the shareholders, but instead, encourages doing socially and environmentally responsible business while making profit. And I think that is radical. So I am actually interviewing Saskia today about Method's status as a Benefit Corporation to learn everything I can about this new business method; blog post on B Corps. to come!


Q&A with Dr. Molly Morse of Mango Materials on methane based bioplastic

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jul 14, 2015 3:15:00 PM

Hey guys!

I hope everyone had an awesome 4th of July weekend. 

At SUSTPACK15 in Orlando this Spring I watched a presentation from Dr. Molly Morse, CEO & Co-Founder of Mango Materials, a producer of methane-based PHA plastic. 

Having researched the available bio-based/biodegradable/compostable plastics on the market since becoming Dordan's Sustainability Coordinator in 2009, I was interested in this development in PHA production. Dordan had sampled PHA supplied by Mirel Bioplastics a couple of years ago, including it in our bio resin show N Tell, but never produced PHA thermoform packaging because the material was too expensive. PHA is interesting because it can biodegrade in any end of life environment, be it home compost piles, waterways, etc. This contrasts with PLA, which is made from polylactic acid, because it can only biodegrade in an industrial composting facility. 

After briefly meeting Molly I wanted to learn more. What follows is our Q&A:

Q: Molly, can you tell me a bit about yourself and your history with Mango Materials?

A: I am a PhD graduate of Stanford University previously focused on environmentally friendly construction materials; materials and products that have a temporary use but can biodegrade at end of life, like disaster housing. The term here is "biocomposites," which is when you have a natural fiber and some kind of matrix material holding the natural fibers together. This interest in biocomposites led me to become interested in PHA as a potential matrix material because it can biodegrade in lots of environments. This was about 10 years ago when I was a Graduate student and PHA was historically expensive and hard to find as it was made using Ecoli and feeding them sugar. Instead of feeding the bacteria sugar, we wondered, could we feed them methane? This was the Ah Ha! moment for us.

Methane (CH4) --> PHA is organically favorable to sugar --> PHA; the process is quicker in that it is direct. It is what the bacteria want to do. With sugar you have to break down the chain and rebuild using energy. In our process we just build, which is obviously energy favorable. By changing the feedstock from sugar to methane it significantly drops the cost of production. 

Q: Can you clarify the difference between PLA and PHA?

PHA is naturally occurring (bacteria naturally produce it), while PLA is synthetic. 

Q: If PLA is "synthetic," why is it called a "bioplastic?"

A: Something is considered a bioplastic if the carbon is derived from a "rapidly renewable" resource (like sugar, corn, starch), as opposed to ancient fossil fuel carbon. This does not guarantee biodegradability, however. The PlantBottle is an example of a bioplastic that is not biodegradable. The carbon that make up the PET polymer of the PlantBottle are from sugar, not fossil fuel, and the PET "chain" is chemically and stucturally identical to fossil fuel based PET; and as such, it can't biodegrade. PLA is made from sugar/starch that will break down in an industrial managed composting facility. So you can use fossil carbon to make biodegradable plastics and "rapidly renewable" carbon to make non-biodegradable bioplastic. These are both called bioplastics. 

PHA on the other hand will biodegrade with enzymes found in the environment; it is "bacteria fat" and will break down in the ocean; you can eat PHA. 

Q: How does PLA compare to PHA in the context of packaging applications?

A: PLA has a lower melt point than PHA. Heat makes it degrade. That means that PLA plastic cups at a picnic can begin to melt if exposed to too much heat; I believe this has been drastically improved by Natureworks, however. PHA by comparison doesn't have this problem; a PHA straw won't turn into spaghetti in your coffee cup. 

Q: How would methane gas from landfills be captured for conversion to PHA?

We partner with a methane producer. Right now we are focused on the methane from water treatment plants; this is a common source of methane. But we are interested to partner with any methane producer: landfills, agricultural facilities, extinct coalmines, natural gas, etc.

All methane sources are a little different. While we can use any form of methane (landfill methane vs. water treatment methane), what we really need is the methane component of the gas (CH4). 

The methane gas is already in pipes from the water treatment plants, which we pipe directly into our fermentation system. There are bacteria inside the fermentation system that have been selected specially because they naturally eat methane to grow. They eat the methane and inside the cell walls they produce PHA biopolymer. This process is naturally occurring like how humans eat food and store it as fat. 

