Sustainability topics of biodegradable plastics, container re-use, ecodesign

Volume 6, Issue 3

In This Issue:

  • Picking the right green claims
  • Greif develops backpack to transport water in Haiti

    Greif Inc., Delaware, Ohio, one of the first companies to devote resources to support long-term recovery efforts in Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake, has designed the lightweight, durable WaterWear™ Backpack to make it easier for residents to tote water.

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RENEWABLE >

Juice industry wants to make bottles from wastewater

If all goes according to plan, juice packagers will be filling a biodegradable polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) barrier container by mid-2016.

Phase one and two of the PHBOTTLE Project are proceeding concurrently with the goal of molding barrier containers, which are 100% biodegradable. The process would involve capturing sugars and other residues from juice production wastewater, converting it to PHB, adding barrier properties and molding.

The juice industry consumes a large amount of water for cleaning equipment and facilities and washing of fruits and vegetables. The resulting wastewater contains huge quantities of organic waste in the form of sugars and must be treated before release. However, microorganisms can convert the sugars to PHB.

Phase I of the PHBOTTLE Project is identifying microorganisms capable of converting organic residues from wastewater into PHB. The second phase examines the addition of cellulose fibers and other ingredients to increase barrier properties and product shelf life.

In a third phase, this PHB with improved properties will be molded into bottles for juice. These containers will be validated and tested by filling them with fruit juice, thereby creating a closed-loop system where waste is converted into a viable product.

The project also will perform a life cycle analysis (LCA) of the resulting PHB packaging. Other potential applications for the PHB include non-food packaging, primarily for pharmaceuticals and cleaning products.

The effort, being undertaken by the European Fruit Juice Association, Brussels, Belgium, involves several companies and technology centers, and is being funded by the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme, which supports research and technological developments in Europe.

Partners represent eight countries and include:

  • Ainia Technology Centre, Paterna, Spain; the tech center coordinator
  • Aimplas (Plastic Technology Institute), Paterna, Spain
  • Cítricos y Refrescantes, S.A., Madrid, Spain
  • Omniform, S.A., Bièrges, Belgium
  • TNO Technology Centre, Delft, The Netherlands
  • Silvel Limited, Bulgaria
  • Logoplaste Innovation Lab LDA, Cascais, Portugal
  • National Institute of Industrial Technology (INTI), San Martin, Argentina
  • Mega Empack S.A., Mexico
  • Logoplaste do Brasil LTDA, São Paulo, Brazil
  • Vanguardia SD de RL, San Pedro Sula, Honduras
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REUSE >

Refillable glass wine bottles hold nontoxic cleaners

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Glass wine bottles with tasting cork closures serve as a refillable vessel for nontoxic household cleaning products from Elemental Essentialz, McKinney, TX. All-purpose Cleaner, Glass & Granite Cleaner and Soft Scrubbing Cleaner may be ordered online with color-coded metal liquor pourers or purchased at a handful of retailers in Texas, including nine outlets in the Central Market division of H-E-B, San Antonio, TX.

Firm, founded by Theresa Harris, who formerly taught high school chemistry, encourages consumers to refill containers at participating retailers. The company initially collected empty wine bottles from local restaurants and bars, but transitioned to unused bottles when growing volumes forced a move from Harris’s kitchen to automated filling at a local contract packager. “We were going to get our bottles through Wine Bottle Renew in California,” Harris recalls. “However, transporting the bottles from California to Texas seemed to go against one of our objectives.”

Refilling glass wine bottles cuts energy consumption related to container production by more than 90% and virtually eliminates packaging waste. Toxin-free, zero-waste cleaners, launched in 2011, recently received a label update from Hughes Design Group, South Norwalk, CT. Other Elemental Essentialz products include handmade shea butter lotions, lip balms and coconut milk soaps plus decorative items like spoon rests made of repurposed glass wine bottles.

