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 (www.sciencemag.org, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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????
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?!?!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org if interested in a free 30-minute assessment of your sustainability efforts (using the Sustainable Strategy Index).
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...
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!