Boosting Recycling Rates, BioPlastic's and GHGs

Volume 2, Issue 6

In This Issue:

Recycling/Recycled Content >

Industry Working to Boost Recycling, Recycled Content

The aluminum and glass industries are working to recycle more containers and increase the amount of recycled content in containers. To reach their goals, trade groups support various tactics including increased public education, on-premise recycling initiatives, improved curbside collection practices, expanded state beverage container deposit programs and mandatory recycling programs or landfill bans. "We are prepared to embrace all measures that efficiently and cost-effectively improve glass recovery," says Joseph Cattaneo, president of the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI), Alexandria, VA.

The glass industry wants every glass container to contain at least 50% recycled content, or cullet, by 2013, about double the current average of 25%. GPI estimates the resulting energy savings would power 45,000 households for one year. Increasing cullet levels to 50% will require a recycling rate of about 60%, more than double the 28.1% reported by the Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, for 2007.

"Reuse of post-consumer recycled container glass is critical to our…industry and its environmental and energy efficiency goals," notes Cattaneo.

The Aluminum Association, Arlington, VA, wants to achieve a 75% recycling rate by 2015, about 20% higher than the current level. The 75% rate would capture more of the roughly 50 billion containers that currently end up in landfills each year and would save 139.7 million BTUs of energy and prevent 9 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. "This metal is too valuable, from both an economic and environmental point of view, not to recover," concludes association member, Martha Finn Brooks, president and chief operating officer of Novelis Inc., Atlanta, GA, a supplier of can sheet.

Glass recycling video wins prize
One-minute Glass Can’t Recycle Itself video starring glass bottles and a trash container wins the Recycle Glass Day YouTube competition. The contest, sponsored by the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI), Alexandria, VA, in conjunction with Recycle Glass Day (December 10, 2008), awards $5,000 to the winning team and $5,000 to their school, Michigan State University (MSU), East Lansing, MI. "This video really reinforces the message that each of us must do our part to make recycling happen," says Dr. Susan Selke, acting director, MSU School of Packaging. (See the video at YouTube.)

RPET Receives Letter of No Objection for Food Contact
Food packagers have a new source for food-grade recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET). ECO2 Plastics, Inc., San Francisco, CA, has received a Letter of No Objection from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Washington, DC, affirming the effectiveness of its waterless cleaning process. FDA accepts ECO2’s RPET at levels up to 100% under nine Conditions of Use categories -- from A (ready-prepared foods to be reheated in the container) through H (frozen/refrigerated storage, ready-prepared foods intended to be reheated in the container) as well as J (cooking at temperatures exceeding 121 Celsius such as baking and browning).

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Renewable Materials >

Compounder Starts Family of Bioplastics

Teknor Apex Co., Pawtucket, RI, moves into bioplastics by licensing technology for blending thermoplastic starch with other bioplastics or petrochemical-based thermoplastics like polyethylene.

Patented technology from Cerestech Inc., Montreal, QC, Canada, yields starch blends that largely retain the mechanical properties of the base polymer. Resulting materials "exhibit lower levels of sensitivity to moisture than many other starch-containing plastics, are translucent, printable and sealable and can be formulated for biodegradable applications," reports Dr. John Andries, senior vice president of Technology at Teknor Apex. Teknor Apex plans to produce masterbatches and ready-to-process compounds for extrusion and injection molding from a pilot line scheduled to start up in 2009. The starch blends are the first members of a family of bio-sustainable compounds the company plans to offer.

Bioplastic Reduces GHG Emissions
Independent testing of Biopropylene®, a hybrid polypropylene (PP)/starch resin from Cereplast, Inc., Hawthorne, CA, shows its carbon footprint is 42% smaller than that of conventional PP. Research in conjunction with Ramani Narayan of Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, finds each kilogram (kg) of Biopropylene generates 1.82kg of carbon dioxide compared to 3.14kg for PP.

"This is a very significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, especially when considering that the worldwide market for PP is about 45 billion kg," says Frederic Scheer, chairman/ceo of Cereplast, adding, "Besides dramatically reducing carbon dioxide emissions during conversion, Biopropylene also delivers the environmental advantage of replacing up to one-half of the petroleum content in traditional plastic with renewable, bio-based materials." concludes Scheer. The hybrid bioplastic reportedly exhibits properties similar to PP as well as better printability and softer surface.

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Source Reduction >

UV Ink Technology Eliminates Labels

Uvaclear ink technology, developed by Hartness International, Greenville, SC, for direct printing on bottles, also can serve as a coating to color bottles any shade. The ultraviolet (UV)-cured printing and coating eliminate the need for pressure-sensitive or shrink sleeve labels, cutting material consumption, cost and waste.

A line starting up in Greenville screen prints up to 220 bottles per minute. It’s capable of four-color process or utilizes an 11-color palette. The coating process also can reproduce virtually any shade. The coating line moves up to 250 bottles per minute through surface prep, spraying and curing stations. The coating cures in 0.25 second, measures 13 microns thick and only consumes 0.5 gram of ink on a 12-ounce bottle. The coating blocks UV light and slightly improves the burst strength of the container, but has no effect on recyclability because it burns off when the glass is remelted.