Q: How do you get the PHA out from inside the bacteria cell walls?

We are working on separation techniques, and have been for 4 years. It's a big deal how you separate out the cell from the PHA; ours is a trade secret. 

The PHA comes out essentially as a powder, which we extrude and pelletize. It is white. 

Q: What is the waste product from this process?

Heat is the biggest waste from the bacteria we use to make PHA. This can obviously be repurposed to power some onsite manufacturer. The other main waste is the biomass content; that is, what is left over after you separate the cell mass from PHA. We see this as a potential liability in our economic model. 

Q: What is the ratio of cell bio mass waste to PHA?

About 30-40% by weight of starting cell mass becomes PHA. 

Q: Can you tell me more about Mango Materials' relationship with Stanford?

This technology was developed by a whole team of people working and studying at Stanford over about 10 years. Mango Materials has licensed this technology from Stanford; we have the exclusive rights to commercialize this technology. After I got my PhD I consulted and ended up going back to Stanford and licensing the technology. We incorporated in 2010 and we received our first grant in 2011. After the Ah Ha! moment I looked exclusively at PHA and did my PhD on how PHA breaks down. 

Q: What is the market for this material? 

We produce pellets that others convert into something like extruded sheet for thermoforming. What we are really interested in are applications where there is no good end of life option for the material, where it can't be recycled. Agricultural sheets, for instance, or any product that ends up in marine environments like crab traps, or fishing nets. We are targeting markets where the end of life isn't recycling. 

Q: What is the timeline for commercialization?

We are excited about our first application, which is micro beads that are found in face washes and historically made from plastic. These micro beads enter the waterways and don't breakdown. We are very close to commercializing this. 

Q: Do you see application with packaging?

Yes, but it depends on the funding. Currently we are a single track focused on micro beads vs. double tracking on packaging and micro beads. We intend to produce films, however, and provide to converters for trial runs. The packaging we would be focused on would be food packaging that is contaminated by food waste and therefore unable to be recycled but can piggy back on the industrial composting supply chain. 

Q: Have you conducted a formal LCA of your PHA from cradle to gate?

We have conducted internal LCAs but nothing published for review. Ours show that our PHA is carbon negative. 

To learn more about Mango Materials, visit


Pictured: Dr. Molly Morse

Leading Ladies of Packaging Recognition

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jun 29, 2015 3:39:24 PM

Hey guys!

I have some VERY exciting news: Lisa Pierce, Executive Editor of Packaging Digest Magazine, nominated ME for the leading ladies of packaging recognition. The article came out last week and I am just writing about it now because I was just so... stunned, at the nomination and the kind words of her profile, that I didn't know how to speak about it until I marinated for a bit.

Lisa writes,

The secret to getting ahead is…giving away. When Chandler Slavin offered to help me cover (for free!) the SustPack 2015 conference—which Packaging Digest sponsors in partnership with Smithers Pira and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition—she made it obvious how we would both benefit. She would get to network with peers in her field and Packaging Digest would gain critical insights about key issues in sustainable packaging through her articles and tweets.

I nominate Chandler for our Leading Ladies of Packaging recognition for her initiative, enthusiasm and untapped potential for leadership in both thought and action.

Click here to keep reading.

Whoa. " initiative, enthusiasm, and untapped potential for leadership in both thought and action?!" Dayum! Yes I have taken a week to respond to this honor and my response is "dayum."

I am so totally delighted by this recognition; it inspires me to work harder and continue to put myself out there. While I have gotten slapped on the wrist for things I've written, I would rather push the envelope and provoke engagement than not have a voice. I think in our age of hyper communication, being present and owning your voice is an intangible power that we all should exercise to do good work. The Internet democratized the flow of information and I am grateful to have been one of the many beneficiaries. What began with a 22 year-old's blog on recycling has progressed into being a contributing writing for Packaging Digest Magazine, an opportunity I cherish.

Thank you Lisa and Packaging Digest for your creativity and enthusiasm for progress and change. And congratulations to the other amazing women recognized as leading ladies of packaging.



