Sustainability efforts, renewable materials

Volume 6, Issue 1

In This Issue:

  • Picking the right green claims
  • REUSE

    Concentrates save millions of pounds of plastic each year

    After a successful introduction of a Windex Mini concentrate refill, SC Johnson, Racine, WI, extends its concentrated cleaner line to five brands.

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SUSTAINABLE EFFORTS >

Report describes paths to higher waste recovery rates

Many countries do a better job at waste recovery than the United States where only about one-third of municipal solid waste is recycled or composted.

A report, Closing the Loop: Road Map for Effective Material Value Recovery, published late in 2011 by GreenBlue, Charlottesville, VA, describes best practices that could help boost recovery rates.

Common elements of successful recovery schemes include:
* Policy guidance from the government (local, regional, federal)
* An established waste hierarchy
* Landfill policies and fees, which encourage recycling and composting,
* Recycled-content mandates
* Development of local secondary markets for waste materials
* Extended producer responsibility requirements
* Multi-bin collection systems (the ideal being five bins, one each for trash,
organic waste, glass, paper and all other packaging)
* Effective sorting at Material Recovery Facilities
* Composting infrastructure
* Public education about recycling, composting and the value of packaging
materials
* Labeling for recovery
* Consideration of the cost implications of disposal policies, collection
methods and sorting infrastructure

Other reports in the Closing the Loop series include Guide to Packaging Material Flows and Terminology, Design for Recovery Guidelines for Aluminum, Glass, Paper and Steel Packaging, and Labeling for Packaging Recovery. For more information, visit www.greenblue.org.

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Eco-design measurement tool helps optimize packaging

The pack4ecodesign life-cycle analysis tool optimizes packaging and addresses its end-of-life management. Developed by the Brussels, Belgium, office of Intertek, a supplier of quality and safety services, in conjunction with Brussels-based Fost Plus, a nonprofit responsible for sorting, collecting and recycling household packaging in Belgium, the software defines the environmental impacts of a package design such as energy and water consumption and contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. It also suggests improvements and instantly calculates the environmental gain from proposed changes. Typical recommendations include reduction of packaging weight, transportation optimization or methods to improve recyclability at the end-of-life. Already available for a Belgian scenario, pack4ecodesign life-cycle analysis enables the study of more than 40 kinds of packaging and sub-packaging containing a variety of materials including polyethylene terephthalate, paper, corrugated, glass or multilayer packaging. For more information, visit www.preventpack.be, www.pack4recycling.be, www.pack4ecodesign.org.

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REUSE >

Concentrates save millions of pounds of plastic each year

After a successful introduction of a Windex Mini concentrate refill, SC Johnson, Racine, WI, extends its concentrated cleaner line to five brands. Consumers simply combine concentrate from a 2.9-fluid-ounce, white high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bottle with regular tap water in a reusable 22- or 26-fluid-ounce trigger bottle and apply a pressure-sensitive label to identify the mixture.

Refills eliminate the need for new trigger containers, decrease shipments of incoming supplies, finished goods and water, and reduce packaging waste. Choosing a refill consumes 79% less plastic than the standard bottle and avoids transporting between 19 and 23 fluid ounces of water per container. In addition, the HDPE refill bottles are accepted in most community recycling programs. Available from www.scjgreenchoices.com, the refill line now includes:

  •  fantastik® Mini concentrated kitchen cleaner
  • Pledge® Mini concentrated furniture cleaner
  • Scrubbing Bubbles® Mini concentrated bathroom cleaner
  • Shout® Carpet Mini concentrated carpet stain remover
  • Windex® Mini concentrated glass & surface cleaner.

SC Johnson’s goal is to create enough consumer demand to earn refills a spot on store shelves next to pre-mixed products. The expanded concentrate family reflects input received online and from focus groups since the July 2011 launch of the Windex® Mini. Important factors include pourability, recyclability and the availability of a range of cleaners for different needs.

“We’ve been working to crack the code on what would make concentrated refills a more popular choice,” says Fisk Johnson, chairman and chief executive officer of SC Johnson. “Now we’re adding improvements that reflect the feedback we’ve heard from Windex® Mini users and move us closer to an option that we hope will create greater demand for these products. The resource savings with refills are hard to deny, and that’s something we really want to communicate and encourage.”

American consumers buy 320 million cleaning products in trigger bottles each year, and millions of empties end up in landfills. If just 20% of those bottles were refilled, 7 million pounds of plastic would be saved, including about 3.5 million pounds of virgin resin. (Most trigger sprayers currently contain some post-consumer recycled content. At SC Johnson, the level is 50% for trigger bottles for fantastik®, Pledge®, Shout® and Windex® cleaners and 30% for Scrubbing Bubbles® cleaner.) A 20% conversion to refills also would eliminate the need to transport about 11.5 million gallons of water.

The expanded refill lineup debuts in conjunction with SC Johnson’s Green Choices Marketplace, an online forum for consumer tips, ideas and critiques about concentrates and one-stop shop for the concentrate brands. The online store offers single bottles for $2.50 each or starter kits (two concentrates and a reusable bottle) for $5.00. Prices are said to be competitive with other household cleaners. Refill shipments include extra pressure-sensitive labels to apply to the trigger sprayer to ensure proper identification of its contents.

The expanded concentrate offering marks another step in SC Johnson’s commitment to sustainability, which includes proactively phasing out chlorofluorocarbon propellants, polyvinyl chloride and phthalates, cutting its worldwide greenhouse gas emissions 26% since 2000 and embarking on a program to list product ingredients on labels. For more information, visit http://www.scjohnson.com/en/commitment/report.aspx.

