Learn Heat Resistant PLA, Package Sustainability

Volume 6, Issue 2

In This Issue:

SUSTAINABLE EFFORTS >

Olive producers embrace sustainable practices

It's not just olives that are green at Musco Family Olive Co., Tracy, CA, and Bell-Carter Foods, Corning, CA. Both companies are shrinking their carbon footprints.

"Bell-Carter believes that sustainability plays a significant role in the well-being of our community and our customers," explains Ron Kerr, director of engineering at the 100-year-old company, which produces Lindsay brand and private-label olives, capers, pimientos and cocktail onions in recyclable cans, glass jars and retortable pouches and bowls. The high-density polyethylene or multilayer bowls are supplied by Silgan Plastics, Chesterfield, MO, or Rexam Plastic Packaging, Buffalo Grove, IL, respectively.

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Sustainability-enhancing projects can have a positive effect on the bottom line too.

A waste water aeration system has cut electrical consumption by 2,743,404 kilowatt hours per year and saves Bell-Carter Foods $329,208 in waste water treatment costs annually. The 788-ton reduction in carbon footprint conserves enough energy to power 257 homes and has earned the company accolades from the community plus a $114,475 rebate on its utility expenses.

An evaporative cooler system, designed to reclaim water from the cooking process and reuse it in the plant, is expected to save up to 50 million gallons of water per year, enough for U.S. community of 800.

A solar energy project for its receiving building will further reduce the plant's energy consumption and improve energy efficiency.

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Musco's 280-acre headquarters in California's San Joaquin Valley is close to achieving a 100% renewable production process. A one-of-a-kind, closed-loop RENEWS™ (Renewable Energy and Wastewater System) biomass plant cleanly burns 15 tons of olive pit waste daily. The resulting heat evaporates processing water and creates steam to drive the largest production steam engine in the United States, which then generates renewable electricity that can be used in the processing facilities.

Musco, the owner of the Pearls® and Early California® brands, which are packaged in cans and glass jars, was honored as a California 2011 Leader in Innovation in Energy and Agriculture by Grow California, Chico, CA. The Game Changer of the Year Award in the Innovation in Energy and Agriculture category specifically recognized the RENEWS biomass plant. In addition, a Discovery Channel special, Powering the Future, features Musco.

"We are proof that innovative environmental solutions are not only attainable but good business," says Felix Musco, chief executive officer and third generation to lead the family-owned business. "With this technology, we're going to be able to grow and expand responsibly."

In addition to the biomass-to-energy operation, Musco recycles most of its water through a closed-loop irrigation system, diverts 98.5% of its waste from landfills and grows NyPa forage grass to address the natural alkalinity of the valley's soil. The NyPa grass actively pulls salt from the soil and is harvested for use as a supplemental cattle feed by local farmers.

Sustainability and environmental stewardship have been an important part of the family's mission since 1942. Recent updates include energy-efficient lighting, pumps and motors. In addition, the company works to identify more energy- and cost-effective shipping methods. Employee awareness training programs and continuous improvement efforts encourage employees to practice the principles of conservation, energy efficiency, recycling, and proper universal waste disposal at work as well as at home.

 

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Worth a read…

A special report, 10 Tips for Sustainable Packaging Design, has been published in Packaging World's Greener Package newsletter. Recommendations include: Take a life cycle approach; evaluate each component; consider new alternatives for distribution packaging and evaluate the distribution system for space-saving opportunities; look for opportunities to make your package reusable; design for recyclability; and know where your packaging materials come from. For more information, visit www.greenerpackage.com/source_reduction/10_tips_sustainable_package_design.

Environmental Performance and Sustainable Labeling explains how to establish an environmental management system and implement ISO 14000, EMAS, LIFE or supplier scorecard programs. It also discusses production performance, carbon emissions, waste management, life cycle assessment and shipping. Reference, authored by Michael Fairley and Danielle Jerschefske, includes case studies, diagrams and illustrations as well as guideline environmental policy statements. It's available from the Labels & Labeling Book Shop for $130. For more information, visit www.labelsandlabeling.com/shop.

