Degradable Additives, Ultra-Concentrated Detergent

Volume 4, Issue 1

In This Issue:

  • Picking the right green claims
  • Source Reduction

    Hot-fillable PET bottles lose weight

    Lightweighting or eliminating materials continue to be popular ways to enhance the sustainability of packaging. Several companies, including Sidel Group, Octeville sur Mer, France, and Amcor PET Packaging, Manchester, MI, offer technology for lightweighted hot-fillable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles.

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  • Picking the right green claims
  • Ultra-concentrated laundry detergent shrinks pack size

    A slim, high-density polyethylene bottle with a pump dispenser precisely measures a new highly concentrated laundry detergent from Method, San Francisco, CA ...

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  • Picking the right green claims
  • Supplement makers switch to 100% PCR containers

    Two supplement makers, Arizona Nutritional Supplements (ANS), Chandler, AZ, and Rainbow Light Nutritional Systems, Santa Cruz, CA, have converted to rPET containers with 100% recycled content.

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Biodegradable Materials >

Protocol tests degradable additives

A testing protocol, developed by the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR), Washington, DC, may allay or validate concerns about the effect of degradable additives on the recycling process and recycled-content polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) products such as containers. The voluntary protocol, “Degradable Additives and PET Recycling Technical Compatibility Testing Guidance,” quantifies the impact of additives designed to hasten the degradation of the PET polymer structure by putting containers with an additive and those without through the same series of tests.

“In recent months a number of degradable additives have been promoted for PET water bottles, states Scott Saunders, chairman of APR and general manager of KW Plastics, Troy, AL. “APR is concerned about the impact of such additives on the recycling process, the making of the next use of the postconsumer plastic, and on the service life of the next use of the reclaimed plastic.”

In APR’s view the degradation of otherwise-recycled and/or recyclable plastics means lost opportunities for the repeated use of molecules through recycling. “Our understanding of the lifecycle implications is that repeated use of molecules through recycling leads to less environmental burden than single use of molecules,” says David Cornell, technical director of APR, noting, “Repeated use of molecules should lead to more efficient use of natural resources and complement overall sustainability efforts. Recycled plastics can be used for almost all applications original plastics serve including many that stress durability and physical performance. Buyers of recycled plastics want not only the sustainability features of recycled material, but assurance of performance. Degradable additives that weaken products or shorten the useful life of plastics would have a strongly negative impact on postconsumer plastics recycling.”

The biggest problem facing reclaimers is that companies using the additive are marketing the bottles with degradable additives as recyclable. “We are very concerned that these claims are being made with no test results to justify such claims, says Steve Alexander, executive director of APR.

Because the consequences of premature product failure are so serious for recycled plastics, APR strongly recommends testing per its protocol for product applications which are likely to be recycled to demonstrate that the polymer with additives does not adversely affect processing or subsequent product performance.

It also encourages brand owners to use the protocol to substantiate degradability and recycling claims, noting that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Washington, DC, actively pursues brand owners that make “deceptive and unsubstantiated” claims. In fact, to help brand owners determine whether a claim is appropriate, the FTC publishes Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims. The “green guide” is available at www.ftc.gov/bcp/grnrule/guides980427.htm.

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Plantic plans U.S. production of starch-based biopolymers

Under an agreement between Plantic Technologies Limited, Melbourne, Australia, and National Starch LLC, Bridgewater, NJ, Plantic will move a biopolymer production line from Australia to the United States. “The manufacturing facility in collaboration with National Starch is expected to significantly reduce the current cost of Plantic® materials by integrating…manufacturing and key raw material supply,” says Brendan Morris, chief executive officer of Plantic. The integration also enables closer collaboration between research and development and manufacturing. Cornstarch-based Plantic biopolymers may be used to produce film and rigid sheet as well as in injection and blowmolding applications.

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New grade of PLA exhibits higher heat tolerance

Ingeo™ 3801X, a new injection molding grade of Ingeo polylactic acid from NatureWorks LLC, Minnetonka, MN, exhibits higher heat tolerance for semi-durable applications like cosmetic packaging. Additives make it possible to produce injection-molded parts with thermal dimensional stability up to 120 Celsius (248 F), notched Izod impact strength greater than 2 foot-pounds/inch and modulus of about 450,000 pounds/square inch. Injection molding cycle time compares to styrenic resins. Replacing styrenic components with PLA reduces dependence on non-renewable petroleum inputs and lowers overall greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption.