Interview with Co-Founder & Co-CEO of edible packaging company LOLIWARE

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jun 18, 2015 10:11:00 AM

Hey guys!

My video interview with Chelsea Brigantil, co-Founder & co-CEO of biodegr[edible] packaging company LOLIWARE from SUSTPACK15, is now live! Check it out!

Click here to read the Packaging Digest article.

Miss the Sustainable Manufacturer Conference???

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jun 15, 2015 10:57:00 AM

Hey guys!

The Sustainable Manufacturer Conference was a hoot! If you want a copy of either of my presentations, follow the links below.

Walmart's Made in USA Sourcing Initiative and the Implications for Sustainable Supply Chains

How Clamshells became Recyclable and Recycled

Editor Kate Bachman summarized the takeaways from the Conference best in "Powerful Convergence of Sustainable Manufacturers Destined to Power Change." She writes,

Sustainable manufacturers are a powerful force, and therefore, are in a powerful position to affect change. Eco-responsible manufacturers feel the weight of their actions, know their own strengths, and are keenly aware that real sustainability materializes on the plant floor.

On May 18-19 in Naperville (Chicago), Ill., a diverse group of manufacturers came together to supercharge that power. They are food ingredients processors, furniture makers, personal care products manufacturers, metals industrialists, packaging makers, ecofriendly cleaners and chemicals formulators, appliance makers, structural products manufacturers, and many others. They shared ideas, swapped success stories, networked, and co-strategized about how to put sustainability to work in plants and operations.

If you missed it, here is a glimpse of what you would have heard.


Interview with Jason Foster, Founder & Chief Reuser at Replenish

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jun 4, 2015 1:51:00 PM

Hey guys!

My video interview with Jason Foster, Founder & Chief Reuser at Replenish is finally live on Packaging Digest's website!

Check it out here and follow this link for the full article.

How clamshells became recyclable and recycled

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 28, 2015 8:20:00 AM

Hey guys!

Here is my presentation on how clamshells became recyclable and recycled that I gave at the Sustainable Manufacturer Conference last week. Below are the notes, for your convenience.

Slide 1:

Hello! My name is Chandler Slavin and I am here to talk about how plastic clamshells became recyclable postconsumer in 5 years.

Slide 2:

What is The sustainable manufacturer? A 100% zero-waste-to-landfill facility? A company that consumes only renewable resources?

Slide 3:

How about a firm that isn’t dictated by the axiom that the only responsibility a business has is to reward its shareholders, but perhaps, motivated to do well by its customers and the planet?

Slide 4:

As we have heard countless times today, there is no silver bullet when it comes to sustainability; what works for one may not work for another. Success is dependent on context. But I believe if you just try to do something, that something could turn into an authentic silver bullet.

Slide 5:

When I joined my family package design and manufacturing company Dordan in 2009, freshly graduated from DePaul University, I was given the title, “Sustainability Coordinator.” This position was created in response to the Walmart Scorecard, which I discussed in my earlier presentation on Walmart & Sustainable Supply Chains.

What does that mean… I thought to myself, I coordinate sustainability?

Slide 6:

I was at my first sustainable packaging conference when I learned that the clamshell and blister packaging my family manufactures is not recycled post-consumer and therefore not considered “recyclable.” What?! How is it that all the high quality plastic packaging coming off our production lines is destined for landfill?

Slide 7:

This simple inquiry became the something that became my silver bullet.

For the last 5 years, I have worked to make plastic clamshell packaging recyclable and recycled. And in 5 years, these containers went from being landfilled in 2010, to collected for recycling in 2013, to actually recycled in 2015.

Slide 8:


Slide 9:

This afternoon I am going to tell you the story of how PET clamshell packaging became recyclable and recycled. I hope, if anything, my narrative demonstrates how paradoxically simple and hard sustainability is, encouraging you all to start something; anything is better than nothing.

Slide 10:

Rewind to 2009 and I am sitting front and center at a conference, watching a presentation from the President of Environmental Packaging International, a compliancy consulting firm that specializes in extended producer responsibility; that is, the idea that producers are responsible for funding the recovery of their products at end of life. He showed a slide of what types of packaging is recyclable, where I learned that in order for a package to be considered recyclable, it has to be collected for recycling in the majority of American communities.

