Biodegradable alternative answers critics of foam packaging

Volume 10, Issue 3

In This Issue:

  • Picking the right green claims
  • RENEWABLE

    Biodegradable alternative answers critics of foam packaging

    It can be difficult to recycle foam food containers such as meat trays and foodservice to-go containers. As a result, there’s strong interest in “greener” alternatives.

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  • Picking the right green claims
  • RECYCLING/RECYCLED CONTENT

    U.S. Could Boost Recycling Levels

    Many organizations want to increase recycling in the United States. Current efforts include programs by Kimberly-Clark Professional and Nespresso USA Inc.

    Read More >
RENEWABLE >

Biodegradable alternative answers critics of foam packaging

It can be difficult to recycle foam food containers such as meat trays and foodservice to-go containers. Many recycling programs exclude the material, typically expanded polystyrene. As a result, there’s strong interest in “greener” alternatives.

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One possibility, 100BIO™ containers from Tag Packaging, Los Angeles, CA, are made from Ingeo polylactic acid from NatureWorks LLC, Minnetonka, MN. Renewable as well as biodegradable, the sturdy material is differentiated by a gray color and provides cold resistance, heat insulation and shock absorption. Billed as the world’s first 100% biodegradable foam for food packaging, the line launched with 16 items, ranging from cups and clamshells to sushi trays.

“Everyone should be able to afford safe and eco-friendly food packaging, and 100BIO will make it economically possible,” says President Jea So, president of Tag Packaging and a former restaurant owner.

100BIO PLA is a sugar-based, biodegradable bioplastic currently sourced from plants such as corn or sugarcane. The natural and renewable raw material helps 100BIO containers minimize their carbon footprint and is free of heavy metals, harsh chemicals and carcinogens. 100BIO products are certified according to ISO 14855, an international standard for biodegradability.

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RECYCLING/RECYCLED CONTENT >

U.S. Could Boost Recycling Levels

Many organizations want to increase recycling in the United States. Current efforts include programs by Kimberly-Clark Professional, Roswell, GA, and Nespresso USA Inc., Long Island City, NY, to expand recycling and a study of curbside recycling being undertaken by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The Recycling Partnership, a national nonprofit headquartered in Falls Church, VA.

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Kimberly-Clark Professional has expanded its RightCycle program to manufacturing and industrial settings. Its goal is to divert non-hazardous waste such as nitrile gloves, single-use apparel and accessories (hoods, masks, shoe covers) and Kimtech Pure 100% polypropylene wipers from landfills. Launched in 2011 and said to be the first large-scale, formalized recycling effort for non-hazardous lab, cleanroom and industrial waste, the program has recycled more than 300 tons of waste and enabled production of recycled-content consumer products and durable goods, such as flowerpots and lawn furniture, benches and bicycle racks.

“By recycling rather than discarding nitrile gloves and single-use apparel, customers can divert these hard-to-recycle waste streams from the landfill in order to get one step closer to achieving their zero waste goals while reducing their waste disposal costs at the same time,” says John R. Adams, industrial business leader, Kimberly-Clark Professional. One participant in the program, Lundberg Family Farms, Richvale, CA, credits the program with helping it achieve a Platinum Zero Waste Facility Certification from the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council, Corona Del Mar, CA.

Gloves previously represented about 15% of the company's landfill waste, so switching to Kimberly-Clark Professional gloves and the RightCycle program was an easy decision. The company now expects to divert four tons of glove waste annually.

New York-based Nespresso USA has added collection points in more locations across the country to make it easier to recycle its single-use aluminum coffee capsules. As a result, the reach of the recycling program has more than doubled to 48 states. “We are committed to making recycling as convenient as possible for each of our consumers,” says Guillaume Le Cunff, president of Nespresso USA and member of the Nespresso Sustainability Advisory Board.

Nespresso offers prepaid recycling bags for consumers to mail used capsules for recycling. Bags are accepted free of charge at 88,000 UPS drop-off locations. Capsules also may be recycled at 500 Nespresso Boutiques and drop-off locations at select retail partners such as Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma. Consumers can locate the nearest recycling option by downloading the Nespresso app or visiting the Nespresso website.

Once collected, pods are sent to Ag Choice Organics Recycling, Andover, NJ, where the aluminum is separated from the coffee grounds. The coffee grounds are turned into nutrient-rich compost and topsoil, and the aluminum is processed and sent back to the aluminum value chain to be reused to produce new products.

Future recycling efforts are likely to be influenced by the curbside recycling study being undertaken by EPA and The Recycling Partnership, Falls Church, VA. The partnership will study 400 curbside programs and gather and analyze 17 distinct markers for each. Work has already begun, with early results expected in September 2016 and final analysis slated for October 2016. The research will catalog information on 39 categories of recyclable materials, along with collection frequencies, tonnages, funding mechanisms, service providers and other details from the most populated cities in each state and some other communities. The goal is to identify trends and gaps in curbside recycling infrastructure. A summary report will be accompanied by a full database.