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RECYCLED >

Mulch product keeps wood waste out of landfills

Enviro Mulch Wood Chips consist of wood waste from pallet/skid production and repair at St. Boniface Pallet, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Branching into consumer products turns non-repairable pallets and wood waste into revenue. Available in a variety of colors, the mulch slowly biodegrades to become rich top soil. “It is an easy way to add beauty to any natural setting,” says a company representative, adding, “Colored mulch is a low maintenance and decorative way to complement any landscape, commercial or residential.” For more information, visit www.StBPallet.com.

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SUSTAINABLE EFFORTS >

Consumers need precise recycling instructions

Consumers need to be told exactly how to recycle a package or other item, according to a report from Earth911, Scottsdale, AZ. In fact, clear, precise communication is the critical missing element that keeps more than half the U.S. population from recycling.

The report, Viability of Labeling for Recycling, asserts, “Merely suggesting that a material, product or package has recyclable qualities is not enough to make an impact on the overall recycling rate in the United States; consumers need an easy, quick resource that tells them, ― ‘Can I recycle this near me?’ Additionally, if an item cannot be recycled, what are the proper disposal options?”

Unfortunately variations in recycling and solid waste disposal programs make it impossible to draft label instructions that apply to every consumer. Worse still, commonly used messages can be inadequate or even misleading. Thus, the report advocates a label message that refers consumers to a resource like Earth911’s comprehensive recycling directory. It not only provides the personalized information needed to take appropriate action, but is readily accessible via Web, mobile or toll-free number.

Corey Lambrecht, Earth911 president, concludes: “Any solution to proper disposal for any product must begin at the local level: Ground-zero for consumers is their own front curb. Our two decades working in this industry has taught us that, above all, recycling is local.” For more information, visit http://business.earth911.com/labelingreport.

Guide applies ecodesign and life cycle management principles to packaging
Three groups join forces to publish the interactive Packaging Design Guide in March 2013 to help package designers assimilate ecodesign and life cycle management principles into their work.

PAC NEXT, an initiative of PAC – The Packaging Association, Toronto, Ontario, partners with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), Charlottesville, VA, and Éco Entreprises Québec (ÉEQ), Montréal, Québec, to accomplish the task. “By partnering with SPC and ÉEQ in the development of the design guide, we hope that the greatest possible number of companies will adopt best practices in their packaging design,” says Guy McGuffin, the co-chair of PAC NEXT. “Our mission is to unite leading organizations across the packaging value chain to collaboratively explore, evaluate and mobilize innovative packaging design end-of-life solutions....”

The first step for the technical committee working on the guide involves a review of documents already in existence worldwide including SPC’s Design Guidelines for Sustainable Packaging, EEQ’s Voluntary Code for the Optimization of Containers, Packaging and Printed Matter and the Global Protocol on Packaging Sustainability from the Consumer Goods Forum, Paris, France.

Membership in the technical committee for the Design Guide is open to any stakeholder, including retailers, consumer packaged goods companies, package manufacturers, providers of raw materials, ancillary services and sustainable material management, associations and governmental and non-governmental entities. For more information, visit www.pac.ca/index.php/pac/v5.

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Greif develops backpack to transport water in Haiti

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Greif Inc., Delaware, Ohio, one of the first companies to devote resources to support long-term recovery efforts in Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake, has designed the lightweight, durable WaterWear™ Backpack to make it easier for residents to tote water.

Industrial-grade woven polypropylene from Greif imparts strength to the body of the backpack. A flat base enables it to stand as it is filled with water, while roll-top closures provide easy access to remove or clean the liner. Even when filled to its 20-liter capacity, the locally assembled WaterWear Backpack, is more ergonomic than buckets typically carried to haul water, a task that occupies women and children in developing nations for 200 million hours each day.

In a presentation on June 6, 2012, at the Aid and International Development Forum in Washington, DC, Scott Griffin, chief sustainability officer at Greif, discussed the experiences of the company and its partners in Haiti, described the challenges families in developing nations and disaster zones face to carry clean water home and noted products to improve water transportation can create local jobs.

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The WaterWear Backpack also has been tested in Guatemala. For more information, visit www.backthepack.com.

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