Packaging Digest Feature: New Cleanroom Enables Sterile Medical Packaging Capabilities

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 11, 2019 3:47:59 PM

Packaging Digest reports on Dordan's new cleanroom in, "New cleanroom enables sterile medical packaging capabilities." Author Kate Bertrand writes:

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Dordan to Debut Exclusive Video of Cleanroom at MD&M, Minneapolis

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Sep 30, 2019 11:03:53 AM

Minneapolis, MN—October 23, 2019—Custom thermoforming company, Dordan Manufacturing, to debut its ISO Class 8 Cleanroom for producing medical packaging in an exclusive video at MD&M, booth #2417. MD&M Minneapolis is the largest med tech event in the Midwest, bringing together experts across the supply chain for a two-day, three-track educational workshop and expo.

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Plastics Today Feature: Dordan Unveils Cleanroom for Medical Packaging

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Sep 19, 2019 8:44:29 AM

Industry publication, Plastics Today, visited Dordan for an exclusive look inside it's new cleanroom for the manufacture of medical packaging.

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Project Vesta: Removing CO2 with Weathering of Beaches

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Aug 23, 2019 9:25:42 AM

My understanding of climate change is always evolving. While fundamental changes in agriculture, transportation, energy, and consumer behavior are necessary to reduce the generation of greenhouse gases, I know little of what technologies exist, in the near future, to "turn the tide on climate change."

Enter Project Vesta, a not-for-profit that is working to accelerate Earth's natural long-term carbon cycle that removes CO2 from the atmosphere through a chemical reaction between volcanic rock, CO2, and water, with green beaches! And when I say green, I mean literally, green.

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New Packaging Digest Article: Plastic Discovered That Offers Solution to Pollution

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jul 30, 2019 1:42:38 PM

Berkeley Lab discovers a new plastic that can be recycled an infinite number of times without losing its quality, thereby changing the economics of recycling.

Check out my new Packaging Digest article to learn about the discovery of PDK and how it offers a solution to pollution.

Above: Time-lapse video of PDK dissolving into original monomers

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Download Dordan's Medical Packaging Fact Sheet

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jul 23, 2019 3:44:46 PM

60-year old custom thermoforming company, Dordan Manufacturing, now offering medical packaging.

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NPR on Understanding Plastic's Carbon Footprint

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jul 11, 2019 11:24:27 AM

NPR published an article this week, "Plastic Has a Big Carbon Footprint-- But That Isn't The Whole Story."

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The Woodstock Independent Reports, Dordan Enters The Next Industrial Age

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 23, 2019 11:05:54 AM

Dordan is based in Woodstock, IL-- the setting for Bill Murray's Groundhog Day; a cultural oasis for artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs alike, 50-miles outside Chicago.

The Woodstock Independent is the community newspaper, which just published an article on Dordan's move into medical packaging. Titled "Entering the Next Industrial Age," the article ties together Dordan's recent investments in cleanroom thermoforming and Industry 4.0 technologies to further extend its core capabilities of custom design and manufacturing excellence to the medical device industry. 

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Dordan Integrates Industry 4.0 Technologies for enhanced agility & how you can, too

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 7, 2019 3:23:49 PM

For many small and medium sized manufacturers, the principles of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are abstract. Terms like interconnectivity, IoTT, customization, flexible automation, AI/machine learning, and Big Data are routinely referenced in the corresponding rhetoric. Yet, many don’t understand how these technologies can be applied to existing operations and systems to manifest the prescribed benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. While improving quality, increasing productivity, and reducing waste has always driven manufacturers’ business decisions, when viewed through the principals of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a more elegant approach is provided. Smart factories don’t have to be fully automated, fancy factories of the future; instead, an evolution of existing equipment and processes married with thoughtful investment in new technologies and talent.

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Dordan's ISO Certified Thermoform Design Process

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Mar 26, 2019 10:59:24 AM

Dordan Manufacturing has been designing custom thermoformed packaging since 1962.

In that time, we have developed a proprietary process for developing thermoform designs. Formalized within our ISO certified quality management system, Dordan's design process facilitates the production of highly-engineered and high-quality thermoforms that meet our customers' expectations in quick turnaround at competitive pricing. Gain insight into our ISO certified thermoform design process, 60-years in the making, below.

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Thermoforming Player Expands into the Medical Device Arena

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Mar 1, 2019 1:27:07 PM

Medical Plastics News featured Dordan in its new article, "Thermoforming player expands into medical device arena."

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Nike’s New Green Lobster Shoe Box by Dordan Tests Thermoforming Limits

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Feb 28, 2019 8:29:08 AM

Packaging Digest's new article, "Nike's new Green Lobster shoe box tests thermoforming limits," narrates the challenges that Dordan overcame in the design and manufacture of limited-edition packaging for the debut of Concepts x Nike SB collectable sneakers.

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Dordan's Top 5 Posts of 2018

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Dec 28, 2018 3:41:27 PM

Thank you for your interest in Dordan Manufacturing, a custom thermoformer since 1962. Each year our digital footprint grows: Our blog, viewed by just a few-hundred people in 2009 is today seen by over 30,000. Our website traffic has increased 25% this year compared to last, bringing our unique visits to roughly 125,000. We have grown our social media following to 1,500 on Twitter and 2,000 on LinkedIn.

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Remembering Dordan Co-founder Vivian Slavin this New Year

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Dec 22, 2018 10:41:09 AM

My grandmother and Dordan co-founder, Ellena Vivian Slavin, passed away on August 19th; she would have been 103-years-old Christmas Day.

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Plastics News on Dordan's Move into Medical Packaging

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Dec 12, 2018 12:52:22 PM

Trade publication Plastics News reports on Dordan's move into medical packaging in a December 4th feature by Jim Johnson:

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Trends in Medical Device Innovations

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Nov 27, 2018 9:59:26 AM

What follows is the first post in my new series on medical device design and manufacturing; this content is the result of attendance at MD&M Minneapolis (Oct 31-Nov 1).

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Dordan Proceeds with Onsite Hardwall Construction ISO Class 8 Cleanroom

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Nov 13, 2018 1:56:19 PM

November 13, 2018—Woodstock, IL—Dordan Manufacturing, a full-service custom thermoform designer and manufacturer, proceeds with building an onsite and fully enclosed hardwall construction ISO Class 8 Cleanroom for the production of medical device packaging solutions.

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Intro to New Series on Medical Device Design & Manufacturing

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Nov 12, 2018 4:54:09 PM

My family company, Dordan Manufacturing, has been designing and thermoforming plastic packaging and product solutions for almost 60 years. Our core capabilities, which we have refined over the years, are design and thermoforming excellence. We are not your typical mom and pop shop; we employ the highest quality and most sophisticated technologies, equipment, software, and talent, which allow us to cater to a variety of quality-critical end-markets.

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Insight into the PET/RPET market from Dordan CEO/President

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 25, 2018 11:09:26 AM

After years of controlled pricing in the PET/RPET resin and sheet market, recent upsets to the global supply chain have resulted in substantial price increases. Dordan Manufacturing President & CEO Daniel Slavin shares his 45+ year of thermoforming industry experience to help contextualize this unprecedented upswing in material pricing and lead-times; and, what Dordan is doing to combat these increases:

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Dordan to Debut ISO Class 8 Cleanroom Thermoforming Capabilities at PACK EXPO International

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Sep 25, 2018 9:49:59 AM

Chicago, IL, Oct. 14-17—Dordan Manufacturing, a custom thermoformer of plastic packaging and product solutions like dunnage/WIP trays, functional components, and insert trays, clamshells, and blisters, to debut ISO Class 8 Cleanroom thermoforming capabilities at PACK EXPO International.

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PACK EXPO International, Free Registration

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Sep 11, 2018 12:41:50 PM

Plans to attend PACK EXPO International in Chicago, Oct. 14-17? Register for free with Dordan's complimentary code.

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What IS Sustainable Packaging?

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Aug 23, 2018 10:24:51 AM

"Bio-based," "biodegradable," "compostable," "recyclable," "recycled"; what do these terms actually mean? Educate yourself with Dordan's Sustainable Packaging Summary.

Part 1: Introduction

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Dordan's New Website Like Its Custom Thermoforms: Elegantly Functional

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jun 25, 2018 4:00:49 PM

June 2018—Woodstock, IL—Dordan Manufacturing, a custom thermoformer of plastic clamshells, blisters, trays, and components, unveils a new website Monday that offers simplicity, corporate transparency, and ease-of-use. Elegantly functional, the website is an extension of Dordan’s brand, which differentiates itself by staying true to its core capabilities of thermoform design and manufacturing excellence.

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New Packaging Digest Article: Cleanyst, the intersection of sustainability and ecommerce optimization

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Apr 18, 2018 2:44:56 PM

Learn how reusable packaging platform Cleanyst intends to revolutionize the health and cleaning products industries in my new article for Packaging Digest. Titled "Cleanyst: The Intersection of Sustainability and Ecommerce," this article describes how consumers can make anything from surface cleaner to shampoo at home via concentrates and a mixing appliance, reducing water weight and packaging materials throughout the supply chain.

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New Packaging Digest Article: Regenerative Packaging Puts the Cherry on Top of Sustainability

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Apr 4, 2018 3:25:11 PM

Check out my latest article for Packaging Digest, "Regenerative Packaging Puts the Cherry on Top of Sustainability"; this describes the concept of regenerative products, which James Connelly, VP of Products and Strategy at the International Living Future Institute, describes as those products that result in a net-zero or net-positive environmental impact over their life-cycle. Connelly is to keynote sustainable packaging conference SPC Impact in San Francisco later this month, and plans to educate attendees on what's possible with sustainable packaging when viewed through the regenerative products paradigm.

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ISO 9001:2015 Certification Improves Dordan's Quality Management System with Risk-Based Thinking

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Mar 22, 2018 9:13:31 AM

Woodstock, IL—March 2018—Dordan Manufacturing, a custom thermoformer of plastic packaging, is ISO 9001:2015 certified for the design, manufacture, and distribution of thermoformed products and packaging. Building on the Quality Management System of the ISO 9001:2008 Standards, which emphasize continued process improvement through monitoring, measuring, and analyzing Dordan’s ability to satisfy its customers, the 2015 Standards incorporate risk-based thinking as a means to continuously improve the value of it’s products and services.

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Three Generations Later, Innovation & Sustainability Drive Dordan Manufacturing

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Mar 9, 2018 9:15:18 AM

Dordan was featured in the Real Woodstock, a campaign dedicated to promoting Woodstock, IL, as the ideal place to visit, relocate, live, and start a business.

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New Packaging Digest Article: How Brands can Capitalize on Cleaning the Planet

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Mar 5, 2018 9:20:22 AM

Check out my new article for Packaging Digest on Litterati, a crowdsource clean-up model, titled, "How Brands can Capitalize on Cleaning the Planet." Litterati Founder & CEO Jeff Kirschner to keynote sustainable packaging conference SPC Impact (San Fran, April 24-26), where yours truly will be reporting, on behalf of Packaging Digest. I hope to see you there!

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Pricing Structure for Custom Thermoformed Packaging

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Feb 5, 2018 1:44:26 PM

Dordan is a full-service thermoform designer and manufacturer of custom packaging solutions like plastic clamshells, blisters, trays, and components. Therefore, all pricing is based on specific project requirements. There are, however, shared pricing indicators that are implicit in all thermoforming quotes. These include: material type and thickness, run quantity, part size/design, tooling, and quality control requirements.

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To Attend SPC Impact as Contributing Writer/Reporter for Packaging Digest

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jan 18, 2018 2:54:51 PM

The last few years I have had the pleasure of attending sustainable packaging conference SustPack as a writer and reporter for Packaging Digest. This year, SustPack has evolved into two different sustainable packaging conferences: SPC Impact (San Francisco), produced by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, and Sustainability in Packaging (Chicago), produced by Smithers Pira. Packaging Digest has partnered exclusively with the SPC for their spring conference, SPC Impact; so, I get to go to San Fran to report from the front lines of sustainable packaging!!!

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Dordan's Year in Review: Most popular content of 2017

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Dec 27, 2017 3:03:22 PM

As we approach 2018, it's time to look back on our most popular content of 2017, as demonstrated through views, clicks, likes, shares, and downloads. Thank you for your interest in Dordan this year; we look forward to continuing to engage you with content in 2018.

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Woodstock's Christmas Clearing House delivers joy Saturday

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Dec 14, 2017 9:10:29 AM

Dordan has been in Woodstock, IL, since the early 90s, but just became aware of it's Christmas Clearing House this year. Produced by the Woodstock Rotary Club, Christmas Clearing House is an impressive operation that delivers toys and meals to over 1,000 families, children, and elders in Woodstock and Wonder Lake. Hundreds of volunteers donate their time to the organization and execution of Christmas Clearing House, which ensures that no family goes with out a Merry Christmas. 

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PET Sheets & Thermoforms Summit: Recycling black thermoforms and the circular economy

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Nov 28, 2017 3:29:37 PM

Hey guys!

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How to Expand Recycling of PET Thermoform Packaging in Europe

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Nov 15, 2017 9:01:51 AM

Check out my new article for Packaging Digest, "How to expand recycling of PET thermoform packaging in Europe" for an update on thermoform recycling in the EU. It begins,

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How Dordan Designs Packaging for Thermoforming in 6 Steps

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Nov 8, 2017 1:30:10 PM

Dordan is a full-service thermoform designer and manufacturer. Because we have complete control over the design and production of thermoformed packaging, our approach to package design is collaborative, leveraging our engineering, production, and quality control expertise.

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Woodstock's Dordan Manufacturing Celebrates its 55th Anniversary

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Nov 2, 2017 8:22:13 AM

Hey guys!

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Dordan Celebrates 55th Anniversary Thermoforming Custom Packaging with the Implementation of Robotics; hosts tour with City of Woodstock

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 25, 2017 9:27:57 AM

Woodstock, IL—October 25th, 2017—Custom thermoforming company Dordan Manufacturing, of Woodstock, IL, celebrates its 55th anniversary with the implementation of robotics, marking yet another milestone for this family-owned and operated business. Dordan hosts tour with the City of Woodstock to commemorate the occasion.

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Dordan fits mold for successful family business

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 23, 2017 1:16:18 PM


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Dordan Pens Third Most-Read Article for Packaging Digest in September

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 6, 2017 10:47:15 AM

Hey guys!

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Interaction, Virtual Reality, and Automation Trend at PACK EXPO

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 2, 2017 2:17:15 PM

International PACK EXPO descended upon Las Vegas last week, where attendee interaction, virtual reality, and automation trended on the show floor. It's hard to think about my time in Las Vegas without thinking of the atrocities commited. My thoughts and prayers are with Las Vegas.

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Dordan to Host a Tour with the City of Woodstock, Mayor Brian Sager

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Sep 20, 2017 11:53:56 AM

Woodstock, IL—October 3rd, 2017—Custom thermoforming company Dordan Manufacturing, in celebration of its 55th anniversary October 25th, hosts a tour with representatives from the City of Woodstock and Mayor Brian Sager. This is the first time Dordan has hosted a tour with the City of Woodstock since it moved to Woodstock from Chicago in the early 1990s.

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New Packaging Digest Article: How to Change Plastic's 'Waste' Reputation

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Sep 5, 2017 9:52:35 AM

Dear sustainable packaging friends,

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Woodstock Mural Nears Completion: Photos of Dordan's Slavin with Mural Artist, and Designer

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Aug 28, 2017 4:13:58 PM

Hello, my sustainable packaging friends!

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Where were you during the last total solar eclipse, in 1979?

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Aug 21, 2017 11:32:42 AM

Hi guys!

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Julian Slavin brings Family-Owned and Operated Custom Thermoformer Dordan Manufacturing into the 4th-Generation

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Aug 14, 2017 3:39:18 PM

Dordan Manufacturing is an engineering-based designer and manufacturer of custom thermoformed product and packaging solutions.

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Dordan Featured in Plastics Today's Molder Spotlight Series

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jul 28, 2017 10:55:20 AM

Hello, my sustainable packaging friends!

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New Packaging Digest Article: Sustainable Packaging Insights Ignite Social Sharing

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jun 5, 2017 2:15:13 PM

Hey guys!

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Free Webinar TOMORROW: Innovations in Sustainable Packaging with Amazon

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 30, 2017 1:46:44 PM

Hey guys!

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Dordan Donates to Woodstock Mural Project

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 25, 2017 10:38:13 AM

Hey guys!

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Ellen MacArthur Foundation call for innovators: design plastic packaging that keeps the value of plastics in the economy and out of the oceans

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 22, 2017 3:10:19 PM

Hey guys,

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Dordan Manufacturing is Re-Certified by PJR for ISO 9001:2008 for the Design, Manufacture, and Distribution of Custom Thermoformed Products and Packaging

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 15, 2017 11:36:38 AM


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Dordan breaks 1,500 followers on Twitter

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 8, 2017 11:25:51 AM

Hey guys!

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Keep Woodstock Beautiful

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 4, 2017 4:01:18 PM

Hey, guys!

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SustPack17 Video Interview, Procurement at BestBuy

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 2, 2017 8:42:51 AM

Hey guys!

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Thank you SustPack17!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 1, 2017 10:44:08 AM

Hey guys!

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Download Dordan's Easy-Open Clamshell Presentation

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Apr 3, 2017 4:38:55 PM


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My New Packaging Digest Article on SustPack17 Keynote: Let's 'Do' Sustainable Packaging; Imagination Converts Ideas to Action

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Mar 29, 2017 10:38:11 AM

Hey guys!

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Interview with SUSTPACK17 keynote Adam Montandon, article in Packaging Digest coming soon!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Mar 9, 2017 1:49:51 PM

Hello, world!

I interviewed SUSTPACK17 keynote speaker Adam Montandon for an article I am writing on the presenter for Packaging Digest. He is a man of many trades, but his byline for the conference website lists Co-Founder of Factory of Imagination. After consulting the bios and abstracts of the various speakers lined up to present at SUSTPACK17, I had absolutely no idea what the Factory of Imagination was or why Adam was keynoting a sustainable packaging conference; hence, he became the first one on my "wish list" of interviewees.  After an almost 2-hour Skype session with Adam, based in Denmark and originally from the UK, I can not WAIT to witness his presentation, which promises to be nothing like what I've seen at SUSTPACK before. Imagine strange, silly, and anything but boring.

Associate Professor of Product Design and Innovation at SDU in Denmark, Adam has given keynotes at many universities and events around the world, including: The Royal Institute of Science in London, Berkeley University in CA, Transmedial in Berlin, MipTV in Cannes, TEDxLinz in Australia, and many more.

He is a teacher, author, event organizer and producer, workshop extraordinaire and life-long advocate of how fun and business can, and should, intersect to create truly fascinating products and experiences. 

Look out for the full interview in Packaging Digest, coming soon!

Above: Adam Montandon


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Dordan's Woodstock, IL, actual "Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania" of Bill Murray's Groundhog Day

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Feb 1, 2017 3:31:57 PM


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Weekend WSJ Article Describes "Liberal Dystopia" of CA's Plastic Bag Ban

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jan 30, 2017 12:03:37 PM

Allysia Finley writes in "In California, 'Paper or Plastic?' Is Against the Law,"

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Dordan to Attend SUSTPACK17 as Reporter for Packaging Digest

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jan 27, 2017 8:22:40 AM

Dordan Manufacturing to Attend SUSTPACK17 as Reporter for Packaging Digest

Dordan is an engineering-centric designer and manufacturer of custom thermoformed product and packaging solutions like plastic clamshells, blisters, trays and thermoformed components.

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Dordan Named Among Exhibitors that Generated Most Amount of PACK EXPO Attendees

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jan 19, 2017 2:07:09 PM

Hello and happy 2017!

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Dordan's Year in Review: Most Popular Content of 2016

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Dec 30, 2016 11:33:54 AM

Hello, my sustainable packaging friends!

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Happy Holidays from ME

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Dec 16, 2016 2:10:18 PM

Dear my sustainable packaging friends,

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Dordan Manufacturing Co-Founder Turns 101 Christmas Day

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Dec 15, 2016 3:10:13 PM

Hey guys!

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Standard Clamshell Voted Easiest to Open @PACKEXPO

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Nov 11, 2016 10:43:17 AM

Good morning, my packaging friends!

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Help Put Wrap Rage to Rest

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 31, 2016 12:44:31 PM

Good morning and happy Halloween!!!

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Register to vote on which easy-open clamshell is the easiest to open in Dordan's new PACK EXPO exhibit!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Sep 23, 2016 8:52:13 AM

Hey guys!

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Plastic: Doing More with Less, A Summary of Trucost's Plastic & Sustainability Report

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Aug 31, 2016 11:25:02 AM

What would the impact on the environment and economy be if all plastic packaging were replaced with alternative materials, like paper?

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Sustainable Manufacturer Conference Cancelled

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Aug 30, 2016 2:06:56 PM

Guys I have bummer news: We have cancelled the Sustainable Manufacturer Network Annual Conference because of low attendee registrants. Womp womp.

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The Sustainable Manufacturer Network Annual Conference e-Brochure

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Aug 1, 2016 11:02:10 AM


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To Cover New Study for Packaging Digest: Plastics Reduce Environmental Impacts

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jul 28, 2016 6:51:56 AM

Good morning, my sustainable packaging peeps!

And what a GOOD morning it is! Why, you may ask?! Because we the plastics people finally got thrown a bone from environmental researchers, courtesy of a new study. 

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Honored to be featured in Plastics News' special edition on women in plastics

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jul 25, 2016 9:07:08 AM

Hello my sustainable packaging friends!

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Sustainable Manufacturer Conference Keynote Featured in GreenBiz Article

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jul 21, 2016 12:49:34 PM


Hay my sustainable packaging friends!

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Wrap rage? Vote on which easy-open clamshell prototype is the easiest to open in Dordan's NEW PACK EXPO International Exhibit!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jul 7, 2016 10:19:35 AM


NEW PACK EXPO International Exhibit:


Experience Wrap Rage? Vote on which easy-open clamshell prototype is the easiest to open in Dordan’s NEW interactive exhibit at PACK EXPO!

International Pack Expo is produced by PMMI, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies.

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Walmart & 'Merica!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jun 30, 2016 10:52:17 AM

Hello my sustainable packaging people!

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Meet SMN Keynote Tom Murray: Retired scientist for the EPA reflects on the birth of the agency and its collaboration with industry over the last 45 years

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jun 21, 2016 12:19:21 PM



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FINALLY after 40 years, Toxic Substances Control Act to be reformed

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 26, 2016 3:40:40 PM

Hello my sustainable packaging people!

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Dordan Featured in Plastics News' Special Edition on Family Businesses

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 17, 2016 3:12:16 PM

Dordan is pleased to be included in Plastics News' Special Edition on Family Businesses!

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SUSTPACK16 Video Interview: Meet RePack, a company dedicated to eliminated ecommerce packaging waste

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Apr 28, 2016 7:45:12 AM

Good morning, sustainable packaging friends!

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Call for Speakers: Present at the Annual Sustainable Manufacturer Network Conference

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Apr 26, 2016 9:48:38 AM


Good morning my sustainable packaging friends!

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METHOD's love for Chicago runs deep as the watershed

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Apr 22, 2016 9:05:03 AM

Hey guys!

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Dordan Manufacturing is Re-Certified by PJR for ISO 9001:2008 Certification for the Design, Manufacture, and Distribution of Custom Thermoformed Products and Packaging

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Mar 10, 2016 3:03:50 PM


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Coming to Chicago for SUSTPACK16? Eat and drink like a local at these South Loop hot spots

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Mar 9, 2016 4:39:46 PM

Hello my sustainable packaging friends!

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A Visual History of Dordan's Package Designs

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Feb 18, 2016 10:47:56 AM

Hey guys!

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My guest blog post for the Chicago Family Business Council at DePaul University

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jan 12, 2016 9:38:47 AM

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Federal Microbead Ban, Mango Materials Update

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jan 11, 2016 10:50:21 AM

Hey guys!

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Dordan reporting LIVE from SUSTPACK16 in Chicago!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jan 4, 2016 9:51:25 AM

Hey guys!

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A very Dordan Christmas

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Dec 28, 2015 9:27:24 AM

Back to reality!

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Happy Holidays from our Dordan family to yours

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Dec 22, 2015 10:09:52 AM

My sustainable packaging friends,

From our Dordan family to yours, Happy Holidays! Thank you for making 2015 another successful year, now 52 years experience designing and manufacturing custom thermoform product and packaging solutions.

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Best of 2015: Dordan's most popular content

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Dec 15, 2015 11:48:58 AM

As 2015 draws to a close, we want to take this time to reflect on highlights from the year. What was Dordan's most popular content: It's most viewed and shared blog posts, eblasts, tweets and more? What issues resonated loudest with our audience?

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Dordan contributes 2 of 7 most read sustainable packaging articles for Packaging Digest in 2015

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Dec 9, 2015 4:04:56 PM

Whoa. Let's repeat: Dordan contributes 2 of 7 most read sustainable packaging articles for Packaging Digest in 2015?!? WHOA!!!

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My new article for Packaging Digest: "Waste, Repackaged"

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Nov 18, 2015 3:37:38 PM


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Plastic Clamshells vs. Paperboard Boxes: Life cycle environmental impacts and consumer convenience

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Nov 10, 2015 2:04:55 PM

Hey guys!

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Dordan clamshell package featured on Season 4 of Breaking Bad!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 27, 2015 9:37:54 AM


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For #ThrowbackThursday, circa 1980s Dordan advertisements

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 8, 2015 10:52:23 AM


ey guys!

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My article on Green Plastics for Thermoforming #1 on!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 5, 2015 9:52:40 AM

Hey guys!

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Dordan Video Testimonial: The Chicago Management Institute at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Sep 30, 2015 10:25:18 AM


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Happy 20th Birthday Pack Expo! To celebrate, my favorite Pack Expo memories!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Sep 29, 2015 12:07:05 PM

Greetings my sustainable packaging friends.

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Download "Green Plastics for Thermoforming," A Then & Now Comparative

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Sep 21, 2015 11:56:35 AM

Hello and happy Monday!

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"The Future" of sustainable plastics for packaging

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Sep 18, 2015 8:53:55 AM

Greetings my sustainable packaging people, happy Friday!

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Yesterday's Promising 'Green' Materials: Where are they now?

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Sep 8, 2015 8:45:27 AM

Guys, my new article for Packaging Digest Magazine titled "Yesterday's Promising 'Green' Materials: Where are they now?" was published last week!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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Leading Ladies of Packaging Recognition

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

Hey guys!

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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!

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Miss the Sustainable Manufacturer Conference???

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

Hey guys!

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Interview with Jason Foster, Founder & Chief Reuser at Replenish

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

Hey guys!

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How clamshells became recyclable and recycled

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

Hey guys!

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Walmart's Made in USA Sourcing Initiative and the implications for sustainable supply chains

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 19, 2015 8:36:00 AM

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Download Trends in Sustainable Packaging Presentation

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 18, 2015 2:41:41 PM

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4 Countries Generate about Half of the Plastic Marine Debris

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 11, 2015 11:28:00 AM

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Interview with Director of Trash Free Sea Program @Ocean Conservancy

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 7, 2015 7:52:26 AM

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50% off Sustainable Manufacturer Conference Registration

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 4, 2015 8:42:00 AM

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Learn how Dordan is Different: Download new presentation

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Apr 29, 2015 10:58:25 AM

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Posted by Chandler Slavin on Apr 22, 2015 2:56:55 PM

Hello and happy Earth Day! The only day when social media rains environmental love.

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REGISTER NOW: Sustainable Manufacturer Conference

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Apr 17, 2015 1:40:00 PM

Hello world!

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Takeaways from SUSTPACK15, part 1: material science

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Apr 15, 2015 2:41:00 PM

Hello my sustainable packaging friends!

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Made in America article, Packaging Digest, and SUSTPACK15, oh my!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Mar 30, 2015 9:09:00 AM

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New Design for Thermoforming Package Design Case Study: Retail Clamshell

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Mar 24, 2015 8:11:00 AM

Hello my sustainable packaging friends!

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SUST PACK 2015: Sustainable Packaging

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Mar 11, 2015 3:44:00 PM

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Reporting LIVE from Sust Pack 2015 in Orlando

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Mar 2, 2015 7:35:00 AM


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TONIGHT: Woodstock Manufacturers Roundtable

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Feb 24, 2015 8:16:00 AM


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Contributing writer to Packaging Digest Magazine

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jan 29, 2015 12:02:00 PM


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America's Next Top Model: which model for recycling PET thermoformed containers proves best in class?

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jan 27, 2015 8:39:00 AM

Well this is hilarious. Here she be, in all her glory, the cover of the February issue of Plastics in Packaging Magazine!

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Dordan awarded cover story of Plastics in Packaging Magazine!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jan 20, 2015 9:54:00 AM


Dordan Awarded Cover Story of Plastics in Packaging Magazine

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"Recyclable" vs. Recycled, how PC PET thermoforms are actually being recycled

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jan 9, 2015 10:04:00 AM

Hello my sustainable packaging friends!

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Happy Holidays from the Dordan family!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Dec 22, 2014 11:15:00 AM


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Dordan joins Sustainable Manufacturer's Network Advisory Board

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Dec 22, 2014 9:41:00 AM

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The results are in! How did the PET thermoform recycling pilots go?!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Dec 4, 2014 3:47:46 PM

Hello world!

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Dordan's Customer Analysis gives way to GREAT customer testimonials

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Nov 18, 2014 11:19:00 AM


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Pack Expo, good times

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Nov 12, 2014 12:39:00 PM

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Dordan featured in "Seeing the Big Picture of Sustainability"

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 31, 2014 8:01:37 AM

Hello and happy Friday / Halloween, aka, the BEST day ever!

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Pack Expo Attendees: check out these local eateries!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 29, 2014 8:29:00 AM

Pack Expo attendees, Welcome to the Windy City!

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Dordan Manufacturing receives Sustainability and Innovation in Business Award

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 9, 2014 3:49:00 PM

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Dordan to display sustainable trapped blister packaging at Pack Expo

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 8, 2014 7:59:00 AM

Dordan Displays X Card at Pack Expo, Sustainable Trapped Blister Packaging for Retail

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Visiting Chicago for International Pack Expo?! Check out these Chicago events!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 2, 2014 1:48:00 PM


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Innovations in trapped blister packs for retail

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Sep 26, 2014 8:50:00 AM

In my last post I allude to this “trapped blister” packaging for retail, which, as the name implies, consists of a thermoformed blister sandwiched between a paperboard based “frame.” For years CPG companies have looked to trapped blister packs as a replacement for large clamshell packs at Big Box Retail, citing consumer frustration, sustainability, and cost savings as the driving motivations. Wrap rage and concerns about sustainability aside, these packs are often times cheaper than their clamshell counterparts, while maintaining similar shelf impact.

While the sustainability of these trapped blisters vs. clamshell packages remains to be third-party verified, many have claimed that simply the reduction in plastic renders the paper-based packs environmentally superior. Paper good, plastic bad, right? Recent research points to the exact opposite, however. In addition, many have noted that the plastic thermoform and paper-based portion of the trapped blister are not recyclable when separated at the MRF, due to the adhesive that exists on both substrates following the sealing process. Combined with the fact that PET thermoforms (clamshells) are now accepted for recycling in the majority of American communities, there are some compelling counter arguments to the “paper is good, plastic is bad” rhetoric.

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Changes to CA's Rigid Plastic Packaging Container Program

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Sep 12, 2014 8:17:00 AM

Hello and happy Friday my sustainable packaging friends!

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Death to composter: zero waste, bio plastics, and bees!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Aug 25, 2014 9:14:29 AM

Hello and happy Monday! Can we please just pause for a moment and recognize that we are now in the last week of August?! What the what?! Where has the summer gone!

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Dordan featured on "Plastics News Now:" Plastic Execs take the ALS ice bucket challenge

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Aug 21, 2014 11:24:12 AM


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Dordan's ALS ice bucket challenge

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Aug 20, 2014 9:29:56 AM

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Is this for real?! CA company turns carbon emissions into plastics

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Aug 11, 2014 10:15:11 AM

Hello and happy Monday!

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NPR's "The Weird, Underappreciated World of Plastic Packaging"

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jul 30, 2014 8:21:00 AM


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California's Rigid Plastic Packaging Container Program: Is it working?

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jul 22, 2014 12:30:00 PM

Hey guys,

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Paper vs. plastic re: recycling, myths dispelled

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jul 21, 2014 9:32:00 AM

Hello all!

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Press Release: Dordan brings interactive, educational displays to International Pack Expo

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jul 15, 2014 4:19:00 PM

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Buy 'Made in America' this 4th of July

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jul 2, 2014 7:11:00 AM

Hello world!

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Sustainable Packaging vs. Sustainable Business?

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jun 5, 2014 9:11:00 AM

I "graduate" from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in three weeks. Good God how time flies when your mind is being ever expanded by thought provoking discourse. And I have something to say. Not once, ONCE, was sustainability discussed in the context of business strategy. You know what was discussed? Finance. Marketing. Negotiations and decision making. Capital budgeting. You know, fun stuff. And I am being serious about it being fun. These professors are brilliant.

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University of Chicago BOOTH School of Business, Management Conference

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 22, 2014 12:28:08 PM

Well, my last post about Dinner on DePaul, Environmentalism and Sustainability, was accidently deleted, whoops! In a nut shell I was invited to DePaul's Alumni Center in April to have dinner with students interested in careers in sustainability. It was awesome and I heart environmental studies majors. Go science!

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Photos: new thermoformed algae plastic, it's leopard print!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Apr 22, 2014 9:26:00 AM

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Plastics Technology Magazine, Thermoformer uses high-end CAD tools

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Mar 24, 2014 9:55:00 AM

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Changes to SPI "chasing arrows" recycling code?

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Mar 4, 2014 9:46:00 AM

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Register now: Discounted rate for Sustainability in Packaging

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Feb 27, 2014 12:05:00 PM

Hi there,

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My lunch with Dir. of Brand Packaging @Walmart

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Feb 21, 2014 10:07:00 AM

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Walmart & sustainable packaging, then and now

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Feb 11, 2014 8:58:00 AM

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I am going to business school!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jan 28, 2014 10:29:00 AM

Heyyyy friends.

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Photo gallery: thermoformed packaging dominates 2014 CES

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jan 22, 2014 8:29:00 AM

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Picture tour: 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jan 13, 2014 2:06:00 PM

Hello and Happy New Year my sustainable packaging friends!

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Guest Submission to CEA's Digital Dialogue Blog

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Dec 12, 2013 9:30:00 AM

Hey guys. I hope you are reading this from somewhere warm. It is miserable in Chicago, -4 degrees F with wind-chill, ug.

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Design for Thermoforming case study: The Buck Bomb

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Dec 3, 2013 10:37:00 AM

Hey guys! I hope everyone had a glorious Turkey Day and welcome to December!

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Dordan to exhibit multi-media 'Design for Thermoforming' presentation at 2014 CES

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Nov 18, 2013 2:41:00 PM

Las Vegas—January 7, 2014—Dordan Manufacturing brings multi-media “Design for Thermoforming” exhibit to the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show, booth # 70229.

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Dordan brings packaging-centric, interactive exhibits to 2014 CES

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Nov 7, 2013 8:55:00 AM

Las Vegas—January 7, 2014—Dordan Manufacturing returns to International CES with interactive displays aimed at educating and engaging show attendees about consumer electronic packaging solutions: Touch, smell, see and er, taste? the latest and greatest bio-based/biodegradable/compostable and otherwise ‘green’ plastics with Dordan’s 4th Annual Bio Resin Show N Tell; learn about Dordan’s Design for Thermoforming Process with 3D package design modeling videos and photo-realistic package design renderings; and, discover how Seeing it Sells it with Klöckner Pentaplast’s eyetracking study.

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Government, Economics and Environment oh my!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Nov 5, 2013 10:55:00 AM

Hey guys, long time no chat.

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Video presentation: state of PET thermoform recycling, past, present & future

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 3, 2013 11:13:00 AM

What is up sustainable packaging people!?

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Pack Expo Recap

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Sep 30, 2013 2:44:00 PM

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I am so totally and utterly confused. A free market for plastics recycling?

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Sep 18, 2013 11:31:00 AM

Hello world!

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PACK EXPO Exhibit Preview: photos of third gen algae plastic thermoforms

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Sep 6, 2013 10:06:00 AM

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Next gen algae plastic, colorful and odorless

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Aug 22, 2013 1:00:00 PM

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PACK EXPO Exhibit Preview: Dordan's 3D Package Design Renderings

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Aug 13, 2013 1:30:00 PM

Hello my packaging and sustainability friends!

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Dordan's Plastics in Packaging Cover Story LIVE!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Aug 6, 2013 11:16:00 AM

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Plastic Industry vs. Enviroment?!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jul 31, 2013 12:59:00 PM

Hello my sustainability and packaging friends!

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Huh!? Walmart Scorecard dissolves into GPP and integrates with bar code reporting: The future of sustainable packaging assessment

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jul 15, 2013 2:25:00 PM

Hello! I think I mentioned some time ago that I joined the Board of the Association of Visual Packaging Manufacturers? Anywho, every year during Pack Expo the AVPM holds an annual meeting for its membership, where speakers ranging from CPG representatives to industry thought leaders present on issues important to the industry.

