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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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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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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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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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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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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.

Hey!

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.

Thanks!

Chandler

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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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.

Hello,

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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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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Growing interest in PET thermoform recycling market

Posted by Chandler Slavin on Oct 16, 2012 5:40:00 PM

Hey!

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 PlasticsToday.com 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 PlasticsToday.com 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 PlasticsToday.com, 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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