“The secondary material stream begins with local programs, and there is a great deal of untapped potential there,” says Cody Marshall, technical assistance lead for The Recycling Partnership. “Looking at snapshots of programs across the country will allow us to cross-reference best practices and pinpoint opportunities to increase recovery. Those insights will in turn allow national and federal organizations to create targeted action plans.”

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RECYCLING/RECYCLED CONTENT >

Trays Contain 25% Recycled Content

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Johnsonville Sausage, Sheboygan Falls, WI, is helping boost recycling of expanded polystyrene by converting to trays with 25% recycled content. Launched in Canada in 2013 by the Consumer Products Packaging sector in the Cascades Specialty Products Group of Cascades Inc., Kingsey Falls, QC, EVOK® foam trays are now manufactured at the company’s U.S. installations for a variety of applications including meat, poultry, fish, seafood, fruits and vegetables.

With 25% recycled content the EVOK foam trays cut greenhouse gas emissions 15% compared to conventional polystyrene foam. Converting to the EVOK foam trays, lowered Johnsonville’s carbon footprint by an equivalent of 750 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, the amount generated by more than 270,000 round trips to the grocery store in an average-size vehicle.

As the first national sausage brand to use EVOK foam trays, Johnsonville worked with Cascades to develop a product-differentiating shape with sausage-mimicking curves. This curved design reduced material usage 6% versus a rectangular tray and saves 120,000 pounds of waste material per year.As the first national sausage brand to use EVOK foam trays, Johnsonville worked with Cascades to develop a product-differentiating shape with sausage-mimicking curves. This curved design reduced material usage 6% versus a rectangular tray and saves 120,000 pounds of waste material per year.

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SUSTAINABLE EFFORTS >

Investors Care About Sustainability

There’s a disconnect in attitudes about how much good sustainability practices influence investments. Less than two-thirds (60%) of managers in publicly traded companies believe that good sustainability practices influence investment decisions, according to the seventh sustainability report published by Boston Consulting Group, Boston, MA, in collaboration with MIT Sloan Management Review, Cambridge, MA.

However, three-quarters of senior executives in investment firms view a company’s sustainability performance as materially important to their investment decisions. In fact, the report, Investing for a Sustainable Future: Investors Care More About Sustainability Than Many Executives Believe, indicates nearly half of the investment professionals surveyed would not invest in a company with a poor sustainability track record. In addition, 75% of investors now think that increased operational efficiency often accompanies sustainability progress. The report credits the greater availability of data for investors’ increasing engagement with sustainability.

The disconnect in attitudes means that many companies are unprepared to attract sustainability-savvy investors. The research showed that although 90% of corporate executives see sustainability as important, only 60% of companies have a sustainability strategy in place, and just 25% have developed a clear sustainability business case that can serve as a compelling story for investors. The report suggests steps business leaders can take to bridge the gap.

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SUSTAINABLE EFFORTS >

CCE Begins Second Decade Of Sustainability Efforts

Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), now Coca-Cola European Partners, London, UK, reflects on a decade of sustainability improvement in its 11th annual Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability report. The report also shows how much sustainable efforts have broadened from waste reduction and resource conservation to include people-oriented initiatives.

The 2015/2016 report shows that CCE has

  • Reduced the calories per liter across its product portfolio by 4.5% since 2010 and engaged more than 1 million people in active lifestyle programs
  • Achieved a 40% absolute reduction in the carbon footprint of its core business operations against a 2007 baseline
  • Reduced its packaging use ratio 22% since 2007
  • Replenished 68% of the water used in its beverages, which was sourced from areas of water stress, contributing to The Coca-Cola Company’s global water replenishment target
  • Reached more than 130,000 people through its education programs, local partnerships and education centers

CCE advanced its sustainability plan in 2015, responding to evolving challenges on carbon emissions, renewable energy, calories and sustainable sourcing. It also signed the RE100 commitment to source 100% of its electricity from renewable sources, and confirmed that its carbon reduction targets are aligned to climate science. The company received recognition for these achievements with its first ever listing on the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index in September 2015.

Reflecting on the company’s progress, Chairman and CEO John F. Brock said: “When we started our sustainability journey very few companies, including CCE, had adopted serious sustainability targets. Now – 10 years on – we have a well-established sustainability plan with stretch targets across a wide variety of social and environmental issues that are critical to our business and our stakeholders.”

CCE is the leading Western European marketer, producer and distributor of non-alcoholic, ready-to-drink beverages and one of the world’s largest independent Coca-Cola bottlers.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR >

Hallie Forcinio has covered packaging-related environmental topics for more than 25 years, first as an editor on Food & Drug Packaging magazine (now Packaging Strategies) and more recently as a freelance packaging journalist and principal of Forcinio Communications, an editorial services firm. “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 Pharmaceutical Technology, Dairy Foods, National Provisioner and Healthcare Packaging. She also has served as editor of the PACK EXPO Show Daily.

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