Slide 11:

While PET plastic water bottles are “recyclable,” PET plastic clamshells are not.

I returned to the office completely perplexed: If Dordan manufacturers plastic PET clamshells out of curb side collected PET plastic water bottles, why can’t we recycle them together?

Slide 12:

I began a blog that narrated my efforts to understand why plastic clamshells were not recyclable and what I could do to change that. Titled “Recycling in America,” it includes all my emails with Waste Management, the Integrated Board of Solid Waste Management, the US EPA, the Society of Plastics Industry, and pretty much everyone in between who had some type of knowledge on recycling.

After several months of learning about plastics recycling, we were advised to send our PET clamshells to our local recycler to see if the Near-Infrared automated sorting system would sort our containers with the PET bottles. Near Infrared is the plastics industries preferred sorting technology because it can accurately identify the polymer in use by the hue or light given off as it moves through the NIR. This allows PET plastic bottles, for instance, to be sorted from other types of plastics, which are contaminants to recycling.

A week later I got a call from the recycler: he had tested our clamshells; they were sorted with PET bottles. Hurray! This means that PET clamshells could be sorted with PET bottles via NIR Systems. This means that plastic clamshells are not not recycled because issues with automated sortation.

Slide 13:

A couple days later I got a call from the Sustainable Packaging Manager at Walmart Canada. She had found my blog while researching clamshell container recycling and wanted me to join a working group on PET recycling. Canada has extended producer responsibility legislation on the books, which means that packaging “producers” are left with the bill of waste management, a tax usually bestowed upon tax payers. It is therefore in Walmart Canada’s interest to invest in the recovery of the packaging it puts on shelf so as to reduce the “fee” associated with hard to recycle packaging. So I complied all of the independent research I had done the last 6 months and went to Canada. And it was awesome. I got to work with PET stakeholders up and down the supply chain on identifying the barriers to PET clamshell recycling. I learned a lot.

I returned home and wrote a report on clamshell recycling and titled it, “The Truth about Blister & Clamshell Recycling in America with Suggestions for the Industry.” Therein I laid out what I believed to be the obstacles to clamshell recycling and steps the industry could take to overcome these obstacles.

Slide 14:

Packaging that is easy to collect, transport, sort, clean, bale and resell/remanufacture enjoys the likelihood of being recycled because the cost of recycling is offset by the value of the recyclate. Styrofoam is not recycled, for example, because it costs too much to ship what is essentially comprised of 98% air and 2% resin. Curb side collection isn’t usually offered in rural communities, as the cost of door-to-door collection too expensive; these communities generally rely on drop off locations for recyclables, consolidating the source of collection to allow for more appealing logistics.

There also has to be “enough” of a certain packaging/material type generated in the waste stream to justify the collection and recycling of it. That is why PET bottles are popular for recycling— because so many bottles of like material and design are manufactured each year and available for recycling.

Slide 15:

To make the case for recycling PET clamshells with PET bottles, we have to understand the supply and demand realities for virgin and recycled PET.

NAPCOR, the PET industry’s trade group, says the capacity for PET recycling outweighs the supply, 3:1. This means that there are not enough PET bottles being collected post-consumer to meet the demand of the recyclers.

NAPCOR’s 2011 report reads, “The US now has capacity to process more PC PET packaging than the amount collected. That means that in 2012, even if no PET bales are exported these reclamation assets will be short of material. Investments in these assets are substantial and arguably the most sophisticated in the world…without reclamation plants there is no PET recycling, and these new plants are essential if respectable PET recycling rates are to be achieved. But without additional collection efforts or new streams of material, the increased capacity will only serve to drive prices to unsustainable levels” (NAPCOR, 2011).

Recycling PET clamshells, I argue in my Report, would add to the amount of PET available to recyclers, balancing the supply/demand imbalance that characterizes the market.

Slide 16

If we are going to recycle PET clamshells with PET bottles to increase the material available for recyclers, we have to confirm that clamshells wont be a contaminate to the PET bottle stream. The PET bottle industry has invested a lot of time and money into recycling and developed sophisticated collection, sortation, baling, and reprocessing methods that work to meet their buyers’ specs. Adding PET clamshells to the bottle-recycling stream must therefore ensure that the quality of the recyclate isn’t compromised.