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Back on the PET thermoform recycling train: Recoup Plastics Recycling Conference

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jul 9, 2013 11:35:00 AM

Hello my sustainability and packaging friends! Long time. I hope everyone had a lovely 4th of July!

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Dordan to Display Thermoformed Samples of ALGIX's COLORED Algae-Plastic at Pack Expo

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jun 21, 2013 12:03:00 PM

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The State of PET Thermoform Recycling: Past, Present and Future

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jun 11, 2013 9:19:00 AM

Hey! Holey Toledo I have done it. After a week of interviews followed by a week of hair pulling and face-holding, I have finished Recycling Report: The State of PET Thermoform Recycling, Past, Present and Future.

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Hello recycling experts, let's talk about PET thermoform recycling!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 21, 2013 12:02:00 PM

Hello my sustainable packaging friends!

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Updates on algae plastic: ALGIX, ALGENT, and Solaplast

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 14, 2013 1:01:00 PM

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Sustainability and ROI for medium sized manufacturers, the inquiry continues!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on May 9, 2013 9:21:00 AM

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And things just keep getting better!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Apr 30, 2013 11:00:00 AM

Hello my sustainability and packaging friends from warm and sunny downtown Chicago! What a glorious day to be alive!

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Dordan celebrates Earth Day with student tour!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Apr 23, 2013 12:29:00 PM

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Dordan Celebrates 50th Anniversary with ISO 9001:2008 Certification

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Apr 19, 2013 9:59:00 AM

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Sustainable Brands' special issue on sustainable packaging

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Apr 18, 2013 11:03:00 AM

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Plastic clamshells officially "recyclable" as per FTC's definition

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Mar 21, 2013 10:17:00 AM

Hello and happy 2nd day of spring!

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Interviews on interviews on interviews!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Mar 14, 2013 3:00:00 PM

Greetings my packaging and sustainability friends. I hope everyone at the Sustainability in Packaging conference in Orlando is having a smashing time! I was fortunate enough to have attended the conference last year, where I was interviewed by Packaging Digest on what I thought was the most interesting thing I heard that day. Here’s the video.

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Dordan joins SPI, and radical feature in Plastic Technology goes live

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Feb 26, 2013 3:57:00 PM

Helllllllo all. You can’t imagine the weather Chicago is getting right now! I think I have witnessed every stage of precipitation in the last 20 minutes. My wishes for a safe commute home extend to all!!!

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Remote Monitoring Cloud Measures Packaging Carbon Footprint

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Feb 18, 2013 3:22:00 PM

Greetings my packaging and sustainability friends!

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Interview with Packaging Digest, "Sustainable" + "Packaging" = ?

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Feb 6, 2013 12:02:00 PM

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Does "sustainability" as business strategy make sense? A preview into Dordan's feature.

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jan 31, 2013 11:05:00 AM

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Dordan selected as THE sustainable thermoformer by Plastics Technology, a different type of story

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jan 22, 2013 10:21:00 AM

Greetings my packaging and sustainability friends. It is zero degrees in Chicago right now.

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International 2013 CES, Dordan Interviewed by CES TV on Green Packaging!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Jan 14, 2013 12:14:00 PM

Hello and Happy New Year from Dordan Manufacturing!

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All I want for Chistmas is clamshell packaging!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Dec 21, 2012 1:15:00 PM

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Dordan exhibiting at The International 2013 Consumer Electronics Show yehaw!!!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Dec 11, 2012 4:08:00 PM

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CalRecycle's Plastic Clamshell Container Case Study: Do EPR programs reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Dec 7, 2012 11:59:00 AM

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Pack Expo International 2012, the final wrap-up

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Nov 20, 2012 2:56:00 PM

Cheerio my packaging and sustainability friends! 

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Details into Klöckner Pentaplast’s study that proves clamshell packaging facilitates increased product sales

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Nov 14, 2012 12:12:00 PM

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Wow. Pack Expo, bioresins, 3D videos, proof that Seeing it Sells it!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Nov 7, 2012 12:49:00 PM

WOW. For my former Wordpress blog email subscribers, hello and welcome back. Sorry for the delay ironing out the kinks of this new blogging platform. Unfortunately, for those of you who followed my blog via Wordpress accounts, I am unable to add you to my list of blog subscribers for post notification. Come back to me, urbanbandit, Verdhan Patankar, thedevelopmentroast, Spencer, Mary Schuch, amARTS&MEDIA, Andrew Gustyn, Robotic Rhetoric, gardenerat60, and Ken! Hopefully the brilliance of SEO will reunite us in the near future!

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Speech on social media and sustainability, presented at SPE Thermoforming Division's 21st Meeting in Grand Rapids

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:14:00 AM

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Welcome to the New Packaging World Order

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:13:00 AM

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Whoa! Welcome to the NEW Recycling in America blog!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:13:00 AM

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Who has the best measuring stick?

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:13:00 AM

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Plastics are... "cheap, nasty, and toxic" HA! Investigation into plastic ocean debris

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:12:00 AM

Hey guys,

Soooo my friend from the Ocean Conservancy sent me an article, which describes the assumptions I made in my last post re: plastic ocean debris remaining constant since the early 1990s, regardless of increased production, consumption, and disposal in the subsequent decades.

Real quick I think it is important to be transparent with my biases: I represent a plastics manufacture, so of course I am going to be looking at the tragedy of ocean debris from a different perspective; that is, one that looks to highlight the complexities involved and not scapegoat the problem onto an inanimate object, like plastic bags. That being said, I am a human, and one who is very emotionally tied to the state of the environment: Like you I hate seeing photos of decaying Albatrosses with plastic bits in their bodies; I hate the idea that the chemicals used in some plastics, like flexible PVC, may leach into our bodies and environment and have human health ecological consequences over time; and, I hate that plastics represent both our mastery over nature AND our materialistic, disposable culture. That being said, plastics exist in such prevalence in society because of their versatility and economics; the feedstocks of which are synthesized from “waste” products resulting from the oil refinery process. But before I get all hot to trot on my plastics crusade, I do want to emphasize that the TRUTH will always trump my predisposition to highlight plastics' positives. If I genuinely felt that plastics, as this blog would have it, are “…cheap, nasty and toxic,” I would find another job. My degree in Ethics and Social Justice has provided me with the tools to analyze all arguments, arriving at a conclusion supported by verifiable facts; consequently, I approach all the plastics hot-button topics, be it material health, ocean debris, it’s non-renewable feedstock, etc., with the same due diligence and attention to detail I would approach any academic inquiry.

Sorry for getting on my intellectual soapbox. I have just been bombarded as of recent with more of the same; that is, sensationalist blogs and press describing all humanity’s fate as contingent on the eradication of single-use, disposal plastic products.

SO let us turn our attention to one such sensationalist press, referenced in my last post. In this Plastics News article the reporter postulates that the study in question, (which I have yet to read), demonstrates substantially increasing concentration of plastics in the ocean due to the increase of plastic pieces discovered in seabirds. While the idea of sea-life ingesting plastic ocean debris is super depressing, what I find fault with is the statement that “The new data indicates a substantial increase in plastic pollution over the past few decades, according to the report.” And here is why:

As per the report Plastic Accumulation in the North
Atlantic Subtropical Gyre
(, Science Vol. 329, Sept. 3rd 2010), “Despite a rapid increase in plastic production and disposal during this time period [1986-2008], no trend in plastic concentration was observed in the region of highest accumulation” (Moret-Ferguson et al., p. 1185).

But let me back up a bit. Here are the parameters of the study:

• Study motivation: “Plastic marine pollution is a major environmental concern, yet a quantitative description of the scope of the problem in the ocean is lacking.”
• This study looks to “present a time series of plastic content at the surface of the western North Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea from 1986-2008.”
• “More than 60% of 6136 surface plankton net tows collected buoyant plastic pieces, typically millimeters in size.”
• “The highest concentration of plastic debris was observed in subtropical latitudes and associated with the observed large-scale convergence of surface currents predicted by Ekman dynamics.”

And here is the Report’s main take-aways:

• “In the open ocean, the abundance, distribution, and temporal and spacial variability of plastic debris are poorly known, despite an increasing awareness of the problem.”
• “While the convergence acts to concentrate floating debris, the geographical origin of the debris cannot be easily determined from current patterns or from the recovered plastic samples themselves.”
• “Although the average concentration in this region did show a statistically increase from the 1990s to 2000s, this increase disappeared when concentrations greater than 200,000 pieces were removed.”
o “To address a potential sampling bias, the analysis was also performed with data from the most spatially consistent, annually repeatable cruise track from Woods Hole, Massachusetts, to St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. In this case, a weak but not statistically significant decreasing trend was observed in the high plastic concentration region.”
• “Although the nonuniform sampling in this data set cannot resolve short spatial or temporal scale variability, no robust trend was observed in the broadest region of plastic accumulation on interannual time scales and longer.”
• “Although no direct estimates of plastic input in the ocean exists, the increase in global production of plastic materials [fivefold increase from 1976 to 2008] together with the increase in discarded plastics in the MSW stream suggest that the land-based source of plastic into the ocean increased during the study period. Ocean-based sources may have decreased in response to international regulations prohibiting dumping of plastic at sea.”
• “Industrial raw pellets, the ‘raw material’ of consumer plastic products, are an additional source of plastic in the ocean. In 1991, in response to an EPA study, the plastics industries voluntarily instituted a program to prevent or recapture spilled pellets. Between 1986 and 2008, we observed a statistically significant decrease in the average concentration of resin pellets in the entire region sampled…This trend suggests that efforts to reduce plastic input at a land-based source may be measurable effective.”
• “The fate of plastic particles that become dense enough to sink below the sea surface is unknown, and we are unaware of any studies of seafloor microplastics offshore of the continental shelf. However, analysis of particular trap data in the center of the high plastic region near Bermuda shows no evidence of plastic as a substantial contributor to sinking material at depths of 500 to 3200 m.”
• “A study of plastic microdebris in waters from the British Isles to Island revealed a statistically significant increase in plastic abundance from the 1960s and 1970s to the 1980s and 1990s. However, similar to this study, no significant increase was observed between the later decades despite a large increase in plastic production and disposal.”

I URGE you to read the article in its entirety; download it here.

Science Magazine, Vol 3, Sept 3rd, 2010

So what does all this mean? It means there is no floating plastic island the size of Texas; it means we have limited insight into the amount of plastics in the ocean, how it got there, and where it goes, aside from marine ingestion and the buoyant pieces observed in the studies above. It means that plastics in the ocean could be in large part the result of plastic dumping at sea, which became illegal in the early 1990s. It means that the plastics industry has been proactive with this issue, implementing a program that dramatically reduced the amount of plastic pellets observed in the ocean. And, it means that CONSUMERS continue to scapegoat their irresponsible behavior i.e. littering, on the mythical plastic beast, without which, most of the conveniences we have come to depend on, wouldn’t exist.

And scene.

Check out this Real Clear Science article, which was published a couple days after this post; it is in dialogue with all the same themes discussed above.

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Pack Expo: Details into Expanded Bio Resin Show N Tell AND what "3D Package Design & Manufacturing Synergy" really means!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:12:00 AM

Hey! Today’s post is going to be a hodgepodge of miscellaneous updates, enjoy!

As you may recall from previous posts, I have been in dialogue with Ryan Hunt, Direct of R&D at ALGIX, LLC, re: algae-plastics, since last year’s Pack Expo. As previously alluded to, I was interested in adding the firm’s “algae-plastic” to Dordan’s Bio Resin Show N Tell, first unveiled at Pack Expo 2010. To my delight, said intention was met with Dordan thermoforming the first-ever sample of ALGIX’s algae/PP blend, to be displayed at Pack Expo in Chicago, at McCormick Place, October 28th-31st. I strongly encourage you to visit this blog post, which describes the technology of synthesizing “algae plastics” from aquatic biomass, a waste product of many industries, like textiles and dairy.

Check out this article, describing the collaboration between ALIGX and Dordan; it is also described in this Plastics Technology article and this editorial. Love me my free press!

This year’s Bio Resin Show N Tell also features OCTAL’s DPET, which stands for “direct-PET” and intends to connote the energy-saving production process (when compared with standard APET). Lastly, Oshenite’s renewable calcium carbonate (oolitic aragonite), trademarked by U.S Aragonite Enterprises, will be joining the Bio Resin Show N Tell family; this material is a unique version of calcium carbonate in that its feedstock is annually renewable. Click here for more details.

At Pack Expo Dordan will also be performing COMPASS demonstrations (educating attendees about the software and its functionality for packaging designers and brand owners alike) and Walmart Scorecard Modeling consultation (describing the metrics of the Software and how one designs packages to get a better Score), explaining how these tools are utilized in Dordan’s 4-Step Design for Sustainability Process as per the Go Phone package reduction and Tom Tom package redesign case studies.

Last but not least, Dordan introduces a NEW exhibit for those interested in how package design, manufacturing, and shelf impact intersect in the packaging developmental process at Dordan. Streaming 3D Package Design Modeling Videos from YouTube, attendees will see how the thermoforming process is at the forefront—not an afterthought—of Dordan package design. By understanding the limitations and capabilities inherent in the art of thermoforming, Dordan designs packaging that optimizes the conversion and fulfillment process, facilitating smart packaging and smarter packaging systems.

This sounds more complicated than it really is; let me contextualize.

You may recall some time ago I published “Consumer Market Research Report: How Package Design Dictates Product Sales, ‘Seeing it Sells it!’” via Packaging World’s New Issue Alert E-blast sponsorship. This is available for download here. Anyway, this Report described contemporary consumer market research, insofar as how package design can either help or hinder product sales. For instance, a poorly designed package may convey sentiments of tackiness, which the consumer inadvertently ascribes to the brand; contrarily, a well-designed and attractive package can communicate quality product and enhance brand loyalty. Additionally, studies have found that transparent packaging, which allows the consumer to instantly identify their needs being met by the product, increases product sales by reducing the time spent considering the competition and facilitating increased impulse purchases. These insights were the motivation for our “Seeing it Sells it” campaign, which is used in Dordan print and web-based branding.

ANYWAY, the consumer preferences re: package design, outlined in our "Consumer Market Research Report," coupled with our data based “Seeing it Sells it” insights, informed Dordan’s packaging development process for a potential client. This process is what we hope to convey with our new 3D Package Design & Manufacturing Synergy exhibit at Pack Expo. Consider the following scenario:

A manufacturer of high-end faucets approached Dordan with the interest of redesigning the packaging of its highest-selling faucet at retail. Design requirements cited included creating a unique shelf impact while keeping costs constant with current packaging (litho-laminated corrugate box with molded pulp insert tray). Dordan created 3 new packaging concepts, which were presented to the potential client via 3D Packaging Modeling renderings; these allowed our potential client to understand how the package was designed to optimize the capabilities of thermoforming, how it is manufactured, fulfilled, and appears at retail.

The first concept was the most consistent with current packaging; it simply replaced the molded pulp insert tray with a thermoformed version, reducing the selling unit weight and reducing transportation costs.

Click here to watch the package design movie.

The second incorporated the “Seeing it Sells it” mentality into the packaging redesign: It included a die-cut window in the litho-laminate box, which housed the faucet sandwiched between a thermoformed tray and transparent lid, allowing the customer to see the faucet model.

Click here to see the concept.

The last version, and my personal favorite, is the Thermobook, which is a packaging concept in which the product lay inside two thermoformed sleeves/cavities that fold together to protect the product while increasing cube utilization. When opened, this "Thermobook" allows the customer to see the product behind the thermoformed sleeve, thereby facilitating instant product recognition and consumer convenience.

Click here for the movie.

For each concept, the potential client was shown a total of three renderings: one of how the package is assembled i.e. packaging and product components, like the last example; one of how the package looks fulfilled, like the first and second example; and, one of how the product looks at retail, which is not conveyed in the examples above. Consequently, the client understands everything—from how the package is manufactured, how it is fulfilled, and how it appears at retail—prior to cutting any metal. Cool, huh?!? Does that make sense? Hopefully this process will be conveyed in our new exhibit at Pack Expo, which will have a ton of different 3D package design renderings streaming from YouTube, showing each phase of the informed and integrated packaging developmental process at Dordan.

To see all of Dordan's new products and services at Pack Expo, check out our virtual booth here.


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You Can't Manage What You Can't Measure

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:12:00 AM


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”? 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!

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Dordan Joins The Chicago Waste-to-Profit Network, FOR FREE!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:11:00 AM

Hey guys!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GAAAAA, frustrated, I returned to my cubicle.

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

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

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

He didn’t. :)

Stay tuned!

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Inquiries into "Seabird Study Shows Spike in Plastic Ocean Litter"

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:11:00 AM

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How the Chicago Waste to Profit Network Facilitates Synergies: Introducing Cirrus

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:10:00 AM

Hey guys!

Sorry about the delay in getting back to you re: Chicago Waste to Profit Network. Here are the deets!

The WtP Network is a “member-driven organization focused on local and regional sustainability issues that affect organizations within the Greater Chicago Area” (WtP Overview PPT). The goals of the Network are: (1) To provide a collaborative network to address sustainability related issues important to member companies; (2) provide a structured process through which companies can identify and vet partners; and, (3) help companies identify and implement synergies where wasted resources at one facility are used at another.

“By-Product Synergy” is defined as “the matching of wastes and wasted resources from one facility with potential users at another facility to create new revenues or savings, environmental and societal benefits”; and, “wasted resources” are those resources (including by-products, excess transportation and storage capacity, energy, etc.) that are left over after a product has been made or a service provided (PPT).

Unlike the “typical manufacturing process,” which is described as utilizing inputs such as material, energy and water to yield a product for market and waste for disposal, the WtP Network boasts a more cyclical material flow, whereby the output of one process becomes the feedstock of another; not unique from the process of recycling. Click the link below for a process flow chart.


Examples of synergies facilitated via the WtP Network include: Using glass cutlet waste derived from engineering glass products in mosaic counters and tabletops; re-purposing industrial bleach from Abbot Labs to create clean process water for a steel manufacturer; and, using unrecyclable mixed plastics for remanufacture into parking lot stops and noise barriers.

Overall, the Network boasts a $20 million dollar savings for participating companies, diverting 225,000 tons of waste from landfill (2006-2010).

This all sounds fine and dandy, but how are said synergies discovered? It’s almost as though member companies have access to all inputs and outputs of regionally contextual manufacturers in some type of transparent, portal-like software…

It’s not almost as though, it is! The software is called Cirrus, and it is a web-based application of the “management and reporting of resource and synergy data” (PPT).

Click the link below for access to screen shot of the software.


Therefore, the Network facilitates synergies by providing a platform where interested parties can go scavenger hunting for various materials and resources that can be of use to their specific manufacturing requirements. Cool, eh?!? And, it’s not only “waste” that is the foundation of company synergies but transportation and energy and water use. An example of this type of synergy includes Waste Management facilities where the methane emitted from landfill is trapped and re-routed to adjacent companies.

For more information on the Network, visit

So what does this mean for taking sustainability at Dordan to the next level? Details to come!

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Reflecting on Progress in PET Thermoform Recycling, 2009-present

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:10:00 AM

Hey guys!

Happy July! I have a super-awesome blog post coming your way but FIRST, let us recap exciting developments in PET thermoform recycling!!! Afterall, this was the ENTIRE focus of my blog for the first two years of its life; consequently, I think it only fair to tip our hats to the industry and all those involved in the impressive journey to recycle clamshell packaging, narrated below.

On June 27, 2011, Plastics News published a story announcing that “Canada’s five grocery chains will require its suppliers to shift to PET clamshell thermoformed packaging in a move designed to simplify the product stream and increase recycling” (Miel, Canada’s Grocers: PET for Clamshells).

As described in my Recycling Report, developing the quantity necessary to sustain the process of recycling itself is crucial to the economic recovery of any packaging/material type. In encouraging suppliers transition thermoforms from PE/PS/etc. to PET, it is assumed that the amount of material available for recovery should increase, allowing for the efficient collection and repossessing thereof. In addition, replacing other resins with PET will reduce the amount of “look-alikes” in the recycling stream, limiting the likelihood of contamination from PVC, PETG, CPET, etc.

Kudos to Canadian grocers!

Click here for the full article.

On July 4, 2011, Plastics News reports, “Transitioning to adhesives that don’t hinder recycling could be one of the stickiest challenges that packaging thermoformers face in meeting the new mandate by the Retail Council of Canada that clamshell food packaging be made from PET by next year” (Verespeji, Adhesives Complicate Packaging Mandate). The article goes on to explain how most food thermoforms use pressure sensitive labels, which when recycled, gunk up the recyclate due to the aggressive properties of the adhesive. Consequently, retailers are working with “Adhesive and Sealant Council Inc. and the APR on a set of guidelines for labeling adhesives that will eliminate contamination from glues and labels" (Ibid). ?

As per my Report, inks, labels and adhesives were another obstacle to PET thermoform recycling; thanks to the efforts of those cited above, these barriers (no pun intended) will soon be overcome. Awesome.

Click here for the full article.

On July 25, 2011, Plastics News announces that NAPCOR and SPI are to collaborate “in an initiative to propel the collection and recycling of thermoformed PET packaging…in a model program to demonstrate the economic feasibility of capturing the material” (Verespej, SPI Jumps on Thermoformed PET Recycling).

In my Recycling Report I emphasis the need for investment in recycling infrastructure and technology (collection, sortation, nourishment of domestic end markets, etc.) in regards to establishing the foundation on which PET thermoform recycling can thrive. I am SO proud of SPI, NAPCOR, and its member companies for developing this model program to determine the feasibility of nation-wide PET thermoform recycling.

Click here for the article.

On March 19, 2012, Plastics News announces the winners of the SPI/NAPCOR model PET thermoform grant! Click here for the winner descriptions!

AND, on June 29, 2012, Packaging Digest reports that, “…beginning immediately residents of single-family homes receiving recycling pick-ups [in Montgomery County, Maryland] can now add PET thermoform plastics to their recycling bins” (Spinner, SPI Boosts Recycling of PET Thermoforms in MD).

Click here for the full article!

Making moves in PET thermoform recycling! Can you believe our Green Manufacturer cover story narrating our efforts to recycling clamshell packaging came out almost a year ago!?! How time flies when progress is being made! I am so thrilled to have been part of the discourse on thermoform recycling and tickled pink to see the progress resulting since I first discovered that clamshell packaging was not recycled in 2009. I can’t believe that soon I will be able to say, without a doubt, that clamshell packaging IS recycled; take that paper people!

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Dordan's "Score" on the Green Strategy Index

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:09:00 AM

Hey guys!

Today I am going to pick up where I left off in my last post re: Dordan LCA.

Okkkk so way back when a sustainability coach reached out to me, requesting an interview about Dordan and sustainability. He was interested in what different sized manufacturers were doing in the green realm. Over the next 30-minutes, I explained with great enthusiasm Dordan’s approach to sustainability, which to-date, has been of an educational and customer-centric nature; developing tools and resources that aid our clients in developing sustainable packaging systems. I referenced COMPASS, our 4-Step Design for Sustainability Process and Bio Resin Show N Tell, and various research reports, as validation of our integrated and academic approach to sustainability.

It wasn’t until several months later that I heard from my interviewer—he had finished his research and assembled the findings in a white paper. Titled “Taking Manufacturing Sustainability to the Next Level,” it begins,

Over a period of six months, we interviewed 23 sustainability leaders at 20 manufacturing firms in a variety of industries.

This brief white paper summarizes why most manufacturing companies act tactically (limiting their thinking to “lean production”) rather than strategically when undertaking sustainability efforts. We then provide some ideas on how to take sustainability efforts to the next level.

Visit for the white paper and additional information.

Huh I thought to myself as I skimmed the white paper. In manufacturing companies large and small alike, sustainability efforts have been for the most part internally focused, as conveyed through zero-waste and energy/water consumption reduction initiatives. The Green Manufacturers Network is an example of a collection of manufacturers who have implemented this type of approach to sustainability.

A week or two later Zbig Skiba—the sustainability coach —phoned me, asking if I would be interested in a “free coaching session;” this would help me get a better feel for how Dordan performs. Why the heck not?!? I thought to myself.

Don’t worry—there is a point to this narrative in the context of my recent investigation into performing a Dordan LCA and I am getting there…

Sooooo Zbig asked me a series of questions about Dordan’s sustainability efforts; attention was paid to upper management support and the reach of internal and external efforts. While running through the questions, I realized something I have been tiptoeing around for some time now: the reality that I have done nothing on the operations side to allow for more sustainable manufacturing. Production at Dordan is a well-oiled machine that I have very little to do with from inside my one-woman department of Sustainability/Marketing. While I have Upper Management support, as demonstrated by the sheer fact I have the titled of “Sustainability Coordinator” and have been given the freedom to investigate sustainability at Dordan how ever I see fit, my efforts have thus far been of a sales/marketing focus. That being said, it has been difficult to quantify the ROI of these efforts, which leads me to entertain the following inquiry: If operational sustainability efforts could have a direct impact on the bottom line, insofar as waste diversion and reduced energy consumption is concerned, then perhaps Dordan Upper Management would be more enthusiastic about implementing sustainability efforts internally?

I would like to note, however, that Dordan has always been a lean manufacturer as that makes economical sense: we resell/recycle internally-ground plastic scrap/aluminum, installed energy-efficient lights, compost, are trying to reach zero-waste, etc. But as my previous posts have foreshadowed, I don’t have any idea how Dordan’s conversion process i.e. thermoforming, compares to our competitors’ and/or the industry average; hence, my suggestion of performing an environmental analysis of Dordan’s production process.

Follow the link below to see the results of Dordan’s Sustainability Strategy as per Zbig’s follow-up questionnaire.

Green Strategy Index Dordan

Dordan scored well on “Breadth of Efforts”, due to our emphasis on product design and marketing, and not as well in leadership involvement and understanding of impacts. In a nut shell, Dordan has done the exact opposite of most manufactures when it comes to sustainability: we began with developing strategic tools for our CUSTOMERS, not ourselves, whereas most begin with developing strategic tools for leaning up manufacturing operations. Crazy/cool, right?!?

So this brings me BACK to the inquiry about performing a Dordan LCA in order to (1) establish a baseline off which environmental progress can be gauged, (2) see how Dordan’s conversion process compares to our competitors/industry average/other conversion industries, (3) provide updated LCI data to the various LCIA databases, (4) and, develop an understanding of LCA methodology and application. Not to mention, get an A+ on Zbig’s Green Strategy Index, ha!

I encourage you to contact Zbig at if interested in a free 30-minute assessment of your sustainability efforts (using the Sustainable Strategy Index).

Just some food for thought.

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Feedback from Walmart SVN, 3:3

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:09:00 AM

Hey guys,

Today I am going to pick up on where I left off on May 16th's post re: Walmart Packaging Sustainable Value Network meeting in Bentonville, May 7th.

...After the students left the stage ( click here to read about this student-led packaging initiative supported by Walmart), Jim Downham of PAC took to the podium.

He began his presentation by comparing the state of the packaging industry to the traffic patterns around Paris's Arch de Triomphe, which for all intents and purposes, is somewhat of a labyrinth:

"A new world order is emerging in the packaging industry and the convergence of all the global sustainability initiatives is like navigating the Arch de Triomphe." Emphasizing the need to demystify and organize global sustainability initiatives, Downham introduced PACNEXT, which is a collaborative working group "intended to facilitate the convergence of all these ideas and identify sustainable solutions." Referencing new project "world without packaging waste," Downham explained how EPR--which exists in Canada where PACNEXT is headquartered but has yet to percolate America nation-wide-- is in need of harmonization and industry-intevention and maintenance.

Downham also exclaimed that PACNEXT was endorsing/managing the development of national and voluntary design for recyclability guidelines, intended to be released mid-June. I have been unable to find any more information in these regards...

Visit PACKNEXT's website for more details on this new sustainable packaging group and its various projects, which are intended to enhance, not hinder, other global sustainability initiatives. How PACNEXT differs from AMERIPEN, which is an organization akin to EUROPEN and is reportedly assessing global EPR models in order to determine how best to apply to America, is unknown to myself.

That's all I got! I had to leave the SVN meeting early to make my flight to Dallas to connect to Miami, though due to weather in Dallas, I never made it!

Guess what: I have been invited to speak on "LCA" at the SPE's Thermoforming Division's 21st Annual Meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Sept. 23-25! Click here for event details!

AND, stay tuned for new developments in Dordan's popular Bio Resin Show N Tell, first unveiled at Pack Expo 2010 and returning to McCormick Place this October for PMMI's Pack Expo!

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Taking sustainability at Dordan to the next level...enter the Chicago Waste to Profit Network

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:09:00 AM

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!

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Dordan LCA?

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:08:00 AM

Hey guys. In a recent post I alluded to the investigation of a new sustainability initiative, indicating details to come. Well, here are the details!

As those of you who read my blog regularly will recall, at the last SPC member’s only meeting the idea of “collective reporting” was proposed to the membership; this entails the collection and reporting of environmental performance indicators, like water consumption and/or landfilled material, per membership company. Basically, a company-specific “LCA” that demonstrates the firms’ environmental inputs and outputs, akin to, though perhaps not as detailed as, the international standards for LCA, ISO 14040-14043. Some multi-national, publically-traded firms already collect and report environmental performance data via Corporate Sustainability Reports; this communicates to stakeholders the company’s environmental commitment and actualization of said commitment via sustainability initiatives.

The SPC intended that in encouraging this type of data collection, the value of SPC membership would be more concretely communicated to non-member entities. Such efforts would demonstrate the packaging industry’s commitment to sustainability, insofar as to my knowledge, no other cross-industry NGO working group like the SPC has been able to generate such environmental data collection and reporting among its membership. Moreover, in aggregating primary, LCIA data per industry vertical i.e. thermoforming, the membership would be in a position to submit said data for review to the available life cycle inventory databases, to which, all LCA-based software platforms derive data for comparative assessments. Because the lack of accurate data/data holes/outdated data is often sited as one of LCA’s shortcomings when it comes to presenting an accurate snapshot of a product or service’s environmental footprint, being in a position to provide new and verifiable LCIA data would put the membership in a position of value for the sustainability and LCA community.

After introducing this proposal to the membership, the SPC staff were met with a resounding NO. This may be in part to the composition of the membership itself, which includes a lot of small and medium sized firms and manufacturers that don’t have the means to collect the data requested. Moreover, while transparent CSR reports may benefit large, publically-traded firms insofar as it aids in communicating shareholder value, the same may not hold for privately-held companies; here, reporting consumption and emissions metrics may provide too much insight into the business’s internal operations.

So the suggestion pretty much died there.

Then, while attending Sustainability in Packaging I had the privilege of seeing Dr. Karli Verghese’s presentation on the available LCA tools and how different tools are designed for different functions (click here to download my report based on presentation findings): while blank-slate LCA tools like SimaPro can be used to answer any type of environmental performance question for any type of product or service, tools like LCA-based comparative packaging assessment COMPASS have already been designed with certain methodologies, parameters, and assumptions built in, thereby allowing the non-LCA expert practitioner access to this powerful environmental assessment.

This got me thinking— Dordan already uses COMPASS to assess the “sustainability” of its package designs; this tool pulls industry averages for materials manufacture i.e. PVC vs. PET, conversion i.e. thermoforming with calendaring vs. paper cutting, distribution, and end of life. COMPASS is helpful for indicating how different materials/designs/conversion processes inform a package’s environmental profile. That’s cool in all, but what about the “sustainability” of a Dordan thermoformed package vs. a competitors’ package? Because most LCA-based tools use industry averages, which are outdated and don’t reflect the implementation of lean manufacturing processes, how is Dordan supposed to understand it’s company’s “carbon footprint” in opposition to that of its competitors or the industry or other conversion industries for that matter?

I approached the SPC with this inquiry; that is, what tools and resources is the SPC willing to provide to its member companies looking to perform an environmental assessment of its process, as encouraged at the last meeting? Moreover, would the SPC be interested in developing a streamlined LCA tool like COMPASS for packaging converters looking to perform a company-specific LCA?

The SPC staff suggested I propose this idea to the membership to see if other companies were interested in this type of initiative; perhaps if other thermoformers were interested in this type of environmental assessment, we could collaborate on developing a methodology for performing a conversion-specific LCA?

The SPC staff articulated that the organization is not in a place to provide LCA consulting to its membership, and when it encouraged collective reporting, it was implying said data maintenance be performed independent of the SPC, via consultants or LCA practitioners.

A friend of mine recently conducted an LCA of his company’s innovative new packaging material, for which, no LCIA data existed; hence, no claims of environmental impact could be postulated. He used the SimaPro software and created all study parameters and methodologies. That inspired me: Just because LCIA data exists for packaging conversion via thermoforming doesn’t mean it reflects Dordan’s thermoforming environmental profile; we shouldn’t be complacent with the status quo; and, we shouldn’t talk the talk of sustainability without walking the walk. Ya dig?

I am reading The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to LCA and WOWZA is this stuff awesomely complicated; I feel like I am finally starting to understand the great debates of LCA and its application to business.

Stay tuned!

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Feedback from Walmart SVN, 2:3

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:08:00 AM


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dordan LCA? And, PHOTOS of "home compostable" bioplastics a year after being composted

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:08:00 AM


Phew, Chicago has survived NATO. For residents of Chicago, the assembly of world leaders at McCormick Place over the weekend was inconvenient but cool. The Loop essentially shut down for four days, as all were warned of the closures and delays. Some lucky ducks even had a 4-day weekend because offices closed in anticipation of the protestors. Metra passengers were not allowed to bring food or drink on the train, and all bags were screened prior to boarding. As a resident of downtown Chicago, I was totally impressed by the extensive yet organized presence of cops; they circled every compromised building and lined the protest route. While one violent squirmish did break out between police and demonstrators at Michigan and Cermak, it was provoked by only a handful of anarchist protesters (The Blak Bloc”) and was contained with minimum force soon thereafter. Check out this pic I took Friday afternoon; notice the homeland security SUVs parked as far as the eye can see?

Today we are going to talk about developments with my LCA inquiry introduced in May 11th’s post. AND, to follow, for your viewing pleasure, pictures of home compostable bioresins a year after being home composted. Oh the anticipation!

To recap, what I mean when I say “my LCA inquiry,” is I am investigating the value of conducting an LCA of Dordan’s conversion process in order to: (1) establish a baseline off which environmental progress can be gauged, (2) compare with industry average and/or other conversion processes, (3) submit to available LCIA databases in order to provide more current data on the environmental profile of thermoforming, and (4) understand the methodology and application of LCA.

This investigation was inspired by the SPC suggestion of collective reporting among its member companies in order to demonstrate to outside stakeholders the value of SPC membership; and, research into LCA as per Dr. Karli Verghese’s presentation at Sustainability in Packaging ( click here to download the Report).

After reaching out to the SPC re: aiding in the development of tools to perform an environmental assessment of Dordan’s conversion process, it was suggested I propose the idea to the membership; if there was membership interest, I could start a member-led working group dedicated to creating methodologies for LCA application to manufacturing processes.

Since I last posted, I had the opportunity to speak with LCA practitioners in the SPC membership about my Dordan LCA inquiry. Here are a couple conversation takeaways:

It is in a company’s interest to perform an LCA of its processes if said processes are more efficient/innovative than the industry standard; the industry standard for thermoforming can be teased from the available LCIA databases, like EcoInvent and the U.S. Life Cycle Inventory Database.

A good way to determine if your processes are more efficient than the industry average, and therefore an LCA is warranted, is to perform an inventory analysis: First, determine what your process’s main resource consumptions are i.e. water and electricity. Then, collect all information pertaining to the consumption of these resources via energy and/or water bills. Consult the industry average’s rates for these environmental indicators and see how your processes compare in the context of electricity and water consumption per some functional unit i.e. 10,000 packages produced.

If you determine that a full LCA is warranted, there are MANY ways to go about it. However, it is crucial that the results/findings of which are 3rd party-reviewed in order to validate the study. This was explained to me as being quite the process, and comes with a price tag.

Based on these insights, I am going to conduct an inventory analysis of Dordan’s energy consumption per a-yet-to-be established functional unit in order to compare with the industry average for thermoforming. Stay tuned!

My next post will discuss feedback from the last portion of the Walmart Packaging SVN meeting.

As an aside, in previous posts I alluded to an S+S Sorting pilot that looks to compare the reprocessing of thermoform vs. bottle PET flake. Remember? Anyway, my colleague at S+S has yet to get back to me with the results of this pilot. Stay tuned!

AND, do you remember way back when, at the start of Dordan’s Bio Resin Show N Tell research ( click here to download Report), when we tossed some of the home compostable certified bioresins (PHA, Cellulous Acetate) into Dordan’s home compost to see if the materials biodegraded? Well, this spring I analyzed the compost pile to determine the rate of biodegradation and am sad to report that little had changed in regards to the composition of the material: while lightened in color and somewhat more brittle, both the PHA and Cellulous Acetate, certified for home-composting, remain completely intact; you can even see the Dordan logo embossed on the cavity. Please note, however, that Dordan's compost pile has had its fair share of growing pains and the "bioplastics composting trial" may not reflect a 100% active home compost.

Pictured: PHA, formed into tray with Dordan embossed logo on sample press, home composted Spring 2011.

Pictured: Melted PHA plastic from sample press forming; demonstrates lack of biodegradation.