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Source Reduction >

Hot-fillable PET bottles lose weight

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Ultra-concentrated laundry detergent shrinks pack size

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Ultra-concentrated laundry detergent shrinks pack size

A slim, high-density polyethylene bottle with a pump dispenser precisely measures a new highly concentrated laundry detergent from Method, San Francisco, CA, a household cleaner company focused on eco-friendly products. At four pumps per load, bottles are sized to hold enough detergent for either 25 or 50 loads and are designed for one-handed dispensing.The packaging for the Method Laundry Detergent with Smartclean Technology not only contains 36% less plastic, but also consists of 50% post-consumer recycled content. Using drastically less water, plastic, energy and oil to produce than traditional detergent, the carbon footprint of Method Laundry Detergent is 35% lower than standard double-concentrated detergent. The company estimates the lighter container also saves 23,600 metric tons of plastic.

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Small packaging changes add up at Hormel

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Recycling/Recycled Content >

Health Canada okays food-grade rPET at levels of 100%

Phoenix Technologies, Bowling Green, OH, has received a letter of “no objection” from Canada’s Health Products and Food Branch, Health Canada, Ottawa, ON, for the process it uses to produce food-grade LNO™ c brand recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) resin. The letter covers rPET in levels up to 100% in containers for all food types under conditions of use “boiling water sterilize”’ through “frozen or refrigerated storage: ready-prepared foods intended to be reheated in a container at time of use.” Phoenix received a similar letter of ‘no objection’ from the Food and Drug Administration, Washington, DC, in 2008.

The LNO™ c process relies on Phoenix’s patented “extremely small particle size” technology. The tiny particle size enables much more efficient decontamination compared to other processes, resulting in faster output and significant energy savings. (The “c” in the brand name refers to the “compacted” resin that is the end result.) LNO™ c technology produces rPET with superior color and yield and lower acetaldehyde (AA) levels, which positively impact taste properties. Another benefit is its consistently higher intrinsic viscosity (IV), or molecular weight, which more closely matches the IV found in virgin resins and enables higher package performance. “Color, yield and taste attributes have traditionally been stumbling blocks in producing viable rPET—particularly with very sensitive liquids, such as water,” says Lori Carson, sales and marketing manager at Phoenix Technologies.

Although there have been successful commercializations of packages made from 100% rPET, most food-grade applications typically contain 25% to 50%.

In addition to producing rPET for sale to blow/injection molding and thermoforming operations, Phoenix Technologies also makes the technology available via license, partnership or turnkey system installation to those who wish to establish their own rPET operation. “Our philosophy is that rPET supply is better suited to multiple, smaller, processing operations across North America, vs. one or two large-capacity plants,” says Carson, adding, “We believe in a local ‘consume, collect, convert’ approach. By locating rPET production in closer proximity to resin users, you improve supply times and reduce the carbon footprint.”

Phoenix’s LNO™ c resin has been commercialized in the United States and Canada. Applications include water, beverage, deli, drinking cups, etc.

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Supplement makers switch to 100% PCR containers

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Silk-screened rPET bottle holds lens cleaner

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Nanofilm, Valley View, OH, introduces Clarity EcoClens™ eco-friendly lens cleaner in a 100% rPET container manufactured by Alpha Packaging, St. Louis, MO, and supplied by TricorBraun, also of St. Louis. To further increase eco-friendliness, bottles are silk-screened to eliminate the need for a label as well as the labeling step on the packaging line. Nanofilm estimates silk screening saves more than 456 square feet of label material. It also specifies corrugated shippers with 100% recycled content.

Silk-screened rPET bottle holds lens cleaner

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HDPE milk bottles in UK add recycled content

In 2010, every high-density polyethylene (HDPE) milk bottle made by Nampak Plastics, Newport Pagnell, UK, will contain up to 10% recycled content. With a production of 2 billion bottles per year for a variety of dairies, the change will save 7,000 metric tons of virgin resin per year. The initiative is part of a dairy industry commitment to achieve 30% recycled content in milk bottles by 2015, in accordance with the Milk Roadmap published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, London, UK.

Nampak Plastics, which initially offered bottles with recycled content in 2007, has invested more than £1.5 million (US$2.3 million) across its seven sites in the UK to modify blowmolding machines and install blending equipment, piping and silos to handle the rHDPE.