I had heard that one of the obstacles to recycling clamshells with bottles is that the two packages have different intrinsic viscosities; this can be understood as a material’s integrity and ability to withstand stress. Plastic bottles holding carbonated beverages, for instance, need to have a high IV to allow the bottle to be handled and not break, whereas plastic thermoforms holding your takeout don’t need to have as high of structural performance properties. Every time plastic goes through a conversion process like recycling, IV is sheered off, compromising the “give” of the container.

Another concern with recycling PET clamshells with bottles is labels and adhesives used on clamshell containers can be more coercive than those used on bottles, gunking up the cleaning process.

Lastly, the idea of look-a-like contamination is of concern; that is, in MRFs employing manual sorters, how do you train staff to distinguish a PET clamshell from a PVC clamshell when moving down the line?

Slide 17:

I conclude my Report,

Where do we go from here? As illustrated in this Report, the recycling of clamshells depends on the ability to collect, transport, sort, clean, bale, and remanufacture material into new products in an economically competitive way. Issues such as adequate supply and demand and investment in sorting and reprocessing technologies need to be addressed if we as an industry plan on the inclusion of clamshells in our recycling infrastructure.

Slide 18:

After my Report was published, I was invited to present at many industry conferences, and everything snowballed.

Here is a video interview of me after I presented my Report at a Plastics News conference.

Slide 19:

And then I met Kate! She interviewed me about the work I had done leading up to the publication of my Report and the story became the COVER of Green Manufacturer Magazine in September 2011! She called me a powerhouse in stilettos. She was and is awesome.

Slide 20:

Then things really started happening.

Canadian Retailers mandated that clamshells sold at retail transition to PET to increase amount generated and available for recycling and reduce issues of look a like contamination.

The Association of Post Consumer Plastic Recyclers developed a protocol for testing adhesives used on clamshell labels for compatibility with recycling prior to entering market.

They published “Design for Recycling Guidelines” for PET clamshell containers.

Specs are created for PET bottle and clamshell bales.

SPI awards a grant to 3 municipalities to develop the systems for successfully collecting and sorting clamshells for recycling.

Wellman Plastics reports buying PET clamshell/bottle bales @10% clamshell and having no issue with recycling.

Cited issue of differences in IV compromising performance of recyclate a non-issue for plastics suppliers due to solid stating technologies and experience blending varying IVs for different levels of “gooeyness” contingent on material application.

Slide 21:

Summarizing these efforts, NAPCOR reports,

“2011 saw the first significant amount of PET clamshell packaging moving through the system in both the US and Canada. Since 2009, NAPCOR has made the removal of obstacles to PET clamshell recycling its top priority…as a way of increasing feedstock opportunities for reclaimers, and ultimately ensuring more RPET flake and pellet supply to end users. These efforts are bearing fruit, as all purchasers and processors of curbside bales are allowing some level of clamshells mixed in with the bottles…In the short-term, increased PET clamshell collection is the best hope of addressing the key issue of increasing supply” (NAPCOR, 2011).

Slide 22:

In 2012 Moore Recycling Associates published “Plastic Recycling Collection National Reach Study,” which found that 57% of American communities accepted PET clamshell packaging for recycling in 2011.

Officially, PET clamshells were now recyclable.

Slide 23:

I was mind blown. I sent a congratulatory email to everyone I had worked with exclaiming, PET clamshells are now recyclable!

Slide 24:

And then I got an email from my friend and State Recycling Director for North Carolina, telling me to cool my jets. He explained that just because a container is now collected for recycling, it doesn’t mean it will actually be recycled. A consistent stream has to be established, buyers developed, inefficiencies squeezed out, and more.

Slide 25:

In 2013 I was asked by the Editor of UK-based Plastics in Packaging Magazine to write a report on the state of postconsumer PET clamshell recycling since publishing my 2010 Report. Titled “the State of postconsumer PET clamshell recycling: Past, Present & Future,” I describe the progress in clamshell recycling and how to move the needle from just collecting clamshells to actually recycling them.