Pictured: Close-up of Dordan logo embossed in PHA tray cavity

Pictured: Compilation of PHA and Cellulous Acetate scrap, certified for home-composting, a year after being composted.

Pictured: Cellulous Acetate scrap, certified for home composting, a year after being home composted.

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Feedback from no feedback land re: SPC meeting

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:07:00 AM

Helllloooo my long lost sustainable packaging friends!

I am back from Toronto with nothing to report re: Sustainable Packaging Coalition meeting. Why, you ask? The meeting just too darn fascinating to take notes? The insights just too mind-blowing to register? NOPE. I was sick. And cooped up in my hotel room. I have never been sick in another country on business before, and let me tell you, twas not fun. No fun indeed. If I could embellish, just a bit…

…Imagine me, crying, clinging to my passport and a map trying to find the alleged walk in clinic suggested by my hotel. A lot of stuff is connected underground in Toronto, so I was technically able to walk to the clinic from my hotel lobby without ever leaving the comfortable confines of a building...if only I could find it. Luckily, what can only be interpreted as a “local” stopped and asked if I needed help, where I dramatically replied, YESSSSSS. So, to make a long story short, I saw a Doctor and got medicine and spent the remainder of my conference existing on texts with colleagues at the conference and tea and bread.

Here is what I heard, however, through the grapevine:

Erin Shrode of Teens Turning Green was really impressive. She is one of the presenters who peeked my interest when the conference agenda was released, as she is TWENTY and kicking some serious sustainable brand butt. She was to lecture on the Millennials i.e. consumers aged 18-28, and their media consumption and purchasing habits, with emphasis on how technology and transparency be utilized to foster brand loyalty. I was real bummed I missed her, but luckily a friend emailed me a YouTube video of her presenting on the same content at a previous event, which I thoroughly suggest you watch; to do so, click here.

The other two presentations I heard were pretty remarkable include Mike Biddle’s “War on Waste” (President of MBA Polymers) and Keefe Harrison’s discussion of plastic laminate recycling (Consultant for Resource Recycling Systems). I’m going to review their presentations (they were just posted online) and will get back to you with any takeaways.

Wow. Between my hard-drive crashing, hence my notes from Sustainability in Packaging disappearing, to missing the entire SPC conference, I am on a roll. A bad roll.

BUT, I leave next week for Walmart’s Sustainable Value Network meeting AND the Bioplastics Compounding and Processing conference, which I am presenting Dordan’s Bio Resin Show N Tell at. So fear not! I will have more tantalizing tid bits in the world of sustainable packaging to report on very soon.

AND, I am cooking u a new super intense sustainability initiative at Dordan, more details to come! BUT, if all goes according to plan, it will provide the content for a new discovery narrative, akin to the clamshell recycling initiative, via yours truly at good ole’

Stay tuned!

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Feedback from Walmart SVN, 1:3

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:07:00 AM

Hey guys!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Students and Sustainability?

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:06:00 AM

Hey guys! Guess what?!? Tomorrow I am presenting on “sustainability” to Woodstock High School students! I get two classes for 50 minutes each!

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Feedback from SustPack12: "Are all life cycle oriented tools created equal?"

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:06:00 AM

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!

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Here I am!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:06:00 AM

Hey yall!

Sorry I have been MIA-- my hard drive crashed last week and it pretty much threw a wrench in all work-related activities.

Anyway, I am back, new hard drive and all, and look forward to kicking off the Sustainable Packaging Coalition meeting today! First a tour of a green brewery (awesome) followed by a welcome reception tonight. Oh, bad news: I lost all my notes from Sustainability in Packaging so my next round of updates won't be as detailed. C'est le vie!

Ok, my next post will discuss feedback from this week's conference. I hope to see some of you there!

And, for your viewing pleasure, some images of Toronto!

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Sust Pkg coverage: Dr. Karli Verghese on LCA tools available for assessing sustainable packaging

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:05:00 AM


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

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.

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Sust Pkg coverage: Alan Blake on "Practical Applications of the Global Packaging Project"

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:04:00 AM

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Making Moves in Thermoform Recycling!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:03:00 AM

Hey guys!

I am taking a brief detour from discussing feedback from Sustainability in Packaging to say WOW, three MRFs have been selected by NAPCOR/SPI to build-out model PET thermoform recycling plant(s)! We are closer than ever to our goal of recycling thermoforms nation-wide!!! Check out this press release describing the MRFs that have been selected; click here for background on all things PET thermoform recycling.


Let us bask in the beauty that is this picture (from my vacation) and give all those involved a big pat on the back/high five/pound/whatever floats your boat!

OH, this is silly, but check out my video interview after the first day of Sustainability in Packaging. I will expand on what I am talking about re: UC Berkely Study on LCA-based packaging comparative assessment tools, ASAP.

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Sustainability in Packaging coverage: Insights from PepsiCo, S.C. Johnson, and Nestle

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:03:00 AM

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A hiatus!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:01:00 AM

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I'm back! And what a coincidinc!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:01:00 AM

Hellllllooooooo my long lost packaging and sustainability friends! Oh how I’ve missed you!

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A little of this a little of that...

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 10:00:00 AM

Helllooooo my packaging and sustainability friends! I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentines Day! Here is my Valentine for you; won’t you be mine?!?

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Summary of Plastics Forming Enterprise's presentation, "Recycling of PET Labeled Thermoforms and Bottles"

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 9:37:00 AM

...[please see yesterday's post for context as today's post picks up where that one left off]...Also invited to participate in the task force meeting was the President of Plastics Forming Enterprise LLC., who was heavily involved with the development of APR’s Design for Recyclability Guidelines for PET bottles in the early 1990s. To make a long story short, this guy knows a thing or two about plastics recycling. His company is marketed as “an independent full service testing and R&D company serving the plastics, packaging, recycling and consumer products industries worldwide with a range of services.” As such, he is very well versed in the technical barriers keeping certain packaging/materials from being recycled and how recycling markets are generated and sustained.

His presentation titled “Recycling of PET Labeled Thermoforms and Bottles,” was one of the more precious compilations of insights into the technicalities governing PET bottle vs. PET thermoform recycling I have stumbled upon: For those of you who follow my blog regularly, you will recognize that the approach to PET thermoform recycling (and therefore what is considered a contaminate) has always been ambiguous—do you recycle PET thermoforms WITH bottles or in a separate stream? According to this gentleman, the answer is to recycle PET thermoforms WITH PET bottles eventually; it is just a matter of time, investment, and trial and error until recyclers and buyers gain the confidence into the value of PET thermoform material to sustain the collection and reprocessing there of. Good news, right?!?

What follows are some take-aways from this presentation:

Pressure-sensitive labels are the majority of labels used on thermoformed containers sold at retail. They consist of adhesives, substrate (paper vs. plastic), inks, coating, and laminate.

The known obstacles to recycling thermoforms with label/adhesives include: Sorting/contamination removal, material variability, mechanical engineering issues, misc. technical issues.

The known obstacles to recycling thermoforms with labels include: Look-alike contaminates i.e. PVC thermoform looks like a PET thermoform, wide variability in IV, package shape, direct print, different adhesives, different additives, fluorescence, flake bulk density, paper labels.

There are physical differences between PET thermoforms and PET bottles. While bottles have high IV, high bulk density and a unanimous design and material i.e. thin screw-top PET bottle, thermoforms have low IV, low bulk density, and heterogeneous shapes and material constituents.

The labels on PET bottles are typically plastic; the labels on retail point of purchase thermoforms are predominantly paper and continuously be increasing to plastic.
o It is generally understood that the move away from paper labels is the current issue at hand in the plastics recycling market (see APR’s Design Guidelines, pg. 12).
o However, the practical side of recycling PET thermoforms will need consideration of paper in the future i.e. POP label application.

The APR Thermoform Label and Adhesive protocol follows these steps:
o Apply label
o Grind
o 1st Elutriation
o Wash/Sink float
o 2nd Elutriation
o Plaque
o Analysis

PFE has developed a screening evaluation that focuses on adhesive performance (this takes a label and adhesive that has been applied to a specific package):
o Ground per APR guidelines
o Washed per APR guidelines
o The resulting flakes are analyzed for separation of the label from the flake (paper vs. plastic label impacts this test insofar as paper labels tend to “stick” to flake)
o The resulting flakes are analyzed for impact of inks and the impact of residual adhesive on the flake

In Europe, a common test evaluates the solubility of adhesives; this protocol does not look at the potential impact of:
o Soluble adhesives that have gone into solution during the wash and rinse process and redeposit onto the processed PET flake;
o Residual adhesives that remain tacky are causing problems where labels and flake become stuck together during reprocessing, hindering the removal potential of a given label.

Ideal PET label substrate properties:
o Floatable
o Light weight
o Maintain printed inks
o Physical properties for better separation

Ideal PET label adhesive properties:
o Needs to dissolve into solution and not reapply itself OR
o Adhesive to remain with the label and not be tacky

PFE’s Screening Evaluation is designed to understand three basic areas where label and/or adhesive performance is crucial to meeting the guidelines set by the APR:
o Separation from flake
o Removal through Elutriation and Sink Float
o Adhesive solubility and potential impact on flakes
o Impact of inks on wash water and flakes (if printed)

It was concluded that pressure sensitive labels are a critical part of the entire package. Therefore it should not be isolated as the main indicator of adhesive contamination potential without considering the interaction of the other label components.


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And the plot thickens! Dialogue on PET thermoform recycling and APR's adhesive/label protocol

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 9:36:00 AM

Hello my packaging and sustainability friends!

Sooo I don’t know if you read that article I referenced a post or two ago in Machine Design Magazine about PET thermoform recycling BUT you should because it continues the dialogue on clamshell recycling. Click here to read “Good News and Bad News about Recycling Thermoforms.” The interview for this article was more technical than those previous because the audience of the publication is engineers; the site’s tagline is “By engineers for engineers.” Anyway, after I received the reporter’s first draft of the article and performed my edits I sent it to several colleagues in the waste management industry to get their feedback as I was a little intimidated by the scope and breath of the piece. Thankfully I heard back from my friend who is the North Carolina Recycling Program Director and familiar with the barriers keeping PET thermoforms from being recycled in the Carolinas from the perspective of the state. As a side note, I met this gentleman two years ago at a Walmart SVN conference when I bombarded him with questions on thermoform recycling after his presentation (this was before I published my “Recycling Report?”). He was such a doll, patiently explaining his perspective on the matter, and has been a sounding board for my inquiries ever since. His comments are below:

You are doing an amazing job of trying to move thermoform recycling into the mainstream. It is a daunting task. As much as we try to pay attention to it and have dialogue with various players here in the Carolinas, we have yet to have any breakthroughs. There is an interesting trend for communities to expand plastic collection to non-bottle containers, but the situation on thermoforms is always ambiguous – are they in or are they out? Our bigger MRFs are definitely employing optical sorters to divert PET from the MRF stream but no one seems to have a handle on whether thermoforms go along for the ride and, if they do, if mixing them with bottles is okay with the markets. Or whether a secondary sort after the optical sorter is needed.

But I think you did a fine job of describing what is a surprisingly complex recycling process. There is so much change going on in the industry right now, it is frankly bewildering. I think folks see where we need to go, but it is really hard to figure out how to get there. When it comes to thermoforms (like a lot of other things), I think we just need a few breakthroughs with some “early adopters” who solve the chicken-egg dilemma of collection and then processing/marketing the materials. To that end, I am hopeful that the NAPCOR projects yield some useful results.

I’ve got a lot on my plate, but if you need any help in educating folks (reporters, or whoever) about some of the nuances of the recycling and waste management world, I’d be glad to weigh in. I really appreciate how much energy and thoughtfulness you are bringing to this work… Hang in there – you are doing great!

Aw shucks, whata guy.

This dialogue coincides with some other happenings in PET thermoform recycling, including an advertisement I was forwarded from the editor of Canadian Packaging Magazine showcasing the different “APR-approved label solutions” from Avery Dennison. Click here to see the ad. As per previous conversations, NAPCOR and others found that the adhesives used on thermoform packaging was too aggressive, rendering PET thermoforms unrecyclable insofar as the adhesive would gunk up the material during the process of recycling. Consequently, APR established a protocol in which adhesives used on labels had to be approved for application on thermoforms in Canada. Having received the ad from Avery, I am confident that the industry is taking this initiative seriously and developing adhesives and labels that are conducive to PET thermoform recycling. Hurray!

And the plot thickens!

While at the last SPC meeting I met a rather rambunctious fella who did not fancy the APR’s work in these regards; he represents an industry group of laminated paper products manufacturers. After some playful banter (I of course applaud the efforts of the APR looking to facilitate thermoform recycling by eliminating those elements that act as deterrent to recycling while he found fault with the approach of the APR), we agreed to schedule a follow up conference call. Months later I am happy that such a call is finally coming to fruition, scheduled for this Thursday! I look forward to learning about his perceptive on the matter and as always, promise to share his insights with you, my sustainable packaging enthusiasts.

AND I just received word that the S+S Sorting pilot, which looks to understand the technical differences between reprocessing bottle-grade PET vs. thermoform-grade PET, has been pushed back 3-4 weeks; more details to come.

This has nothing to do with any of the above BUT check out this super adorable article about my father and our family business. We even got the centerfold of this week’s Plastics News! How sexy!

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TLMI's "Recycling Friendly Adhesive Formulations and Compounds Task Force"

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 9:36:00 AM

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Everything you ever wanted to know about algae-based bioplastics and MORE!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 9:35:00 AM

WOW! As per my last post I was hoping my friend from Algix would get back to me with a more technical discussion of the company’s technology synthesizing bio plastics from algae and BOY HOWDY did I! Check out the awesome responses below.


Please describe the relationship between textile manufacturers/dairy producers and algae. In other words, how does algae become a waste product of these industries’ process and how is it ideal for manipulation into bio-based plastics?


Many types of algae and aquatic plants have been used for cleaning waters rich in inorganic nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus compounds. The high nutrient content accelerates the growth rates and increases the protein content of a variety of "nuisance" algae and aquatic plants or "aquatic macrophytes". The enormous "algal blooms" are seen as not only a nuisance but an environmental hazard due to the oxygen demand the algal cells require during night time respiration which can suffocate fish and other animals if the excess nutrients run off or leach into nearby water bodies. Many industries produce large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus-rich waste-water, such as the agricultural livestock farms, i.e. dairies and swineries, fisheries, etc; as well as industrial sources such as processing plants for textiles, municipalities, distilleries, biorefineries, etc.

ALGIX, LLC is located in Georgia, hence we are focusing our efforts on industries in the southeast where we have longer growing seasons, a warmer climate and an abundance of water compared to north or southwest. The "Carpet Capital of the World" is located in Dalton, Georgia, which has over 150 carpet plants which produce millions of gallons of nutrient rich waste water. Research conducted at the University of Georgia, has demonstrated high growth rates from various strains of algae and isolated top performing microalgae strains for further development. ALGIX is in discussions with companies there to scale up biomass production and use cultivated algae as a bio-additive in their polymer containing flooring products. Likewise, we are also talking to a variety of compounders that can co-process and blend the aquatic biomass with other base resins, such as PE, PP EVA, PLA, PHA, etc. As product development progresses, various end use applications for algae-blended thermoplastics and bioplastics will arise, which will increase the demand for the raw aquatic feedstocks. The advantage is that industries can effectively capture their lowest-value waste product, i.e. nitrates and phosphates, through bioremediation using algae and aquatic macrophytes. Photosynthesis captures solar energy and converts the waste water nutrients into biomass which can then be used as a raw material for composite formulations to make resins and bioplastics.

As the demand for algal biomass increases, there will be an incentive for other industrial plants to build out algae based water treatment systems and sell the biomass. Livestock operations such as Dairies, Fisheries, etc located in the southeast and southwest can use algae to treat their manure effluents and provide additional biomass to the market. We are in discussions with large dairies companies for building out algal ponds for water treatment and biomass recovery. Over time the aquatic biomass will become a commodity product traded like other traditional agricultural crops. Currently, large amounts of corn are being diverted from food production and enter biofuel or bioplastic production. Thereby, introducing a new, low-Eco footprint biofeedstock will help alleviate the demand on food based crops for plastics and liquid fuel conversion.


How is post-industrial algae synthesized into bio-based plastics? In other words, how is the protein in algae bound to the plastic components to allow for application to injection molding? What additives are required to allow for the synthesis OR used to increase the properties of the material? I remember discussions of protein-based materials (cellulous) vs. carbon-based (bio-PET) and how the former “connects” to the plastic molecule similar to how the calcium carbonate connects to the PP polymer, for example.


Algae produced from wastewater treatment has been grown under nitrogen rich conditions, providing an abundance of nitrogen to make protein. During exponential growth phases in algae and aquatic plants, the composition of the biomass is dominated by protein, in the range of 30-60% depending on species. The higher protein content algae or post processed meals may have 50% or more protein which is similar to soy protein meal. Although some companies have announced efforts to refine the algal oils or ferment into ethanol, these approaches require additional refining for synthesizing into "bio-based" monomers and polymers identical to their petroleum counterpart, such as Bio-PET, or bio-polyethylene, etc.

The protein in the biomass is what our process uses as the "polymeric" material in the blends. Proteins, by definition, are polymer chains of amino acids, which offer a variety of hydrophobic and hydrophillic interactions based upon the amino acid profile. Through thermomechanical processing, such as twin screw extrusion, the heat and shear forces exerted on the native protein complexes force them to denature and unfold providing a network of elongated polymer-like threads when blended with a base resin. The proteins have hydroxl groups available that can hydrogen bond and covalently bond in the presence of polar side groups on polymer chains as well as maleated chemical interactions. By adding conventional coupling agents, tensile strength and moisture absorption can be significantly improved.

The remaining portion of the non-protein biomass is usually composed of carbohydrates such as cellulose, hemicellulose, polysaccharides, but have little to no lignin. The crude fiber portion of the biomass has been shown to act like a reinforcing agent, increasing stiffness and tensile strength, but reduces elongation. The Ash fractions can range from 10-30% depending on cultivation method, however we believe the ash or minerals, will behave like a mineral filler, similar to calcium carbonate as it will be homogeneously blended throughout the matrix along with the biomass. Algae grown for bioremediation generally have a low lipid content, around 10% or less, and in cases where algae is being grown for biofuels, with high oil contents, the oil will be extracted leaving a protein-rich post extracted meal which will be well suited for compounding. Other value added compounds, such as high value pigments and antioxidants may also be extracted which will help in being able to modify the plastic color from dark green or brown to a lighter color which is easier to mask with color additives. Biomass particle size is also an important variable and needs to be optimized depending on conversion technology and application.

We have been successful compounding algae blends with some base resins up to 70% bio, however the majority of our formulations used in injection molding are set at a 50/50 blend which provides stronger performance characteristics. However, pure 100% algae dogbones have been made under compression molding, but do not have the performance properties compared to the injection molded blends.


What is the preferred end-of-life treatment of this unique bio-based plastic? Is it similar to the approach taken by PLA supplier NatureWorks, which looks to generate the quantity necessary to sustain the creation of a new closed-loop recycling process in which PLA would be recycled in its own post-consumer stream?


In the case that Algae is compounded with biodegradable base resins such as PLA, PHA, PHB, TPS, PBAT, and others, the final bioplastic will have the same or higher degree of biodegradability. Since we are dealing with biomass, the algae component is consumable by microbes, and the slight hydrophillic nature of the resin allows water to penetrate and accelerate the biodegradation process under the proper composting conditions. ALGIX still is testing the biodegradability rate and cannot not comment on degradation curves yet, as most of our research has been on formulation, co-processing, and performance related milestones.

When biomass from any source is compounded with a base resin, the resulting formulation becomes distinct from the recyclable pure resin. This is even the case with different polymer composites that may have two or more resin constituents. Although the biomass will be able to sustain some level of recycling, due to the more fragile nature of the resins bio building blocks, the performance will likely decrease, as with most other conventional recycled resins. We do not necessarily see a unique algal-blended stream of plastics, just due to the numerous variables in the formulations. A recent study by the American Chemical Council found that the US has a dismally low recycling rate below 10% but the state of New Hampshire has an exceptionally high recovery rate of over 40%. Instead of recycling these materials, which requires sophisticated sorting equipment or lots of manual labor, an easier approach was to convert the non-recyclable plastic waste steam into energy using boilers for steam and electricity production. I believe they still recycled some of the more easily sorted materials, like plastic water/soda bottles, just used any non-spec plastic for waste-2-energy...This not only reduced the cost associated with handling and processing the numerous recycling streams, it provided a substantial amount of alternative energy. If algae blended with synthetic non-biodegradable polymers increases in usage, the biomass fraction essentially acts as a bioenergy source at the end of its lifecycle. The conclusion that the ACC drew was that there is a dramatic shift in the amount of states shifting their focusing from complex sorting/recycling to a more direct and streamlined waste-to-energy approach. As Waste-2-energy increases, the concern about having closed loop recycling, although a wonderful concept, will be alleviated because the "other" non-recyclable plastics now can be converted to energy instead of being landfilled. The algae fraction of the plastics represents a carbon neutral component of the resin and energy feedstock.

ALGIX is initially focusing on product streams of plastic that have a low or absent recycling rate due to various factors; these include paint cans, pesticides, fertilizers, mulch films, and carpet products. There exists active programs for recycling carpets by shaving the fibers and grinding the backings for use in new carpets (at some minor percentage) as well as pure post-consumer-grade base resins, usually PP based. New product lines can be generated using post consumer grade resins with post-industrial grade algae biomass to provide a bioresin with a very low eco-footprint. We have a research proposal pending on conducting an LCA based on the algae biorefinery approach for bioplastics to further quantify these environmental and economic benefits.

That should be enough for yall to chew on for a bit…

Let's all give a big digital THANK YOU to Algix for being so informative and transparent with their exciting new technology!

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Algae plastics, packaging supplier collaboration, and meet the Dordanites!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 9:12:00 AM


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S+S Sorting to Conduct PET Bottle vs. PET Thermoform Flake Reprocessing Pilot!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 9:07:00 AM

Hello and happy first Friday of 2012!

Today’s post is going to pick up on a conversation I began following the PET Recycling and Extrusion Forum I attended in October; it revolves around the role machine technology plays in PET thermoform recycling.

October 21st post titled “Humbled by the Machine” discusses how there appears to be a disconnect between those designing packaging for recycling and those designing the machines capable of recycling said packaging. What this means is that while PET thermoforms are technically recyclable with PET bottles, little investment has made into how PET thermoform flake vs. PET bottle flake is reprocessed. In other words, while companies like S+S Sorting have insanely efficient machines for recycling PET bottle flake, I don’t know if the same can be said for PET thermoform flake. Check out the email I sent to the gentleman I met from S+S Sorting at the Forum inquiring into this assumption:

I was hoping you could help explain why the sorting technology your company manufacturers is only designed to reprocesses PET bottles, as opposed to PET thermoforms or other variants of PET. Is there a technical difference between bottle-grade PET and thermo-grade PET insofar as your machines’ ability to reprocess the material successfully? In other words, if your machines accepted mixed bales of PET bottles and thermoforms would they be able to “reprocess” the material into bottle-grade PET flake/pellets? Would the thermo-grade PET be interpreted as a contaminate or undetectable to the sortation technology?

And his response:

The presentation I did at the P.E.a.R. Forum in Chicago covered only the recycling of PET bottles because this is at the moment the market we see the biggest interest in.
Furthermore this is the industry which is the most relevant one for S+S Sorting Technology at the moment.

For sure the S+S sorters are able to sort other types of material (thermoforms, glass, metal scrap, E-scrap...)

What we have to consider especially for PET thermoform recycling is that the material is in general a bit lighter than the PET bottles.

This means that the throughput rates on the sorters will be lower...

In general the separation of PVC contaminants, metals, and off colors will work in the same way for thermoforms as for PET bottles.

What is important is that the thermoforms are well singulated and spread out on the conveyor belt of the sorter.

For this a proper working pre-treatment is absolutely necessary (bale opener, bale breaker, ballistic separator, overband magnet, maybe an eddy current system, vibratory feeder and then the sorter...)

In general the easiest way to explain this in more detail is a concrete project with figures like throughput rates, contamination levels, output quality...

Based on this information we can go into more details.

The reason I am picking up on this dialogue started in October now is because my friend at S+S informed me yesterday that they are conducting a pilot in which different types of PET flake, including thermoform, will be reprocessed on their existing lines to gain more knowledge about different type of flakes and impurities. My friend even said he would compile the information resulting from the pilot—specifically the technicalities of reprocessing PET bottle flake vs. PET thermoform flake—for my blog! What a guy!

Expect feedback in 1-2 weeks, yay! What do you think will happen?!?

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Have a great weekend—it is like 60 degrees in Chicago today, crazy!

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ZWTL, Burt's Bees tour, and a call for "collective reporting"

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 9:06:00 AM

Hello and happy 2012!

Today I am going to discuss all sorts of things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2011 in review, yay blogging!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 9:06:00 AM

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

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Feedback from Zero-Waste-to-Landfill workshop

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 9:05:00 AM

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!

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Financial benefits of ZWTL programs AND killing two birds with one marketing stone

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 9:05:00 AM

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!

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Merry belated Christmas/happy belated Holiday/see you in 2012!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 9:05:00 AM

Merry belated Christmas/happy belated Holiday from RecyclablePackaging!

I have many an update coming your way, including: the science behind algae-based plastics (super cool), SPC meeting feedback, including the SPC member companies’ reaction to a call for “collective reporting,” AND a description of the tour of Burt’s Bees.

I also have something up my sleeve re: “wrap rage”…more details to come! MUHAHAHA.

It was a very Merry Christmas at Dordan— we had a company party catered by Portilios, which was of course enjoyed by all. AND, on Xmas Eve day, the Northwest Herald— a newspaper distributed to most residence of the Northwest Chicago suburbs— published our article from the Business Journal on the FRONT PAGE! While out at a local bar with some friends from high school I had several people approach me and ask me if I was the Chandler from today’s paper—HA! Click here to read the story!

And, for your viewing pleasure, a picture of my Christmas tree, fashioned atop with a Sylvia Plath finger puppet!

Have a very mellow week and see you in 2012 with all sorts of tantalizing tidbits!

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Update from SPC meeting, 2:3

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 9:04:00 AM


Wowza it’s been a long time since I posted. My only excuse is that I was bed-ridden for close to a week with the worst case of “sore throat” imaginable, which is a pretty good excuse in my opinion.

Today we are going to continuing discussing feedback from the SPC meeting I attended in Dallas.

Let’s see where did we leave off…that’s right, after a discussion of the new working group looking to assess the role of transport packaging in sustainable supply chains we moved on to updates on COMPASS, the SPC’s LCA-based comparative packaging assessment software. For those of you unfamiliar, this tool is a super easy way to quantify the environmental repercussions of different packaging in the design phase. It assesses packages on resource consumption, emissions, material health and solid waste. The only information a practitioner of COMPASS needs to perform a comparative packaging assessment is the material type and weight of each packaging component (primary or secondary depending on objective) for both the existing and proposed packaging. Then the practitioner selects the conversion process i.e. thermoforming vs. paper cutting and the data set:because each country has their own waste management system and hence packaging recovery rates, it is helpful to select the data set (US, EU, CA) where the package will be distributed and assumingly disposed of to achieve a more accurate end of life data output. The updates coming to the software include rolling out recovery data sets for China and Mexico, thereby presenting a more international model of production and consumption in the context of packaging end of life recovery. Also new to the software is RPET and RHDPE LCI data, allowing users to compare virgin to reprocessed PET and the like. This is great because we have for so long assumed using RPET is “more sustainable” then PET and now we will have the hard LCI data to prove it (though Franklin Associates confirmed this assumption last year via their LCI report the new data has yet to make it into any third-party vetted LCA-based assessment software). So that’s all really cool. And as I described vaguely in my last post, I believe COMPASS is looking to create a transport packaging feature that will allow users to quantify the LCA impacts of different transport packaging schemes, be it a reusable or disposable model.

The other two presentations going on during the COMPASS session included “tapping the potential of energy recovery” and “what does the WBCSD vision 2050 mean for packaging?”

That night we met at the Frito Lay headquarters for the SPC welcome reception. I can’t begin to explain how GLORIOUS this meet n greet was. We had top chefs from all over Dallas prepare multiple courses for us, which consisted of everything from a poached egg atop lentils smothered in a bolognaise reduction to a deconstructed wedge salad and more! After the delectable journey through taste bud heaven a couple representatives from Frito Lay presented on their company’s efforts and Holley Toledo have they done some great work! I don’t recall the details except being extremely impressed. If you would like a copy of their presentation please let me know and pending approval I will forward on.

Our next post will discuss updates on the material health project; this is pretty heavy so make sure you eat your Wheaties!

AND, check out my brother's looking all fly at the MCEDC Annual Dinner where Dordan was awarded with it's Business Champion Award!

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Presenting at Green Manufacturer's Zero-Waste-to-Landfill Workshop!!!!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 9:04:00 AM

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.

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More dialogue on machine technology for recycling PET thermoforms

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 9:03:00 AM

Hey yall!

Sooo I know I said I was going to post today on the SPC meeting BUT I recieved a response to yesterday's post from Ron Sherga who is super duper well versed in PET recycling. He is currently an advisor on recycling and sustainable strategies at Heritage Environmental Services, as per his LinkedIn profile.

Check out our exchange below:

Chandler, here are the challenges in regards to your question.

Basically, there are two ways to sort on a large scale commercial level.

One is using optic sorting equipment, or more accurately, near infrared or NIR. this will not work on black . There is no fast way to discern a black colored materials composition using fast scanning technology.

The second method is to size reduce and process thru a system where materials are separated based on their specific gravity. This is done using centrifuge machinery and various fluid designs.... But let's call it a salt water medium.

Other than these and hand sorting (which relies on eyesight and touch); that's about it.

And my response:

Hey thanks!

I understand that the sortation technologies you describe are usually employed at the MRF/PRF facility…what I am interested in are the types of machines companies like S+S Sorting manufacture, which are often bought by the big wigs of PET recycling (Coke), and therefore more proactive in recycling PET materials into RPET flake, bottles, etc. In other words, I am trying to learn more about the privatization of PET recycling technology and why this technology is only being designed to recycle PET bottles. Does this make sense? I confuse myself sometimes!


More details to come following my conference call with S+S Sorting!

Tomorrow's post WILL discuss feedback from the SPC meeting, specifically, the SPC's suggestion of "collective reporting" amongst it's member companies.

AND, did you guys know of this conference!?! It was just brought to my attention, but looks AMAZING!

OH, and check out this Packaging Digest article-- your powerhouse in stilletos is quoted, ha! I think if my head gets any bigger, it's going to explode! But in an awesome way.


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Feedback from SPC meeting, 1:3

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 9:03:00 AM


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Feedback from Pack Expo

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 9:02:00 AM


Sooo Pack Expo was awesome! It’s the first time we exhibited at that show and were really glad we did—tons of traffic and new opportunities. And Vegas is awesome! We stayed at the Cosmopolitan, which is probably the nicest hotel in a super tacky yet classy sort of way, if that’s possible. Here is a picture of the view from my room:

And here is me in a large shoe:

We had A LOT of interest in the Bio Resin Show N Tell at the Show, which acted as an awesome way to “lure” attendees into our booth. I find that when you have some type of interactive exhibit that establishes a foundation for talking points, it’s a lot easier to engage with booth passerbyers. Show attendees seemed impressed with our level of insight into “sustainability” and packaging and appreciated how we didn’t sugar coat anything in regards to myths of THE sustainable material or package. It also seemed as though the level of understanding around issues of sustainable packaging has increased throughout the industry as a lot of people articulated a pretty thorough grasp of the realities of “green” packaging insofar as cost and performance is concerned. That which seemed enlightening to those who participated in the Bio Resin Show N Tell, however, was the clarification between bio-based plastics and compostable/biodegradable plastics. Contrary to popular belief, just because something is bio-based doesn’t mean it is “biodegradable.” In discussions of bio-based PET, in which the PlantBottle is a prime example, the only difference between PET and bio-PET is where the carbon comes from: fossil fuel or agricultural bi-products. Therefore, the chemistry of the polymer is identical to traditional, fossil-based PET, though its feedstock comes partially from a new (plants), as opposed to old (fossil fuel), carbon source. It wasn’t until I sat through a 4-hour workshop with professor Dr. Ramani Naraya that I finally understood this seemingly simple concept, which initially appeared as complicated as the physics of worm holes.

Also appreciated were the COMPASS LCA-tutorials. Here we introduced the comparative packaging software and described how to use it to design more sustainable packaging and have the data to back up the assumed sustainability improvements. Everyone was pretty surprised at the ease of useability and how the tool could be used to provide marketing departments with concrete data to inform environmental marketing language. i.e. this package releases 20% less GHG emissions throughout it’s life when compared with the previous design! At the same time, however, we emphasized data gaps in the LCI metrics and how the tool should be understood more as a COMPASS (tells you where you are going) than a GPS (where you are).

Probably the silliest happening from the Show was in constructing our booth the day before when we realized we brought the wrong company name sign! Instead of reading “Dordan,” the name of the company, it read “custom thermoformed packaging solutions since 1962!” Quite the mouth-full, ha! I loved the bewildered look on people’s faces as they consulted their Show itinerary to verify our booth location only to learn the Marketing Manager, ahem, me, made a boo boo. C’est le vie!

Our next post will provide feedback from the SPC meeting. Adios!

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The Journey of Inquiry Continues

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 9:02:00 AM

Hello and happy Halloween! Here is a pic of me and my sister, who is dressed as Morticia from the Addams Family!

As per my post titled “Humbled by the Machine,” I sense a hole in my analysis of the recyclability of clamshell packaging in the context of machine technology. Below is the email I alluded to in said post, which I sent to a representative from S+S Separation and Sorting Technology GmbH following our meeting at the Polyester Extrusion and Recycling Forum.


This is Chandler with Dordan—we presented in the same panel at the Polyester Extrusion and Recycling Forum in Chicago on October 11th. I presented on obstacles to recycling PET thermoforms within the existing municipally-owned waste management infrastructure. Remember?

I hope this email finds you well!

I was hoping you could help explain why the sorting technology your company manufacturers is only designed to reprocesses PET bottles, as opposed to PET thermoforms or other variants of PET. Is there a technical difference between bottle-grade PET and thermo-grade PET insofar as your machines’ ability to reprocess the material successfully? In other words, if your machines accepted mixed bales of PET bottles and thermoforms would they be able to “reprocess” the material into bottle-grade PET flake/pellets? Would the thermo-grade PET be interpreted as a contaminate or undetectable to the sortation technology?
I am just trying to better understand your technology and its application to our market.

If you would prefer to arrange a time we can chat via phone, please let me know your availability for the next week or two.

I look forward to hearing from you soon!

And his response:

Hi Chandler,

Nice to hear from you. I am travelling at the moment and will be back in office next Wednesday.
For sure there will be time to discuss your questions.In addition to this my colleague in the USA is also available for any direct support.I am looking forward to contact you next week.

Best regards.

Nice! And the journey of inquiry continues!

Have a ghoulishly good Halloween my packaging and sustainability friends! Tomorrow’s post will discuss feedback from the members-only Sustainable Packaging Coalition meeting I attended in Dallas. Stay tuned!

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Green Manufacturer COVER FEATURE!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 9:00:00 AM

Hey guys! I am writing you from the lovely airport of Kansas City! This trip was scheduled last minute so again I apologize for not posting as frequently as promised. Lot’s of exciting updates are coming your way, including: SPC meeting feedback, Polyester Extrusion and Recycling Conference feedback, and tid bits from Pack Expo.

BUT guess what?!?

My cover feature in Green Manufacturer went live on their website yesterday afternoon and is set to be distributed to print subscribers by the beginning of next week! There is little I can say about this article because it is positively the nicest, most flattering thing I have ever read about myself, ha! I literally danced around my condo when I first read it. I needn’t say more. Follow this link for a digital version of the story, and enjoy!


Your Powerhouse in Stilettos

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Humbled by the Machine

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 9:00:00 AM

Hello and happy Friday!

So last week I presented at the Polyester Extrusion and Recycling Conference in Chicago on progress in recycling thermoforms since I published my Recycling Report in 2010. I’m really glad I went to this conference though the content diverged dramatically from the usual packaging and sustainability conferences I attend. As the name would imply, those speaking and attending this event were stakeholders in the extrusion and recycling machinery market; hence, I was amongst the ranks of representatives from Starlinger, Kreyenborg, EREMA, S + S Sorting, etc. These gentlemen (I was the only woman speaker) held extremely prestigious degrees in mechanical and chemical engineering from a variety of domestic and international universities, most having 10+ years experience in the plastics industry. Holy Toledo.

