LCA Role Sustainability Goals,SPC Unifies Recycle Labels

Volume 5, Issue 6

In This Issue:

  • Picking the right green claims
  • SOURCE REDUCTION

    Label Die-Cutting Technology Permits Downgauging, Cuts Liner Waste

    The Gallus Cold Die Unit from Gallus Group, St. Gallen, Switzerland, die-cuts pressure-sensitive labels with an ultra-thin liner to gain environmental and cost benefits.

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SUSTAINABLE EFFORTS >

Sustainability Movement Matures, But Hurdles Remain


The sustainability movement is maturing, and many consumer packaged goods companies are moving on to second generation goals. However, barriers remain. According to a survey by GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), Charlottesville, Va., the biggest hurdle is posed by the lack of a comprehensive and consistent recovery system for packaging waste.

Industry must provide leadership, said Anne Johnson, director, SPC, during a December 8, 2011, webinar, Sustainability in Packaging: Can the Momentum Be Sustained?, presented by Packaging Digest magazine, Chicago, Ill., and sponsored by TricorBraun, St. Louis, Mo. One strategy to boost recovery would be adoption of an extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme. Although there’s been some talk about EPR, Johnson says “It’s clear the federal government is not going to assume a leadership role.”

Another stumbling block relates to the availability of renewable and recycled-content materials. This worry that demand could exceed supply is highest among SPC member companies, who tend to use these materials at a higher rate than their nonmember peers.

As the use of life-cycle analysis tools has grown, many CPG companies are realizing that the biggest portion of their carbon footprint is outside their direct control. At Kraft Foods, Northfield, Ill., for example, raw materials account for the largest percentage of its carbon footprint. As a result, “We are driving collaboration internally and externally,” Roger Zellner, sustainability director for Research, Development & Quality at Kraft, told the webinar audience. “We also are promoting a common framework and measurement.”

Finally, although source reduction is a popular sustainable packaging strategy, it’s not a viable solution if it results in product damage and waste. In fact, many firms have already picked the low-hanging fruit related to source reduction. As a result, a survey byPackaging Digest, Chicago, Ill., shows priorities have shifted. The top five cited by survey respondents include recycled material, renewable material, improved collection, use of certified fiber and transition to renewable energy. For more information, visitwww.sustainablepackaging.org,

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Elopak Sets Course for Second Generation Sustainability Goals

One firm embarking on second generation sustainability goals, Elopak Group, Oslo, Norway, achieved a 15% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions between 2008 and 2010 and expects to show another 5% drop in 2011.

“We engaged all employees to drive incremental improvements,” reported Sveinar Kildal, director Environment at the maker of liquid-tight paper cartons and filling machines, during a webinar on November 29, 2011. The effort involved all Elopak facilities worldwide. Employee bonuses were linked to carbon reduction targets, and a road show to all sites promoted carbon reduction efforts. The campaign included handouts for employees like printed materials, calendars, reusable bags and a folder describing practical tips for reducing one’s carbon footprint both at work and at home.

Elopak also works closely with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Norway, Oslo, Norway, “During the past 10 years there’s been a paradigm shift in attitude toward environmental issues,” noted Rasmus Hansson, secretary general of WWF Norway , during the webinar, adding, “There’s acceptance that we are facing environmental challenges and business needs to help with the solution. Environmental solutions equal business opportunities.”

Noting maximum and minimum daily temperatures have increased globally due to an increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, Hansson predicts stricter environmental legislation will be passed. “In the next 10 to 20 years, polluting will become unprofitable,” he stated. And, production methods will change to reduce waste and GHG emissions.

Like many of its consumer packaged goods customers, Elopak recognizes it directly controls only a small portion, about 10%, of its overall value chain. “But we feel we can impact the entire value chain and that we have the responsibility to do so,” said Kildal.

As a result, Elopak has focused on three issues: renewability, recyclability and lower carbon emissions. Although specific 2020 targets are still being set, the company’s overall goal, said Kildal, is “future-proof packaging” that is recyclable, carbon neutral and generated entirely from renewable sources. This achievement will be reached by focusing on five areas: raw materials, energy, recycling, logistics and customer operations.

Long-term, Elopak intends to achieve the lowest possible carbon footprint, use 100% renewable materials and 100% certified fiber, eliminate foil and fossil-fuel-based polymers, raise recycling rates, and progressively reduce the gram weight of its packaging material from 340 to 300 to 250 grams per square meter. For more information, visit www.elopak.com, www.wwf.org.

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Achieving Sustainability Targets Depends on LCA Tools

As brand owners and suppliers have worked to become more sustainable, life-cycle assessment (LCA) has become a favorite tool for measuring progress. “An in-depth knowledge of environmental systems can only be reached by a thorough LCA,” according to LCA – Life Cycle Assessment, a position paper published in late 2011 by the World Packaging Organisation (WPO), Stockholm, Sweden.

According to the paper, the LCA process consists of three parts. It begins with a life-cycle inventory to quantify material and energy streams from cradle-to-cradle or cradle-to-grave. An assessment phase couples the inventory to aspects such as resource depletion, global warming, ozone depletion, acidification, eutrophication, eco toxicity, human toxicity, land usage and noise and weights the aspects relative to each other. A peer review by independent experts verifies methodology and results and completes the process. The paper also notes packaging should not be studied alone, but as part of the product’s entire supply chain.

