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Highlighting Seattle Resource Recovery and Packaging End of Life Management

Katherine O'Dea

Resource recovery and revalorization seems to be just about the hottest topic in the packaging sustainability community these days. It’s hard to pick up any packaging publication – print or online – without some reference to the need to expand packaging recyclability, and the opportunities and challenges involved. GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition made sure to emphasize this important topic as we developed the agenda for our 2014 Spring Conference, with tours and sessions that highlight the newest developments in resource recovery and end of life management.

The Pacific Northwest region leads the country in recycling and composting. We recently talked with Conference speaker, Dick Lilly, Manager for Waste Prevention and Product Stewardship at Seattle Public Utilities, about Seattle’s cutting edge sustainability efforts, specifically its composting and recycling efforts. Seattle is the first U.S. city to require that all single-use food service packaging be either compostable or recyclable, helping the city move toward its goal of a zero waste future. Lilly explained that in this shift to using all compostable or recyclable packaging, the city holds meetings with restaurants and manufacturers regularly to discuss what does and doesn’t work, and what needs to happen to make these regulations more successful. “One things that I would applaud about the restaurant industry is that they have been tremendously innovative and have made a great effort to come up with new products. The industry has changed dramatically in terms of the products made today that will help restaurants move in the direction of more compostables or reusables and less disposables,” said Lilly.
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A Story of Branded Trash

Minal Mistry

I am sure all of us at one time or another have taken a walk down a nature trail and found a bit of trash that stood out among the plants or on the path. More often than not the Budweiser_Trashitem is recognized almost instantaneously by its color scheme, shape or material combination – its branding.

We may be irritated by the unsightliness, we may not give it a second thought and meditatively and instinctively pick up the litter for proper disposal later, or we may keep walking. This time of year in a deciduous wood with only brown dried leaves on the ground, even a small item may stand out. Among more urban landscape the litter might just be part of the environs along the roadside or highway entrance. We may scarcely notice it while zipping by in our automobiles. Yet litter as a collection of transactions is quite complex and the pathways that result in the deposited item in places other than the trash bin are many. The composition of the litter too is quite diverse and context specific. Continue reading

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Seahawks & Mariners & You, Oh My!

Danielle Peacock

What do the Seahawks, Mariners, and GreenBlue have in common?

Sustainable packaging (and Seattle, of course).

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition Spring 2014 Conference is heading to the home city of Super Bowl and sustainability champion, the Seattle Seahawks, this March 25 – 27th. While most of the celebration in Seattle last night and today surrounds their Super Bowl win over the Denver Broncos, sustainability professionals are celebrating the initiatives the team has undertaken in the realm of sustainability, especially as one of the founding members of the Green Sports Alliance.

The SPC is excited to be holding our conference at the home of the Seahawks and Mariners, Green Sports Alliance members often recognized for their commitment to Safeco Field Home of the Marinerssustainability. Conference attendees will have the opportunity to tour Safeco Field, home of the Mariners, for an inside look at some of the cutting edge waste diverting and recycling practices used.

We hope you will join us at the Conference. In the words of the Seahawks, come be the 12th man, and have an unparalleled impact on the game of sustainable packaging.

Seattle Seahawks 12th Man

Explore the agenda and register for the SPC Spring Conference at http://conference.sustainablepackaging.org. Take advantage of the early bird registration rate, which ends this Wednesday, February 5th.

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WRI Shows Us What the Risks to the Global Water Supply Look Like

Tom Pollock

The recently released Aqueduct tool from the World Resources Institute is an excellent example of the effective visual presentation of complex data. Aqueduct measures and maps water risk, and the project recently completed new research that “scores water-related risks facing 180 countries and 100 river basins. This is the first national-level data of its kind, evaluating competition for available water supplies, annual and seasonal supply variability, flood occurrence, and drought severity.”

We at GreenBlue appreciate the science behind the tool, as well as its interactive design and visual impact. Check out the tool here: http://www.wri.org/our-work/project/aqueduct

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SPC Member Spotlight: The Dow Chemical Company

Kelly Lahvic

“Member Spotlight” is the newest addition to our GreenBlue blog where we will regularly highlight the sustainability achievements and initiatives of a Sustainable Packaging Coalition member company. For our inaugural Member Spotlight, we would like to bring attention to the Dow Chemical Company and their current collaboration with The Nature Conservancy.