It is not a fair assessment to say I was intimidated by these gentleman and their extensive knowledge into plastic extrusion and recycling but I was humbled by their insights insofar as it presented yet another dimension to the complexities surrounding recycling in America. To date, my research into the recycling of clamshells has been dictated by a certain perspective, which can best be explained as a macroscopic view of waste management that focuses exclusively on post consumer residential waste and the market and technological requirements necessary for the economical recovery of a specific packaging material/type in the North American context. What was not included in this paradigm, therefore, was the privatization of the recycling technology market and the disconnect between those designing packaging and those designing machines capable of recycling said packaging. In other words, I have spent almost two years trying to understand the barriers to recycling thermoforms from a waste management perspective i.e. what waste management needs to begin collecting new materials for recycling; issues discussed include critical mass i.e. material generation in the waste stream available for recovery, supply and demand, international vs. domestic consumption of recyclables, sortation systems, specs for collection and baling, etc. What was not included in said analysis was the technical aspect to recycling, that is, how machines are designed or not designed to recycle/reprocess a specific material/packaging type. Several speakers in the recycling machinery market discussed their machine innovations and how said innovations allow post-consumer PET bottles to be reprocessed into an array of products from direct-food contact sheet and containers to strapping and/or polyester fiber/textiles. The technology was so sophisticated that it would maintain a homogenous IV, eliminate any spec of contaminant, be it dirt, sand, metal, etc., and produce clean flake, pellet, or product. It was crazy the level of sophistication that these machines seem to offer. However, most of the machinery discussed requires bales of PET bottles for reprocessing, with no attention given to PET thermoform bales or PET thermoform and bottle bales. Though it was not touched upon exclusively and I may not be well versed enough in these issues to comment, it seems as though these machines are developed primarily and exclusively to reprocesses PET bottles and any other derivative of PET, specifically thermoforms, are not considered nor desired. This observation leads one to conclude that if we are serious about recovering PET thermoforms, either within the PET bottle stream or as its own thermoform-PET exclusive stream, we need to collaborate with those manufacturing the recycling machines and technology.

I sent one of the presenters from S + S Sortation an email looking for more information on thermo-PET vs. bottle-PET in the context of what their recycling machines are capable of reprocessing and get more information on why the machines favor PET bottles exclusively. In a nut shell, I want to understand why there are no machines that were discussed at this conference that cater to recycling PET thermoforms + PET bottles OR PET thermoforms exclusively: Is it because lack of supply, investment, economics, etc.

Stay tuned!

AND, for your viewing pleasure, check out this video from Pack Expo—it’s my friend from Ecovative and I discussing the collaboration between our two companies on the design of their thermoformed “grow trays” for their new cooler product line.

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Scheduled to speak at Polyester Extrusion and Recycling Conference in Chicago!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 8:59:00 AM

Hellllllloooooooooooo my packaging and sustainability friends! I have returned to my beloved Chicago after two weeks of traveling: First, to the SPC’s member-only meeting in Dallas; then, to Las Vegas for Pack Expo! I have tons of awesome stuff to report, but unfortunately, am strapped for time as I have been invited to speak at the Polyester Extrusion and Recycling Conference last minute. Check out the description of my presentation below, super cool!

Presentation Title: Reflections on “Recycling Report?”

Presentation Description: In early 2010, Chandler Slavin released “Recycling Report: The Truth about Blister/Clamshell Recycling in America with Suggestions for the Industry?.” This report was the culmination of over a year’s work of independent research into the realities of waste management in America, with attention to the economical and infrastructural requirements of post-consumer PET thermoform recycling. Reflections on “Recycling Report?” discusses this research in abstract while highlighting the new developments in PET thermoform recycling as initiated through the industry and its associations. Slavin will report on the progress made in these regards after establishing a foundation for understanding the economics of recycling in America as described with reference to the 2010 Report.

Once I polish off my PPT, I will provide the following updates generated from my experiences the last two weeks:

SPC meeting feedback, including updates on following SPC projects: Labeling for Recovery Project, EPR AMERIPEN/SPC working group, Material Health working group; additionally, I will discuss the SPC’s call for “collective reporting” and the member-companies reaction thereto. And, second times the charm, I have been nominated to the Executive Committee! Ballots went out last week and the election closes this Friday; good luck to my fellow nominees!

Feedback on all things Pack Expo!

OH and I saw the mock-up for my Sept/Oct. feature in Green Manufacturer and am positively thrilled! It is by far the nicest thing anyone has every written about me, I am just tickled pink!

Untill next time!

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Sneak peek of presentation!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 8:59:00 AM

Hey guys!

I just finished my presentation for the Polyester Extrusion and Recycling Conference in Chicago next week. It is basically a super-condensed version of my Recycling Report with a discussion of the progress made in recycling PET thermoforms since it was published in 2010. Check it out!

Reflections on "Recycling Report"

AND, to pick up on a conversation began way back when, Greenpeace and Mattel finally came to an agreement re: sourcing fiber from APP managed forests. Click here for the press!

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This that and the other

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 8:58:00 AM

Hello my packaging and sustainability friends!

I hope everyone is enjoying this lovely transition to fall!

Sooooooooooo let’s see what’s new and improved…our organic Victory Garden is in full grow mode! Check out the new pictures! Yum!

AND, after last year’s waste audit wherein we determined that corrugate comprised a large part of our material sent to landfill, we are now collecting our corrugate for recycling! Neat!

The Environmental Task Force of School District 200 is hosting its first meeting September 20th. Unfortunately, I will be in Dallas for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s fall, members-only meeting. I will be sure to keep you updated on the initiatives of the ETF, however, and can’t wait to give you feedback on all things SPC-related.

AND, our press release introducing our NEW Pack Expo exhibit was picked up by Google Alerts Friday! EXCITING. Click here to read more!

Alright, farewell my fine weather friends—I leave for the SPC meeting this weekend, afterwhich, I go right to Pack Expo. Therefore, I will postpone blogging until I return from these events, chalked full of industry insights and sustainability and packaging tid bits. Cheerio!

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WAHOO! Selected for COVER FEATURE of Green Manufacturer Magazine!!!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 8:57:00 AM


I apologize for my absence! Been crazy busy coordinating Pack Expo, reaching out to media outlets to advertise presence at Pack Expo, and working out kinks of new website.

I have some exciting news! Drum roll please…

Yours truly has been selected for the COVER of Green Manufacturer Magazine!!!

Green Manufacturer is a print/digital publication and Website that brands itself as “your guide to adopting green manufacturing processes.” Each issue’s cover highlights a different manufacturer that has made efforts to become more sustainable in their processes/services. Topics covered include alternative energy, zero-waste, etc.

I reached out to the editor way back when to introduce myself and the work Dordan was doing in sustainability but our story wasn’t a good fit at the time. Imagine my surprise when the editor emailed me two weeks ago asking if I wanted to participate in an article about sustainable packaging and then offered me the FEATURE STORY! While I can’t divulge the focus of the story just yet, know that it is going to be AWESOME. Hopefully I don’t look like a dork and the editorial reflects well on Dordan and can serve as inspiration for other manufacturers looking for alternative approaches to green-up their operations and corporate positioning.

Wish me luck at the photoshoot! Cover of Green Manufacturer today, cover of Vogue tomorrow, ha!

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Reflection on progress in PET thermoform recycling and introducing NEW EXHIBIT at Pack Expo!!!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 8:57:00 AM

Hello and happy Friday!

The photo-shoot for Green Manufacturer was so much fun! They had me pose in front of Dordan’s display cases and also perch atop one of our plastic rolls in our materials warehouse! It was like a million degrees in the plant yesterday and the photographer was at the top of our tallest ladder; he is such a trooper! The editor for Green Manufacturer is a real doll; it was SO flattering to be chosen for their Sept/Oct feature when so many manufacturers are doing exciting things in the green space! And, I got to talk about my favorite thing—PET thermoform recycling—so I was happy as a clam! I can’t wait to see the photo proofs and read the editorial copy!

There have been so many developments in PET thermoform recycling since I published the Recycling Report, which was an overview of the main obstacles facing the inclusion of thermoformed packaging in the recovery infrastructure. While I don’t believe our efforts in these regards initiated the recent developments in PET thermoform recycling (NAPCOR and others have long recognized the market potential of PET thermoform recyclate), it is really cool that we got to participate in the dialogue during this exciting time. Since I published the Recycling Report, I have been delighted by the following industry-initiated efforts to identify and work to eliminate the technical barriers keeping PET thermoforms from being recycled nationally: Canadian retailers mandating that all thermoform containers be converted to PET by 2012 to increase the material available for recovery and simplify the waste stream; SPI and NAPCOR teaming up to sponsor a grant for a processor to invest in the technology necessary to economically reprocess thermoform-grade PET; and, APR working with the Adhesives Council on developing guidelines for using adhesives in thermoform packaging to eliminate contaminates to the PET bottle recycling stream. AWESOME!

AND, I am super excited about our new exhibit at Pack Expo that demonstrates our collaboration with my friends at Ecovative Design, the materials science company I visited early spring!!! Click on the link below to read more about this neat exhibit!

Dordan Manufacturing and Ecovative Design Collaboration on Display at Pack Expo

Lastly, the Boston Consulting Group released a report that shows manufacturing to return to the US over the next five years due to the elevating labor and shipping costs associated with overseas manufacturing. I believe the full report just came out, but click here to read the press release distributed early May. The editor from Green Manufacturer explained yesterday that she only buys products made in America. That is the coolest thing I have heard in a while; I’m sure she will be delighted if the assumptions made in this report come to fruition! I know Dordan will be!

Have a fantastic extended weekend!

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PET Thermoform Recycling Proposal

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 8:57:00 AM


It's official! Check out the email I got from Cal Recycle last night:

Plastic Collection and Recycling Listserv

The National Association for PET Container Recources (NAPCOR) and SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association (SPI) have just issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a grant of up to $100,000 to be awarded for development of a model PET thermoform recycling program. Funds are available to any United States' MRF or recycling program operator that can affect the variety of elements necessary for a successful program, as described more fully in the RFP.

The RFP is available for reviewing or download on the NAPCOR web site at Proposals are due on or before September 30, 2011.


Go NAPCOR and SPI!!!

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BPA is back!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 8:56:00 AM


I don’t have much time to chat BUT I wanted to include links to a couple news items I found about BPA while perusing industry publications today. Like the excerpts from the unpublished Truth about BPA & PVC posted August 16th, these articles paint a rather confusing picture about the human health implications of BPA. By including them here I do not intend to support the arguments made therein; I simply wish to share because they add to the already pervasive cannon about BPA and phthalates. As I am still in the information gathering phase and because I found the timing of these articles a bit ironic insofar as I spent the better part of July researching the effects of BPA and phthalates on the endocrine system, I thought I would share them with you! I like the blogging format because the conversation never really ends and you can pick up and leave off with different threads, which is exactly what I am doing now!

“Good Science, Bad Politics,” Plastics News

“Hardwired to Doubt Science?” Packaging World

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Plastics Business Magazine feature!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 18, 2012 8:54:00 AM

Hello and happy Friday!

Guess what! My article titled “Assessing Sustainable Packaging through Life Cycle Analysis” was featured in the summer edition of Plastics Business Magazine as the industry insight!!! Check it out here. This is the most words I have ever been allowed to submit to a print publication, AWESOME! Love the fancy formatting, too.

As an aside, I am in the process of updating The Facts, released in 2009 via our website, to reflect new US EPA data on recycling. Therefore, The Facts is no longer available for download on our website. Once we polish off the new and improved version, you will be the first to know, my packaging and sustainability friends! Exciting stuff!

In my last post I included excerpts from the not-published Truth about BPA & PVC. Ironically, in the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s August Newsletter, received yesterday, BPA is discussed as it pertains to thermal paper. Check it out here. Weird bears!

Next week’s post will include new pictures of our organic garden! The tomatoes and peppers are looking good!

AND, click here for a SNEAK PEEK of Dordan's Bio Resin Show 'N Tell to be unveiled at Pack Expo as advertised in Packaging World's August New Issue Alert!

Have a grand weekend!

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Best laid plans...

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:54:00 PM

Goodness gracious how I have missed you, my packaging and sustainability friends! The last couple weeks have been absolutely CRAZY, which is why I have failed to post recently. Let’s see where did we leave off…that’s right, The Truth about Plastic Packaging Report! As narrated in my last several posts, I wanted to use Dordan’s sponsorship of Packaging World’s New Issue Alert as the platform to release our newest research report, titled The Truth about Plastic Packaging in reference to our first research report, The Truth about Recycling?. The motivation for this project stemmed from several happenings, the most prominent, reading Susan Freinkel’s recently published Plastic: A Toxic Love Story. This book is an in-depth look at “plastic” as it exists in the social imaginations of the Western world and is in dialogue with the various social and environmental issues pertaining thereto. Having no ties to special interests groups (to my knowledge), Freinkel presents a fair, well-researched treatment of plastics as they have come to proliferate the modern world. Her objective, academic approach provided me—as a representative of the plastics industry—with tons of food for thought; so much so I decided it would best be analyzed and applied in a research report of my own. Thereafter, I set upon a new research venture that looked to expose the realities of plastics as they pertain to us and our environment in hopes that in painting a contextualized portrait of plastics, the industry would better understand both the obstacles that exist, and opportunities ahead, for plastics.

And behold the genesis of The Truth about Plastic Packaging Report! While in the thick of it, however, I quickly discovered that this was a massive undertaking: there was no way I could discuss and contextualize PVC and BPA, ocean debris, end of life management issues, AND “green” plastics in one research report. Sooooo I decided to break it into a series, as discussed in a previous post, the first of which, titled The Truth about BPA & PVC. Upon completion of this task, however, something just didn’t sit right with me. Why was I talking about how the additive in flexible PVC (DEHP) may or may not be contributing to the contemporary discourse on “endocrine disruptors”? What does this do for the thermoforming, and larger plastics, industry?

Perhaps my real hesitation with publishing The Truth about BPA & PVC was the feedback I got from my friend and colleague from CalRecycle, formally of the California Board of Integrated Waste Management, who provided a great deal of insight into my first report, The Truth about Recycling. After reading The Truth about BPA & PVC he became concerned that the argument I took was outdated and reflective of my bias as a representative of the plastics industry. He explained that the way I critiqued the studies investigating the effects of phthalates like DEHP on the endocrine system (the complex network of glands that produces hormones that govern growth, development, metabolism and reproduction) was similar to that of the ACC, which reasons: the test sample size is too small, rats are poor models of human health hazards, the dose administered in animal studies are much higher than those experienced in humans, and, the demonstrative health qualities are not necessarily adverse*. I explained to my colleague that I was not making an argument akin to the ACC; I was just describing the contemporary studies on the matter and the discourse resulting therefrom as articulated in Freinkel’s Plastic: A Toxic Love Story. Regardless of my intentions to present a fair treatment of plastics as contributing to discussions of “endocrine disruptors,” I concluded that I did not know enough about the matter to speak about it in The Truth about BPA & PVC. And in the vein of attempting to appear as though this decision was based on a deep-rooted philosophy of ethics as opposed to uncertainty over ones understanding of a complicated issue, let me quote Socrates: “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing” (The Republic). Did it work; am I just dripping with depth?!?

To make a long story short, we are reverting back to our original plan to discuss The Truth about Plastic Packaging as one, mega-report. I will use the information I garnered for The Truth about BPA & PVC to inform my holistic discussion of plastics and the environment from the perspective of the Sustainability Coordinator at a family-owned plastics packaging manufacturer. While I will use Freinkel’s book as the backbone for the analysis, I will consult other sources in order to develop a multi-dimensional assessment of the current climate of plastics and the environment. SO, STAY TUNED!

If you are interested in a summary of the discussion on plastics and endocrine disruptors, check out the excerpts from my report below. As described at length above, take this information with a grain of salt as more research is needed to be performed on my end until I can understand and therefore discuss this complicated topic!

AND, I have my first conference call with the SPC/AMERIPEN today on financing end of life management for packaging materials! Wish me luck!

To check out the content that we DID use for our sponsorship of Pack World’s NIA, click here! Do you like the photo?!? It’s ME!

Excerpt from the unpublished Truth about BPA & PVC

Please note: WordPress format does not allow me to include footnotes; please email me at for a list of references.

Nowhere has plastic become more omnipresent then in modern healthcare. Dutch physician Willem Kolff, motivated by assurance that “what God can grow, Man can make,” scrounged sheets of cellophane and other materials in Nazi occupied Holland to perfect his kidney-dialysis machine. Today,

Plastic pacemakers keep faulty hearts pumping, and synthetic veins and arteries keep blood flowing. We replace our worn-out hips and knees with plastic ones; and, plastic scaffolding is used to grow new skin and tissues. Plastics supply the essential everyday equipment of medicine, from bedpans to bandages to single use gloves and syringes. With plastics, hospitals could shift from equipment that had to be sterilized to blister-packed disposables, which improved in-house safety, significant lowered costs, and made it possible for more patients to be cared for at home.

While medicine is a small market when compared with plastics’ other applications, it has been revered as the industry’s golden child, showcasing the benefits of polymers. Such association between plastics and healthcare was done so, however, on the presumption that plastics were safe and chemically inert. As Modern Plastics pointed out in a 1951 article titled Why Doctors are Using More Plastics, “Any substance that comes into contact with human tissue…must be chemically inert and non-toxic, as well as compatible with human tissue and not absorbable.” But in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a sequence of findings began challenging this assumption of chemical stability.

PVC is one polymer used in healthcare for its presumed chemical stability. PVC has chlorine as one of its main components, a greenish gas that is derived from sodium chloride. To make PVC, the chlorine is mixed with hydrocarbons to form the monomer vinyl chloride, which is then polymerized, resulting in a fine white powder. “This unusual chemistry is PVC’s great strength, but also its greatest problem—the reason that industry sings its praises and that environmentalists call it Satan’s resin”: The chlorine base makes PVC chemically stable, fire resistant, waterproof and cheap (since less oil or gas is needed to produce the molecule); it also makes PVC dangerous to manufacture and hazardous to dispose of, because when incinerated it releases dioxins and furans, two carcinogenic compounds. PVC is also unusually “poly-amorous,” which means it tends to hook up with a variety of other chemicals, allowing it to be converted for an array of applications; without additives, PVC is so brittle it is basically useless. This versatility has made PVC one of the top-selling plastics in the world and a frequent choice for manufacturers of medical devices. Due to its dependence on additives, however, it has come under scrutiny.

Plasticized PVC is when the plastic is made soft and pliable through the addition of a clear, oily liquid called di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, or DEHP, a member of the phthalate family. Phthalates have become so ever-present in consumer and industrial products that manufacturers make nearly half a billion pounds of them each year; they’re used as plasticizers, lubricants, and solvents. While you’ll find phthalates in anything made of soft vinyl, they also exist in other types of materials, too. Examples include: food packaging and food processing equipment, construction materials, clothing, household furnishings, wallpaper, toys, personal-care products like cosmetics, shampoos and perfumes, adhesives, insecticides, waxes and inks, varnishes, lacquers, coatings, and paints. But our primary exposure to DEHP is through fatty foods such as cheese and oils, which are particularly likely to absorb the chemical, though it is unclear whether that is happening via plastic packaging, the inks used in food wrapping, or during commercial preparation and processing. There are about 25 different types of phthalates, but only about a half a dozen are widely used; of those, DEHP is one of the most popular, especially for medical devices.

In a 1969 experiment Johns Hopkins University toxicologists Robert Rubin and Rudolph Jaeger accidently discovered that DEHP was leaching out of PVC blood bags because DEHP is not atomically bonded to the molecular PVC daisy chain; therefore, can migrate out, especially in the presence of blood or fatty substances. Follow up studies found traces of DEHP in stored blood as well as in the tissues of people who had undergone blood transfusions. Thereafter, a chemist at the National Hearth and Lung Institute reported that he found residues of DEHP and other phthalates in blood samples taken from a sample population of one hundred people. Unlike the former findings, however, this population had not undergone extensive medical treatment; these people were simply the consumers of synthetic goods, those who may have been exposed to phthalates from any of thousands of everyday products, from cars to toys, wallpaper to writing. Today, at least 80% of Americans—of all ages, races and demographics—now carry measurable traces of DEHP and other phthalates in their bodies, according to biomonitoring studies by the Centers for Disease Control. Yet as the CDC has articulated, “the mere presence of DEHP in someone’s body does not mean it is a health hazard. The difficult question is whether the small amounts to which we are all exposed are significant to affect some people’s health." Plastics manufacturers had long known that additives could and would leach out of polymers but maintained that people weren’t exposed to high enough levels to suffer any harm. After taking a hard look at DEHP and other phthalates, independent toxicologists came to the conclusion that only at very high doses could DEHP/phthalates cause birth defects in rodents and induce liver cancer in rats and mice, but only through a mechanism that rarely affects humans. Hence, it was concluded that there was no cause for concern, based on the fundamental principle of modern toxicology that the dose makes the poison.

This assumption that the dose makes the poison was challenged, however, by mom- turned-zoologist Theo Colborn, who began developing a different theory of toxic effects based on her work in the late 1980s at the Conservation Foundation in Washington. Enlisted to research the effects of pesticides and synthetic chemicals on the Great Lakes wildlife, Colborn found “weird, eerie accounts of chicks wasting away, cormorants born with missing eyes and crossed bills, male gulls with female cells in their testes, and female gulls nesting together.” Sensing something lurking beneath the surface, Colborn created an electrical spreadsheet sorting the information by species and health effect and found that most symptoms could be traced to a dysfunction of the endocrine system—the network of glands that produces hormones and govern growth, development, metabolism and reproduction. Colborn discovered that adult animals exposed to chemical toxins were fine; the main health problems were found in their offspring. Colborn wrote, “Unlike typical toxins, these seemed to be acting as hand-me-down poisons.” Colborn’s findings suggested the possibility that wildlife and people were being exposed to a new kind of risk from widely used chemicals—this changed the assumption that the dose makes the poison—insofar as the poison wasn’t solely in the dose; it could also be in the timing of exposure. In July 1991 at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin, a group of members from a range of disciplines dubbed these trends “endocrine disruption,” which included three important findings often overlooked by traditional toxicological research: the effects could be transgenerational; they depend on the timing of the exposure; and they might come apparent only as the offspring developed. A discussion of endocrine-disrupting suspect bisphenol A will make clear the ambiguous effects of these compounds on the human body.

BPA is the primary component of polycarbonate, a hard, clear plastic that’s used in baby bottles, compact discs, eyeglass lenses, and water bottles; BPA is also a basic ingredient of epoxy resins used to line canned foods and drinks. Unfortunately, the bonds holding these long molecules together can be weakened fairly easily, allowing BPA to migrate out of the polymer daisy chain. Scientists have known since the 1930s that BPA acts as a weak estrogen, binding with estrogen receptors on cells and blocking natural stronger estrogens from communicating with cells. By now hundreds of studies have suggested BPA does just that in animals and humans, reporting the compound causes health effects in cells and animals that are similar to diseases becoming more common in people, such as: breast cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and neurobehavioral problems such as hyper activity. BPA research has been highly controversial because the alleged effects seen at very low doses don’t show up at higher doses; yet, it makes sense if you view the chemical as hormone rather than poison in which toxic effects increase with the amount of exposure.

Unlike most suspected endocrine disruptors like BPA that mimic estrogen, DEHP—the chemical found in PVC IV bags and tubing, not to mention a host of other vinyl items like shower curtains—is an antiandrogen, meaning it interferes with testosterone and other masculinizing hormones of both men and women. As observed in rat studies, once the chemical enters the body, it travels to the pituitary where it stops the production of a hormone that directs the testicles to make testosterone. It is believed that when this occurs during sensitive periods of development, testosterone levels can plummet and growth and development may be influenced. Epidemiologists have charted rising rates of male infertility, testicular cancer, and decreased testosterone levels and diminished sperm quality in many western countries, though the connection to DEHP is unknown. Such findings led an expert panel convened by the National Toxicology Program in 2006 to conclude that there were “grounds for concern that DEHP exposure can affect the reproductive development of baby boys under the age of one.”

While DEHP is thought to affect cells in the testes that secrete testosterone, such findings have not been observed in recent primary studies involving young marmosets, our closest relatives. Moreover, epidemiological findings on sperm quality have been inconsistent: some studies show correlations with phthalate levels, some don’t. These contradictions in DEHP/phthalate studies have led the American Chemistry Council to make the following critiques thereof: the sample size is too small; rats are poor models of human health hazards; the dose administered in animal studies are much higher than those experienced in humans; the demonstrative health qualities are not necessarily adverse. The continuing uncertainties are one reason why expert panels that have looked at these compound all come to the same conclusion: more and better studies are needed.

A few of the chemicals used in plastics—the phthalates found in IV bags, triclosan, an antibacterial found in kitchenware and toys, and the brominated fire retardants widely used in furniture—have already caught the attention of researchers and regulators. However, we have no coherent body of law for managing the chemicals we experience in daily life, which makes the regulation of suspected endocrine disruptors difficult. The EPA recently announced it would take steps to limit use of phthalates, including DEHP. The FDA, on the other hand, judges that the chemical offers more benefit than risk and therefore has ignored calls to limit its use in medical devices; its only action to date has been a 2002 advisory recommending that hospitals not use devices containing DEHP in women pregnant with boys, in young male infants, and in young teenage boys. This inconsistent approach to chemicals management is part and parcel of The Toxic Substance and Control Act (1976), which presents the following Catch-22: The EPA needs evidence of harm or exposure before they can require a chemical manufacturer to provide more information about a chemical, but without that information, how do they establish evidence of harm? In the absence of evidence, regulators cannot act. In Europe, law makers abide by the precautionary principle in which “the burden of proof is on safety rather than danger.” This allowed the EU to prohibit the use of DEHP in children’s toys in 1999, nine years before the US Congress pass similar legislation. A new directive known as REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals), adopted in 2007, requires testing of both newly introduced chemicals and those already in use, with the responsibility on manufacturers to demonstrate that they can be used safely.

SO, what do you think? Confusing, eh?

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Intro to the Truth about Plastic Packaging...

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:51:00 PM


So I am about half-way finished with my next research report, "The Truth about Plastics Packaging." So far I have covered the history of plastics/it's proliferation into the modern world and PVC/DEHP/phthalates/BPA i.e. "endocrine disruptors;" next I will discuss end of life management issues i.e. ocean debris, "battle of the bags" i.e. plastic vs. paper, and "green" plastics. It is quite the bull, let me tell ya. I'm thinking if it gets too long (I am already at 10 pages, double space) I may release the Truths in bits, starting with The Truth about PVC and The Truth about BPA, followed up with The Truth about Ocean Debris, etc. Goodness gracious I just don't know!

But, to get your slavery glands a salivating for all this to-come awesomeness, here is the intro to my first draft. Enjoy!

In 2008, more than 400 pieces of plastics-related legislation were introduced at the local, state and federal levels, including: more than 200 anti-bag measures, bans on PS fast-food packaging, phthalate laden toys, and BPA baby bottles. While the plastics industry had dealt with instances of public animosity before, never had plastics come under attack on so many fronts. As a new representative of the plastics industry, I had to ask myself, are plastics bad? What follows is a discussion of some of the hot button issues surrounding plastics products as described in Susan Freinkel’s Plastic: A Toxic Love Story. As plastics continue to percolate public discourse on health and the environment, I think it important to tease fact from reality; in doing so, we can better understand how to manage this family of materials that has for so long afforded us convenience and security, without compromising the ability of future generations to enjoy the same comforts made possible with plastics.

Hungry for more?!? Stay tuned!

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A brief history of plastics

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:51:00 PM


Soooo I am ALMOST finished with The Truth about PVC & BPA, the first of our four-part series on The Truth of Plastic Packaging. I plan to give you, my packaging and sustainability friends, a sneak peek Monday before it is distributed to all Packaging World New Issue Alert subscribers mid-August.

In the meantime, check out the brief history of plastics as described below. I think it important to establish the historical context of anything one researches as how do you know where you are going if you don’t know where you have been?


Please note: All references made to Susan Freinkel’s Plastic: A Toxic Love Story.

Historian Jeffery Miekle has noted the transition of the perception of plastics in the social imagination of the western world from that indicative of man’s power over nature to that of cheap disposability. First developed to replace scarce natural resources in the mid-nineteenth century, plastics now constitute the nation’s third-largest manufacturing industry, behind only cars and steel (Freinkel, p. 53). How did plastics come to proliferate the modern world?

In 1869 John Wesley Hyatt invented celluloid, a substitute for Ivory, in response to the contemporary fear of elephant extinction:

As petroleum came to the relief of the whale, so has celluloid given the elephant, the tortoise, and the coral insect a respite in their native haunts; it will no longer be necessary to ransack the earth in pursuit of substances that are constantly growing scarce (Freinkel, p. 17).

While celluloid was initially invented as substitute for Ivory billiard balls, it found further application in combs—a previously luxurious product now made available for the masses (p. 18). By replacing materials that were expensive, celluloid “democratized a host of goods for an expanding consumption-oriented middle class” (p. 20). In 1907 Belgian Leo Baekland created Bakelite, the first fully synthetic polymer made entirely of molecules that couldn’t be found in nature. The Bakelite Corporation boasted, “humans had transcended the classic taxonomies of the natural world: the animal, mineral and vegetable kingdom. Now we had a forth kingdom, whose boundaries are unlimited” (p. 6). In 1941 after Pearl Harbor, the director of the board responsible for provisioning the American military advocated the substitution, whenever possible, of plastics for aluminum, brass, and other strategic metals (p. 6). Thereafter, in product after product, market after market, plastics challenged the traditional materials and won, taking the place of steel in cars, paper and glass in packaging, and wood in furniture (p. 6).

Indisputably, plastic does offer advantages over natural materials. However, the proliferation of plastics in the mid-late-nineteenth century was also the result of the rise of the petrochemical industry; that is, “the behemoth that came into being in the 1920s and ‘30s when chemical companies innovating new polymers began to align with the petroleum companies that controlled the essential ingredients for building those polymers” (p. 7). Legend has it that one day John D. Rockefeller was looking over one of his oil refineries and suddenly noticed flames flaring from some smokestacks. “What’s burning?” he asked, and someone explained that the company was burning off ethylene gas, a byproduct of the refining process. “I don’t believe in wasting anything!” Rockefeller supposedly snapped. “Figure out something to do with it!” That something became polypropylene (p. 59). Legend aside, it is fact that Rockefeller’s company Standard Oil was the first to figure out how to isolate the hydrocarbons in crude petroleum. That innovation helped give rise to the modern petrochemical companies that produce the raw, unprocessed polymers know as resins (p. 60). Most of today’s major resin producers—Dow Chemical, DuPont, ExxonMobil, BASF, Total Petrochemical—have their roots in the early decades of the twentieth century, when petroleum and chemical industries began to develop alliances or form vertically integrated companies. Producers had begun to realize that there might be a use for the waste created in the processing of crude oil and natural gas and in the making of chemicals: rather than being burned off as a worthless byproduct ethylene could be retrieved and profitably deployed as a raw material for polymers. The growing reliance on fossil fuels helped drive the growth of the modern plastics industry, even though the production of plastics consumes only 4% of the country’s oil and natural gas reserves (p. 60). Environmentalist Barry Commoner explains, “By its own internal logic, each new petrochemical process generates a powerful tendency to proliferate further products and replace existing ones” (p. 7).

Taken together, that is, the association between plastics and mans’ ingenuity plus the understanding of plastic as democratizing agent via consumption, coupled with the rise of the petrochemical industry and the economic opportunities generated therefrom, allowed for the proliferation of plastics into modern life:

The amount of plastic the world consumes annually has steadily risen over the past seventy years, from almost nil in 1940 to closing on six hundred billion pounds today. In 1960, the average American consumed about thirty pounds of plastic products. Today, we’re each consuming more than three hundred pounds of plastics a year, generating more than three hundred billion dollars in sales (8).

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A little of this, a little of that

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:50:00 PM

Hello and happy Monday funday!

Sooooo guess what?!? It turns out that my “Truth about Plastics Packaging” report isn’t due into the publishers to be distributed with Packaging World’s August New Issue Alert until August 8th! HURRA! I am about half-way done outlining Freinkel’s Plastic: A Toxic Love Story and plan to have the final draft ready for you, my packaging and sustainability friends, by the first week of August. Stay tuned!

On another note, I found BABY MICE in the composter! Uh oh. While they are very cute (see the picture below), I don’t believe they are ideal for composting.

The process of composting Dordan’s food and yard waste has been a learning process, insofar as it is a bit of a formula between wet (food) and dry (yard) waste. So far we have had a disproportionate amount of dry to wet waste, which has resulted in the compost pile being a bit stagnant. Oh well, live and learn! We will continue to work on getting the “perfect” mix in the composter to produce quality compost for our organic Victory Garden, which is coming along swimmingly! Last week we harvested basil and several types of lettuce. The peppers and tomatoes are getting bigger and bigger each day! Look out for new pictures in a latter post!

And, our online booth for Pack Expo is now LIVE! Check it out here!

And, sort of random, but Dordan released a press release introducing our redesigned corporate website, though I don’t think it was interesting enough to be picked up by any industry publications, wa wa. Check it out below!

Media Contact:
Rob McClurg
TurnKey Digital, LTD.

Dordan Manufacturing Unveils Redesigned Corporate Website

Woodstock—July 6th 2011—Dordan Manufacturing Company Inc., third-generation family owned and operated custom thermoformer, unveiled a redesigned corporate website July 1st, 2011 at 5:30 PM CST. The new website, designed by Dordan’s internal Marketing Department and media house TurnKey Digital of Woodstock, IL, aesthetically aligns itself with Dordan’s newly-focused brand identity; such identity took root with Dordan’s integrated marketing campaign introduced in 2010 via Summit Media Company. While enjoying the reputation that comes with almost 50 years experience in the industry, Dordan CEO Daniel Slavin wanted to increase its brand recognition through the development and execution of a marketing campaign that worked on several media platforms—the last of which the redesign of the corporate website,

Previously dominated with highly saturated hues and minimal content, the new website is light, modern, and easy-to-use. High-quality photographs with a click-and-zoom feature accompany each product page, allowing for ease of product recognition. A package design rendering video is included on the package design service page, illustrating one of the many design renderings Dordan offers its clients in the package development process. Also included is company-specific information, like how tools are machined, how many thermoforming lines are available, and what materials Dordan has experience thermoforming. In short, the new website is content-rich and aesthetically pleasing, aiding Dordan in communicating its corporate goals of transparency, sustainability, and package design and plastic thermoforming excellence.

New to the site is Dordan’s Morphing Sustainability Logo, which represents the corporation’s integrated approach to sustainability that draws on the social, economic, and environmental aspects thereof. The “Mega-Logo,” available on the Dordan Sustainability Initiatives page, represents this three-tiered approach to sustainability with its three green leaves denoting each aspect of sustainability. The Economic Sustainability page contains the first rendition of the morphing logo, displaying a tomato plant “growing” out of the branded “D” for “Dordan,” symbolic of the company’s Organic Victory Garden and relationship to the local economy. The Social Sustainability page contains the next rendition of the morphing logo, represented by a school growing out of the “D;” this is intended to convey the company’s involvement with the Woodstock School District. The Environmental Sustainability page includes the last rendition of the morphing logo, this time with flowers growing out of the “D” representative of Dordan’s goal of zero-waste. The Sustainability Morphing Logo is viewable in its entirety on the homepage and Harvard-based artist Gabriel Karagianis designed it.

Dordan CEO Slavin explains, “While we have always considered ourselves one of the premiere custom plastic thermoforming companies in the industry, we wanted our branded identity to convey that. Consequently, we invested in a 6-month process redesigning and re-writing the corporate website, in hopes that the new look would resonate with those looking for a full-service design and plastic packaging manufacturing company. We are thrilled with the result and are happy to share the new feel with our friends and colleagues, clients and industry.”

About Dordan Manufacturing Co. Inc.

Incorporated in 1962, Dordan is a Midwestern based, National supplier of custom designed thermoformed packaging solutions like clamshells, blisters, trays and components for a variety of industries. Dordan will be exhibiting at Pack Expo in Las Vegas September 26th-28th, booth #6007.

AND, last but not least, but some exciting developments in recycling PET thermoforms hit the press last week! Check out the PlasticsNews article below!

NAPCOR and SPI team up to help recycle thermoformed PET

WASHINGTON (July 18, 5:15 p.m. ET) -- In an initiative that officials hope will propel the collection and recycling of thermoformed PET packaging, trade groups representing plastics and recycling companies are collaborating on a model program to demonstrate the economic feasibility of capturing that material.

The program represents the first major recycling initiative by the industry’s largest plastics association, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.

“Thermoformed packaging is the fastest-growing packaging segment in the U.S. and Canada,” said Dennis Sabourin, executive director of the Sonoma, Calif.,-based National Association for PET Container Resources, which is partnering with SPI. “This represents a tremendous opportunity to build the supply of recycled plastic materials,” as the amount of thermoformed packaging in the U.S. and Canada is expected to be 3 billion pounds by 2014 — or half the size of today’s PET bottle market.

In addition, the largest Canadian grocers last month told their suppliers to switch to PET clamshells for most food packaging by Jan 1, 2012.

Click here for the full article.

I leave you with a legend on how modern plastics were born, as per Freinkel’s Plastic: A Toxic Love Story…

Legend has it that one day John D. Rockefeller was looking out over one of his oil refineries and suddenly noticed flames flaring from some smokestacks. “What’s burning?” he asked, and someone explained that the company was burning off ethylene gas, a byproduct of the refining process. “I don’t believe in wasting anything!” Rockefeller supposedly snapped. “Figure out something to do with it!” That something became polyethylene (59).


AND LOOK-- my mom caught a picture of a female Cardinal feeding a motherless baby Robin bird! So much for survival of the fittest (though my mother informed me that the baby Robin was washed away in Friday's thunder storm...that's kind of a bummer).