Kraft Foods, Northfield, Ill., has taken this holistic view and mapped its total environmental footprint. Its survey, undertaken in conjunction with Quantis Inc., Boston, Mass., measured its impact on climate change, plus land and water use. Results were verified by experts from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Gland, Switzerland/ Washington, D.C., and the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, Minn.

“Having the ‘big picture’ of our total footprint -- from farm to fork -- validates the focus of our sustainability efforts, particularly advancing sustainable agriculture,” says Roger Zellner, sustainability director for Research, Development & Quality at Kraft. “Experts say climate change, land and water use may be among the biggest challenges in feeding a world of 9 billion people in 2050. As we continue our sustainability journey, we now have more insight into where we can make the greatest difference.”

The survey showed the bulk of Kraft’s environmental footprint originates on the farms that grow ingredients for the company’s products. Thus, it makes sense for the company to promote sustainable agricultural practices so growers of key commodities can improve crop yields, reduce environmental impacts and improve the lives of farm workers and their families. In addition, Kraft Foods continues to build upon previous successes related to the reduction of packaging, energy and water usage as well as carbon dioxide emissions and waste.

With so little of the Kraft value chain under the company’s direct control, “This study shows that in order to make meaningful change and conserve nature’s valuable resources, companies need to work with their suppliers to reduce the impact of producing raw materials,” explains Dave McLaughlin, vice president of Agriculture at WWF.

Using this broader picture, Kraft’s sustainability targets for 2015 (on a 2010 base) have been expanded to include transportation and agricultural commodities.

By the end of 2015 Kraft Foods plans t
* Eliminate 50,000 metric tons (100 million pounds) of packaging material
* Increase sustainable sourcing of agricultural commodities 25%
* Reduce energy use in manufacturing plants 15%
* Reduce energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in manufacturing plants 15%
* Reduce water consumption in manufacturing plants 15%
* Reduce waste at manufacturing plants 15%
* Reduce 80 million kilometers (50 million miles) from its transportation network

For more information, visit www.quantis-intl.com, www.wwf.org.

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SOURCE REDUCTION >

Label Die-Cutting Technology Permits Downgauging, Cuts Liner Waste

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The Gallus Cold Die Unit from Gallus Group, St. Gallen, Switzerland, die-cuts pressure-sensitive labels with an ultra-thin liner to gain environmental and cost benefits. Based on patented ThinStream™ technology licensed from Avery Dennison Corp., Pasadena, Calif., the unit die-cuts liners as thin as 12 microns, about 50% thinner than the current minimum on the market, 23 microns. The ThinStream technology also eliminates die strikes, one of the industry’s top quality concerns.

To prevent the liner from being cut, the Gallus Cold Die Unit separates the face stock from the liner before die-cutting. It then cuts the label shape through the adhesive and reattaches the label to the liner. A cold die unit, which is kept below freezing, prevents adhesive from sticking to the die and ensures a clean cut. The unit can be integrated into Gallus printing presses or operate as a standalone system. For more information, visit www.averydennison.com, www.gallus-group.com.

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RECYCLING >

SPC Works to Unify Labeling for Recycling

Consumers are confused by the recycling messages they see on packages. According to research by GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), Charlottesville, Va., messages like “Please recycle” and “100% recyclable” give the impression the package can be recycled locally when that may not be the case. To reduce confusion, harmonize label messages and support compliance with the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides, SPC and a handful of consumer packaged goods companies and retailers are preparing for a 2012 pilot test of a Packaging Recovery Label System. Based on a labeling scheme in place in the United Kingdom, the system is the product of three years of consumer research plus an effort to collect recycling data nationally. Several brand owners have volunteered to add the on-pack labeling to products. A companion website, How2recycle.info, is now live to educate consumers and stakeholders. Another component of the pilot test is education of and feedback from select municipalities.

The proposed label delivers five pieces of information: the chasing arrows symbol; the packaging material, e.g., paper; the component, e.g., box; special instructions for recycling; and the how2recycle website address. To account for variations in collection, the label may note the component is “widely recycled,” “not yet recycled” or “limited recycling” and advise to “check locally” to find out whether the material and component are accepted.

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Texas Firm Embarks On RPET Production

Worldwide Plastics Co., San Antonio, TX, a supplier of stock and custom pulp or plastic containers for produce, plans to start production of 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET) containers during the second quarter of 2012. Packs are designed to hold fresh fruits and vegetables. The operation is the product of a partnership between Worldwide and Royal Interpack Co., Ltd., Bangkok, Thailand, another specialist in plastic packaging for produce. For more information, visit http://worldwideplastics.net, www.royalinterpack.com.

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RENEWABLE >

PlantBottle Benefits from Coca-Cola Partnership with Gevo

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The PlantBottle, a container based on renewable resources, moves toward 100% renewable content with an agreement between The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, Ga., and Gevo, Inc., Englewood, Colo. Gevo makes paraxylene, a building block of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), from plant-based isobutanol. According to Rick Frazier, Coca-Cola’s vice president Commercial Product Supply, “This is a significant R&D investment in packaging innovation and is the next step toward our vision of creating all of our PET…packaging from responsibly sourced plant materials. While the technology to make bio-based materials in a lab has been available for many years, we believe Gevo possesses technologies that have high potential to create it on a global commercial level.” Currently, PlantBottle containers contain about 30% plant-based material [see TB Sustainability Times, May/June 2011]. For more information, visit www.gevo.com.

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