In 2011, Dow Chemical Company and The Nature Conservancy announced their plans for a powerful collaboration to help the business community recognize and value nature in global business strategies. The aim of this collaboration is to protect earth’s natural systems by quantifying nature’s services and incorporating this value into business decision making.

Since the 2011 launch, The Nature Conservancy and Dow have identified crucial ecosystem services that Dow relies upon and have set up pilot sites to analyze these relationships. While one site location is still being determined, the other two are located in Freeport, Texas and Santa Vitoria, Brazil. These locations serve as “living laboratories” where the two collaborators are experimenting with methods of ecosystem valuation. Biodiversity topics being studied include natural hazard mitigation, freshwater limitations, air and water quality, and soil retention.

The Freeport location is the first completed pilot site with experimentation results currently under review for expected release in early 2014. From the start of their collaboration, Dow and The Nature Conservancy have been clear about their intent to publicly share the critical lessons learned to help anyone interested in applying similar tools.

“I truly believe that through science and collaboration, sustainability can be achieved,” said Erica Ocampo, Sustainability Manager at Dow. “Our collaboration with The Nature Conservancy is proving that and it is something we are very proud of.”

To hear more specifics about the experiments and subsequent findings of the Freeport and Santa Vitoria pilot sites, check out a recent webinar – The Economics of Ecosystems: The Nature Conservancy Dow Collaboration.

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The SPC’s Essentials of Sustainable Packaging

Adam Gendell

There was one takeaway from the recently released results of the 2013 Packaging Digest Sustainable Packaging survey that struck me as being particularly interesting: when asked what is needed to make packaging more sustainable, more respondents than ever before mentioned a need for their staff to be better trained in the field of sustainable packaging. More training, you say? Fear not, survey respondents, it just so happens that the SPC has a one day training seminar designed to teach the concepts of sustainable packaging to everyone throughout the supply chain.

Haven’t you heard? We call it The Essentials of Sustainable Packaging, and we’ve been teaching this course for years, to hundreds of packaging professionals, on three different continents, with a lot of success.In fact, just last month we brought the course to Oakland, CA and taught it at the headquarters of StopWaste.

One of the things I always enjoy most about teaching the course is the interaction with the participants and the ways in which we always end up learning from each other. It’s no accident that this tends to happen: making packaging more sustainable requires full supply chain engagement and collaboration, and the participants always hail from a diverse set of supply chain positions. It’s perfect. Want to know the brand owner perspective on a sustainability issue? Chances are they’re in the room, and we can ask them. Want to get the opinion of a representative from a government agency? No problem. They’re in the room too.

In Oakland I was particularly struck by the collection of attendees from Recology, CalRecycle, and StopWaste. There we were in the region with the most impressive waste management practices in the country, and in the same room were so many of the individuals responsible for making it happen, all taking part in the same collective conversation about making packaging more sustainable. Mix in our participants hailing from converters, brand owners, retailers, and the line between student and teacher quickly became blurry. But this is expected. It always ends up that the course is much more than a lecture-based seminar – it feels much more like a meeting of the minds, and this instance was no exception. It just reminds that if the packaging community feels that more training is needed, we happen to have the perfect forum to make that happen.

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Top Five Fun Facts: November

Eric DesRoberts

Eric DesRoberts continues his monthly series of facts and tidbits he’s uncovered during his research to better understand products and packaging. You can also check out his past Fun Facts here.

  1. In a survey conducted by the Bradley Corporation, 70% of respondents admitted to rinsing hands with water without the use of soap after using a public restroom. Roughly 75% of women participants claimed that they always washed their hands after using a public restroom compared to only 60% of men.

  2. An estimated 46 million turkeys will be cooked this holiday season. While many Thanksgiving feasters enjoy their turkey fried, every year, deep-fryer fires are Photo of wild turkey from New Hampshire Fish and Gameresponsible for around five deaths, 60 injuries, the destruction of roughly 900 homes, and more than $15 million in property damage.