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Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:49:00 PM


Sooooo I am about to go retreat to the deep, dark depths of my condo for a week so I can write Dordan’s next white paper, “The Truth about Plastic Packaging,” which is based on Susan Freinkel’s Plastic: A Toxic Love Story. The book is awesome and Susan is a really great writer. I have learned so much about plastic and I hope to present a concise, easy-to-read summary of sorts of her extensive work, which focuses on all the hot button issues surrounding plastic packaging like PVC, BPA, plastics in the ocean, etc. I apologize for my absence the next week, but it’s CRUNCH TIME.

And for your viewing pleasure, some Dordan news IN the news, neat! Thanks Greener Package and!!!

Pack Expo: Dordan to offer Walmart Packaging Modeling 3.0 Tutorials
Pack Expo: Dordan to perform COMPASS LCA demonstrations
Thermoformer Dordan expands range of sustainable packaging
Pack Expo: Dordan adds new resins to its Bio Resin Show N Tell

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Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:48:00 PM


I hope everyone had a lovely 4th of July weekend! Go America!!!

Sooo I have some exciting news!

First, my rebuttal to the NYT’s anti-clamshell article was featured in Greener Package’s newsletter last week as a news HEADLINE!!! Check it out here with the new comments! I especially like the BOOOYYYAAAA one, ha!

And last but not least, our press release discussing our Bio Resin Show N Tell for Pack Expo west is featured on the Supplier News section of Greener Package! Check it out here!

Alright, I apologize for today’s post of self-proclamation; still catching up from this weekend’s festivities! BUT I just booked my Dallas trip for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s fall meeting! I hope to see some of you there!

To come: Making a Sea Change summary (Ocean Conservancy re: ocean debris), summary of Dr. Narayan’s science of bio-based/biodegradable resins PPT; and, much much more!

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The Truth about Ocean Debris

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:48:00 PM

Hiiiii! Happy Monday funday!

I am writing you from the halted Metra—crazy weather in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago has rendered all Union Pacific rail travel stopped!

Today I am going to summarize the findings presented in the cumulative study on ocean debris as per the Ocean Conservancy’s “Talking Trash: 25 Years of Action for the Ocean.”

First, some background on the report:

Over the last 25 years, volunteers from around the world have participated in versions of “International Coastal Cleanup (hereafter, ICC),” which is a grass-roots mobilization that cleans coastal beaches and inland waterways of debris and trash and characterizes said trash in publically available data-entry cards. The Ocean Conservancy explains,

“Over the past 25 years, Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup has become the world’s largest volunteer effort for ocean health. Nearly nine million volunteers from 152 countries and locations have cleaned 145 million pounds of trash from the shores of lakes, streams, rivers, and the ocean on just one day each year. They have recorded every item found, giving us a clean picture of he manufactured items impacting the health of humans, wildlife, and economies. “

These data management cards characterize the debris by trash type (material like plastic or object like fishing net), frequency, geography, etc. allowing organizations like the Ocean Conservancy and its partners to gain better insight into the true extent of ocean debris; this insight has facilitated the development of industry initiatives and policy aimed at reducing the amount of garbage in the ocean.

In total, volunteers have recorded 166,144,420 items since the first Coastal Cleanup campaign 25 years ago via the standardized data card. 43 items commonly found are tallied, as are “weird finds” like suitcases and toilets; the data are published annually in the Ocean Trash Index. To assess the long-term trends in the Cleanup the Ocean Conservancy engaged Applied Marine Science Inc. to evaluate the 25-yearl data set using sophisticated statistical methods.

Called “an invaluable snapshot of ocean trash” (Vikki Sprull, President and CEO of Ocean Conservancy), these efforts pioneered by the global grassroots community and crystallized by statistical analysis have revealed the following about the state of ocean debris:

Top ten items over 25 years (these item categories comprises 80% of ocean debris collected):

1. Cigarettes/filters—32% of recorded debris (52,907,756 item count)
2. Food wrappers/containers—9% of recorded debris (14,766,533 item count)
3. Caps/lids—8%
4. Cups/plates/forks/knives/spoons—6%
5. Beverage bottles (plastic)—6%
6. Bags (plastic)—5%
7. Beverage bottles (glass)—4%
8. Beverage cans—4%
9. Straws/stirrers—4%
10. Rope—2%

The debris is also characterized by generation per source i.e. item count per human activity. The main sources of generation include:

1. Shoreline and recreational activities (86,482,443 item count)
2. Smoking-related activities (59,411,778 item count)
3. Ocean/waterway activities (13,249,455 item count)
4. Dumping activities (4,556,591 item count)
5. Medical/personal hygiene (2,444,153 item count)

The 25-year top ten participating countries include:

1. US (3,618,462 volunteers)
*California residents comprise almost one-third of all US volunteers)
2. Philippines (2,907,608 volunteers)
3. Canada (251, 141 volunteers)
4. Japan (227,762 volunteers)
5. Venezuela (187,027 volunteers)
6. Brazil (134,701)
7. South Africa (106,253)
8. India (104, 443)
9. Puerto Rico (86,915)
10. Panama (85,600)

The 25-year top ten participating states:

1. California (1,076,344 volunteers)
2. Florida (563,380)
3. North Carolina (341, 937)
4. Texas (256,824)
5. New York (181,791)
6. South Carolina (106,987)
7. Georgia (101,827)
8. Hawaii (92,755)
9. Oregon (84,695)
10. Louisiana (75,490)

Weird finds:

• Firework debris at the Pittsburgh Three Rivers Stadium left over from fireworks at baseball and football games
• As result of hurricane in Louisiana, Cleanup volunteers tallied whole cars, refrigerators still full, dining room tables with silverware, and “just about anything you could think of” (Vincent Attard, MALTA coordinator)
• A whole toilet 100 meters from the coast on the sea bed
• A dummy “rescued” from Chicago’s south side
• Canadian Cleanup volunteers have found everything needed for a wedding, “including a wedding dress, engagement ring, tuxedo, jacket, bow tie, wedding invitations, bride and groom cake topper, and veil” (Jill Dwyer, Canada Coordinator)
• Political flags, flyers and stickers promoting political parties (Alberto Marti, Puerto Rico coordinator)

Industry initiatives resulting from data collected via International Coastal Cleanup:

• Vacuum manufacturer Electrolux produces “Vacs from the Sea,” cleaners made of plastic debris collected around the globe; the goal is to raise awareness about the scarcity of high-quality recycled plastics and plastics pollution.
• In 1990 Cleanup data analysts found that many volunteers in the Gulf of Mexico reported finding blue plastic bags of Morton’s “Ship ‘n Shore” salt, used by commercial shrimpers to keep their catch fresh. Upon learning of the improper disposal of their product packaging, Morton encouraged people to take advantage of the option to purchase salt in paper bags that degrade quickly; and, Morton included “Don’t be a Litter Boat” and “Stow it, don’t throw it,” on their product packaging.
• When Cleanup volunteers find entangled wildlife, fishing line is the number-one culprit. Municipal recycling plants are not equipped to handle fishing line. Berkley—a leading supplier of fishing tackle—allows its customers to collect used line and send to facility in bulk; sine 1990, the Berkley Conservation Institute has recycled more than 9 million miles worth of fishing line.
• When Cleanup volunteers reported encountering marine animals entangled in six-pack holders, leading manufacturer ITW Hi-Cone decided to make a safer product, which consisted of switching to a photodegradable plastic in 1988 (I don’t know the success of this material substitution).

Policy/legislation enacted as result of data collected via International Coastal Cleanup:

• In 1987 Ocean Conservancy published one of the first studies to identify plastics as a significant threat to the ocean, “Plastics in the Ocean: More than a Litter Problem.” Data referenced in the report helped illuminate the problem for the US Congress, which resulted in enforced restrictions against dumping trash items at sea by adopting Annex V of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, known as MARPOL 73/78 Annex V.
• Municipal governments in Nicaragua have increased the number of garbage receptacles on the beaches and collect them with more frequency.
• Cleanup data informed passage of the 2006 Marine Debris Research, Reduction, and Prevention Act, as well as California’s state marine debris action plan.
• Volunteers in Muskegon, Michigan, led a successful campaign (using Cleanup data) to ban smoking on beaches county-wide; in late 2008 the Chicago Park District enacted a change to its beach-use policy that prohibited smoking and discarding of smoking items on all of Chicago’s beaches.
• Laws prohibiting mass balloon releases (1991 Virginia General Assembly passed a law prohibiting mass balloon releases and other states followed).
• Laws encouraging re-usable bags (Washington, DC “Skip the Bag, Save the River” campaign, which educated residents about the new five-cent bag fee on single use shopping bags; a 2008 law in China made it illegal for stores to give away plastic bags; California enacted a 10-cent fee on disposable bags in Los Angeles county; Ireland’s 2002 shopping bag levy reduced bag use by 90%; On January 1st 2011, Italy became the first country to ban plastic single-use shopping bags nationwide).

Visit for more information.

I will let you marinate on these factoids for today; in tomorrow’s post I will provide some commentary in regards to this information.

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Making headway in PET thermoform recycling!!!!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:47:00 PM

Hey and happy Friday!

Check out this PlasticsNews article! Good stuff!!!

Canadian grocery chains to require clamshell suppliers to shift to PET
Posted June 23, 2011

TORONTO (June 23, 3:35 p.m. ET) -- Canada’s top five grocery chains will require its suppliers to shift to PET for clamshell thermoformed packaging in a move designed to simplify the product stream and increase recycling.

Wal-Mart Canada Corp. officials are also talking to suppliers across national boundaries for the initiative, and expect it will expand as part of the increased emphasis on sustainability for the world’s biggest retailer.

“Right now, there are 5.8 billion pounds of [thermoformed] packaging going into landfills in North America each year. Our goal is to facilitate the recycling of that material,” said Guy McGuffin, vice president of sustainable packaging for Wal-Mart Canada of Mississauga, Ontario, during the Wal-Mart Sustainable Packaging Conference June 22 as part of PackEx Toronto.

“The idea is to move away from materials that are not easily recycled and into materials that are more easily recycled. If we work together, we believe we can recover that 5.8 billion pounds, which would be a fantastic result.”

PET is already widely recycled, with a recycling stream already in place for bottles. Pushing for PET and eliminating, as much as possible, “look-alike” plastics which complicate recovery — and discourage both municipal recycling collections and recyclers from taking clamshell containers — the retailers believe they will open the floodgates for more thermoformed PET collection and reuse.

Other materials may have their use, but the retailers believe PET can provide an adequate substitute. In those cases when PET is not viable, it will encourage polystyrene. Polylactic acid containers have their own “green” credentials, officials said, but using it in thermoforming just complicates an already overly-complex set of obstacles to recycling, so Wal-Mart and other stores preferred PET as the industry standard.

In addition, retailers are working with the Adhesive and Sealant Council and the Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers on a set of guidelines for labeling adhesives that will eliminate contamination from glues and labels.

The Retail Council of Canadian Grocers will require all labels to meet APR-certified adhesives by Jan. 1, said Christian Shelepuk, waste reduction program manager for Wal-Mart Canada.

Canada’s biggest grocery store chain, Loblaws Inc. of Brampton, Ontario, first contacted the National Association for PET Container Resources in Sonoma, Calif., in summer 2010, wanting to eliminate unrecyclable packaging, said Mike Schedler, technical director for NAPCOR.

When it was told that its 1,400 stores still would not create enough critical mass to bring PET clamshell recycling into the mainstream, it began working with other Canadian firms — Wal-Mart, Safeway Canada, Metro and Sobeys — in a cooperative effort to bring about the change.

The companies have coordinated the project through the Retail Council of Canada’s grocery group, working with recyclers and recycled PET users to identify and solve issues that would derail its efforts.

Ontario’s extended producer responsibility regulations, which give companies more responsibility for their waste, is helping prod the move, Schedler said.

“There are a lot more market drivers in Canada than in the U.S. that are very visible and pushing this forward,” he said. “The amount of dollars they would have to pay for their unrecycled material would not be insignificant.”

Early on, the group came together around a bale of used thermoformed PET containers and got a quick lesson on one of the primary problems, said Leon Hall, manager of sustainable packaging for Wal-Mart Canada.

When they cut apart the bindings holding the containers together, the bale held its shape. Glue used on the labels was strong enough to hold the compacted plastics together — and contaminate the entire bale, Hall said. Even if separated, the glue would gum up machinery, and current washing methods used to separate labels from bottles in PET bottle recycling did not work with the adhesives used in thermoforming.

In November, the retailers began working with the Adhesive and Sealant Council to tackle the glue problem. The groups decided the best solution would be to adapt to sealants that already work on PET bottles, said Matt Croson, president and CEO of the Bethesda, Md.-based ASC.

Adhesive makers must register their products with the APR by July 15. APR will then test and certify those adhesives as working with existing cleaning systems already in place for PET bottles. By Jan. 1, the retailer’s group will require its suppliers to use thermoform packaging that meets APR guidelines.

“This one’s not complicated,” Hall said. “Choose materials that can be recycled and while you’re at it, fix the adhesive, because that [label] doesn’t need to stay on there forever.”

It is not just the adhesives getting extra attention, however. During testing, Wal-Mart discovered that the Chilean-based supplier of blueberries was using a fluorescent blue additive in its PET packaging to make the berries look better, he said. That produced a recycled flake that did not meet standards. Wal-Mart is now working on global specifications for those and other additives which contaminate the stream.

With those changes, recyclers should be able to loop thermoformed PET into its existing bottle feedstock.

“We have the capability to manage thermoforms if they’re mixed in with the bottle flow,” said Ryan L’Abb?, vice president and general manager of private label water bottler Ice River Springs Water Company Inc.’s PET recycling unit, Blue Mountain Plastics Division.

Ice River, based in Feversham, Ontario, opened its own PET recycling plant in Shelbourne, Ontario. It collects PET from municipal recycling programs in Ontario, Michigan and New York and sorts, cleans and grinds to flake. It then uses the flake in its in-house PET extrusion, pre-forms and blow molding.

“We need more recycled content,” L’Abb? said. “We want to put (PET) into a product that’s recycled again and again and again. We can really consume a lot of the thermoforms that are in the market currently, and that’s a big benefit.”

The project will also benefit more than bottlers or retailers. Shelepuk said Wal-Mart estimates the recycled content of mixed plastics now in thermoformed packaging is worth $120 a ton, but that should climb to $600 per ton as part of the PET stream. That kind of money at high volume will pay for the recycling process, he said.

In addition, the companies estimate that PET packaging recycling across North American could create more than 20,000 jobs.

“As an industry,” Hall said, “we can make this happen.”

Plastics News staff reporter Mike Verespej contributed to this report.

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It Aint Easy Being Green

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:46:00 PM

Hey guys!

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

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

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

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

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

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

It Aint Easy Being Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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"Making a Sea Change" panel discussion takeaways

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:46:00 PM


Today I am going to talk about the panel discussion from the SPC meeting in March that detailed the realities of ocean debris. Titled “Making a Sea Change,” the panel consisted of a research associate from the Sea Education Association, the president of the Ocean Conservancy, and a representative from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Sooooo I went through my notes from the panel and what follows are the main points of interest. Please note, however, that as a representative of a plastics manufacturer, I was very interested in the reality of plastics in the ocean; hence, my takeaways may not be a holistic representation of the entire discussion.

In my next post I will discuss the findings presented in “Tracking Trash: 25 Years of Action for the Ocean,” which discusses the findings from 25 years of the Ocean Conservancy’s International Costal Cleanup campaign.

Notes from “Making a Sea Change” panel discussion, March 30th, San Diego, CA:

• Municipalities were allowed to dump garbage into the ocean until the early nineties (1991 US EPA ruled illegal). There was a grace period of policy implementation and execution, however, that allowed dumping to continue into the early-mid nineties. It is assumed that this lack of environmental protection policy and enforcement has resulted in what is commonly referred to as “the garbage patch,” which are areas of marine debris concentration in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. However, there is no way to “prove” that dumping trash into the ocean created today’s garbage patches because no research was conducted on trash in the ocean until AFTER municipalities stopped dumping; hence, the baseline off which progress is gauged re: marine debris, is that following extensive periods of municipal dumping.
• Contrary to popular belief, the “garbage patch” isn’t some floating island of garbage; it is more properly conceived of as a garbage soup consisting of small bits of floatable synthetics, which makes its cleanup so difficult. Even more difficult, the “garbage soup” moves around the ocean and the concentration of debris is never consistent; this results in further complications with its investigation and understanding.
• In 1991, in response to the amount of plastic pellets founds in the ocean, the plastics industry launched “Operation Clean Sweep,” which was a campaign in support of zero-pellet loss through pellet retention and management. After the launch of this industry-initiated effort, the amount of plastic pellets in the ocean decreased 90%, which is one of the most successful ocean debris clean up campaigns to date.
• As per the last 25 years of research, it was found that the amount of plastics in the ocean has not increased; this implies that while the consumption of plastics has increased, its irresponsible end of life management has not.
• 60%-80% of trash in the ocean comes from land.
o This statistic confused me because it suggests that the origin of marine debris is the irresponsible end of life management of synthetic materials, while I was under the impression that ocean dumping was the main genesis of ocean debris. When I asked the panel, they said that couldn’t say for certain where the garbage is coming from (land vs. trash dumping prior to early-mid nineties).
• In a nut shell, while the research conducted over the last 25 years does catalogue the types of marine debris found, which is crucial to understanding the problem of marine debris, it does not provide insight into the following:
o How much ocean debris exists
o Where the ocean debris comes from
o How it accumulates in patches
• Trends to consider that provide insight into genesis of ocean debris: dumping trash in the ocean; and, increased global consumption of goods and services paired with immature waste management infrastructures.
• By cataloguing the types of ocean debris found via Coastal Cleanup the last 25 years, the following was determined:
o Cigarette butts make up 33% of ocean debris, the highest concentration of debris by type. In 25 years worth of research, 52,907,756 cigarette butts were found and catalogued.
o Single-use plastic shopping bags are one of the top items found by Cleanup volunteers; in 25 years of research, 7,825,319 plastic bags were found and catalogued.
o Balloons makeup another large part of ocean debris, as in 25 years of research, 1,248,892 balloons were found and catalogued.

The information above is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding the reality of ocean debris. Next week’s post will discuss, in detail, the findings of the Ocean Conservancy’s Coastal Cleanup campaign.

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Paper vs. Plastic SUPER FUN PPT

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:45:00 PM

Hey yall!

Guess what?!?! Tomorrow is my 24th b-day, big girl!

In preparation of becoming another year wiser, I thought I would share with you some fun paper vs. plastic facts. The information accessible via the PPT below is taken from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s Common Packaging Material Technical Briefs, available here for download.

Paper vs. Plastic PPT for blog

And be sure to "play" the Power Point to see all the snazzy fly-in animation! Neat!

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Letter to NYT reporter

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:44:00 PM

Hey guys!

Before I lay the NYT’s anti-clamshell article to bed, I wanted to reach out to the reporter, in hopes that she may consult me in the future in regards to researching articles about packaging and sustainability. Check out my email below! I had called her a bundle of times and finally got ahold of her this morning! She explained that she was on a deadline and that she would read my email by this afternoon. I hope she responds!

Hey Stephanie,

This is Chandler Slavin with Dordan Manufacturing--I caught you in the office today and you asked for me to send an email that you would consult at the end of the day due to deadline obligations.

Thanks for your time. I am writing you today in regard to the article you wrote that was published June 2nd in the Energy and Environment section of the NYTs called "Retailers Move to Greener, Easier to Open Packages." I am the Sustainability Coordinator at a family owned and operated clamshell manufacturer; as such, I was surprised by your article discussing clamshell packaging and the environment because I am very aware of the realities of packaging and sustainability, and unfortunately, didn’t see those realities represented in your piece. While I am very pleased that you are investigating packaging and sustainability, as it is a very complex and interesting intersection, I found fault with the article overall because it seemed more as an advertising platform for MWV than an objective discussion of contemporary packaging trends at the retailer level. I would love the opportunity to discuss this with you further and explain some of the contradictions and inaccuracies in the piece; additionally, I would love to open up the lines of communication in hopes that you may feel comfortable consulting me re: articles of sustainability and packaging in the future.

My email is and you can reach me in the office at (815) 334-0087. I understand that you are extremely busy and that this is probably not a priority for you; please understand, however, that your article and the reality it painted for packaging preference between paper and plastic has some real repercussions on domestic clamshell manufacturers competing in an already aggressive market. Unfortunately, perception is reality and if the perception you created of clamshell packaging is re-constructed again and again, people will begin to take it as reality: We would like the opportunity to contribute to this reality as we believe we know best having been in the business for almost 50 years.

Thanks again for your time and I hope your schedule allows for consideration of this matter.



Tune in tomorrow for paper vs. plastic goodness as per the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s “Common Packaging Material Environmental Briefs,” available here for download.

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Keeping it classy with DEATH TO CLAMSHELL NYT article

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:43:00 PM

Greetings my packaging and sustainability friends! Today I was going to talk about the truth of marine debris as per the Ocean Conservancy’s treatment thereof at the last SPC meeting BUT an article titled "Devilish Packaging, Tamed" came out last week in the NYT's Energy and the Environment section and I MUST comment because it is so silly!

In preparation of my rebuttal coming VERY soon, give the article below a read through to better understand my points of criticism. I have taken it apart piece by piece and am looking forward to sharing my perspective with you!

Devilish Packaging, Tamed
Published: June 1, 2011

The Pyranna, the Jokari Deluxe, the Insta Slit, the ZipIt and the OpenIt apply blades and batteries to what should be a simple task: opening a retail package.

Erik S. Lesser for The New York Times
Retailers like Home Depot and brands like Husky are trying to minimize expensive plastic packaging, in favor of paper.

Consumers no longer need a pocket knife to open Swiss Army tools. The hard plastic clamshell, left, has been replaced by a simpler package.

The containers for 75-watt EcoSmart LED bulbs have been redesigned to use less packaging.

But the maddening — and nearly impenetrable — plastic packaging known as clamshells could become a welcome casualty of the difficult economy. High oil prices have manufacturers and big retailers reconsidering the use of so much plastic, and some are aggressively looking for cheaper substitutes.

“With the instability in petroleum-based materials, people said we need an alternative to the clamshell,” said Jeff Kellogg, vice president for consumer electronics and security packaging at the packaging company MeadWestvaco.

Companies are scuttling plastic of all kinds wherever they can.

Target has removed the plastic lids from its Archer Farms yogurts, has redesigned packages for some light bulbs to eliminate plastic, and is selling socks held together by paper bands rather than in plastic bags.

Wal-Mart Stores, which has pledged to reduce its packaging by 5 percent between 2008 and 2013, has pushed suppliers to concentrate laundry detergent so it can be sold in smaller containers, and has made round hydrogen peroxide bottles into square ones to cut down on plastic use.

At Home Depot, Husky tools are going from clamshell to paperboard packaging, and EcoSmart LED bulbs are about to be sold in a corrugated box, rather than a larger plastic case.

“Most of our manufacturers have been working on this,” said Craig Menear, the head of merchandising at Home Depot. “We’ve certainly been encouraging them.”

Shoppers have long complained that clamshells are a literal pain, and environmentalists have denounced them as wasteful. To save money and address complaints, retailers and manufacturers started minimizing packaging in the e-commerce sphere a few years ago. Amazon, for example, introduced a “frustration-free packaging” initiative in 2008 intended to defuse wrap rage and be more eco-friendly. Other retailers have also been looking for ways to improve the customer’s unpacking experience.

“As a guy in packaging, I get all the questions — there’s nothing worse than going to a cocktail party where someone’s asking why they can’t get into their stuff,” said Ronald Sasine, the senior director for packaging procurement at Wal-Mart. “I’ve heard over the years, ‘How come I need a knife to get into my knife?’ ‘How come I need a pair of scissors to get into my kid’s birthday present?’ ”

But reducing packaging is more complicated in physical stores. The packaging has to sell the product, whether with explanatory text, bright colors or catchy graphics. And it has to deter shoplifters. Retailers lost about 1.44 percent of sales to theft in 2009, the latest numbers available, according to the National Retail Federation.

“Clamshells actually served that purpose really well for the last 20 or 30 years,” Mr. Kellogg said. Then, petroleum prices rose, first in 2008 and again this year, so the cost of producing clamshells and other plastic packages, which are petroleum-based, shot up.

“Plastic packaging is a byproduct of a byproduct, and we don’t represent enough volume to counteract the industry,” Mr. Sasine said. “We get dictated by things like petroleum pricing, natural gas pricing, home heating oil.”

And during and after the recession, as retailers’ sales dropped, stores started looking to cut costs in new and imaginative ways.

With the interest in alternatives to so much plastic, MeadWestvaco took a tamper-evident cardboard sheet it originally supplied for pharmaceutical trials, added a clear laminate that prevented tearing, and stuck two sheets of the cardboard together. It put a cutout in the middle, and added a plastic bubble formed to a specific product, like a Swiss Army knife or a Kodak camera.

Though some of the technology, like the film that covers the cardboard, was not available until recently, “it’s a demand issue as well — it’s hard to develop something internally, then go cram it into the market if there’s no need,” Mr. Kellogg said about why the package, called Natralock, was only recently introduced.

Wal-Mart began selling items in the new packaging in 2010, and though MeadWestvaco declined to release usage numbers, it says that all of the Swiss Army knives are using the new packaging, and about 85 percent of the computer memory market (like USB drives and SD cards) has switched over.

MeadWestvaco says the package reduces plastic by 60 percent, on average, versus the clamshell version for a given product. It also is lighter by 30 percent, which cuts down on transportation costs and fuel use.

Other packaging suppliers are offering similarly treated cardboard with small plastic bubbles, which are called blister packs.

“We’ve seen a lot of small, high-value products moving away from what would have been two to three years ago a clamshell, to today what is a blister pack or blister board,” said Lorcan Sheehan, the senior vice president for marketing and strategy at ModusLink, which advises companies like Toshiba and HP on their supply chains.

The cost savings are big, Mr. Sheehan said. With a blister pack, the cost of material and labor is 20 to 30 percent cheaper than with clamshells. Also, he said, “from package density — the amount that you can fit on a shelf, or through logistics and supply chain, there is frequently 30 to 40 percent more density in these products.”

The packages also meet other requirements of retailers. Graphics and text can be printed on them.

Because most people cannot tear the product out of the blister pack with their hands, it helps prevent theft. Also, the small Sensormatic tag that is linked to a store’s alarm system is hidden between the two sheets of cardboard; with clamshells, it was stuck onto the exterior, so a shoplifter could more easily peel it off.

Though clamshells continue to dangle inside stores, “we’re seeing a significant shift,” Mr. Sheehan said. Among the manufacturers to make the change is the parent company of Wiss-brand metal-cutting snips, which are sold at Home Depot and elsewhere attached to a piece of cardboard with elastic staples — no plastic in sight.

Steven Hoskins, manager of packaging engineering for the Apex Tool Group, the parent company of Wiss, said that getting rid of the plastic packaging saved money, allowed for more products per shipment and cut down on waste.

And, Mr. Hoskins said, “the package is very attractive to the consumer.”

And relatively pain-free.

To read the article in all it's NYT glory, click here.

And enter the Art of Reasoning with keen insight into the Ethics of Reality. Look out for my rebuttal in tomorrow's post, yippee!

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Rebuttal to NYT's "Devilish Packaging, Tamed"

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:43:00 PM

Stephanie Clifford’s “Devilish Packaging, Tamed,” appeared in the June 2nd addition of the New York Times' Energy and Environment section. What follows is a critical analysis thereof from the perspective of a Sustainability Coordinator at a family owned and operated clamshell manufacturing company.

Clifford makes the following assumptions in “Devilish Packaging, Tamed:”

Retailers are instigating the shift from clamshell to trapped blister packs because (1) increased plastic packaging prices; (2) the desire to reduce packaging material use (re: Wal-Mart’s goal of 5% packaging reduction by 2013); (3) trapped blister packs are more “green” than clamshells; and, (4) trapped blister packs are easier to open than clamshells.

In discussing these assumptions, it will become clear that not only are the claims made in this piece incorrect, but the perception about “green packaging” created therefrom a disservice to the always-progressing dialogue about sustainability and packaging.

Assumption 1:

Retailers are instigating the shift from clamshell to trapped blister packs like MWV’s Natralock because of increase plastic packaging prices.

Trapped blister packs are not new to the packaging market; hence, the assumption that the recently unstable resin market motivates the transition from clamshell to trapped blister packs is incorrect. Since Natralock’s introduction years ago, it has been marketed as the “sustainable alternative to clamshell packaging.” Consequently, referencing the unstable resin market as reason for why clamshell packaging is being replaced with trapped blister packs is an after-the-fact justification that meets MWV’s PR story more that the realities of supply and demand.

Due to the contemporary “death of print” phenomenon—a repercussion of our digital age—the fiber market has been cutting prices to allow for market gains in areas formally controlled by other mediums. This, in conjuncture with other global economics (like the unsuccessful cotton crop in Asia resulting in increased international demand for RPET driving up prices for RPET for packaging converters, like clamshell manufacturers), paints a more accurate picture of the intricacies of the resin vs. paper market than assumed by Clifford. Seeing as how industry publications such as PlasticsNews devote entire sections to explaining and contextualizing the fluctuating resin market (see Material Insights), it is silly to assume that something so complicated as the international production and consumption of commodities be so simply reduced as Clifford would have it.

Assumption 2:

Retailers are instigating the shift from clamshell to trapped blister packs Like MWV's Natralock becasue the desire to reduce packaging material use.

It is misinformed to assume that packaging material reductions are achieved by switching from clamshell to trapped blister packs, which this article postulates. In fact, as per the Wal-Mart Packaging Success Stories presented during the Wal-Mart Packaging Sustainable Value Network meetings, most packaging reductions are achieved by attaining lower product to package ratio via package redesign and/or moving into a lighter packaging medium i.e. PP shrink wrap vs. corrugate boxes. The reason-by-association tactic employed by Clifford assumes that the retailer’s desire to reduce packaging is achieved by transitioning into trapped blister packs; this is overly reductionist and negates the role of the packaging engineer in understanding how each packaging medium allows for different savings depending on the application of the package. In short, packaging material reductions are the result of extensive R&D within a specific distribution context and are made with consideration of the unique market demands inherent in any consumer product.

Assumption 3:

Retailers are instigating the shift from clamshell to trapped blister packs like MWV’s Natralock because it is more “green” than clamshells.

What is “green?”

How does Clifford understand “green?” At the last SPC meeting attorney general of the FTC discussed their recent efforts to understand the consumer’s perception of ambiguous marketing claims like “green,” “sustainable,” “environmentally friendly,” etc. After conducting a survey, it was found that consumers didn’t really understand these terms, which lead the FTC to conclude that such ambiguous environmental marketing terms should be avoided in order to alleviate consumer deception. Consequently, if a marketer is going to make a claim of sustainability/environmentally friendliness, he/she must qualify it with further information like: “Made with 30% post consumer recycled content;” or, “complies with ASTM D6400 Standard for Industrial Compostability.” Hence, the postulation that ALL paper packaging is more sustainable than ALL plastic packaging and, via reason-by-association, that ALL trapped blister packs are more sustainable than ALL clamshells is not only manipulative insofar as no qualifying language is provided, but again, overly reductionist; as such, lacks the legitimacy seemingly assumed in a news article worthy of publication in the NYT.

Environmental marketing claims aside, I would like to take the moment to clear the air re: the sustainability of clamshell packaging.

Sustainability of clamshells vs. trapped blister packs, like MWV’s Natralock:

I am no expert in sustainability. However, I have learned that when discussing the “sustainability” of any product, package or service, it is helpful to take a life-cycle based approach; this looks to quantify the environmental requirements of production, conversion, distribution and end of life management. Only when a full life cycle analysis is conducted can the “sustainability” of any product be understood.

In regard to the first life cycle phase in the context of packaging material production, issues such as feedstock procurement (what is consumed and emitted during the process of raw material extraction?) and feedstock conversion (what is consumed and emitted during the process of raw material conversion?), are important to consider when discussing the “sustainability” of any packaging material.

In the context of pulp and paper production for conversion into trapped blister packs, trees are needed as feedstock, and extensive amounts of water and electricity are required to convert the material into useable fiber-based packaging materials. Consider this excerpt from, which attempts to answer to age-old paper vs. plastic conundrum by discussing the production of paper bags:

Paper comes from trees -- lots and lots of trees. The logging industry…is huge, and the process to get that paper bag to the grocery store is long, sordid and exacts a heavy toll on the planet. First, the trees are found, marked and felled in a process that all too often involves clear-cutting, resulting in massive habitat destruction and long-term ecological damage.

Mega-machinery comes in to remove the logs from what used to be forest, either by logging trucks or even helicopters in more remote areas. This machinery requires fossil fuel to operate and roads to drive on, and, when done unsustainably, logging even a small area has a large impact on the entire ecological chain in surrounding areas.

Once the trees are collected, they must dry at least three years before they can be used. More machinery is used to strip the bark, which is then chipped into one-inch squares and cooked under tremendous heat and pressure. This wood stew is then "digested," with a chemical mixture of limestone and acid, and after several hours of cooking, what was once wood becomes pulp. It takes approximately three tons of wood chips to make one ton of pulp.

The pulp is then washed and bleached; both stages require thousands of gallons of clean water. Coloring is added to more water, and is then combined in a ratio of 1 part pulp to 400 parts water, to make paper. The pulp/water mixture is dumped into a web of bronze wires, and the water showers through, leaving the pulp, which, in turn, is rolled into paper.

Whew! And that's just to MAKE the paper; don't forget about the energy inputs -- chemical, electrical, and fossil fuel-based -- used to transport the raw material, turn the paper into a bag and then transport the finished paper bag all over the world.

Please note that this account of pulp and paper production is too simplistic; for a full discussion of the life cycle attributes of pulp and paper production, consult the SPC’s Fiber-Based Packaging Material Briefs, available here for download.

To be fair and get both sides of the story, below is’s description of converting fossil fuel bi-products into plastic packaging:

Unlike paper bags, plastic bags are typically made from oil, a non-renewable resource. Plastics are a by-product of the oil-refining process, accounting for about 4% of oil production around the globe. The biggest energy input is from the plastic bag creation process is electricity, which, in this country, comes from coal-burning power plants at least half of the time; the process requires enough juice to heat the oil up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit, where it can be separated into its various components and molded into polymers. Plastic bags most often come from one of the five types of polymers -- polyethylene -- in its low-density form (LDPE), which is also known as #4 plastic.Again, this account of plastic packaging production from a bi-product of the oil-refining process is too simplistic, failing to take into account the different processes/materials required for the production of PET vs. PVC vs. PP; each resin has its own production profile and it’s important to understand how each informs the overall “sustainability” of said resin.

For the full discussion of the paper vs. plastic bag debate re:, click here.

When trying to understand the sustainability of clamshells vs. trapped blister packs, it is also important to distinguish between fiber-based packaging IN GENERAL and Natralock, which is a specific type of clamshell alternative produced and marketed by a specific company. Unlike the majority of fiber-based packaging on the market, Natralock incorporates a special type of adhesive/laminate that allows these packages to be deemed “tear-proof.” After a quick search of the US patent database, the following description about BlisterGuard—a trapped blister pack similar to or the same as Natralock (I couldn’t find any patents for Natralock but believe that Colbert Packaging licenses the tear-proof technology to MWV)—is provided:

A packaging laminate is formed by a paperboard substrate with a plastic blister layer sealed to the substrate. The packaging laminate comprises a paperboard substrate for providing a base layer, a tear-resistant polymer layer applied to said substrate, and a heat seal polymer layer applied to said tear-resistant polymer…

The tear-resistant polymer layer 14 may be polyamides, such as nylon 6, nylon (6,6), nylon (6,12) or other polyamides, polyester, polyurethane, block copolymer, unsaturated block copolymers such as styrene-butadiene-styrene, styrene-isoprene-styrene and the like; saturated block copolymers such as styrene-ethylene/butylene-styrene, styrene-ethylene/propylene-styrene, and the like) or other material possessing high tear-resistant properties. The polymer used to make the tear-resistant layer may be blended with another polymer selected from the group including ethylene copolymers such as ionomers, vinyl acetate, methylacrylic or acrylic acid copolymers.
For a full description of the patents from which the above excerpts were taken, click here and here.

The motivation for referencing the tear-proof laminate found on Blisterguard and perhaps Natralock is to demonstrate that these fiber-based alternatives to clamshells are not just a paper version of a clamshell; they are multi-material/chemical compositions that are only marketable as “tear proof” due to the addition of a variety of chemicals during the process of production. Without implying that the chemicals used in the Natralock adhesive/laminate are toxic/pose a hazard to human health as I am not privy to such information, it is important to acknowledge the following statistic about the inks/adhesives/laminates used in fiber-based packaging from the USA EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory Report :

Coated and laminated paper products are associated with significant reporting of releases and other waste management of toxics chemicals…Pollutants associated with various coating materials and processes have included emissions of volatile organic compounds and discharges of wastewater containing solvents, colorants, and other contaminants (EPA, TRI Data for Pulp and Paper, Ch. 5).