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RECYCLING/RECYCLED CONTENT >

Caps On program diverts closures from landfills

Closures consume about 1.5 billion pounds of resin each year in North America. Unfortunately, most of this material ends up in landfills because many locales specifically exclude caps from their recycling programs.

To increase cap recycling, the Closure and Container Manufacturers Association (CCMA) and the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR), both of Washington, DC, have embarked on the Caps On program. The two-pronged approach encourages Material Recovery Facilities (MRF) and recycling haulers to accept plastic bottles with caps and asks communities to instruct residents to leave the caps on the plastic bottles they put in their recycling bins.

With technological advances in recycling and high demand for recycled polyolefins, polypropylene and polyethylene closures represent a valuable resource rather than a recycling stream contaminant. “We want to assure recycling coordinators, MRF operators and other collectors of recyclables that plastics recyclers will process these bottles and recover the caps for recycling purposes,” says Steve Alexander, chief executive officer and director at APR.

“We are committed to increasing the available supply and the actual amount of plastics being recycled while at the same time reducing litter and waste,” concludes Jack Hoscheit, chairman of the CCMA board of directors. For more information, visit www.closureandcontainer.org, www.plasticsrecycling.org.

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Removable in-mold label improves recyclability of PP containers

A removable in-mold label from Systems Labelling Limited, Deeside, UK, simplifies recycling of injection-molded polypropylene (PP) containers and lids. Conversion to the removable PP label has no impact on injection molding dwell time or temperature or on package performance in the refrigerator or microwave.

Since the patent-pending R-IML® label is removed by the consumer post-use or during the recycling process, it eliminates contamination issues caused by flexographic printing. Eliminating color contamination makes it possible for recycled natural/clear or white PP to replace virgin resin in color-sensitive, food-grade packaging. It also boosts the market value for recycled PP and diverts packaging waste from landfills.

According to statistics from Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), London, UK, the and the waste reduction organization, WRAP, Banbury, UK, recycling 1 metric ton of PP saves about 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions. Systems Labelling supplies labels for dairy, food, industrial, household, beverage and cosmetics product packaging in the United Kingdom and continental Europe. For more information, visit www.systemslabelling.com.

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Carton Council and Earth911 work together to boost carton recycling

To raise awareness about recycling liquid food and beverage cartons, the Carton Council, Vernon Hills, IL, has joined forces with Earth911, Inc., Scottsdale, AZ, the host of a comprehensive U.S. recycling directory.

A section on Earth911.com addresses the ins and outs of recycling cartons for products such as milk, juice, soy, broth, soup, wine and meal replacement beverages. Updated regularly, the site presents facts, tips and ideas to educate consumers about cartons for milk and other liquids.

A growing number of recycling programs accept this type of packaging. According to the Carton Council, about one-third of U.S. households (42 million ) had access to curbside carton recycling in 2011, a percentage that’s doubled since 2009. Drop-off and mail-in programs further expand access.

“Not only is the Carton Council working to establish wider access to carton recycling,” says Ed Klein, executive director, “but we want to make sure that the people who do have access know that they can recycle these materials and how to do that properly. With our relationship, they can read about, find and utilize their local recycling opportunities easier than before.”

Cartons offer environmental benefits beyond recyclability including a low carbon footprint due to their compactness and light weight. In addition, cartons consist primarily of paperboard, a renewable material that is responsibly replenished. For more information, visit www.earth911.com, www.recyclecartons.com.

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RENEWABLE MATERIALS >

PHA commercialization falters as joint venture dissolves

Citing uncertainty about sufficient returns, Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM), Decatur, IL, pulls out of the Telles, LLC joint venture formed in 2006 with Metabolix, Cambridge, MA.

The joint venture develops and sells polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) bioplastics, including Mirel and Mvera, in the United States, Europe and other countries. With the end of the joint venture, Metabolix becomes sole owner of the PHA technology used by Telles, but must find a partner to assume manufacturing of the PHA resins, which were produced at ADM’s plant in Clinton, Iowa.

Noting the technology is now proven on an industrial scale, Richard Eno, chief executive officer of Metabolix, says, “While this is a setback, we remain committed to successfully commercializing PHA bioplastics….We will be evaluating alternate plans for commercialization…” Metabolix plans to restructure its bioplastics business and downsize operations, but will retain a core team in its bioplastics group to provide continuity with the PHA technology and market. For more information, visit www.metabolix.com.

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Starch-polypropylene carbonate emerges as a renewable packaging option

Novomer Inc., Boston, MA, and Penford Corp., Centennial, CO, are working together to develop and commercialize low-cost, sustainable starch-polypropylene carbonate polymers for packaging applications. Thermoplastic polypropylene carbonate (PPC) consists of nearly 50% by weight of waste carbon dioxide and exhibits superior mechanical and barrier properties. In addition, its chemical backbone is compatible and likely synergistic with modified starch.

Novomer and Penford officials anticipate starch-PPC composites will yield low-cost, environmentally sustainable packaging polymers. “Governments and companies, especially those in packaged goods markets, around the globe continue to place a heavy emphasis on initiatives aimed at reducing carbon levels in the atmosphere and creating alternatives to petroleum-based plastics,” explains Peter Shepard, executive vice president of Novomer.

“Novomer’s expertise in sustainable polymers combined with Penford’s expertise in specialty starch-based formulations provide an opportunity to create highly functional, cost-effective, and renewable thermoplastics to extend or replace petroleum-based plastics in barrier films and structured articles,” adds Dr. Wallace Kunerth, chief science officer at Penford. For more information, visit www.novomer.com, www.penford.com.

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