Lightweighted PET Bottle Wins Award
A 6.6-gram (g) polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle, the 500-milliliter NitroPouch from Krones AG, Neutraubling, Germany, has been recognized by the Deutsches Verpackungsinstitut eV (German Packaging Institute), Berlin, Germany. The light weight is achieved by eliminating the neck ring, configuring threads for a lightweight 1.1g closure and optimizing material distribution with a wall thicknesses of less than 0.1 millimeter. To aid grippability the PET lite 6.6 bottle narrows at the top. Grooves reinforce the grip area to stiffen the sidewall so the bottle can be labeled, even when empty. Nitrogen pressurization keeps the container rigid during handling and distribution.

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Sustainable Efforts >

Specification Standardizes Carbon Footprint Calculations

To help businesses identify ways to shrink their carbon footprint, three London, UK-based organizations, BSI British Standards, the Carbon Trust and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, have developed a methodology for counting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

"By looking at where the emissions are being created and reducing them, businesses can also save themselves money," notes Environment Secretary Hilary Benn. PAS 2050 Specification for the Assessment of the Life Cycle GHG Emissions of Goods and Services Specifications considers the design, production and transport of products and computes the mass of GHG per functional unit of product or standard measurement like kilogram or liter. "You can’t see or count emissions when you buy a product," explains Benn. "But consumers want to know that emissions are being cut…and this standard will help businesses to do that." (See www.bsigroup.com/pas2050.)

Fine-Tuning Secondary Packaging Saves Material, Money
Optimizing secondary packaging, especially corrugated, can generate substantial savings in material and transportation costs, according to a survey of consumer packaged goods companies by the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI), Arlington, VA.

"Every study participant is looking at substrates, weight, cube size and how to fit more in a cubic foot," reports Charles D. Yuska, PMMI president and chief executive officer. According to the Secondary Packaging Market Research Study, 80% of the respondents use regular slotted containers (RSCs). Of that group, 51% plan to cut usage with reductions ranging from 5% to 60%. This is accomplished by replacing RSCs with a bliss box or overwrapped tray. Furthermore, the report states, "Companies already using trays are moving to pads with overwrap, with sustainability goals of moving to shrink wrap only."

Respondents also are studying the impact of recycled content and comparing the performance of alternate materials such as corn-based polylactic acid, Hexacomb honeycomb and micro-flute constructions. "Each factor is connected," observes Yuska. "Recycled content in corrugated fiberboard can affect machinery performance, and the type of primary packaging directly impacts choices in secondary packaging. Rigid packaging for liquids, for example, requires less secondary packaging than does flex packaging," he notes.

Sustainable Efforts Impact Bottom Line
A study by AT Kearney, Inc., Chicago, IL, predicts lower profits for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies that do not make environmental sustainability a core business principle. Rattling Supply Chains: The Effect of Environmental Trends on the FMCG Industry report forecasts an earnings drop of up to 31% in 2013 and up to 47% in 2018 for companies that fail to undertake sustainability initiatives because steps like redesigning packaging to use less material or more recycled content help control costs. Citing rising energy prices, water shortages, concerns about deforestation and climate change and the likely passage of environmental legislation, the report urges company leaders to understand the environmental impact of their operations and their suppliers operations; to inventory current environmental initiatives; to prioritize environmental issues/opportunities; and to incorporate sustainability principles into an action plan. See www.atkearney.com/main.taf?p=5,3,1,249.

Ink Choice Can Improve Environmental Metrics
Ink may seem like a small part of the package, but can influence environmental impact. As a result, brand owners are replacing solvent-based inks with formulas with low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Choices include soy or other plant oil-based formulations and water-based inks and may involve ultraviolet or electron beam curing. "Sustainable" inks also eliminate heavy metals. Examples include EcoTech™ process color inks from INX International Ink Co., Schaumburg, IL, which contain 61% bio-based, renewable raw materials and less than 3% VOCs.

Unfortunately, sourcing "sustainable" inks can be challenging because specifications are just being established. A Printing Ink Task Force formed by the National Printing Ink Research Institute, the technical arm of the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers, Woodbridge, NJ, recently completed a Bio-Derived Renewable Content Labeling Program, which provides guidelines for calculating bio-derived renewable content. In addition, soy-based inks, which meet certification criteria set by the American Soybean Association, St. Louis, MO, may carry the SoySeal. Next steps for the Task Force include establishing guidelines for other key parameters that impact the environment and designing a label to identify products that meet the criteria.

About the Author
Hallie Forcinio has covered packaging-related environmental topics for more than 20 years, first as an editor on Food & Drug Packaging magazine and more recently as a freelance packaging journalist. “My interest in the environment dates back to a high school government class,” she notes. “I was collecting glass, newspapers and aluminum cans for recycling long before my community had a curbside recycling program.”

In addition, to preparing the TricorBraun Sustainability Times, she contributes articles to numerous trade publications including Packaging Machinery Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology, Managing Automation and Ben Miyares’ Packaging Management Update, the weekly e-newsletter that posts each Monday on Packexpo.com.

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