It would be great to conduct an LCA of a trapped blister pack like MWV’s Natralock vs. a, let’s say, RPET clamshell via the SPC’s comparative packaging assessment software COMPASS. Unfortunately, LCA tools like COMPASS don’t contain metrics for toxicity resulting from the inks, laminates and adhesives used in fiber-based packaging because: lack of life cycle data availability, lack of risk data beyond MSDS information, and that hazard is not easily correlated to toxicity based on mass of material. A respected LCA practitioner did explain to me that this need for risk data re: inks, laminates and adhesives used in fiber-based packaging like trapped blister packs IS being investigated via GreenBlue’s CleanGredients. He writes, “The fact that possibly the most toxic part of a package is not being assessed [by LCA tools like COMPASS] has not been missed by the LCA community.”

While we can’t conduct a holistic LCA of a trapped blister pack vs. a plastic clamshell because of the realities outlined above, we can conduct one comparing a PET clamshell to a corrugate box of similar dimensions via COMPASS; this is what I did to facilitate entry to’s Database for Sustainable Packaging Suppliers--click here to see the third-party reviewed entry. Please note that I was only able to claim that the submitted RPET clamshell package “releases less GHG equivalents throughout life cycle than fiber-based packages of similar dimensions” because I provided this COMPASS LCA. As the data illustrates, the corrugate box releases more GHG and consumers more water, biotic, and mineral resources and results in higher concentrations of water toxicity and eutrophication than the plastic clamshell counterpart. Eutrophication is what contributes to the Gulf Dead Zone, which is where the absence of oxygen in the water has resulted in female fish growing testes as described in this National Geographic article.

Please understand that LCA tools like COMPASS are a constantly evolving tool; more LCI data is needed to paint a more accurate picture of the “sustainability” of any product. As such, this tool is appropriately deemed “COMPASS;” it helps illuminate where you are going but doesn’t always tell you where you are. In addition, though implied, I do not have information on how much paper and pulp production contributes to dramatic cases of eutrophication like the Gulf Dead Zone; it’s inclusion in this discussion was to demonstrate the complexities of “sustainability” as it pertains to different packaging materials and modes of production.

Next one should focus on the end of life management of trapped blister packs vs. clamshell packaging. As per the FTC Green Guide’s definition, in order to claim a package is recyclable, 60% or more American communities must have access to the infrastructure/facilities capable of sorting and reprocessing this material for remanufacture into new products and/or packaging. Unfortunately, as per this MSW report from the US EPA, clamshell packages AND trapped blister packs are not classified as recyclable insofar as there is no data on these packaging/material combinations (see table 21). As you can see , the high rates for paper recovery is attributed to newspaper and corrugate and those for plastic are attributed primarily to HDPE jugs and PET bottles. Those packaging categories listed “Neg.” like “other paper packaging/other paperboard packaging” means that not enough data is collected; this implies that all fiber-based packaging materials that fall outside of the categories listed are not recycled, contrary to popular belief.

The recyclability of materials used in combination to create the package depends entirely on the ability of someone (the end user or MRF) to separate the material constituents. After performing extensive research in the area of post consumer materials management, I have a hard time understanding how trapped blister packs, like MWV’s Natralock, are recycled due to the multi-material/chemical composition inherent in the package design…

Assumption 4:

Retailers are instigating the shift from clamshell to trapped blister packs like MWV’s Natralock because it is easier to open.

Consider the following excerpt taken directly from the NYT’s article:

“As a guy in packaging, I get all the questions — there’s nothing worse than going to a cocktail party where someone’s asking why they can’t get into their stuff,” said Ronald Sasine, the senior director for packaging procurement at Wal-Mart. “I’ve heard over the years, ‘How come I need a knife to get into my knife?’ ‘How come I need a pair of scissors to get into my kid’s birthday present?’”

That’s all fine and good—I am aware that consumers get frustrated trying to open their product packaging. The reason for the hard-to-open nature of the clamshell packaging is, as this article explains, to deter shop-lifters; it was Sam Walton himself who explained that products over a certain price point had to be packaged in clamshells to reduce shrinkage. However, clamshell manufacturers do not design their packaging to be frustrating to the consumer—in fact, most domestic manufacturers offer easy-open features and design the packaging to snap together, eliminating the need for secondary RF sealing. However, by the time the fulfilled package makes its way to a retail shelf, it has been RF sealed due to the requirements of the RETAILER, not the manufacturer. Don’t hate the players hate the game.

Now, consider this factoid taken directly from MWV’s webpage explaining Natralock: “The polymer-reinforced paperboard, along with our unique sealing process, makes the package virtually impossible to tear open by hand" (

Call me crazy, but doesn’t this imply that the package requires scissors, or another tool, to get into? If you can’t open it by hand, what can you open it with? Sooo how are trapped blister packs easier to open than clamshells?

Taken together, it is clear that this NYT’s article presents an overly simplified account of the requirements and realities of retail product packaging in the context of “sustainability.” As a representative of the plastics industry and a third-generation plastic clamshell manufacturer, I believe it is crucial that we combat these biased and scientifically unfounded perceptions about the “evils” of clamshell packaging; if we do not, clamshell packaging will continue to be targeted by self-serving actors looking to capitalize on the anxiety produced from notions of environmental destruction via our consumption habits.

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Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:43:00 PM


Sooo my long-winded rebuttal to the NYT’s article generated 150+ hits in two hours, a record! Hurra my packaging and sustainability friends; let the truth rein free! I plan to submit a more concise and possibly sassy letter to the editor, though I am not sure how much more time I want to devote to this silliness. Stay tuned!

Anywhosie, our organic Victory Garden is coming along swimmingly!

We now have several different types of lettuce, arugula, leeks, beans, radishes, bell peppers, tomatoes, basil, and much much more growing as we speak! YUM!

OH, and I totally forgot to tell you guys—remember how last summer we started composting Dordan’s food and yard waste in our journey toward zero waste; and, remember how we threw some “Vincotte OK to Home Compost” certified resins into the composter to see if the plastic disappeared over the winter (check out October 21st post)? Well guess what: it did! The farmers emptied the contents of the compost early this summer to spread on the plot as fertilizer and did not detect any plastic bits in it. CRAZY!

Check out the phresh off the press photos below!

AND, coming soon to

The truth about ocean debris as per the SPC’s panel discussion thereof

Dordan’s updated Bio Resin Show N Tell for Pack Expo 2011 featuring two NEW non-traditional resins

More paper vs. plastic goodness, yippee

AND, my article contribution to Plastics Business, a quarterly publication for injection molders, blow molders, and thermoformers; in other words, my people!

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I'll be back!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:42:00 PM


I will be traveling on business all next week!

Upon my return, I will discuss:

SPC meeting feedback

Dr. Narayan's PPT on the science of biodegradable resins

Update on Dordan's internal sustainability efforts

And much, much more!

Have a great week without me!!!

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Recycling, Recycling, and Mushrooms!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:42:00 PM

Helllllloooooo my long lost packaging and sustainability friends! Oh how I have missed you!

Last week’s trip was a success! We had a bunch of normal sales thingamajigs, and while on the east coast, I visited two of my favorite sustainable packaging companies: Ecovative Design and TerraCycle! 

As described in April 21st’s post, Ecovative “grows” EPS-like material out of agricultural waste, using mycelium as the “glue” that holds the substrates together. They make everything from packaging materials to insulation to consumer products, like candles and ducks! Here is Myco the duck, courtesy of Ecovative, ha!

Anyway, their facility is super cool and the options are endless with how this new material can be utilized in the market. Check out their website here.

Next we saw TerraCycle, which is based in Trenton, New Jersey. Here are two photos of the office space, mostly assembled from refurbished waste. Cool!

And as previously articulated, TerraCycle partners with brands to re/upcycle hard-to-recycle branded packaging, like Cliff Bar wrappers, Capri-Sun juice pouches, and so on. By setting up collection sites across America and the world—called brigades—TerraCycle is able to collect the quantity necessary to economically justify the reprocessing of it. While everything technically is recyclable, the costs of collection (curb side vs. drop off vs. deposits) and sortation (single stream vs. comingled vs. manual/automated sorting technologies) for multi-material packaging usually exceeds the cost of virgin material/packaging production; this results in the likelihood that said packaging is not being recycled in most American communities. When brands partner with TerraCycle, however, they fund the shipment of the hard-to-recycle post consumer collected packaging to a TerraCycle facility, where it stays until it is re/upcycled into new products/packaging/material. Part of the fee for partnering with TerraCycle also goes into R&D to better understand how to get the most value out of the collected “waste” and PR, so that the partnered brands receive the marketing collateral inherent in such a warm and fuzzy initiative.

Check out their website here.

We went to TerraCycle to see if there would be any application for our two companies to play together. As those who follow my blog know, I have been working on a clamshell recycling initiative for almost two years. While I have focused mostly on a very macroscopic, infastructural approach to recycling, that is, working within the existing tax-funded waste management hierarchy of specs, bales, sorting and so on, I thought I would also investigate a more privatized approach in hopes that the reality of recycling clamshell packaging would be more aggressively pursued. I will keep you posted!

That night I attended a fiesta at TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky’s house and being that it was “International Week” at Terracycle, which means all the international TerraCycle offices were in Trenton, I got to meet environmentally conscious people from all over the world! It was so cool!

And on the note of recycling, Dordan CEO Daniel Slavin was quoted in not one but TWO PlasticsNews articles! The first, “ Recyclers See Hope in Third Recycling Stream,” discusses the potential of increasing the supply of post consumer resins available for remanufacture; the second, “ Consolidation Ahead for PET Recyclers?” discusses the market realities of PET recycling.

Neato! We are making progress!

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Progress on Dordan's Organic Garden!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:41:00 PM


Guess what: Dordan has started construction on its organic garden!

For those of you unfamiliar, Dordan started several internal sustainability initiatives last year to, as this article states, “get its own environmental house in order.” Some initiatives implemented/currently being executed are: achieving zero-waste at the Dordan facility (check out July 15th's “How-to OR How-to-NOT Conduct a Waste Audit” post); composting Dordan yard and food waste (check out August 25th's “How to Build a Composter” post); starting an organic garden (check out August 17th's “Day 1 of How to Start an Organic Garden” post); and, community education on recycling (check out October 4th's “Environmental Task Force” post).

Soooo we began construction on the to-be organic garden plot last fall, as discussed in the July 15th post; this included mapping off the plot with stakes/rope so our landscapers would hold off treatment, checking for any electrical situation under the intended plot, beginning to till the ground to observe the quality of soil, etc. Then the winter came and we retired our efforts until the sun was shining and the weather was sweet.

In the meantime, our local Woodstockian farmer Emily began growing some of the seedlings in her house, intended for transportation to the Dordan plot when the weather allowed. For those of you who live in the Midwest, however, you will recall that this winter to spring transition has been less than favorable insofar as we have gotten A TON of rain. This, consequently, pushed back the date Emily was able to bring the young seedlings to the Dordan plot because the ground was too soup-like; luckily, the sun this past weekend dried the plot enough for Emily to begin transporting the seedlings and doing other ground prep work.

First, Emily created a way to manage the amount of water that had access to the plot. In previous posts describing this project, I discussed how we were looking into getting rain barrels to capture the rain water that collected from Dordan’s roof. After doing some research, however, we thought there may be a more economically inventive way to go about this, and there is! Check out the picture below: this shows how we took plastic tubes and connected them to the rain downspouts at the parameter of the plot, which allows us to control the amount of water entering the plot by drilling holes throughout, as a form of rudimentary irrigation, per se. Neat!

After doing a bit of tilling, we discovered that there was a lot of sand and clay in the soil. While I know very little about what the perfect soil composition for organic produce farming is, Emily thought we needed further nutrients. Luckily, in conjuncture with the construction of our composter, Dordan collected all of its yard waste last fall to be composted over the winter; this included leaves, grass clippings, etc. So, Emily took the very-broken down yard bits and sprinkled them all over the plot, tilling them in with the existing soil, to create super soil! We also took some of the organic food waste compost from last fall’s activities and sprinkled it about, making for some fun in the sun! In the end, we had a very rich, nutrient-rich soil, perfect for nurturing young seedlings! See:

Next, we had to create long, what’s the word…trenches? that ran horizontally across the plot, which would serve as the organization for the different types of produce grown. While creating these trenches, however, we discovered that Dordan was sitting on a Glacier gold mine, insofar as we found TONS of perfectly circular rocks, 5-6 inches below ground. Emily’s dad, Phil, explained that due to their smooth, circular shape, it was safe to conclude that these came with the glaciers. Cool!

Emily decided to plant the two sets of seedlings brought—leeks and lettuce—in the portion of the plot that had more sand in the soil because I guess these types of vegetables are more “hard core.” Dordan had a sand volley ball court on part of the plot intended for the organic garden, which obviously means there was a bit of sand under the soil. Upon tilling I almost had a heart attack because I couldn’t believe just how much sand was there; after all, it had been like, over ten years since we had planted grass over the court, so I assumed the sand would, I don’t know, go away? Luckily, Emily didn’t seem too concerned, saying she would just add in some of Dordan’s compost and it was no big deal for the types of vegetables she would be planting there. I wish all people were as laid back as organic farmers, ha!

So yeah, here are the adorable little seedlings before being planted in the plot:


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Growing interest in PET thermoform recycling market

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:40:00 PM


As introduced in last week’s post, I had an interesting conversation with a representative of one of the largest waste haulers and recyclers in America in regard to the market potential of recycling PET thermoforms post-consumer.

She found me via my blog and wanted to ask some follow up questions from my Recycling Report—specifically—what is the current market for PET thermoform recycling? Once she assesses the supply/demand of this waste stream, she will be better equipped to determine if recycling PET thermoforms would be a value-added endeavor for her company. Let’s just say I was THRILLED.

She began contextualizing her interest in PET thermoform recycling by noting that PET is the most recycled plastic resin by material type, as is it the most demanded. As noted many times over, industry insight suggests that the current demand for PET recyclate outweighs the supply 3:1. Due to aggressive Chinese buyers and the high cost of domestic sortation, about 2/3rds of all plastic scrap collected for recycling is sold overseas. Issues such as supply and demand, domestic vs. foreign end markets, contamination concerns, sorting technology, etc. were all touched upon over the duration of our conference call.

Data she was looking for specifically was how much PET thermoforms are generated in the waste stream annually, available for recycling/reprocessing. I referenced my Recycling Report, which cites a article that states, “1.4 billion pounds of PET thermoforms were produced in North America in 2008;” this far exceeds the “critical mass” necessary to economically justify the collection of this package/material type in the context of material generation. However, when I attempted to further investigate this figure, I was unable to find the original article from which it was taken. After rummaging through all my files for the better part of the morning, I threw in the towel. Consequently, I sent the following email to my contact at ACC:

Hey there!

How’s it going?

A waste hauler and recycler contacted me in regard to the market potential of recycling PET thermoforms post-consumer. As you know, I have been working on researching this issue for some time, so I was thrilled to discover a venture capitalist group through this hauler/recycler was investigating the potential of recycling non-bottle rigids.

Part of this group’s research in this area is to “assess the current PET thermoform market;” that is, how many PET thermoforms are produced in North America annually that are available for post-consumer collection. When I wrote my Recycling Report, attached above, I referenced a article that stated 1.4 billion lbs of PET thermoforms were produced in North America in 2008. When this company inquired into where I got this statistic from, I referenced, but was surprised to discover that I couldn’t find said article after a thorough website search.

Anyway, I was wondering what data you have in regard to the following in the context of non-bottle rigid recycling:

Data on the type, volume and destination of non-bottle rigid plastic currently being collected and the potential volume available; and, non-bottle rigid bale specifications.

Any insight you could provide would be very well received.
After about an hour on the phone, we parted ways, with an agreement to continue the research and dialogue.

One thing that this company representative did share is that NIR automated sorting systems are unable to sort PET from PETG, CPET, and other –PET based materials that have barrier resins or other components considered a contaminant to the PET recycling stream. That stinks! This is the first time I had heard that NIR automated sorting systems are unable to sort PET from other PET-based materials, wow! I wonder what sorting technologies they are using elsewhere to allow for a “quality” stream of PET recyclate, derived from thermoforms as opposed to bottles…

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Feedback from SPC conference, 1:3

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:39:00 PM


Today we are going to discuss some of the happenings from the SPC meeting I attended the end of March in San Diego. For a discussion of the “Labeling for Recovery” workshop that preceded the conference, visit April 13th’s post.

The first session of the conference was titled “Vision 2050: Pathways for Global Sustainability,” which was described in the conference literature as follows:

“The Vision 2050 project lays out a pathway that will support a global population of some nine billion people living well and within the resource limits of the planet.” As per the presenter’s discussion, The Vision grew out of the leadership of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, where 29 companies—led by Alcoa, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Storebrand, and Syngenta—“worked together to rethink the roles that business must play over the next few decades to enable society to become more sustainable” (SPC meeting pamphlet).

That which I appreciated about the presenter’s treatment of this project was her emphasis on economics—how companies will face difficult economic realities as the price of doing business becomes more volatile due to the understanding that fewer resources will be available to sustain an ever-expanding population. Statistics referenced include: "1/6th of humanity is poor; two billion people live on less than $2 a day; 20 million people die each year from lack of food/water/sanitation; 20% of the world lives in water-scarce areas; etc." Consequently, it should be every business's business to investigate how its current model to production may need revision in this fast-approaching resource-scarce world. YIKES. This project’s description reminds me a bit of the World Wildlife Fund’s presentation at a previous SPC meeting insofar as the WWF made a similar argument that we are consuming the earth’s resources faster than is sustainable with the projected population of future decades. As such, we need to dramatically rethink the way we produce and consume so that future generations will not inherit a resource-less planet. And, if I continue on with this thought bubble, both the WWF and The Vision make an argument similar to that which I am discovering in “Cradle to Cradle: remaking the way we make things:” they all imply that our current models of production and consumption are out-dated and rooted in an immature social imagination where the earth’s resources are perceived as plentiful and ours for the taking, which obviously is inherently unsustainable…

The company that spoke on behalf of The Vision was a gigantic timber company, that harvests trees for almost every fiber-invested industry, from packaging to construction. This company representative explained how in 2010, 60% of trees harvested for industry/consumption were done so in natural forrest; the work of The Vision, therefore, is to identify issues such as these and work within the structures of business to develop more sustainable models, like harvesting all wood-derived products from "planned forrests," or those that are grown with then intention of harvesting.

The next session was titled, “Corporate Cultures that Inform Packaging Design Decisions,” which consisted of representatives from an environmentally aligned household cleaning products company and a representative from an organic foodstuff company speaking about how their companies implement “sustainability” into their business practices. The former company articulated a recent package redesign that consisted of moving from a PCR HDPE container to a “bag N a box” wherein a LDPE bag was enclosed in a molded pulp bottle, which was manually compactable at the end of its life for easy material separation for recycling. This company began their presentation with all sorts of terrible images of plastic marine debris and Albatrosses with plastic bits in their slowly decaying carcasses to set the mood as that which was extremely anti-plastic. It was kind of a bummer. After their whole schpeel about eliminating plastics from this product line, it was time for questions, my favorite! A hand quickly shot up and with reluctance, they took my question. I began, “why is plastic elimination the most important environmental aspect you are focusing on in this package redesign…did you take into account water consumption, aquatic toxicity, eutrophication, GHG, etc. over the life cycle of the previous PCR HDPE container vs. the new bag N a box?”

They replied that they did not perform any LCA’s comparing the former package with the new…they said that the PCR HDPE container “probably had a more attractive carbon footprint overall [when compared with new package],” but that the molded pulp bottle “told a better story to their consumers.” UG. I fail to comment.

The other company discussed their transition from PS to PLA for one of their organic product lines’ multi-pack form/fill/seal containers. This presenter did a superb job outlining where they were now and where they were trying to go in regard to implementing their vision of “sustainability.” She also eloquently walked us through their approach, trials, and results, making for a wholistic treatment of one company's journey down the path of sustainable packaging. I was also delighted to hear that this company invested in a third-party contracted LCA study comparing the PS to PLA container before moving forward with consumer market research gauging their customers’ attitude toward this product’s packaging…

Alright, that’s all for now. By the by, I had an extremely interesting conference call today with one of the largest waste haulers and recyclers in America in regard to PET thermoform recycling. I will post a description of our conversation pending this contact’s permission.


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Feedback from Walmart SVN/Expo, 2:3

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:39:00 PM

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!

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NY bound to visit Ecovative Design and TerraCycle!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:37:00 PM


I have some exciting news!

I am going to NY to visit two super cool companies, Ecovative Design and TerraCycle!

The first, Ecovative Design, grows a Styrofoam-like substitute out of agricultural waste using mycelium as the “glue” that holds the substrates together, for application in a variety of end markets; from packaging to—as this article describes—car parts, this company’s innovative new approach to material feedstock and disposal (it is home compostable!) deserves a standing ovation!

TerraCycle, first described in the March 31st’s post, is a company that partners with brands to upcycle or recycle hard-to-recycle branded packaging, like multi-material/composite CapriSun pouches, into an array of new products. They recently announced partnership with Garnier Fructis, starting the first (I believe), beauty and personal care post-consumer up/re-cycling stream. Rad! AND, check out this recently launched commercial, which introduces TerraCycle’s partnership (?) with NBC for Earth Week! They are on the up and up!

So yeah, I am tickled pink at the opportunity to visit these companies next month! Hopefully they will let me take pictures and perhaps, even allow me to interview them, to share with you all, my packaging and sustainability friends!

Have a great Holiday everyone! Look forward to feedback from the second part of the Walmart SVN Monday!

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Feedback from Walmart SVN/Expo, 1:3

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:36:00 PM


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.

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Sneak peek of Dordan's May feature in Plastics Technology Magazine!!!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:35:00 PM

Hello and happy Friday!

Want a sneak peek of Dordan's feature in the May issue Plastics Technology?!?

Plastics Technology May Dordan feature

Next week's post will provide feedback from the Walmart Expo and SVN meeting. I apologize for the delay; I have been swamped playing catch up!

Have a great weekend!

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CRAZY developments in the world of closed-loop recycling

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:35:00 PM


Check out this article posted today on

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you will remember that in preparation of speaking on progress being made in recycling PET thermoforms in Orlando for Pira International’s/Packaging World’s Sustainability in Packaging conference, I reached out to Coca Cola’s joint recycling venture, NURRC, to see if they minded providing information on their experiences with recycling PET thermoforms. And if I could back up even further—it was because a rep for NURRC approached me after I presented at Plastics News’ Sustainable Plastics Packaging conference in Atlanta on recycling thermoforms, explaining that his facility recycles curb-side collected PET thermoforms—that I wanted to use NURCC as a case study of progress being made in recycling PET thermoforms. In March 2nd’s post titled “New Insight into Recycling PET Thermoforms,” I discuss my dialogue with NURRC and how up until right before my presentation in Orlando, they were comfortable with me discussing their experience with recycling PET thermoforms, which included sensitive information like sorting technology used, end markets, etc. Perhaps the discussion reported in the PlasticsNews article above is part of the reason they became uncomfortable with me highlighting them as a case study into the progress of recycling thermoforms post consumer. YIKES! Hopefully these realities are just growing pains for this new closed-loop infrastructure that’s discovering how to navigate the world of recycling in the context of using post-consumer PET material for remanufacturing into second generation high-value PET products, like bottles and clamshells…

This week I will discuss feedback from the Walmart SVN/Expo. After which, we will pick up on summarizing Dr. Narayan’s presentation on the science of bio-based/biodegradable resins and conclude with the happenings of the SPC meeting in San Diego that I attended.

Happy Monday funday!

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Feedback from SPC's "Labeling for Recovery Update"

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:34:00 PM

Helllooooo my packaging and sustainability friends!

Today I am going to begin discussing the insights of the SPC meeting I attended in San Diego last week. As alluded to in yesterday’s post, these meetings are conducted under the “chatham house rule,” which means that “participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

I flew into San Diego on Monday to catch part of the pre-conference workshops—specifically—the “SPC Labeling for Recovery Update” as I spend a lot of time researching end of life management of packaging materials. One of the arguments I make in my Recycling Report is that the SPI ID code on the bottom of plastic packaging is an inefficient means of segregating plastic by resin type for its end of life reprocessing in manual sortation systems. Do note, however, that sortation by resin type post-consumer was never the SPI’s intention with these codes—it was more constructed as a form of intra-industry communication. ANYWAY, the SPC’s Labeling for Recovery Pilot looks to model itself a bit off the UK’s Labeling for Recovery scheme insofar as it is intended to communicate to CONSUMERS what packaging materials are recycled, what may be recycled, and what currently are not recycled. For those of you unfamiliar with the UK’s labeling scheme, it began as a project by WRAP, which was subsequently re-identified as OPRL Ltd. (On Pack Recovery Label). OPRL is now used on more than 90% of grocery packaging in the UK and has reportedly resulted in increased understanding by consumers of what is recyclable and what is not, thereby elevating recovery rates of packaging waste post consumer. The catch, for lack of better words, is that companies wishing to use this labeling scheme on their packaging must pay the “distributors” of this scheme an agreed upon annual fee. Like most “certifications,” I believe, –be it SFI, USDA Organic, Green Dot, etc.—money must be generated by those wishing to use said label/certification in order to ensure the proper distribution and implementation there of. I just read this article, which explains how SFI is in some hot water as many Fortune 500 companies that previously used said certification are removing it from new product packaging due to the unethical implications of this entire certification system. Therefore, it is very, very important when using/issuing a labeling scheme/certification that due diligence is taken throughout the supply chain to ensure that the label conveys to consumers what it is intended to convey, without falling into the deep, dark waters of GREENWASHING, dun dun dunn. Sorry I am getting way off track.

So, the SPC’s Labeling for Recovery Project attempts to present a legitimate, uniform labeling scheme that educates consumers on what types of packaging can and cannot be recycled currently in America. The workshop got in somewhat of a debate, however, over what percentage of recovery/REACH data per packaging material is considered “recyclable,” vs. “check locally,” vs. “not currently recycled.” Obviously, most participants in the workshop represented some type of packaging material, and no one wants to have a “not currently recycled” label on their packaging, regardless of if that is the reality of the situation. At first it was articulated that the FTC’s recently revised Green Guides would be used to determine what is considered “recyclable” (60% or more American communities have access to facilities that can recycle packaging X post-consumer) vs. “check locally” (20%-60% “…”) vs. “not currently recycled” (less than 20% “…”). This type of data collection, that is, what percentage of Americans/American communities have access to recycling facilities that can reprocess packaging material X, is called “REACH” data, though I myself am a little confused about the difference between having access to recycling facilities vs. actually recycling packaging…

ANYWAY, the workshop spent a considerable amount of time discussing:

Holes in existing data sets, be it REACH data or recycling/recovery data (American data sets don’t consider incineration with energy recovery as a form of “recovery,” which is part of the reason that the “recovery” rates of packaging waste in the EU far exceeds that of America);

How incineration with energy-recovery would be incorporated into the labeling scheme, though little post-consumer waste is incinerated in America due to its sour reputation from the early 1990s;

AND how private/closed loop recycling schemes, like those implemented by RecycleBank and TerraCycle, would be included into the construction of this labeling scheme as these non-national facts and figures are not currently incorporated into the US EPA/ACC data sets on packaging waste recycling/recovery.

As you can see, something so simple as trying to educate consumers about what is recycled and what is not recycled is not NEARLY as easy as it seems—you have to deal with lack of uniform/accurate data sets, conceptual discrepancies between using data set A (REACH data) vs. data set B (recycling data), plus how to incorporate compostability data, incineration with energy recovery data, private/closed loop recovery scheme data, and much much more! Fun stuff, eh!??!

After the slighty around the bush workshop, I had some time to kill before the “networking reception” that night, so I took a walk along the coast, and spotted a mini gondola, see!

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To Come: Walmart SVN and Expo

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:34:00 PM

Hello and happy Friday!

I leave on Sunday for Walmart’s Sustainable Value Network meeting and Expo. I will be sure to take tons O notes for you, my packaging and sustainability friends, though we still have like a million of Dr. Narayan’s slides to get through PLUS all the feedback from the SPC’s meeting in San Diego last week. JEEZ I have my work cut out for me. I will be blogging, however, all next week to catch up on all the interesting content.

Have a splendid weekend.

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Revisions/Clarifications to SPC Labeling for Recovery Project Post!!!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:34:00 PM

Hey guys!

I'm back! The Walmart SVN/Expo was great! I will give you the skinny ASAP. In the meantime, however, I wanted to revise/clarify some of the claims made in my April 7th post, titled "Feedback from SPC's Labeling for Recovery Project." The lovely Anne Bedarf, project manager of the SPC, who works extensively on this Project, sent me the following email:

Hi there Chandler—great to see you in Arkansas, hope you make it home fine.

Thanks for blogging on the Labeling for Recovery Project! There were, however, a number of errors/clarifications needed that I’d like to bring to your attention. I’ve put them in below in bold. Feel free to quote me on them. Let me know if you have any questions, and thanks.

Kind regards--AnneB

As per her request, check out the revised post below!

Helllooooo my packaging and sustainability friends!

Today I am going to begin discussing the insights of the SPC meeting I attended in San Diego last week. As alluded to in yesterday’s post, these meetings are conducted under the “chatham house rule,” which means that “participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

I flew into San Diego on Monday to catch part of the pre-conference workshops—specifically—the “SPC Labeling for Recovery Update” as I spend a lot of time researching end of life management of packaging materials. One of the arguments I make in my Recycling Report is that the SPI ID code on the bottom of plastic packaging is an inefficient means of segregating plastic by resin type for its end of life reprocessing in manual sortation systems. Do note, however, that sortation by resin type post-consumer was never the SPI’s intention with these codes—it was more constructed as a form of intra-industry communication. ANYWAY, the SPC’s Labeling for Recovery Pilot looks to model itself a bit off the UK’s Labeling for Recovery scheme insofar as it is intended to communicate to CONSUMERS what packaging materials are recycled, what may be recycled, and what currently are not recycled. For those of you unfamiliar with the UK’s labeling scheme, it began as a project by WRAP, which was subsequently re-identified as OPRL Ltd. (On Pack Recovery Label). It actually became a subsidiary company created by WRAP and the British Retail Consortium. WRAP is still WRAP. OPRL is now used on more than 90% of grocery packaging in the UK and has reportedly resulted in increased understanding by consumers of what is recyclable and what is not, thereby elevating recovery rates of packaging waste post consumer. The catch, for lack of better words, is that companies wishing to use this labeling scheme on their packaging must pay the “distributors” of this scheme an agreed upon annual fee. Like most “certifications,” I believe, --be it SFI, USDA Organic, Green Dot, etc.-- money must be generated by those wishing to use said label/certification in order to ensure the proper distribution and implementation there of. I just read this article, which explains how SFI is in some hot water as many Fortune 500 companies that previously used said certification are removing it from new product packaging due to the unethical implications of this entire certification system. Therefore, it is very, very important when using/issuing a labeling scheme/certification that due diligence is taken throughout the supply chain to ensure that the label conveys to consumers what it is intended to convey, without falling into the deep, dark waters of GREENWASHING, dun dun dunn. Sorry I am getting way off track. Totally agree—BUT—this label is NOT a certification. It’s more like the nutrition label for recyclability. Also there will be no fees charged during the pilot—we are looking at fees for long-term implementation mainly to ensure that it is properly used and that we have proper data collection.

So, the SPC’s Labeling for Recovery Project attempts to present a legitimate, uniform labeling scheme that educates consumers on what types of packaging can and cannot be recycled currently in America. The workshop got in somewhat of a debate, however, over what percentage of recovery/REACH data per packaging material is considered “recyclable,” vs. “check locally,” vs. “not currently recycled.” Obviously, most participants in the workshop represented some type of packaging material, and no one wants to have a “not currently recycled” label on their packaging, regardless of if that is the reality of the situation. At first it was articulated that the FTC’s recently revised Green Guides would be used to determine what is considered “recyclable” (60% or more American communities have access to facilities that can recycle packaging X post-consumer) vs. “check locally” (20%-60% “…”) vs. “not currently recycled” (less than 20% “…”). This type of data collection, that is, what percentage of Americans/American communities have access to recycling facilities that can reprocess packaging material X, is called “REACH” data, though I myself am a little confused about the difference between having access to recycling facilities vs. actually recycling packaging…This is a legitimate concern. Our first filter is Reach data—per FTC, related to collection. Our secondary filter is actual recyclability and a number of “prohibitives” will be on an “exceptions” list. For example, PET bottles are widely recycled; however, with a PVC shrink under our system they will not be labeled as such but as not yet recycled.

ANYWAY, the workshop spent a considerable amount of time discussing:

Holes in existing data sets, be it REACH data or recycling/recovery data (American data sets don’t consider incineration with energy recovery as a form of “recovery,” which is part of the reason that the “recovery” rates of packaging waste in the EU far exceeds that of America);

How incineration with energy-recovery would be incorporated into the labeling scheme, though little post-consumer waste is incinerated in America due to its sour reputation from the early 1990s; There is actually no way this could be included because we can’t determine final end use from reach data, MRF info, or prohibitives in recycling.

AND how private/closed loop recycling schemes, like those implemented by RecycleBank and TerraCycle, would be included into the construction of this labeling scheme as these non-national facts and figures are not currently incorporated into the US EPA/ACC data sets on packaging waste recycling/recovery. This isn’t totally true. You’d have to ask EPA, but remember EPA only looks at Rates, not Reach. Recycle bank helps get curbside recycling started, and those communities that have curbside are included in reach data analysis. I think that part of the discussion was more about drop-offs that weren’t part of a municipal program. TerraCycle isn’t included because we don’t really think mail-back is currently an effective recovery strategy—and after all—how would one measure “reach” for mail-in?

As you can see, something so simple as trying to educate consumers about what is recycled and what is not recycled is not NEARLY as easy as it seems—you have to deal with lack of uniform/accurate data sets, conceptual discrepancies between using data set A (REACH data) vs. data set B (recycling data), plus how to incorporate compostability data, incineration with energy recovery data, private/closed loop recovery scheme data, and much much more! Fun stuff, eh!??!

Thanks Anne!!!

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San Diego baby!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:33:00 PM

Hello and happy Friday!

I just wanted to wish you all a happy weekend-- I leave for San Diego super early Monday morning for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition's spring meeting-- so I will resume blogging upon my return late next week. Check out the agenda, it looks great!

I will be sure to take tons o notes to share with you, my packaging and sustainability friends!

And Dordan's website redesign is coming along swimingly! I can't wait for you all to check it out!

AND, check out Dordan's ad in Shelf Impact that came out today!

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Preview of tomorrow's post

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:33:00 PM

Hey yall!

Sorry for my absence!

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s meeting in San Diego was GREAT! Seriously, I learned A TON. My favorite was the panel discussion of trash in the ocean (33% of all marine debris is cigarette butts!) and the science of biodegradation in landfills. Also really interesting was the presentation on the recently revised FTC Green Guides by the Senior Attorney of the FTC. Due to the legalities of these meetings, however, I am unable to refer to presenter by company/brand; therefore, note that I ALSO had a very interesting exchange with a sustainable cleaning products company in regard to their recently unveiled molded pulp/PP bag (bag N a box) packaging for household cleaning products.

I will cue you in on this exchange, along with updates on the applicability of LCA/LCI and much much more tomorrow afternoon!

Thanks for your patience!

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Carbon Footprint Basics: understanding the value proposition for bio carbon vs. petro/fossil carbon

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:32:00 PM

Hello and happy almost Friday day!

Today we are going to talk about the process of deriving carbon from annually-renewable resources for synthesis into bio-based polymers. As per yesterday’s discussion, substituting bio-based carbon for petro-based carbon provides a value proposition in the context of material carbon footprint for plastic packaging.

Slide 7: Carbon Footprint Basics—Value Proposition

Consider the following chemical process for manufacturing traditional, fossil-based plastics:

Fossil feedstock (oil, coal, natural gas)-->Naptha-->ethylene/propylene-->polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP)

Now, consider the process of manufacturing bio-based plastics from a renewable feedstock:

Bio/renewable feedstock (crops and residues i.e. corn, sugarcane, tree plantations i.e. lignocellulosics, algal biomass i.e. algae)-->BIO monomers, sugars, oils (continue)

These BIO monomers, sugars and oils can then be synthesized into EtoH, which is then used to make ethylene/propylene, the building blocks of PE and PP;

OR, these BIO monomers, sugars and oils can be synthesized to make PLA and PHA.

The difference between something like PLA and the PlantBottle, therefore, is that the PlantBottle derives its carbon from biomass, as explained in the process above, yet has the same chemical composition as tradition, petro-based PET. Therefore, it is not designed to “biodegrade” in an industrial composting facility or others, whereas PLA, which is of a different chemical composition though it derives its carbon from, like the PlantBottle, an annually renewable source, is designed to “biodegrade” in the intended disposal environment as stipulated by the manufacturers of PLA. Check out the molecular structures of PLA vs. PP on the 7th slide of Narayan’s presentation; as you will see, the carbon, highlighted in red, can come from petro-based or bio-based feedstocks. Cool, huh!?!

Slide 8: Understanding the value proposition for bio carbon vs. petro/fossil carbon

Narayan then went on explaining the difference between old carbon (fossil fuel) and new carbon (crop residue/biomass). Consult the 8th slide of the PPT for an explanation of how old carbon is synthesized from new carbon.