“Just four years ago ‘bottle-to-bottle’ recycling was unheard of in the UK dairy industry,” reports Eric Collins, managing director at Nampak Plastics. “Now,” he says, “we are adding up to 10% recycled content to all our bottles after extensive testing to ensure compliance with the extremely stringent food quality standards you would expect for this type of packaging. Replacing virgin material with recycled content in our milk bottles is also a significant contributor to Nampak’s continued drive to reducing its overall carbon footprint further still.”

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High-speed die-cutting widens use of molded pulp

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Renewable Materials >

Tetra Pak tests closures made of renewable HDPE

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In a first for carton packaging, closures made of renewable high-density polyethylene (HDPE) are being tested by Tetra Pak International SA, Pully/Lausanne, Switzerland. Braskem SA, Sao Paulo, Brazil, produces the renewable HDPE from ethylene, which is derived from ethanol made from sugar cane. Under the terms of the agreement, Braskem will begin supplying Tetra Pak with 5 kilotons of green HDPE per year in 2011 shortly after its commercial scale plant is expected to come on-stream. The volume represents just over 5% of Tetra Pak’s total HDPE demand, and is slightly less than 1% of its total plastics purchases. “While this pilot project is a small first step into green polyethylene, it marks another milestone in our sustainability journey…and underscores our commitment to finding new ways to use renewable materials in our carton packaging,” says Dennis Jönsson president and chief executive officer for Tetra Pak. The green HDPE complements the carton stock, which primarily consists of renewable wood fiber.

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Sustainable Efforts >

SPC develops metrics to help track sustainability efforts

Sustainable Packaging Indicators and Metrics Framework Version 1.0 helps companies measure progress toward sustainable packaging.

The product of two years of work by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Charlottesville, VA, the Metrics Framework is based on international standards and protocols and organized into eight categories. Each Framework module -- related to material use, energy use, water use, material health, clean production and transport, cost and performance, community impact, and worker impact -- explains why the measurements are relevant to sustainability efforts, defines each indicator as it relates to packaging, specifies the metric to be used and provides recommendations for what to measure and what not to measure.

“Without consistent guidance, sustainability criteria vary significantly from one company to the next,” explains Katherine O’Dea, chief author of the framework and senior fellow at GreenBlue, SPC’s parent organization. “This lack of coordination has made the data collection process time consuming and costly for suppliers, as well as making it difficult for companies to consistently benchmark their performance over time. Our hope is the Metrics Framework will standardize how the industry measures its progress toward making packaging more sustainable.”

Selected metrics from the Metrics Framework also serve as the baseline for the Global Packaging Project (GPP), an initiative of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), Paris, France. The GPP has already approved definitions and principles related to sustainable packaging and is working to standardize packaging sustainability measurement by developing globally recognized metrics and data collection protocols.

Pilot testing of the GPP metrics is expected to begin during the first half of 2010. The SPC plans to incorporate feedback from the pilot testing into Version 2.0 of the Metrics Framework to support global harmonization of sustainable packaging definitions, metrics and data collection procedures. The Framework may be downloaded at http://www.sustainablepackaging.org/content/?type=5&id=sustainable-packaging-metrics.

Another boost to harmonization is work being done by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), Geneva, Switzerland. To meet a tentative publication date of 2012, a new subcommittee has been established under ISO Technical Committee 122A. The ISO/TC 122/SC 4 Packaging and the Environment subcommittee consists of seven working groups focused on

  • Requirements for the use of ISO Standards in the field of packaging and packaging waste
  • Source reduction
  • Reuse
  • Recycling
  • Energy recovery
  • Chemical recovery
  • Organic recovery

In the United States, the Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA), Charlotte, NC, has formed a new committee, MH10.4: Packaging and Environment and seven Task Groups, to coordinate U.S. efforts and serve as a technical advisory group to SC 4. MHIA welcomes participation from interested parties. Contact MH10.4 Secretary, Mike Ogle at mogle@mhia.org.

Administration of SC 4 is led by the Swedish Standards Institute (SIS) in close cooperation with the Standardization Administration of China (SAC). Meetings of the international subcommittee are scheduled for May 31-June 4, 2010, in Beijing, China, and October 2010 in Japan.

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Worth noting…greener secondary packaging

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About the author

Hallie Forcinio has covered packaging-related environmental topics for more than 20 years, first as an editor on Food & Drug Packaging magazine (now Food & Beverage Packaging) 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 Packaging Machinery Technology and Pharmaceutical Technology.

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