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Video: Learn from clamshells how to make your packaging recyclable

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 15, 2020 1:54:59 PM

Learn how clamshell packaging became recyclable in this new video. All packaging can be recycled; it just requires work, time, investment, and collaboration. Make your packaging recyclable, too, by working with all stakeholders to isolate the challenges in order to develop the solutions.

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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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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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Sustainable Brands' special issue on sustainable packaging

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

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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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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 TreeHugger.com, 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 TreeHuger.com’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: TreeHuger.com, 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 GreenerPackage.com’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" (http://www.natralock.com/WhatIsNatralock/SecurityDurability/SecurityLossPrevention/index.htm).

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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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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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: http://www.sriconsulting.com/Press_Releases/Plastic-Bottle-Recycling-Not-Always-Lowest-Carbon-Option_16605.html.

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” @ http://www.environmentalleader.com/2010/10/22/biopolymers-are-dirtier-to-produce-than-oil-based-polymers-say-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: http://www.littleabout.com/Odd/sally-davies-mcdonalds-happy-meal/98413/ .

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 been asked many questions about biopolymers, many of which, we didn’t have the answers to because depending on who you ask, you get different responses. So, first we did some background research on biodegradable/compostable plastics in general. You can download our report here: http://www.dordan.com/sustainability_ftc.shtml Then we began sampling the available resins and performing internal tests to see how they performed and what applicability they have to the sustainability goals of our customers. Though we have invested a considerable amount of time into trying to understand biopolymers, we still have much to learn; therefore, we decided that during Pack Expo we would share all our findings with attendees in hopes of opening the lines of communication and educating ourselves, our supply chain and our industry about the pros and cons of this new family of non traditional resins. After all, the last thing the plastics industry wants to do is flood the market with something they don’t really understand, from both an energy consumption/GHG emission and end of life management perspective, not to mention price and performance! So, if you come by Dordan’s booth E-6311 we will have 4 different bioresins on display for you to touch and see, accompanied by a lot of good information.

For those of you unable to attend Pack Expo, I have included most of the information below. Enjoy!!!

Cellulous Acetate

Typical Physical Properties:

• Acceptable for use in food contact packaging;
• High clarity and gloss, with low haze;
• High water vapor transmission rate;
• Good tensile strength and elongation, combined with relatively low tear strength;
• Good die cutting performance and good printability and compatibility with adhesives;
• Available in matt and semi-matt finishes.

Environmental Aspects:

• Feedstock: Cellulous from Sustainable Forestry Initiative managed forestry in North America; acetic anhydride, a derivative of acetic acid; and, a range of different plasticisers.
• Complies with EN 13432 and ASTM D 6400 Standards for industrial biodegradability and compostability; and, received Vincotte OK Compost Home certification.
• Complies with US Coneg limits for heavy metal content in packaging materials.
• Classified in the paper and board category in the UK, in view of its cellulosic base. As a consequence, the levy on cellulous acetate is lower than that on other thermoplastic films which are classified as plastics; however, levies only apply to those markets where EPR legislation exists.
• There is no post consumer or post industrial market for this resin. However, in principal, film is readily recyclable and because of its predominantly cellulosic nature, it is feasible that it can be recycled along with paper in a re-pulping process.

PHA:

Typical physical properties:

• A general purpose, high melt strength material suitable for injection molding, thermoforming, blow/cast film and sheet extrusion;
• Durable and tough;
• Ranging from flexible to rigid;
• Shelf stable;
• Heat and moisture resistant;
• Pending FDA clearance for use in non-alcoholic food contact applications, from frozen food storage and microware reheating to boiling water up to 212 degrees F. The pending clearance will include products such as house-wares, cosmetics and medical packaging.

Environmental Aspects:

• Feedstock: Poly Hydroxy Alkanoate (PHA) polymer made through a patented process for microbial fermentation of plant-derived sugar. PHA is unique in that it represents the only class of polymers that are converted directly by microorganisms from feedstock to the polymetric form—no additional polymerizations steps being required.
• Complies with EN 13432 and ASTM D 6400 Standards for industrial biodegradability and compostability; complies with ASTM D 7081 Standard for marine biodegradation; received Vincotte OK Compost Home certification; and, received Vincotte OK Biodegradable in Soil certification. The rate and extent of its biodegradability will depend on the size and shape of the articles made from it.
• There is no post consumer or post industrial market for this resin. However, in principal, film is readily recyclable.

PLA:

Typical physical properties:

• Acceptable for use in food-contact packaging;
• Good clarity but can haze with introduction of stress;
• PLA sheet is relatively brittle at room temperature; however, the toughness of the material increases with orientation and therefore thermoformed articles are less brittle than PLA sheet.
• PLA is frequently thermoformed using forming ovens, molds and trim tools designed for PET or PS; however, PLA has a lower softening temperature and thermal conductivity than PET or PS, which results in longer cooling time in the mold for PLA vs. PET or PS.
• Exposure to high temperatures and humidity during shipping or storage can adversely affect the performance and appearance of resin.
• At temperatures below its glass transition point, PLA is as stable as PET.

Environmental Aspects:

• Feedstock: Polylactide or Polylactic Acid (PLA) is a synthetic, aliphatic polyester from lactic acid; lactic acid can be industrially produced from a number of starch or sugar containing agricultural products.
• Derived 100% from annually renewable resources like corn.
• PLA resin complies with EN 13432 and ASTM D 6400 Standards for industrial biodegradability and compostability; however, after conversion, said Standards no longer apply.
• There is no post consumer or post industrial market for this resin. However, several recycling methods can be applied to waste PLA. Concern has been voiced that PLA is contaminating the PET bottle recycling infrastructure.
• Competition between human food, industrial lactic acid and PLA production is not to be expected.

PLA & starch-based product

Typical physical properties:

• Only available in one color and opacity due to the natural ingredients changing in color and intensity; known to have black or brown specs in or on the sheet due to said natural ingredients.
• Good impact strength;
• Demonstrates superior ink receptivity over petroleum based products;
• Heat sensitive; therefore, care must be taken when shipping, handling, storage, printing and further processing this material.

Environmental Aspects:

• Feedstock: PLA polymer is a major ingredient; however, through a supply partner, this material incorporates next generation technology of modifying PLA polymer with plant/crop based starches along with natural mineral binders to enhance its impact.
• Made by an EPA Green Power Partner with 100% renewable energy.
• Complies with EN 13432 and ASTM D 6400 Standards for industrial biodegradability and compostability.
• There is no post consumer or post industrial market for this resin. However, in principal, this film is readily recyclable.

Now, check out the comparative below: price is not literally dollar amounts but an internal calculation we have determined to allow you to contextualize the fluctuating prices with different resins.

Bio Resin Show N Tell Comparative

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Misc. updates FUN

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 4:44:00 PM

Happy Monday Funday!

Before I get to the meat of today’s post, which will either discuss biodegradable plastics OR the SPC meeting (I haven’t decided yet...) I wanted to provide you with a recap of Dordan’s various sustainability initiatives and miscellaneous tid bits…

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