Consider the following processes of synthesizing new vs. old carbon:

CO2 (present in atmosphere) + H20-->photosynthesis (1-10 years)--> (CH20)x +O2-->NEW CARBON (biomass, forestry, crops)


C02+H20-->photosynthesis (1-10 years) -->(CH20)x-->-->-->(10,000,000 years)-->OLD CARBON (fossil resources i.e. oil, coal, natural gas)

He then argued that all the criticism about manufacturing plastics out of non-renewable sources is misplaced because it doesn’t really matter where you get the carbon from—be it old or new carbon. The issue, however, is the rate and scale at which we have been taking old carbon (oil) out of the earth: it is inherently unsustainable to continue to derive carbon from fossil fuel for synthesis into disposable plastic packaging because it takes millions of years to create old carbon from the process described above, whereas it takes just 1-10 years to derive new carbon from crop residue/biomass.

Does that make sense?

He concludes: “Rate and time scales of CO2 utilization is in balance using bio/renewable feedstocks (1-10 years) as opposed to using fossil feedstocks.”


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APR and what new non-bottle rigid bale specs mean for recycling PET thermoforms!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:31:00 PM

Hey guys,

As per March 15th’s post, I was interested in what the newly released bale specs for non bottle rigids means for the progress in recycling PET thermoforms. As such, I sent my contact at APR the following email:


This is Chandler with Dordan—we spoke a while ago about the obstacles facing the inclusion of thermoform packaging in the recovery infrastructure. Remember?

I hope this email finds you well!

I wanted to applaud the efforts of APR as described in Mike Verespej’s PlasticsNews article, “Recycling group creating new bale specifications.” After speaking at several industry events about the need for specs for non-bottle rigids, I was delighted to discover this bit of news. So congrats!

Does APR have plans to develop specs for thermoform only (PET OR all mixed resins) bales, too?

I look forward to your feedback!

The next day, I received this response from the Technical Director at APR, David Cornell:


Thank you for your interest in plastics recycling.

APR has always been interested in more good raw material. To that end we have Design for Recyclability Guidelines, Guidance Documents, and Model Bale Specs. APR is a data-driven, science-based organization. We are also reflective of good business practices. To that end, we have provided our Model Bale Specs to help buyers and sellers establish common language for commercial transactions. We do that by reflecting what is happening and what we would see as logical extensions of proper commercial practice. Our Model Bale Specs include those materials to be included in specific bales and those materials not to be included and suggested levels of various extraneous materials along with best practices on bale size, density, and assembly.

The APR Rigids Committee is working on bringing some suggested standardization to the description of bales of various materials. More uniformity means both buyers and sellers benefit. This will be an ongoing activity as has been the description of both PET and HDPE bottle model bales.

To your question, the growing interest in just PET thermoform collection and recycle will very possibly lead to the commercial need for common description afforded by Model Bale Specifications. As the tolerances to various inclusions are fully understood, Model Bale Specs can be usefully written and likely will. Model bale specs for bales of mixed thermoforms will depend on the commercial need for such and establishment of commercial practices such that a document aids commerce. Bales of items made of incompatible resins, such as PET and PVC, are of less value than bales of those separated. Certainly we know of mixed resin bales, but see much more value in model bale specifications for higher valued, generic resin bales.

And I continued…


Thanks for the email and detailed explanation! From what I understand, there are several companies that have the capacity to reprocess post consumer PET thermoform containers into new products but can’t find any thermoform bales to purchase for said reprocessing. If demand for PET thermoform bales exists, what would it take to create PET thermoform bale specs? How do I go about moving the recycling of thermoforms forward as a representative of a thermoform manufacturer?

And his response:


The first step is to have a stream of useful material. That means today just PET with no look-alikes. The look-alike PS, PETG, and PLA need their own bales. It also means thermoforms that do not have unfriendly adhesives. The APR protocol on thermoform adhesives is on the website to guide in assessing adhesive and labeling choices.

When streams of such useful material are available, then it will make economic sense for MRF’s to isolate and sell such bales. Until we reach the MRF-provided bales, we will likely be looking for controlled flow PCR such as bakery trays from retail bakeries and food stores.

The issue is always one of critical mass for the collectors, sorters, and reclaimers. Jump starting as is going on in Canada really helps.


Round and round we go!

Tune in tomorrow for a description of part one (Bio-based products concepts) of Dr. Narayan’s workshop on the science of “biodegradable polymers.”

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TerraCycle's brilliance and the value proposition of bio-based polymers in the context of material carbon footprint

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:31:00 PM

Hello everyone!

Another gloomy day in Chicago—I can’t wait to go to San Diego next week for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s spring meeting! AND, I just booked flights to Rogers, Arkansas, for the Walmart SVN meeting and Expo. Though Dordan is not exhibiting this year, I am excited to see what other vendors are offering and get updated on Walmart’s sustainability initiatives!

So I am about half way through TerraCycle CEO Tom Szacky’s book, “Revolution in a Bottle.” It is really, really good, and inspiring! I thoroughly suggest you get yourself a copy today! That which I like so much about his story is his awareness into the economic realities of the market place: one of his main arguments is that the majority of consumers will NOT pay more for a green product; while everyone wants to do well by the environment, few are willing to pay for it. His whole approach, therefore, is to be able to provide green products at a competitive price and performance as those currently on the market. And the best way to do that? Use what is considered waste as your feedstock. BRILLIANT.

I met with TerraCycle’s VP of Global Brigades today to learn more about the logistics of their approach to recycling/reusing hard-to-recycle materials and products. Basically, they have a brand pay to finance the brigades (collection of materials and shipment) and in return, TerraCycle upcycles or recycles the collected materials thereby extending the brand’s life post consumer. It’s a win-win: the brand gets consumers to participate in their identity by collecting it’s waste i.e. Capri-Sun bags, thereby strengthening the consumers relationship with the brand and the brand’s perceived environmental stewardship; the collected “waste” is then recycled/upcycled into new products, further extending the life of the brand and/or creating a value-added product for the market while diverting hard-to-recycle materials from landfill! From how I understand it, TerraCycle is privatizing waste management—cutting out the MRF, brokers, municipalities, etc, and creating a simplistic supply chain based on consumers’ willingness to participate and a team of innovative designers. As discussed numerous times in my Recycling Report, the whole problem with recycling thermoforms is the high cost of manual sortation and the lack of investment in automated sorting technologies. If consumers are doing the sorting themselves at places where people congregate i.e. schools, church, retailers, etc, then the whole issue of manual vs. automated sorting systems at a MRFs is totally bypassed. These materials don’t even make it to the MRF—TerraCycle sort of IS the MRF! Crazy, right?!?!

The wheels are churning upstairs for sure!

So let’s discuss the first part of Narayan’s PPT on the science of biodegradable polymers. Please visit March 16ths post to download the presentation and follow along with my descriptions per slide number.

Part one: Bio-based products concepts

Slide 6: What value proposition to bio-plastics offer?

As discussed in March 16ths post, there are two components to “sustainability” as it pertains to packaging: the carbon footprint of the package and the end of life management of the packaging material. Therefore, today’s discussion will focus specifically on the carbon footprint dimension of the multi-faceted conception of “sustainability.”

Narayan began the first part of the workshop by explaining that bio-based polymers, that is, plastic that derives its feedstock from an annually-renewable resource, like starch, provides a value proposition in the context of material carbon footprint. He states: “Switching from the “petro/fossil” carbon in plastics to “bio-renewable” carbon reduces the material carbon footprint.”

He then went into a discussion of LCA, as many in the industry have argued that petro-based polymers are “better” than bio-based due to the energy-intensive process of creating carbon from bio-based resources as opposed to petro-based resources. And here is what he had to say:

This has nothing to do with the PROCESS. Those who manufacture bio-based polymers must ensure that their process of generating polymers from renewable resources is better than or equal to the existing process of creating polymers from fossil fuel. However, this isn’t your or my problem. I am not advocating that the process of creating plastic from crop residue is not important when understanding the “sustainability” of these non-traditional resins; I am arguing that that discussion is a separate one then the discussion we are having right now, which is understanding how substituting petro-based carbon with bio-derived carbon is a value added proposition in the context of material carbon footprint.

In a nut shell: there is a value proposition in switching from petro-based carbon to bio-based carbon for plastic material feedstock. This value proposition has nothing to do with the manufacturing process of petro vs. bio-based polymers; it has to do with switching from a non-renewable source of carbon to an annually renewable one. If carbon in polymers can originate from non-renewable fossil fuel or annually-renewable crop residue, why not substitute the renewable carbon with the non-renewable!?!

But how do you derive carbon from crop residue for synthesis into bio-based polymers?

Tune in tomorrow for Chemistry 101.

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Intro to Dr. Narayan's Workshop on the Science of "Biodegradable" Polymers

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:30:00 PM

Hello yall! It is a BEAUTIFUL day in Chicago—almost at 60 degrees! I am writing you from my favorite downtown Starbucks. As per my repeated blog statements, today I will begin discussing Dr. Narayan’s workshop on the science of biodegradable/compostable/bio-based polymers.

Context: Dr. Ramani Narayan is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science at MSU. He conducted a four-hour workshop at the Doubletree Resort in Orlando as part of Pira International’s Sustainability in Packaging pre-conference workshops.

Download the presentation here: NARAYAN, Sustainability in Packaging Workshop, Intertech-Pira

Please note that it is extremely technical presentation; therefore, for an explanation of each slide, visit the corresponding blog posts’ sections. Due to the depth and scope of the workshop, this information will be discussed over a series of several blog posts. Today’s focuses only on the introduction of packaging and sustainability in the context of global warming and end of life management.

“Understanding material feedstock choices and end-of-life strategies for Packaging Sustainability: Biobased and Biodegradable/Compostable Plastics”


Narayan is a very entertaining speaker! He began the workshop by jokingly aligning himself with the plastic folk (“are there any paper people in here?!?”), emphasizing that regardless of what camp you fall into, the underlying themes of the workshop are applicable to any packaging material type. Because the allotted time for this workshop was four hours, Narayan began by contextualizing the relationship between the environment and packaging, subsequently explaining the organization of the material to move from a macro to micro level.

The three “legs” of sustainability, which I am sure you are all very familiar with, was the first slide; that which was unique about Narayan’s treatment, however, was his emphasis on “carbon cycling” within the “environmental” leg of the sustainability concept. He then used this emphasis on carbon cycling between land/air/water/energy (renewable vs. fossil) to begin an explanation of global warming, claiming that regardless of if you believe in the concept or not, the reality of the situation is that the amount of carbon in the atmosphere has been substantially increasing since the industrial revolution. While there are natural origins of carbon emissions into the atmosphere i.e. volcanic explosions, the rate at which carbon has increased in our atmosphere is without a doubt the result of human activities inherent in the process of production and distribution.

The second slide illustrated this reality, showing how the “annual emissions to the atmosphere (Pg C),” though rising since the 1850s, dramatically spikes from 1950 to present day.

Narayan explained the whole “global warming” thing as follows: C02 is a heat trapping gas—there is and will always continue to be a healthy amount necessary to sustain the chemistry of the atmosphere. However, the amount of C02 emitted into the atmosphere has dramatically increased since the 1950s. It’s a simple cause and effect relationship: more C02 is being emitted into our atmosphere; C02 is a heat trapping gas. Consequentially, the temperature of the planet will rise, plain and simple. Narayan then argued that our role as stewards is to MANAGE the C02 distribution in our atmosphere, not eliminate it. If we continue to do nothing, the temperature will continue to climb, and eventually, we will reach a “tipping point,” although it is impossible to know when that will be and the inherent repercussions thereof.

Soooo what does this have to do with packaging? Everything—from the Walmart Scorecard to the metrics constructed by the Global Packaging Project, the world of “sustainable packaging” is intent on being able to quantify the “carbon footprint” of it's product(s)/package(s).

Narayan then explained how there is confusion insofar as carbon footprint is but one of two important concepts when trying to quantify the sustainability of a product/package. Therefore, it is important to understand “sustainable packaging” as living in two different, but related, camps: the first is that of the carbon world; the second, the end of life management world. Neither one is more important than the other—it just depends on what your priorities are.

Taken together, Narayan argued that the two main opportunities facing packaging are: carbon footprint reductions—global warming/climate change issue; and, end-of-life management—recycling, waste-to-energy, biodegradability in targeted disposal systems like composting (compostable plastics). It is important to understand these two opportunities as different but related when making decisions about packaging.

Before moving into a discussion of bio based products concepts, Narayan touches on the notion of “biodegradation.” He explains how “biodegradable” is sort of like the new “it” world as conveyed via consumer preference (“biodegradability” is often cited as the number one desired sustainable packaging attribute in consumer market research studies, though “recyclable” is also a repeated favorite), yet technically, EVERYTHING is biodegradable—we are too! Given time and the environment, everything will break down and be consumed via microorganisms present in the natural environment. However, without specifying a disposal environment in which said product/package will “biodegrade” i.e. industrial composting facilities, anaerobic digestion, etc.—the term means absolutely NOTHING!

He then proposed the following inquiries:

How does your package fit into “sustainability”?
What is the feedstock?
What is the end of life?

We will now move onto a discussion of how to gain a value proposition in the context of packaging material feedstock.

Part 1: Bio-based products concepts

To come.

Thanks for your time my sustainable packaging friends! For those of you attending Greenerpackage’s Sustainable Packaging Symposium in Chicago, have a blast in my city!!!

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I'm sowie!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:29:00 PM

Hello my packaging and sustainability friends! I can't believe it's already the end of the day and I haven't given you ANYTHING from the conference. I am very sorry! Busy as a bee!

I did, however, receive a bunch of really great information from Dr. Ramani Narayan, professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at Michigan State, in regard to bio/oxo/compostable resins. Pending his approval, I will upload his presentation for your viewing pleasure! Talk about a great workshop!

AND, not to rub it in or anything, but I leave tomorrow for a full week of vacation!!!! Therefore, I will not resume blogging until the following Monday.

BUT, we just finished designing our soon to be live ad on Packaging World’s homepage! Get a sneak peak here!

I will miss you! Have a great week without me in the world of sustainable packaging!

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TerraCycle YAY and a NEW research venture!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:29:00 PM

Hello and happy Monday!

It’s great to be back. I actually missed work; go figure!

Check out this article from Packaging World, which discusses the refined approach by the judging committee of the Greener Package Awards. As you can see I am not listed as a judge, which is the result of a conflict of interests, resulting in me stepping down from the Committee. I wish the judges and contestants the best of luck; this year has the potential to be the best yet!

Ok, I received approval from Dr. Narayan to upload his presentation to my blog, but I want to include my notes taken during the workshop too, as the PPT is a little overwhelming. Therefore, expect the treatment on all things biodegradable in tomorrow’s post.

Also, I am still waiting to hear back from the President of AMUT in regard to uploading his presentation to my blog—hopefully we can schedule a conference call so I can pick his brain about recycling PET thermoform containers.

I have some pretty cool news!

The day before I left for vacation, I emailed the CEO of TerraCycle, introducing myself and my Clamshell Recycling Initiative. I have been following him and his company’s work for some time now, so I decided to finally take the networking plunge via the ambiguous social networking site, FaceBook. To my surprise, he replied that night, all the way from Amsterdam!

For those of you unfamiliar, TerraCycle is a company in Trenton, New Jersey, which basically provokes people to rethink what waste means. Starting as a “manufacturer” of worm poop (collect worm castings and package it for reuse as a fertilizer), TerraCycle literally creates value from waste. After introducing their line of worm poop products to Walmart, they quickly became a market favorite, rolling out product at most of the large and medium sized retailers. I just found this article however, which explains how this portion of the company merged with Scotts Miracle Grow, which seems a bit ironic. While I am still unsure of the whole story, after this venture was consumed by Scotts, TerraCycle made it into the world of packaging, “upcycling” products like CliffBar wrappers, CapriSun pouches, and others, into new and improved products, like purses, shirts, binders, etc. To learn more about their approach to waste and the economics of said approach, check out this great interview with TerraCycle CEO by BBMG’s Mitch Baranowski.

SOOOO anyway, within his email he introduced me to several of his colleagues, one of whom already contacted me about an exciting new brigade! I don’t want to spill the beans just yet, but know that I am very, very excited about the potential of working with this innovative new company!

And, I am about to embark on a NEW research project, which will be the second of a three part series looking to illuminate truths about sustainable packaging. The first, which you all are probably familiar with, is titled “Recycling Report: The Truth about Clamshell/Blister Recycling in America.” This Report generated a good deal of interest because it was a well-researched, honest, and thoughtful treatment of a rather complicated issue from the perceptive of a new-bee in the industry trying to understand why the packaging her family company manufactures is not “recycled,” as per the FTC Green Guide’s definition. Because this focused specifically on the end of life management of thermoform containers as a commentary on the nuanced nature of “sustainability” as it pertains to packaging, I now look to focus on how the material feedstock of a package dictates another dimension of a packages’ perceived sustainability. However, I don’t want to limit my research at all in the introductory phases, so at this point, anything is game. My approach will be of a similar construction insofar as I will be transparent about my biases and social imagination, trying to diffuse a rather complicated, but pertinent, issue.

Ok, I got to go. Look out for tomorrow’s post—it is going to be super technical!

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Walmart SVN feedback, 3:3 (FINALLY!)

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:29:00 PM

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!

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New insight into recycling PET thermoforms!!!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:28:00 PM

Hello my packaging and sustainability friends!!!

I have so much to tell you! Where to begin where to begin…

Well, let’s talk about recycling thermoforms, as that is my first love—after Italian beefs—of course.

Prior to my presentation at Sustainability in Packaging in Orlando last week, I wanted to make sure that all my information on the state of blister/clamshell recycling AND progress being made in recycling thermoforms was as accurate and up to date as possible. After all, I wrote the original Recycling Report over a year ago, so I assumed that some things had changed. I don’t know if I had told you guys this before but a colleague from the SPC sent me an email several weeks back with an attachment outlining specs for mixed PET bales, including thermoform containers. Check it out here:

Mixed PET specs, ISRI

I sent this gentleman a follow up email, inquiring into what was implied by these specs: ARE thermoforms and bottles collected for recycling, as indicated by these specs for mixed PET bales? If so, who is collecting them i.e. private entity vs. municipality? What is the sorting technology used to separate the PET thermoforms from other “look-a-likes?” Where is this sorting happening i.e. MRF vs. PRF? AND, where do these mixed PET bales go after collection i.e. what is the end market?

After not hearing back from said gentleman, I reached out to ISRI, which is the organization that published the specs. Several unsuccessful attempts later, I finally got a hold of the Marketing Manager, who explained he is no expert on specs. He was very nice, however, and asked that I rephrase my inquiry in an email and he will see to it that the necessary party gets back to me ASAP. So, I sent him this email:


This is Chandler with Dordan. As per our conversation, I have spent a lot of time researching recycling plastic packaging, specifically thermoform packaging, like clamshells and blisters. I have become an industry educator, explaining why thermoform containers are not recycled in most American communities, due to economics, sorting technologies, etc., in hopes that in understanding the problems, the industry can begin developing solutions (they are).

At my last industry presentation, I explained that MRFs do not collect PET clamshells for recycling because there is no end market and there is no end market because there is none collected for reprocessing (with the exception of international consumption of mixed rigids due to low labor costs for manual separation) i.e. the chicken and the egg of supply and demand. While there is a very strong PET bottle recycling infrastructure, the same can't be said for PET clamshells because lack of investment, technology, etc.

ANYWAY, one of my arguments explaining why thermoforms are not collected for recycling is because there are no specs for collection and baling. After making such a statement, a colleague emailed me the attached document (PET specs.), indicating that there ARE specs for PET thermoforms as per ISRI.

So these are my questions:

Is post consumer PET packaging (rigid containers, bottles, jars, tubs and trays) collected at MRF's for recycling, as per the spec sheet attached?

If so, do you know what MRF is collecting these materials for recycling; who purchases the mixed bales; and, what the material becomes after reprocessing? I know that that is a loaded question—I am just trying to understand if these types of materials are in fact collected for recycling, and if so by whom, how, where, and what the end market is.

Check out my attached PowerPoint Recycling Report: the truth about blister/clamshell recycling in America for clarification on my goal-- which is to educate packaging/sustainability professionals about the economics/realities of recycling packaging post consumer in America, with special attention at recycling PET clamshells (thermoforms).

Does this make any sense?!?


Any feedback you could provide would be well received.



While in Orlando, I received an email from my ISRI contact explaining that he had forward my inquiry onto the necessary party who would get back to me ASAP. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a hold of this gentleman before my presentation, so I hinted at the possibility that specs for mixed thermoform and bottle bales exist, though I explained I was currently investigating the implication of this information.

Also, as articulated in a previous post, after my presentation in Atlanta several weeks back at Sustainable Plastics Packaging, a gentleman from NURRC approached me, explaining that his company recycles post consumer curb side collected PET thermoforms and bottles at their southeastern facility. After this proclamation, I received an invitation to tour the facility, to confirm with my own eyes that the recycling of PET thermoforms was very much a reality (EXCITING!!!). While I had to push back the trip due to other work commitments, I have every inkling to follow through with his suggestion to see the recycling of thermoforms in action. I wonder if they would let me take pictures or even FILM their recycling process…that would be soooo cool! But now I am getting a head of myself.

ANYWAY, I thought that NURRC would serve as a fabulous case study in regard to progress being made in recycling thermoforms, so several weeks before leaving for Orlando, I contacted my NURCC rep and asked if I could use his company as an example of closed-loop progress in recycling thermoforms. He was super thrilled at the opportunity—explaining he could even send pictures—but said he just needed to receive the company’s partners’ blessing, because this entity funded the installation of a lot of the sorting and reprocessing technology. A half an hour before my presentation was scheduled to begin, I still had not received the partners’ approval—my NURRC contact explained that this entity had a holiday the day before and it wasn’t a top priority so he would therefore be unable to grant permission for me to use NURRC as a case study of progress being made in recycling thermoforms. DANGIT. While I still had every intention of highlighting the progress being made in the infrastructural approach to recycling thermoforms i.e. NAPCOR’s Thermoform Division, I was totally bummed I couldn’t highlight another, more privatized approach.

Sitting pool side, I was racking my brain for a good way to finish the “progress in recycling thermoforms” section…without NURRC’s blessing (I had received information on sorting technology used and other possibly sensitive information), I was unsure how to end on a bang. What I finally decided on was to highlight Dordan’s commitment to transparency: I explained that while some people just don’t get why I would go around saying thermoforms are not really recycled—at least in 60% or more American communities—I thought it was my responsibility to be honest because nothing ever changes if you don’t challenge the status quo. And I really, really, want to see our packages recycled in the future—it is not some marketing ploy but a genuine commitment to do good business and good by the environment. And I have to say, I think my presentation overall was received SO much better this time around because I was myself, explaining where I and my company were coming from in regard to our journey to sustainability, and didn’t make any excuses. I am very happy with the reception of my presentation, as I had numerous people approach me afterwards complimenting me on my honesty and articulating support for Dordan going out on a limb to move the dialogue around sustainability forward.

At the networking reception that night, the president of AMUT approached me, explain that his company makes machinery for thermoforming, extruding, AND recycling. He highlighted the recent developments at Ice River Springs in Canada (they are the first bottle-to-bottle recycling and bottling facility in North America) and others who esteem that they have purchased the equipment necessary to recycle PET thermoforms and bottles together. This guy definitely knows his stuff! I can’t WAIT to talk to him further about the different types of recycling machinery available in the context of PET recycling and how the machinery AMUT offers works to alleviate the previously articulated technical barriers to recycling PET thermoforms. Pending his approval, I will upload his presentation to my blog, as it provides the most technically holistic treatment of the process of recycling thermoforms for reprocessing into second generation thermoforms. Perhaps I can finally start working on Dordan’s next marketing campaign: “Our packages are made out of our competitors’ packages!” I don’t think I came up with that, but it certainly has a ring to it!!!

I can’t believe how much I have rambled. I hope I haven’t been a bore! I am waiting to hear back from the Marketing Director of the conference to ensure there are no policies against me discussing the content of the conference in my blog. Stay tuned!!!!

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Bahaha check out my video from Sustainability in Packaging

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:28:00 PM

Hey yall!

Check out my interview from Sustainability in Packaging last week. I especially like the part where my eyes BULGE out of my head in anticipation of presenting. And the bird chirping intro is pretty cool. LOVE IT.

Tomorrow's post will provide feedback from this splendid event!

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I'm off!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:27:00 PM

Hello my packaging and sustainability friends!

I am just about to take off for O'hare to fly to Orlando for Pira International's 5th Annual Sustainability in Packaging Conference, wohooo!!!!

Tomorrow I am attending both pre-conference workshops: one, where we learn how to create a LCA database; and another, where we learn the "fundamentals of packaging and sustainability." I will be sure to take tons of notes to condense for your viewing pleasure. AND, I have been working on my Recycling Report presentation like crazy-- trying to simplify, condense, and update whatever content is needed to be updated. So far I am waiting to hear back from two organizations that could change some of the assumptions/findings. I will keep you all posted!

It is rainy and disgusting here; I can't wait for Orlando!!!

Hope to see some of you there!

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Tomorrow's post is gunna be a biggie!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:27:00 PM

Hey guys!!!

I am back from Orlando and had a total blast! See...

I have been up to my ears in catch up work but I am devoting a HUGE chunk of tomorrow's work day to the construction of an extra awesome post!

Some concepts I am mulling over discussing:

Final feedback from Walmart SVN meeting (sorry it has taken me sooooo long to conclude these happenings!)

Further investigation into the industrial water usage by the pulp and paper sector (one of my readers sent me new research!)

Update on non-bottle PET recycling, including dialogue with AMUT president and ISRI

Feedback from Sustainability in Packaging

The glory that is the PlantBottle (Dr. Ramani Narayan of Michigan State gave an AMAZING four hour workshop on the chemistry behind all the new bio resins so I finally get it!)

And more!

See you tomorrow!

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OMG I am on Packaging Digest's HOMEPAGE!!!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:26:00 PM

This is CRAZY!

And if I wasn't nervous before...;)

Rock n' Roll!

Orlando here I come!!!

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I'll be back!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:25:00 PM

Hello my packaging and sustainability friends!

I am just about to walk out the door to road trip to Michigan for a couple appointments BUT I wanted to let you know that I will resume blogging early next week.

Still to come: Walmart SVN meeting recap 3:3 and further investigation into the water usage of the paper and pulp industry in America.

Have a good week!

AND, it is negative 20 degrees in Chicago today with the wind chill; awesome!

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I have been selected as a JUDGE for the Greener Package Awards 2011!!!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:25:00 PM

Hello and happy Tuesday my packaging and sustainability friends!

I have some pretty exciting news!!!!

I have been invited to be a JUDGE for the Greener Package awards for 2011!

For those of you unfamiliar, the Greener Package awards is a contest organized by, which is a project of Summit Media Company—the media group that produces the industry magazines Packaging World, Contract Packaging, HealthCare Packaging and more. was launched in 2008, maybe, and intended to be an open forum wherein interested parties may read and contribute to issues pertaining to packaging and sustainability; its tagline is “Knowledge exchange for sustainable packaging.” Packaging World editor and reporter Anne Marie Mohan, who produces the editorial content for Packaging World’s E-Clip series and others, is the voice through which industry happenings pertaining to packaging and sustainability are conveyed to site visitors.

I discovered when I was at my first conference in Atlanta in 2009 for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s members-only fall meeting. A Packaging Engineer for Target asked what relationship, if any, there is between the SPC and I still remember scribbling down in my notebook with a big star next to it indicating “important.”

Once I returned to Chicago, I checked out the site, and was thrilled!!! Not only was there tons of great editorial information, but there was a space where you could start a discussion/ask the “Expert Network” a question! I, being a product of the put-everything-out-there-generation thanks to websites like myspace, Friendster, facebook and others, was quick to post my first discussion.

Wow, November 3rd 2009 was my first post. I was just a baby yet! The name of the discussion was “Where does the plastic industry go from here” and it was posted following my return from the SPC’s Atlanta meeting (where I first discovered that thermoformed containers were not recycled). If I could be nostalgic for a moment, this post marks the beginning of our clamshell recycling initiative, which facilitated the birth of this very blog. Awwww the memories…

Check out the discussion here.

Next I posted this discussion, which garnered an interesting response, to say the least.

Anyway I am getting way off track. All I was trying to point out is that I am kind of like a greenerpackage groupie insofar as I check the site daily, am eager to comment on discussions, and even used the platform as a third party medium to push out some of Dordan’s thought leadership marketing (in 2010 Dordan had three sponsored links on—a white paper under Corporate Strategy that explained our 4-Step Design for Sustainability Process, a sample offer under compostable & biodegradable, and my Recycling Report under the recycling section).

If you are interested in our Design for Sustainability Process, visit; if you are interested in downloading the Recycling Report or other research, visit; and, if you are interested in receiving a free sample of two innovative materials (supplier-certified 100% PCR PET and third-party certified industrial compostable BIOGRAPH.ics), email us at Ok I think that is enough Dordan promotion for the year…

OH, and how could I forget the database?!? After I found in late 2009, I discovered that they were launching some kind of database for sustainable products and suppliers. As the recently appointed Sustainability Coordinator at Dordan Manufacturing, I thought it was in our interest to submit a package to this database, so we would be considered a “sustainable supplier” to interested parties. We even opted for the third-party review, which required a bit of homework on our end because we had to work with our material suppliers and plant managers to ensure that the claims we were making were valid i.e. no heavy metals, post-consumer certification, etc. For some reason, the process at the time was super confusing and it took us a loonnnggggg time to get our listing just as such. And lucky us, due to our submission to the greenerpackage database in the early phase of its launch, we got invited to the Walmart Sustainable Packaging Expo in March of 2010, which was super cool! Unfortunately, we are passing up the opportunity to exhibit this year, though I will continue to participate in the Sustainable Value Network meetings.

Check out our listings here.

Ok where was I…oh yea, so in a nut shell, I am very familiar with, which is why I was so THRILLED to have been selected as a judge for the prestigious Greener Package Awards! Last year Dordan tried submitting a package to the competition, but unfortunately it was in the R&D phase and the application requires that it be commercialized at the time of submission.

Also on the Judging Committee are: Sean Sabre of ModusLink (he is the head judge or whatever the title would be), Laura Rowell of MWV, Robert Combs of Burts Bees, Minal Mistry of the SPC/GreenBlue, David Newcorn of Greenerpackage, and also involved, though I am unsure to what level, Ron Sasine of Walmart and Scott Balantine of Microsoft. Pretty much all the super duper cool cats of the world of packaging and sustainability, and I get to join their ranks! Not that I am as super cool a cat as the other judges, but nonetheless, I am just tickled pink by the opportunity to work with these outstanding people!

So yeah, for more information on the Greener Package awards, visit here.

Our first call is this Friday I wonder what we are going to talk about?!?! I will let you know if I am able to discuss the Committee happenings with you, my packaging and sustainability friends, though I doubt that would be deemed appropriate due to the level of hush hush assumed with any competition…

Later this week I will blog about the “sustainability” of FSC-certified fiber vs. 100% recycled fiber AND further investigate the pulp/paper industries’ consumption of water in North America.

And lastly, next week I leave for Sustainability in Packaging to present my Recycling Report. I am EXTREMLY nervous because today (interesting timing, I know), I received my speaker evaluation from my presentation in Atlanta for Sustainable Plastics Packaging and I didn’t score too terribly well, to say the least. Comments submitted pertaining to my presentation specifically were a lot of “she spoke too fast, was too energetic, too much detail, confusing organization, amateur style” YIKES. Granted I am thankful for the feedback, it just reminds me of what a rookie I am, and how much more work I have to do before I can consider myself a “seasoned” presenter.

AND the reason I have not been my normal blogging self is because Dordan is in the middle of a web site redesign, which I am spear-heading, and in the process of restructuring the relationship between marketing and sales. Lots O work, I would say!

By the by, today I broke 4,700 views on my blog! Thanks everyone!!!!!!!!

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Walmart Canada's PET Subcommittee of The Material Optimization Committee, an Update

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:24:00 PM

Greetings world!

We have made it through the BLIZZARD! Man oh man has it been crazy! The night of the storm the wind was swirling so fast you didn’t know from which direction it was coming! AND I witnessed “Thunder Snow,” which is basically a thunderstorm with snow instead of rain! Who knew!?! And my street, which is in the West Loop, just got paved TODAY so I have been stranded here since Tuesday! And the Metra trains, which I normally take to work, were super backed up and basically you couldn’t really get anywhere! It was sort of exciting…

Check out these pictures of Lake Shore Drive, which is a main artery of the city; at 8:00 on Tuesday they shut it down and all these cars were abandoned. Everyone was calling it a “Snowpocalypse!” Ha!

Anyway, for today’s post I thought I would give you an update on the progress of Walmart Canada’s PET Subcommittee of the Material Optimization Committee. For those of you who may be new to my blog, I was invited to be the co-lead of Walmart Canada’s PET Subcommittee in winter 2009, due to my research on recycling clamshells. To download the full research report, which draws on my involvement with this Committee, visit and select “Recycling Report.”

While the “goal” of the Committee was never really carved in stone, I was operating under the assumption that we were working towards achieving zero waste for PET packaging—bottle grade and thermoform grade—in the main Provinces of Canada. And while the approach too was a bit fuzzy, we investigated the plausibility of recycling PET bottles with PET thermoforms. The thinking was that because the PET bottle recycling infrastructure was so sophisticated, it may be easier to piggy back on it then create an entirely new recovery stream. Like the Starbuck’s cup recycling pilot that piggy-backed on the already established corrugate recycling stream, we hoped that if we could demonstrate to reclaimers that PET thermoforms do not contaminate the PET bottle recyclate stream, then we could begin integrating them into the existing PET recycling stream. After all, all the research I had done explained that there was nothing technically problematic about recycling PET bottles with thermoforms, just that it would be expensive to sort the PET thermoforms from other look-a-likes considered a contaminate to the PET bottle stream.

After several meetings, each member was assigned a task, which was “due” in by a specific date. I was instructed to summarize the APR’s Design for Recyclability Guidelines for PET bottles in hopes of using it as a template for creating Design for Recyclability Guidelines for PET thermoforms. After I submitted my summary, which you can find if you search my blog, I didn’t hear from my co-lead for several months. While I called him several times over the summer of 2010, it was conveyed to me that this project was put on the back-burner in favor of other, more important projects.

Yesterday my co-lead called me, however, to discuss the progress being made. This is what he had to say:

The Committee, which now seems entirely staffed by Walmarters, is making progress! The progress explained, however, does not seem that different than the progress reported by NAPCOR in our previous discussions. Like NAPCOR, my co-lead explained that after performing some pilots, it was found that it is easier to recycle PET thermoforms with PET thermoforms then within the PET bottle stream. The reason for this is multi-faceted, but in a nut shell, it is because no one wants to contaminate the PET bottle stream. Therefore, it is easier the develop processes and technologies for recycling PET thermoforms together then figure out what about them is problematic for the bottle stream. After all, a lot of time and investment has been made into the PET bottle recycling stream, thanks to NAPCOR and others, so trying to introduce a new packaging type into this system would probably do more harm than good.

Next it was articulated that for some reason, PET thermoforms manufactured in South America turned the PET recyclate fluorescent, which was making the reprocessing of the thermoform-grade RPET problematic. They are currently investigating why that is…

Lastly, it was reported that some type of adhesive on labels intended for food packaging is tinting the RPET beige during the process of recycling. Apparently Walmart is working with a Label Association trying to figure out what type of adhesive on these labels is contaminating the stream; once known, it was reported that Walmart will begin drafting suggestions for their suppliers in the context of sourcing labels for thermoform food packaging containers.

That’s all for today folks!

See you soon!

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Paper vs. plastic

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:24:00 PM

Happy Friday!

Today’s post is going to be a lot. And it’s about one of my most favorite concepts: plastic vs. paper dun dun dunnnn.

This whole paper plastic thing started last week, when someone from one of my Linkedin groups reached out to me with some questions about sustainable packaging. He is a package designer for an outdoors company and wanted to know what I thought of the “sustainability” of 100% recycled paper packaging vs. that of FSC-certified fiber. While on the phone he explained that his company started on the journey towards sustainable packaging two years ago and have almost entirely eliminated plastic from their product line. When I asked why he said because the process of manufacturing resin for plastic packaging releases a lot of pollutants in the air, consumes a lot of energy, and so forth. I began telling him how contrary to popular belief, the pulp and paper industry is the largest industrial consumer of water in America (though I am currently investigating this assumption conveyed via US EPA's TRI Report) AND how in the process of converting pulp to paper, a lot of energy is needed and a lot of things are omitted into the surrounding ecosystems. Please understand, of course, that these assumptions are contingent on the available public data that the Pulp and Paper sector is required to report to the US EPA; therefore, it is not necessarily a wholistic representation of the entire industry, just the average, I believe, but again I am further investigating this. Because I wanted to support these claims, I sent him an array of emails, which attempts to illustrate how I understand “sustainability” as it pertains to packaging materials from a research-based analysis. Check em out!

Email 1


The point of this email is to provide you with some research on paper vs. plastic in the context of sustainability. Hurray!