My conclusion states,

With the majority of American communities now accepting PET clamshells for recycling and the technical barriers to PC PET clamshell recycling being resolved, the floodgates to PET clamshell recycling are ready to be opened.

Will we soon arrive at a reality where demand for post consumer PET facilitates the recycling of PET clamshell containers?

Only time will tell, I reasoned.

Slide 26:

And then something awesome happened. NAPCOR/SPI released the results of the clamshell recycling pilot, which I referenced in my industry collaboration slide. And the results were good!

I decided to write one last report on clamshell recycling, describing the results of the clamshell recycling pilots. I titled it, “Recyclable vs. Recycled”; I begin,

Have the floodgates opened? Are communities finding a market for clamshell packaging? It is one thing to accept material for recycling; it is quite another, however, to actually recycle it. What follows is a discussion of how three different communities in America actually recycled post consumer PET clamshell packaging into second-generation products and packaging. Through a discussion of the different education, collection, sortation, and reprocessing methods used, insight will be provided into which model proves best in class, allowing other communities to follow suit. 

Slide 27:

SPI & NAPCOR expected grant recipients to address all necessary areas to implement a comprehensive and efficient program to recycle PET clamshells, including: consumer education, outreach to non-residential sources of thermoforms, collection, intermediate processing, segregation and bailing, and, marketing of material. The grant was available to any recycling program operators that could implement a program for private, county, municipal, or joint-venture facilities; regional cooperative programs, and, state managed or directed programs.

The three selected grant recipients were: Montgomery County, MD, proposed an efficient urban/suburban model for PET clamshell recycling; Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center proposed a rural collection model for clamshell recycling; and Firststar Fiber proposed an efficient away-from-home clamshell recycling model.

Slide 28:

Montgomery County proved to be extremely effective via manual sort: It processed clear PET clamshells in secondary sort, once all the fiber, metal, PET bottle and HDPE containers had been removed. The County trained sorters to visually identify PET clamshell packaging from other look-a-likes, relying on NAPCOR's technical training and a video it developed internally for training.

RMC, with its focus on rural recycling programs, relied on source separation at drop off locations as the primary processing method for PET clamshell recycling. Those clamshells not readily distinguishable as PET were put aside for further analysis via portable plastic resin analyzing equipment procured by RMC through grant funding.

Firstar processed curbside collected clamshells via manual sortation into mixed plastic loads. The process to recover PET bottles and clamshells was neither manual nor strictly mechanical insofar as requiring near infrared; rather, both were left on a conveyor feeding the container sort line so as to fall off the end along with aluminum cans, which were removed with eddy current. Firstar sorters removed only plastics #2-7, letting PET stay on the line. Sorters then visually identified PET clamshells on the line via NAPCOR technical training.

Slide 29:

In Montgomery County, the total PET clamshells shipped during the grant period was 258.67 Tons vs. the 40.14 Tons shipped six months before the grant.

For RMC, the PET clamshells collected were mixed with bottles, with 10% of each bale by weight estimated to be PET clamshells. Mixed PET bottle/clamshell bales totaled 27.4 Tons, 2.74 Tons being PET clamshells.

And at Firstar, a study performed on the PET sorted identified that PET clamshells represented 9% of the total PET processed.

It was determined that end market value related to combining clamshells with bottles would inform material handling procedures at the MRF level; similarly, the market would determine levels of tolerance.

Slide 30:

Like being the sustainable manufacturer, there is no one size fits all when it comes to recycling post consumer PET clamshell packaging.

These model programs demonstrate the unique character of each community’s waste management systems and how this variability informs the type of sortation methods required to find a home for post consumer PET clamshell containers.

Slide 31:

My Report was awarded the cover story of the February issue of Plastics in Packaging Magazine. Plastic clamshell containers are now not only collected for recycling, but actually recycled.

Slide 32:

Here is a map that shows where PET clamshells are recycled in America. There are currently 5 MRFs collecting and recycling plastic clamshells.

Slide 33:

We have come a long way the last five years. From landfilling PET clamshells to collecting for recycling to actually recycling, post consumer clamshells are now a sustainable medium for protecting and selling product at retail. Due to the efforts of PET and recycling stakeholders up and down the supply chain, clamshell containers are now recyclable and recycled.

Now go find your own, authentic silver bullet.


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