  3. According to a recent post from The Economist, Singapore is the best place to do business and new companies can be formed in as little as 2 ½ days. The post also notes that wealthier parts of the world shoulder the lightest regulatory burden when it comes to conducting business.

  4. Over 60,000 Veterans are homeless on any given night. Pay tribute to the Veterans that served their country, and consider helping end veteran homelessness by 2015.

  5. We are in the thick of No-Shave-November, a month long cancer awareness event that encourages participants to put down our razors, embrace our hair, and donate the money typically spent on shaving to cancer research and awareness. The teams registered with the American Cancer Society have a total of 515 participants, and have raised over $996,000. There is still time to get involved!

Mustache Movember from The Telegraph

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FTC Takes Landmark Enforcement Actions on Green Guides Violations

Danielle Peacock

A few weeks ago, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced enforcement actions against five companies making deceptive claims for biodegradable plastics, marking the FTC’s first action against biodegradable plastic claims since publishing their recently revised Green Guides. One of these companies, ECM Biofilms, Inc., is a biodegradable additive producer, while the other four, American Plastic Manufacturing, CHAMP, Clear Choice Housewares, Inc., and Carnie Cap, Inc., make and market plastic goods with biodegradable additives.

While each case varies, the FTC’s general assertions are that these companies market their plastics, or additives, as biodegradable in common disposal methods. The FTC found that their products do not degrade within normal disposal parameters, make claims without qualification, and do not have appropriate scientific testing to prove claims. One company in particular, ECM Biofilms, Inc., also used its own “Certificates of Biodegradability of Plastic Products” and provided deceptive marketing materials to distributors.

The FTC also announced an enforcement action against AJM Packaging Corporation, a paper goods company, in violation of a pre-existing 1994 consent order barring them from continued deceptive practices. According to the FTC, the company does not have scientific evidence or substantiation of their claims and as a result, imposed a $450,000 civil penalty for their violation.

The FTC’s enforcement extends to both on-package and off-package marketing claims. These actions bring up two crucial points: are biodegradable additives a sustainable solution and how do companies ensure they make accurate environmental marketing claims?

The FTC requires a product to biodegrade (break down completely and decompose into elements found in nature) within one year in common disposal settings (landfill, litter, or backyard compost) to make an unqualified claim. This has not been the case, as landfills are not designed for biodegradation and the products have failed to show biodegradation in any conditions during the required time frame.

All of this begs the question, are these additives actually a sustainable solution for petroleum based plastics? When they degrade, the environmental investment in the product is lost as recycling or waste to energy are no longer options. Further, when some of these materials are inevitably recycled, they contaminate the recycling stream and risk degrading the performance of the recycled resin.

Biodegradation and environmental marketing are complex issues. The Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s (SPC) previous study on Biodegradation in Landfills and Industry Leadership Committee on Meaningful Marketing Claims hope to clear up confusion and digest the complexity of these issues. The SPC’s How2Recycle Label also works to alleviate confusion around some of these issues by clearly communicating what to do with a package at end of use with clear on-package labeling.

For an easy read on some of the issues with biodegradables and compostables, take a look at a recent Ask Umbra article.

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Sustainable Packaging Coalition Celebrates America Recycles Day with a Look at How2Recycle Milestones

Danielle Peacock

On this America Recycles Day, GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) celebrates America’s commitment to recycling by taking a look at How2Recycle Label milestones. Sustainability is a journey that relies on good design, accessible infrastructure, and consumer understanding of what, where, and how to recycle.

Sustainable Packaging Coalition member companies and staff identified a need for consistent on-package communication about recyclability of a package. Though consumers want to recycle, our studies found that many consumers are confused about what they can and cannot recycle, and desire clear recycling information on the package itself. The How2Recycle Label Program helps fix this problem by clearly communicating how and where certain materials should be recycled.

 Packages donning the How2Recycle label first entered the market in December, 2011. Since then, How2Recycle has grown from 11 founding participants to 20 with more to be announced soon. Press releases and website updates in the coming weeks will unveil the exciting new participants that will move with How2Recycle into its third year. SPC staff estimate at least 600 different products with How2Recycle Labels will be on shelf by the end of the year.

