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.

Read More

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!

Read More

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!?

Read More

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!

Read More

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?!?

Read More

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!

Read More

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

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


Read More

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?!?

[polldaddy poll="5828274"]

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

Read More

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.


Read More

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.

Read More