The first attached document, titled (title has been removed for consideration of publisher) is provided via an NGO organization that Dordan is a member of.

This document discusses, in great detail, all the environmental inputs and outputs of manufacturing resin for packaging applications. Nine resin profiles are discussed and it is interesting to note that each resin has an extremely unique environmental profile, depending on its chemical composition and synthesis process. If you are interested in the life cycle impacts of plastic for packaging in the context of sustainability, I urge you to read this.

This information can be found via the Franklin Associates LCI study titled, "Cradle-to-Gate Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) of Nine Plastics Resins and Four Polyurethane Precursors." Download it here.

Next, the document titled (title has been removed for consideration for publisher) is the same type of document about fiber-based packaging materials. Like the plastic environmental briefs, it provides a holistic representation of the entire life cycle of manufacturing packaging from pulp in the context of sustainability. Again, I urge you to read it—and I guarantee you will be surprised! I will provide you with a list of organizations who provided the data for the report in the very near future so you can get your hands on some hard numbers.

AND, if you want to skip all the technicalities and just get an overview of the classic paper vs. plastic debate, follow the link below and down load The Facts about fossil fuel consumption and green house gas emissions. Please note that this research does not discuss end of life management, which is an important component to the overall “sustainability” of a packaging material. AND, I wrote this almost two years ago, so the info may need a refresher-- I will put that on my list of things to do.

The Facts documents draw all of their data from the attached technical briefs, which reference the Department of Energy, the US EPA, and others. For the full citation for each graft/data point, consult the footnotes below the text.

The last attached document is a <a href="<a href="plasticvspaper">">brochure advertising the Freedonia Group’s most recently published market research report comparing the projected markets of paper vs. plastic for 2014 and 2019. This is just a tiny bit of information that I believe illustrates how plastic will always be a viable packaging material for its versatility and lightweight nature.

I still have more! Get excited!

You can buy the reports here

Email 2:

Hello again!

Ok the purpose of this email is to try and illustrate in real time what the environmental technical briefs convey in regard to the sustainability of paper vs. plastic.

Again, COMPASS is the SPC’s life cycle based environmental packaging modeling software that allows users to quantify the environmental impacts of different packaging materials in the design phase. For more information on COMPASS visit

I performed four COMPASS case studies that I believe speaks to my point that plastic is a strong packaging material choice in the context of packaging material sustainability. As this information shows, and I would argue is the underlying framework for understanding any discussion on “sustainability”, is that there is no “silver bullet” and each material has its advantages and drawbacks in the context of its impact on the environment throughout its life cycle.

The first attached document titled “<a href="25 grams 100% Recycled Folding Boxboard vs. 25 grams PET">25 grams 100% Recycled Folding Boxboard vs. 25 grams PET” is the data output from the first COMPASS case study. Basically I entered in the same packaging weight for the paper and plastic (25 grams), chose the correct converting process i.e. thermoforming or carton making, selected the desired material (I chose PET as an example; each plastic is different), and tada! What the bar graphs illustrate is the assumed life cycle impacts of this amount of specific material type. The three phases considered in this LCA, which are indicated via a “tick” through the bar graph are: manufacture, conversion, and end of life. Because we are speaking conceptually, I didn’t feel the need to input information in regard to the distribution of the packaging material from the point of production through fulfillment.

I chose 100% Recycled Folding Boxboard because I thought it would be a good representation of your current packaging material’s impacts.

The second attached document titled “<a href="96 grams 100% Recycled Folding Boxboard vs. 36 grams PET">96 grams 100% Recycled Folding Boxboard vs. 36 grams PET” is the data output from the second COMPASS case study. Basically what I tried to do was present a more “real life” situation because plastic weighs less than paper generally speaking. For instance, it takes less plastic to package the same product when compared with a paper medium and therefore the impacts throughout the package’s life cycle are dramatically different due to this weight differentiation. The reason I used the weights I did (96 grams paper vs. 36 grams PET) is because I had performed a similar COMPASS case study previously where I actually had two packages for the same product in paper and plastic, which allowed me to weigh them in real time and input into the COMPASS software. Therefore, I used the same weight distribution for your COMPASS case study in order to present the real life cycle impacts of a product packaged in paper vs. plastic.

If you are interested in further validating this approach, visit the link below that will take you to our third-party verified listing in’s database for sustainable materials/suppliers.

Have I completely confused you?

I have several more emails for you…

Email 3:


In my opinion, the end of life management of packaging materials is crucial to its overall “sustainability.” Because most packaging is intended for single use, it is important to find a way to recover these materials to remanufacture into second generation products or packaging.

There is a lot of confusion over recycling. I have spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out why some packaging materials, like PET bottles, are recycled, while others, like PET thermoforms, generally are not. This is how I believe you found me—I have been getting some good industry exposure due to my work on recycling clamshells, which is why I have been invited to speak at Sustainability in Packaging. Anyway, attached is my recycling report, which outlines the economics dictating recycling in America. I hope you will understand if for an analogy to recycling packaging materials in general, as even within the paper recovery stream, TONS of packaging is land filled each year.

And, to shatter more myths about paper vs. plastic, check out the attached information from the US EPA titled “<a href="msw2008data">msw2008data.” This represents what type of materials and how much was recycled in America in 2008. If you scroll to page 22 (Table 20), you will see what types of paper and plastic products were recovered from the MSW stream. In the paper category, for the sections titled “Other Paperboard Packaging”/”Other Paper Packaging,” there is no recovery data (neg.), which means that this types of packaging materials are not recycled. Crazy, right?!? Feel free to peruse the document to get a better handle on the realities of recycling in America.

Let’s chat soon after you have had a chance to digest all this information. I will try you sometime next week in the office.

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HALLAH Sustainability in Packaging!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:23:00 PM


Check out my interveiw for Pira International's 5th Annual Sustainability in Packaging Conference, February 22nd-24th in Orlando, Florida.

Tomorrow's post will cover the second part of Walmart's SVN meeting I attended in December.

AND check out our sponsorship of Packaging World's E-Clip series here. Seeing it sells it!

Stay tuned!

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Walmart SVN feedback 2:3

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:23:00 PM

Hello and happy Friday!

Guess what: yesterday marked the highest trafficked-blog day EVER! 76 new people visited my blog! That’s like, almost a small concert!

Today I am going to summarize the second part of Walmart’s SVN meeting, which I attended in Rogers, Arkansas, on December 14th. For a description of the first half of the meeting’s happenings, visit January 21st’s post.

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

After an explanation of changes to the metrics of the Scorecard, one of the new team members touched upon the Supplier Sustainability Assessment. Unlike the Scorecard, which attempts to quantify the “sustainability” of a package at the item/SKU-level, the SSA attempts to quantify the “sustainability” of a supplier at the corporate level. Comprised of 15 questions that look to illuminate a supplier’s relationship with its employees and community in addition to the materials and natural resources consumed via its processes, this Assessment conveys how a supplier approaches sustainability. It was then articulated that the packaging Scorecard will be a component of the SSA, though I am unaware of how it will be incorporated.

Next, the host touched upon Walmart’s recently announced global sustainable agriculture goals, which as per this press release, means that Walmart “will buy more from small and mid-sized farmers around the world; reduce food waste; and sustainably source key agricultural products.”

Then the Product Index was introduced, which I found very interesting. Apparently, Walmart has embarked upon the journey of collecting LCI data on every product sold at their Stores. This Index, like the Scorecard, attempts to quantify the sustainability of a product at the item/SKU-level. Can you image the amount of work that would go into getting LCI data on all the products sold at Walmart/Sam’s Club?!? It was explained that through the joint efforts of the Sustainability Consortium, funded in part by Walmart and drawing resources from Arizona State and the University of Arkansas, Walmart will begin amassing environmental data on their products in preparation for the time “when their customers demand it.” In other words, the way in which it was presented to the SVN, the motivation behind collecting all this data is to provide Walmart/Sam’s Club customers with information about the sustainability of the products they buy. Walmart is unable to comment, however, on how this information will be presented to their customers; all that was stated is this is a goal that is currently underway, done only to meet the assumed demands of their customers in the future.

There are several “teams” working on these pilots—one working with the electronics sector, another for food and beverage sector, and yet another for the homecare sector.

A new team member then approached the podium and explained the approach of the Consortium as follows:

The Consortium looks to (1) use science to (2) develop standards for measurement in order to (3) allow for accurate reporting that will inform the retailers’ (4) sourcing standards; consequentially, providing their customers and community with more sustainable products.

It was concluded that Walmart wants to be able to understand the sustainability performance of its products in order to begin rewarding truly sustainable manufacturers.

I will provide a summary of the last part of the Walmart SVN meeting early next week. Have a great weekend!!!!

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Sustainable Plastics Packaging, feedback 2:2

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:22:00 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ex1: Overseas manufacturing of product and packaging

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


Ex2: Domestic manufacturing of product and packaging

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

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

The software cited during Sean’s presentation, which I know so little about, are:

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

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

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


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Walmart SVN, feedback 1:3

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:22:00 PM

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!!!

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A little good, a little bad

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:21:00 PM


I only have a second until Dordan’s website designer gets here (we are redesigning our entire website, exciting!) but I wanted to share the following with you:

I have good and bad news…let’s do the bad first.

Apparently, as per PlasticNews’ The Plastic Blog, an anti-plastic “documentary” is hitting select American theaters tomorrow. Boo. More emotionally manipulative and scientifically obscure, dare a say, propaganda? I wonder who produced this film…all I know is: where is the plastics lobby?

Check out a trailer here.

And for the good news: Tomorrow on Modern Marvels on the History Channel is a segment on plastic packaging! Check out a summary here.

OH, and the green drinks (Foresight) networking event was AWESOME. I will give you the skinny tomorrow, along with the much anticipated Walmart SVN feedback.

Happy almost Friday day!

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I'm famous!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:20:00 PM


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

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

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

Have a lovely day!

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A little of this, a little of that

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:19:00 PM


Happy Monday Funday!

Today’s post is a little of this, a little of that!

First, I am going to this “green” networking event in Chicago on Wednesday! Calling all fellow Sustainable Chicagoians; I hope to see you there!

Second, I was reading through PMMI’s Pack Expo 2010 Trends Report and Dordan is highlighted in the “Improve Sustainability” section thanks to our popular Bio Resin Show N Tell! Download the report here, and we are on page 14! Neato!

Also this is sort of random, but my brother was quoted in a Chicago Time Out piece about “wrap rage.” Check it out here. Rock N Roll Sean!

AND, this lady I met in Atlanta from the Freedonia Group (the organization that does all those fancy research reports that cost an arm and a leg) emailed me this abstract of their report on “Green Packaging.” Though it is only an introduction, there is still some really good information, so check it out!

US Industry Forecast, Green Packaging

This is going to sound long winded but here me out: Last week I emailed a colleague of mine at The Packaging Association about the winner of the PAC Green Den Award. For those of you unfamiliar, the Packaging Association hosted a Green Den at Pack Expo 2010, which was basically a Show N Tell of sustainable products that the audience voted on to determine which was “the most sustainable” or whatever. In a recent press release, it was explained that the winner of the PAC Green Den award was the biodegradable plastic additive, EcoPure. For those of you who do not follow my blog regularly, I devoted several posts to trying to understand the claims made by the distributor of this product. Visit posts titled “And the Investigation Begins” from early September for more information on this product and its claims. Anyway, I was surprised that EcoPure won this award, because in all the research I did, I was never able to truly understand how breaking plastic into tiny tiny pieces is perceived as a sustainable end-of-life-management option for plastic packaging, assuming it does in fact “work.”

So this is what I wrote:


I hope you and your family had a very Merry Christmas!!!

This is random but I was looking through the PMMI Trends from Pack Expo Report and I was surprised to learn that EcoLogic won a PAC Green Den award for their biodegradable plastic additive EcoPure…

The reason I bring this up is because I spent a lot of time researching the claims of this company and found that they are sort of full of it… the ASTM 5111 standard they site for biodegradation in a landfill is a certification for a test, not representative of passing said test. While I don’t want to get into the he-said-she-said debate, I was just curious what your thoughts on this product are. Perhaps I am confused or misinformed. I was just under the impression that it is products like these that confuse “sustainability” as it pertains to packaging.

Again, I am not trying to be a jerk; this just peaked my interest…

And his response:

Hi Chandler,

I’ve been off for a few days and just back in today.

It appears that you have done more research that the public audience that voted and selected this at PACKEXPO. A professional panel provides feedback at the session and it is the public audience that votes on all presentations. PAC is the facilitator of the process and remains objective during the process. The panelists and audience are the judge and jury.
Hope to see you soon.


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I heart PlasticsNews!!!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:18:00 PM

Hello 2011!!!

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

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

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

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

Thanks PlasticsNews!!!

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

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SPP update 1.5 of 2 and terrible terrible terribleness!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:17:00 PM

Hey! For those of you that have your toes in B2B marketing, check out all the tools available for download here. I found the "helpful documentation" to be super helpful when trying to design an integrated marketing campaign…

So this is random but we have suspended composting Dordan’s food and yard waste for the winter because it seems as though the microorganisms are hibernating! As it stands, it looks more like a pile of stuff than a home-grown pile of compost! C’est le vie!

I will keep you updated on Dordan’s social and environmental sustainability efforts as they unfold and progress into 2011, but in the mean time, feel free to peruse the partially complete description of our goals here.

Okkkk so where were we? That’s right, SPP feedback.

After I drank a celebratory beer following my presentation, I returned to the conference, where Scott Steele of Plastics Technologies explained how reducing packaging may not always be the best approach to cost savings/sustainability. He spoke specifically of the dramatic material reductions in the PET bottle, which anyone can tell you have been down gauged to the extreme; just ask my 95 year-old grandmother! His argument was actually very powerful because he explained that if you reduce the material consumed per package as an attempt of saving green, then due diligence must be taken throughout the production and distribution supply chain in order to ensure no damage to the product (or anything else) arises from this packaging reduction. I know this is a little crazy but he even referenced a store clerk dying, heaven forbid, because the bottles had been down-gauged to the point that they could not support the top load of the skid, which all came crashing down after the PE shrink wrap was removed…yikes!

By the by, all the presentations are available for download here.

The last presentation of the day was JoAnne Hines, the “Packaging Diva,” who discussed the Sun Chip compostable bad “situation.” I had heard bits and pieces about the Packaging Diva over the year so I was thrilled to see her in the flesh! She was a very comfortable public speaker and I enjoyed her sarcasm! Basically she discussed the Sun Chips compostable bag innovation/market flop, and what that says about the intersection between sustainability/packaging/consumer preferences. For those of you unfamiliar, the Sun Chip compostable bag, launched on Earth Day in 2010 (I think) by Frito-Lay, resulted in declining sales across all chip style categories because consumers complained that the compostable bag was “too noisy.” Just youtube Sun Chips compostable bag and you will be overwhelmed with the negative feedback generated via consumers/social networking sites.

All in all, a good presentation and a favorable one to end the day on!

The second day of the conference began with a presentation from an Industrial Designer from Brandimage—Desgrippes & Laga. He was charming and had a very good on-stage presence. However, being a designer, his assumptions about what is “green” were more so based on generic understandings then sound science. Perhaps a discussion of one of his companies’ new concepts will speak to this point…

Brandimage has created a molded pulp water bottle that has a plastic laminate inside the bottle, to keep the liquid from leaching through the paper. From a design standpoint, it looks pretty cool, because the bottles actually lay flat throughout production and it is not until you force water inside that its shape takes form. However, as an attempt to be more “sustainable” than the classic PET bottles, there are many problems. For instance, the weight of a molded pulp water bottle filled would dramatically exceed the weight of the down gauged PET bottles of today’s market; therefore, the energy required to move the bottles from the point of production through distribution would exceed that of PET bottles. Next, because of the plastic laminate on the inside of the bottle, these disposable containers (I don’t see how they could be resused…) can’t be recycled. Because NAPCOR and others have invested a considerable amount in the development of the PET recycling infrastructure (PET bottles are the highest recycled plastic container in North America), it doesn’t make sense to introduce an alternative material into the bottle market. In other words, because the recovery infrastructure already exists for PET bottles, but doesn’t for laminated paper products, it does not make sense to replace PET bottles with molded pulp ones in the context of end-of-life management.

After he presented I told him that I thought he did a great job, but that his molded pulp bottle concept was really silly. He was a good sport about it!

OK, I know I have a lot more updates to rally to you all, but I leave for Mexico tomorrow for VACATION!!!!! Therefore, I wanted to leave you with something a little more…something.

First, watch “The Future of Food;” it will blow your mind.

Next, visit The Cosmetic Database and search by product brand i.e. Burts Bees, or product type i.e. mascara. You will be shocked!

Then, read “Poorly Made in China."

And lastly, read this Chicago Tribue article.

If you do so in that order, you will feel as though I did last week—terrible terrible terrible! I am not trying to be a weirdo but being a sustainability coordinator for a plastic packaging company allows you to make arguments for business practices in the context of ethics; be it workers rights, the environment, whatever. That being said, when I come across things like “The Future of Food” and a database for cosmetics that details all the terrible things in the products we consume each day AND then find out that the water I have been drinking for the last 5 years has cancer causing agents in it you begin to wonder about this whole sustainability jazz. Trust me, I am genuinely a die-hard environmentalist; I have always been and will always continue to be so. However, while I truly enjoy working towards a more sustainable packaging industry, I find myself struggling with the following ethical conundrum: if the products that we are packaging in our “sustainable material” are themselves harmful (cosmetics, food, etc.) to the person consuming them, the environment, and the social fabric in which it was produced and distributed, then why so much hype on the sustainability of a package? Shouldn’t we be more concerned about how products themselves are manufactured i.e. what goes into them and what comes out, then how in reducing a package by X amount, you get more product per pallet, cheaper shipping, and so on?!?

I’m sorry—I swear—I am never a Debby downer but for some reason this whole dealio is really bothering me. I am meeting with my old ethics professor the third week of January so hopefully he can help set me straight…

Let us end our sort of depressing post with the following even more depressing post from Enviroblog, which details the worst environmental disasters of 2010. Happy New Year! Ha.


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2010 in review

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:17:00 PM

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here's a high level summary of its overall blog health:

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Sustainabile Plastics Packaging, Feedback 1 of 2

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:15:00 PM


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Merry Christmas!!!!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:14:00 PM

As the work day now officially comes to a close, I wanted to wish you all, my packaging and sustainability friends, Merry Merry Christmas!!!! I wish you all a very happy Holiday full of Christmas cheer. Safe travels everyone! We will resume our conversation on Monday!



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More to come!!! Random tid bits

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:13:00 PM

Wow I knew I hadn’t posted in a bit but almost 10 days YIKES!

Before I delve into the intricacies of the SPP and Walmart SVN updates, I wanted to share with you some random articles I have come across over the last two weeks. This may be old news to you, my packaging and sustainability friends, but nonetheless, I wanted to post it to my blog for future reference.

First, check out this article from PlasticsNews published November 8th:

China issues rules for importing whole PET scrap bottles


Posted November 8, 2010

NINGBO, CHINA (Nov. 8, 2 p.m. ET) -- The Chinese government has issued long-awaited rules detailing how companies can import whole PET scrap bottles.

The rules, issued in October and discussed by government officials and companies at a Nov. 4 conference in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, have been closely watched globally, as China is the world’s largest importer of scrap plastics.

China had previously allowed only imports of recycled PET that had already been ground or processed in some way, because government officials said they were concerned about the country in effect importing materials that were not clean and polluted the country.

But with China’s huge demands for new sources of raw materials, particularly in its polyester fiber manufacturing industry, officials had said last year they planned to relax the rules.

The new rules place some limits on who can bring in the material: they require that importers have existing facilities and a current license to import recycled plastic, that they be located in a district designated for recycling and have imported at least 10,000 metric tons of material in each of the last three years.

For companies outside those existing recycling districts, they must have imported at least 30,000 metric tons of materials in each of the last three years. Licenses will be given by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection.

The issue has been closely watched for its potential impact on recycling streams worldwide, and for its potential to increase China’s already significant imports of PET. The country, for example, has taken more than half of the recycled PET bottles collected in the United States for each of the last four years.

One recycling industry executive with factories in both the United States and China said she did not think the changes would lead to significantly more recycled PET exports to China, because the existing supply chains were already well-established, but it would likely raise prices for the bottles and lead to more competition among buyers.

Kathy Xuan, president of Romeoville, Ill.-based Parc Corp., said the changes could mean that Hong Kong, a key intermediary point for shipments, would likely be bypassed in favor of direct imports.

Now, Hong Kong firms will import whole bottles and either reprocess them, or, in something that is not entirely legal but an open secret among recyclers in China, break them into smaller loads for shipment through the porous ports of neighboring Guangdong province.

Xuan, who is also a board member of the Plastic Recycling Committee of the China Plastic Processing Industry Association, said the new rules would likely raise prices for bottles because more suppliers will be competing for them.

The biggest beneficiaries would likely be those in more direct control of bottle collection, such as the materials recovery facilities in the United States, Xuan said, speaking in an interview at the 5th China Plastics Exhibition and Conference, or Replas, held Nov. 4-5 in Ningbo. Replas is sponsored by CPPIA.

Parc also has recycling facilities in Qingdao, Shandong province.

Other Chinese recyclers at the conference also felt new rules would bring more buyers into the market, raise prices at some points in the supply chain and potentially allow end-users like polyester fiber manufacturers more direct access to materials.

If those fiber makers can legally import bottles, they may set up their own recycling operations and start buying directly, rather than working through existing recyclers, said a saleswoman for a Hong Kong-based recycling firm with operations in Guangdong province. She asked to remain anonymous.

Some smaller Chinese recyclers at the conference who process whole PET bottles collected within the country urged government officials to relax the rules for an import license, saying they had additional capacity and could cleanly process more material.

Chinese recyclers also questioned government officials about a requirement in the new rules requiring that only “clean” bottles be imported, saying that it is not possible, outside of a few sources in Japan, to import bottles that are entirely clean. An MEP official suggested that language could be adjusted.

The Chinese government also unveiled rules at the conference to set up a licensing system to allow more direct imports of polycarbonate compact disc scrap.

This is pretty cool because as articulated in my Recycling Report, right now the demand for post consumer PET exceeds the supply 3:1. If we were to limit the amount of PC PET bales exported to international markets each year, more RPET supply would be available, thereby driving down the price.

As an aside, and I don’t know how much validity this has, but I heard that because the cotton crop failed in Asia this year, competition for PET bottle bales collected in North America is very aggressive as this feedstock can be remanufactured into clothing in the absence of cotton. Go figure!

OK…in a previous post when I was deep into my bio-resin investigation I referenced a Pittsburgh life cycle study that compared the environmental performance of bio-resins vs. traditional resins. According to this study, bio-resins consumed more energy, resources, etc. in the production and released more bad stuff into the environment throughout its production than traditional fossil fuel-based resins. I remember commenting that the world of bio-resins is super confusing because every study you read contradicts every other study you read! And to that point, check out this November 24th Plastics News article that contradicts the findings of the Pittsburgh study:

Researcher questions validity of Pittsburgh life cycle study


Posted November 24, 2010

EAST LANSING, MICH. (Nov. 24, 1 p.m. ET) -- A highly publicized study sends a misleading message about bioplastics because of what it omitted from their life cycle analysis, several assumptions that are not accurate, and the decision by the research team to mix potential impacts and create a weighted average.

The study, from the University of Pittsburgh, concluded that bioplastics are environmentally more taxing to produce than conventional plastics, in part because of the farming and energy-intense chemical processing needed to produce bioplastics.

“It simply is not credible to come up with one number for a bioplastic evaluation,” by giving each environmental factor an equal weight and adding them together to come up with “an average number,” said Bruce Dale, professor of chemical engineering and associate director of biobased technologies at Michigan State University.

Mixing different impacts of the materials on the environment and public health goes against recommendations for life cycle analysis from the International Standards Organization, Dale said in a Nov. 24 telephone interview.

Specifically, ISO 14044 says that “weighting … shall not be used in any comparison to be disclosed to the public.”

“The conclusions they made are misleading in the sense that you can’t actually even make the comparisons they make,” he said. “That’s like mixing impacts for apples, oranges, pears and bananas. I don’t think the study tells us much about which plastics are better for the environment than others,” Dale said.

“It’s impossible to see if their conclusions” standing up without analyzing whether those conclusions change when the different factors are weighted differently, he said.

Dale said the research team, led by University of Pittsburgh undergraduate student Michaelangelo Tabone, assumed incorrectly that data for polylactic acid could also be used for polyhydroxyalkanoate, and it excluded the actual use and disposable aspects of bioplastics from its analysis.

“The scope of each life cycle assessment was ‘cradle-to-gate,’ [but] including only the impacts resulting from the production of each plastic and not the use or disposal,” the authors said in discussing their report. “The LCAs in this study have a limited scope.

To be comprehensive, the use and end of life should be included in future studies. The exclusion of disposal scenarios affects conclusions regarding biodegradable polymers and commonly recycled plastics.”

The research team admitted that it used “the average impact from the PLA scenarios … as substitutes for PHA’s impacts on human health, respiratory effects, ozone depletion, and ecotoxicity [because] no life cycle inventory data were available for PHA within the ecoinvent database.”

“That was one more arbitrary illogical thing they did. They decided not to study the use and disposal aspects of bioplastics,” Dale said. “Another huge flaw is that there wasn’t any data for PHAs for them to make estimates for the impact categories, so they assumed that PLA data was appropriate for PHA.”

In addition, the research only looked at specific plastics resins, and not products. That is, researchers performed a LCA on each polymer’s preproduction, looking at the environmental and health effects of the use of energy, raw materials, and chemicals to create one ounce of plastic pellets. Then they checked each plastic in its finished form against principles of green design, including biodegradability, energy efficiency, wastefulness, and toxicity.

“They didn’t compare any type of products,” said Steve Davies, global marketing director for NatureWorks LLC in Minnetonka, which manufactures PLA. “They just compared the resins and not specific products. It didn’t look at how a bioplastics product is used and how it is disposed and that’s essential to a life cycle analysis.”

Davies said a second area where the study is “causing confusion and could be damaging” to bioplastics is that there is “no meaningful way to compare one ounce of pellets prior to molding” because it doesn’t take into account the density, thickness or stiffness of the final product.

“You need a comparison based on the functional performance of the product, not just a bucketful of chemicals,” he said.

Third, he took umbrage with how the study combined 10 different environmental and health impact factors to reach “a single, overarching conclusion. They weighed them all equally and just added them up. ISO methodology, in IS0 14044, says you don’t do that.”

The research assessed 10 different impact categories: acidification, carcinogenic human health hazards, ecotoxicity, eutrophication, global warming potential, noncarcinogenic human health hazards, ozone depletion, respiratory effects, smog, and nonrenewable energy use.

“The study doesn’t tell us much about which plastics were better and they have muddied the waters,” Davies said.

Specifically, the research report and news release from the University of Pittsburgh said conventional plastics are “environmentally less taxing to produce,” that “biopolymers are among the more prolific polluters on the path to production” and that bioplastics are “dirtier to produce” than petroleum-derived plastics because “the farming and energy-intense chemical processing needed to produce [bioplastics] can devour energy and dump fertilizers and pesticides into the environment.”

“They have made a mess that others now have to clean up,” said Michigan State bioplastics professor Dale, based in East Lansing, Mich.

The University of Pittsburgh study, conducted with support from the National Science Foundation and released Oct. 21, is scheduled to published in the environmental journal “Environmental Science and Technology.”

And last but not least but a fellow SPC member emailed me the following spec sheet, which lists specs for thermoform bales, after I presented in Atlanta on how we need to create specs for recycling thermoforms if we want to recycle them.

<a href="PET bale specsOK ">Check it out!

We will discuss my questions regarding this spec sheet, the SPP conference and the Walmart SVN, and much much more Monday!

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Wish me luck, I'm going to need it!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:05:00 PM

Heyyy! Oh man I just practiced my presentation for Sustainable Plastics Packaging to Dordan colleagues and boy do I have some work to do! It is sooo technical and wordy and I ran over the allotted 30 minute time. YIKES. I am catching the train back to Chicago so I can lock myself in my apartment and try to make it as good as possible before I leave for Atlanta tomorrow. I just don’t want the larger points to get lost in all the details…what to do what to do!

So this is it for me; next time we talk I will be a seasoned presenter, or something like that. UG! Wish me luckkkkkk I am definitely going to need it!

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"Seeing it Sells it!"

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:05:00 PM


Oh man was Chicago hit hard by the snow storm this weekend—it looked like we were hit by a frozen monsoon! I hope you all are staying warm!

So Sustainable Plastics Packaging 2010 was really good! The presentations were all very insightful, especially Suzanne Shelton’s of SHELTON GROUP, Patty Enneking’s of Klockner Pentaplast, Terry Swack’s of Sustainable Minds, and Sean Sabre's of ModusLink. I will give you the main highlights in a moment but first, drum roll please…

Dordan’s NEW Consumer Research Report, How Package Design Dictates Product Sales, “Seeing it Sells it!” is now circulating the plasma that is the internet! Distributed first to Dordan Newsletter subscribers on December 8th and then to the 70,000+ Packaging World New Issue Alert subscribers on the 9th, I now would like to share this Report with you, my packaging and sustainability friends. Click on the link below to access this research; I assure you it is worth the read!!

Consumer Research Report

AND I leave tomorrow morning for Bentonville, Arkansas, for Walmart’s Sustainable Value Network meeting. Keep your fingers crossed that I can make it out of Ohare!

When I return: SPP 2010 feedback; Walmart SVN feedback; and, much much more!!!

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Tantalizing research

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:04:00 PM


I can’t believe it has been so long since my last post! A LOT has happened at Dordan, which is why I have been so neglectful! Where should I start…

Well first, we broke ground for Dordan’s Victory Garden!!!! For those of you who don’t know, Dordan is donating the use of a portion of its land to a local organics farmer, who intends to use our land to grow produce for the local community next spring. This farmer supplies organics to several community restaurants, who pride themselves on providing locally sourced foodstuff for the socially and environmental conscious consumer. While at first Emily, the organic farmer, intended to plow the plot, it turns out a rotary till or what not sufficed! Here is Phil, Emily’s dad (and also the gent who helped us construct our composter), tilling the soil:

And a closer shot of the tiller in action:

It was a lot of work, but after a couple hours they had plowed probably a quarter of the entire plot, which is almost an acre. They plan to finish half of the plot before the ground gets too hard to till and then finish the rest in early spring.

We are also in the process of researching rain barrels, which we intend to place next to our facility to collect the rainwater runoff from our roof to use to water the garden come summer. Phil says he is going to teach me how to use a hose as a medium for irrigation, as the plot curves gently downhill; therefore, we can use gravity to pull the water from our rain barrels via the hose to the thirsty vegetables. Cool beans!

SOOOO I finished my research report on how package design dictates product sales. I think it is super duper good, not to tout my own horn or anything. This is the result of almost a months worth of research and attempts to illuminate that the role packaging plays in consumer purchasing decisions. We are using this “white paper” in our last outgoing advertising for the year, which is the December Packaging World New Issue Alert. For some reason I don’t want to post it to my blog just yet, as it is scheduled to be distributed to the 70,000+ Packaging World subscribers on December 9th. Therefore, after its “launch” I will post it here for you, my packaging and sustainability friends. However, check out the introduction:

Consumer Research Report
How Package Design Dictates Product Sales: “Seeing it Sells it!”
By Chandler Slavin, Marketing Manager,
Dordan Manufacturing Co. Inc.

Packaging for a product is more than a medium of protection and storage or another convenient forum for advertising. Due to the significant investments made by marketers on the packaging of their products, one would have to assume that industry believes packaging to have substantial influence on consumer choice behavior and product experience. Despite this, there is little academic literature studying these interactions and no clear theory of exactly how packaging impacts consumers’ attitudes and actions. For example,
Does packaging influence consumers’ willingness-to-pay? Does it impact their brand choice? Do different kinds of packaging evoke different reactions in consumers? Are there external manifestations of these reactions in terms of their purchasing behavior?

Through a discussion of contemporary consumer and market research, we seek to answer some of these questions. In particular, we (1) discover how package design informs consumers’ perception of the product and brand; (2) discuss how said perceptions dictate consumer purchasing behavior; and (3) determine how to capitalize on these elements in order to increase product sales and product/brand loyalty.

Have I sparked your interest? Are you just chomping at the bit for MORE MORE MORE?

AND I leave for Atlanta on Tuesday for my presentation at Sustainable Plastic Packaging on recycling thermoforms. YIKES.

Let’s talk tomorrow.


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Published in PlasticsNews AWESOME!

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:02:00 PM

Hey yall!

Check it: Recycling for Thermoformers

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Playing catch up

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:02:00 PM

Hello and happy Monday funday!

Boy howdy do we have lots to talk about!

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

Here is the structure of my presentation:

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

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

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

We care about recycling packaging because…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good times.

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

Check it out here.

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

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

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

She concludes:

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

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

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

Hurray for PlasticsNews!

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

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

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Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:01:00 PM

Happy Monday Funday!

Pack Expo was super awesome; I will fill you all in tomorrow as I am up to my ears in emailing and deadlines.

BUT I have some wonderful news: I have been invited to speak at Sustainability in Packaging in Florida in February on my Recycling Report!!!

At first I thought it was a joke, but it’s not; check out the invite below:

Dear Chandler,

I am currently working on the program for Pira International upcoming 5th Sustainability in Packaging conference, programmed for February 22-24, 2011 in Orlando, FL. On behalf of the advisory committee (Oliver Campbell/Dell, Victor Bell/ EPI, Mickell Schultheis/Coca-Cola, Paola Appendini/Kraft, Alan Blake/Procter & Gamble and John Kalkowski/Packaging Digest), I would like to invite you to speak at the conference next spring.

Attendees of Pira International's Sustainability in Packaging conference, now entering its fifth year, have come to expect topical, in-depth and technical presentations that capture the challenges and successes faced across the entire supply chain and that avoid the hype and bias that have crept into the 'green industry.' The 2010 program attracted more than 300 participants and received great feedback on the quality of presentations and diversity of view points represented.

Some of the topics to be covered in the 2011 program are:

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Pack Expo and Bio Resin Show N Tell

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 4:56:00 PM

Hellllooooooo! Man, it has been a crazy week! I had no idea how much Pack Expo would take out of me!

Dordan now has over 30+ followers on Twitter, which makes me feel really cool, but I want MORE MORE MORE. So follow me @DordanMfg. Good times.

Good news: We have a ton attendees looking for us at Pack Expo via our online booth which is super cool, and I have booked interviews with three different packaging publications, so this show should be a grand occasion! We have events almost every night (CardPak’s Sustainability Dinner, AVMP networking event, Meet the Press, and more!) so I am totally PUMPED!

I was at McCormick Place yesterday to set up the booth and it was a rather enjoyable experience: our booth was where it was suppose to be; the Union workers were really helpful; and, I met the floor manager, Louie, who oozes old school Chicago. Dordan’s booth looks great, and I can’t wait for the Show to begin!

Before we get into the meat of today’s post, I came across some random industry tid bits that I thought I would share with you, my packaging and sustainability friends.

First, and this is sort of old news, but did you guys hear about the SRI Consulting study that determined that those countries with adequate space and little recycling infrastructure should landfill PET bottles as opposed to recycle in the context of carbon footprint reduction!?! The name of the report is “PET’s Carbon Footprint: To Recycle or Not to Recycle,” and is described as “an independent evaluation of the carbon footprint of PET bottles with analysis of secondary packaging from cradle to grave and from production of raw materials through disposal.” While the report cost an arm and a leg to download, an abstract of the report is available here:

The report concludes:

• Shipping distances are not footprint crucial;
• Incineration creates the highest footprint;
• PET recyclate (HA, I thought I made that word up) has a lower footprint than virgin PET.

Weird bears; I wonder who funded this study…

Next, someone tweeted (yes, I said tweeted) this industry tid bit: “Biopolymers are Dirtier to Produce than Oil-Based Polymers, says Researchers” @ .

After perusing the article, I was surprised that PLA exhibited the maximum contribution to eutrophication, as every COMPASS LCA I have performed comparing paper and plastic shows that paper contributes WAY MORE to eutrophication than plastic…but I guess this makes sense in the context of PLA’s contribution because paper is based on a “crop” as is PLA; therefore, require similar resource consumption/toxin emissions?

Then there is this statement, which is crazzzyyyy: “biopolymers exceeded most of the petroleum-based polymers for ecotoxicity and carcinogen emissions.” What does that mean?!? Where are the carcinogens coming from? And, where did these researches get all this LCI data for these new bio resins in order to make the statements they do?

Wow the land of biopolymers is confusion.

And that provides a perfect segway into today’s post.

As you know, many of Dordan’s customers have expressed great interest in biopolymers because, according to a recent consumer research study, “biodegradation” is one of the most desired “green” characteristics of a package in the eyes of the consumer; I guess people don’t like the idea of things persisting for years and years in landfill…

As an aside, did you see this McDonalds Happy Meal biodegradation test?!? Apparently, after 180 days, a Happy Meal did not even begin to show signs of biodegradation! Check it out here: .

And, as we all know, it doesn’t matter if it is paper, plastic, or a banana peal; nothing biodegrades in a landfill because there is no oxygen and sunlight. But that is beside the point.

Where was I…?

Yes, we have be