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Environmental messages confuse consumers, spark skepticism

Consumers notice environmental claims and want to select environmentally friendly packaging but are confused about the best choices and express skepticism that consumer packaged goods companies are doing all they can. In a recent study by Perception Research Services, Fort Lee, NJ, significantly more shoppers say they would like to choose environmentally friendly packaging compared (36% versus 28% in 2010), with fully half still willing to pay more (despite the economy). This is especially true of younger (under 40) shoppers.

Ironically, while shoppers continue to notice environmental claims at a high level (roughly half report seeing more claims in the past six months, just as in 2010), they are increasingly frustrated by the information provided. In fact, the number of consumers rating environmental information insufficient jumped 6% to 26%. Confusion about environmental claims jumped 8% to 20%, while the number of respondents feeling they don't know what packages are best for the environment jumped 5% to 22%.

Like the respondents in the Perception Research survey, the participants in the 2012 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker by Cone Communications, Boston, Mass., want more environmental information on product packaging and help understanding the message. In fact, misperceptions are rampant. More than half of consumers incorrectly define common environmental marketing terms such as "green" and "environmentally friendly."

The Green Gap Trend Tracker consumers want precise messages. When purchasing a product with an environmental benefit, consumers cited a symbol or certification (81%) and a message with specific data or outcomes (80%) as most influential in their decision to buy. For 73%, a more general environmental statement, such as "uses less water," is influential.

The studies also show shoppers are becoming skeptical about manufacturers' motives, with a growing number viewing actions as increasingly self-serving, driven more by reputation or profit enhancement rather than environmental improvement. Only 44% of respondents in the Green Gap Trend Tracker study trust companies' green claims, and 80% believe companies could do more to address environmental impacts. End-of-life messages carry the most weight. "The emphasis on disposal is not surprising considering it's an area in which consumers feel they have a responsibility and have control over what they do with products after use," says Jonathan Yohannan, executive vice president of corporate responsibility at Cone Communications. "However, what most consumers don't know is that for many product categories, disposal may represent the least significant aspect of a product's impact. There's an opportunity for companies to reframe the discussion and educate consumers about what they're doing to reduce a product's impacts across the supply chain."

In the Perception Research study, claims related to recycling (recyclable, made from recycled material) rank as the most noticed and exert the greatest impact on buying behavior. The 2011 shoppers surveyed were significantly more likely to check to see if a package can be recycled prior to buying it, and fully two-thirds claim they recycle on a regular basis. Those who do not recycle say the single biggest reason they don't is because they forget to do so (44%) – suggesting that messaging could serve as a useful reminder. Messaging also could help bridge the gap between shoppers' stated concern for the environment (66% very/somewhat concerned) and their level of activity regarding the environment (46% very/somewhat active).

"We're seeing a great opportunity for manufacturers to provide truly value-added packaging to their target shoppers by making it more environmentally friendly – primarily in the form of recyclability and recycled content – and clearly communicating these aspects," says Jonathan Asher, executive vice president at Perception Research Services.

"Companies are making great strides in setting and achieving environmental goals, but if they are not communicating to consumers in a highly visible way – including the precious on-pack or in-store real estate – the messages may not get through," warns Yohannan. "Now is the time to tell stories and connect the dots about the full impact of a product and the consumer's role in the process," he concludes. For more information visit: www.prsresearch.com, www.coneinc.com/research.

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RENEWABLE >

PLA gains heat resistance

Lactide innovations from Purac, Gorinchem, The Netherlands, improve the heat tolerance of polylactic acid (PLA) enough to make the biopolymer suitable for thin-wall, thermoformed hot beverage cups. Puralact® L- and D-based homopolymers – known as PLLA and PDLA –to withstands temperatures up to 180 Celsius. Scheduled to be introduced at Plast 2012, May 8-12, 2012, in Milan, Italy, the heat-tolerant PLA also is compatible with injection molding and extrusion as well as foam and fiber production. For more information, visit www.purac.com/bioplastics.

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