SPC staff continue to build relationships with partner organizations and consumers to expand the program. This includes collaborative projects with the Flexible Films Recycling Group of the American Chemistry Council, ongoing interactions with government agencies, participation in critical industry conversations, and responding to feedback from consumers.

Through a How2Recycle survey, consumer testing, and social media feedback, the public has expressed their overwhelming support of the program and its participating companies. For example, when referring to how the label made them feel about the company using it, one respondent said, “The company is obviously trying to reduce their carbon footprint and I think that is awesome and commendable.” Another noted, “It shows me the company is taking an active interest in recycling for the future of sustainability and the environment.”

About 75% of survey respondents had a positive experience with the label and about 80% thought more positively of companies if they used How2Recycle. 85% of survey respondents found How2Recycle easy to understand, a critical goal of the program. According to one respondent, “More products should do this!! It takes away the guessing game out of recycling.” Another respondent showed the educational benefit of the label, “I didn’t know that in-store plastic bag drop-offs also accept other types of plastic package film, so now I will start recycling those.”

How2Recycle’s success would not be possible without the pioneering participating companies. Their commitment to clear and concise on-package recycling labels make them leaders in their industry. Melissa Craig of Kellogg’s notes: “Consumers need clear, concise communication when it comes to recycling, so materials that can be reclaimed don’t accidentally end up in landfills. This label helps ensure all packaging components are recycled as intended, to further reduce the environmental impact of our products and promote conservation.”

GreenBlue and the SPC look forward to another successful year helping consumers and companies fulfill their America Recycles Day pledges through the How2Recycle Label Program. Our goal is to have How2Recycle Labels on the majority of consumer-facing packaging by 2016.

Let us know what you’re doing for America Recycles Day, and what you think about our How2Recycle Label on Twitter @How2Recycle or @GreenBlueOrg!

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Update from The Fall SPC Members Meeting: CHEP Pallet Tour

Minal Mistry

I had a chance to tour the CHEP pooled pallet maintenance center during the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s Fall Member Meeting in Florida.

 This was a fascinating look into the world of asset repair that ensures optimal performance and longevity of the wood pallets. This particular facility was operated by CHEP, an SPC member company that manages thousands of sturdy wood pallets in a pooled environment where the pallets are owned and maintained by CHEP. The pallets are treated as assets, and intense effort and scrutiny is afforded on maximizing the life of each pallet.

The process starts with pallets coming to the center for repair and being loaded on to a conveyor that moves them one by one past an inspection station manned by a human who visually surveys each pallet from multiple angles.

CHEP Pallet Inspection Station
Here the inspector will manually pull off damaged parts. Irreparable pallets are removed from the stream and manually hurled off the line. From here the pallet moves to one of several repair stations where the pallet is transferred onto the station.

CHEP Pallet Repair StationThese stations are equipped with a standard toolkit that includes a claw hammer, a specialized long-handled crowbar to rip off boards easily, a reciprocating saw with a metal cutting blade, and a heavy duty nail gun suspended on a spring. (My own pallet deconstruction tool kit used to study pallet construction while I was building the tertiary packaging LCA model for COMPASS 3.0 (Comparative Packaging Assessment) lacked the hefty nail gun.

What struck us most was the fact that though the pallets weighed nearly 65 pounds each and all the conveyance was mechanised, all inspection, dismantling, repair and movement on to the conveyors was essentially a manual process involving men moving adeptly at almost robot-like precision. This was an environment of intense concentration and manual dexterity (See the short video of a repair station in action). Pallets that had been repaired were placed back on the conveyor and moved through a series of rollers that push the nails down to flatten the surface. From there, the pallets are sent to a painting station where a fresh coat of the CHEP blue is applied before the lot is loaded onto flatbeds for delivery.

CHEP Repaired Pallets
All in all, this tour was a hit with the attendees, especially since this is an industrial process rarely seen. It helped confirm aspects of pallet construction and maintenance that I had come to appreciate through my own deconstruction and upcycling activities that let to the eventual LCA model in COMPASS.

Interested in learning more about packaging LCA? Connect with me on Twitter at @amistryman