Sustainable Efforts Come from Various Materials, Volume 3, Issue 5

Sustainable Efforts Come from Various Materials

Volume 3, Issue 5

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Recycling/Recycled Content

Amcor and McCormick work on RPET containers

McCormick Distilling Co., Weston, MO, has expanded its use of recycled polyethylene terephthalate (RPET) containers. Initially available in 50-millilitre, 1-litre and 1.75-litre sizes, the bottles contain 15% post-consumer-recycled (PCR) content.

Amcor PET Packaging, Ann Arbor, MI, supplies the containers, which will divert more than 500,000 pounds of PET from landfills annually, the equivalent of more than 7.5 million PET bottles.

The 15% RPET containers join a 100% PCR bottle McCormick specifies for its 360 Vodka—a liquor industry first. Amcor’s plant in Nicholasville, KY, manufactures the 360 Vodka bottle and also produces the new 15% PCR containers from preform to blowmolding with special attention to container color, shape and clarity.

According to Amcor, its approach to the PCR business differs from the competition. Instead of providing PCR to customers upon request, Amcor actively encourages its increased use on a routine basis. “PCR requires extra attention and expertise because it is more difficult to work with than virgin PET,” explains Dave Clark, director of Sustainability at Amcor PET Packaging. “It really takes a commitment on behalf of the customer and on behalf of Amcor to go out and source this material, and make the investments to make food-grade recycled PCR,” he concludes.

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Recycling program diverts 300,000 pounds from landfill


Machine condenses pallet of foam into 2-foot ingot. blocks

A recycling program, established by Pacific Seafood, Portland, OR, diverts 300,000 pounds of insulated foam packaging from landfills each year. Instead a machine installed by the family-owned company condenses a 4-by-6-foot pallet of foam packaging into a 2-foot block. The “ingot” is later ground into beads for production of consumer goods such as molding, picture frames and cameras. “There is no need for this type of packing material to go to waste,” says Kurt Mitchell, operations manager for Pacific Seafood’s Northwest operations.

Pacific Seafood also composts its used waxed corrugated cases into potting soil and sends plastic pallet wrap to a recycler to be manufactured into products like siding and composite decking. When beyond repair, broken pallets are sent with scrap wood to be converted to mulch.

In 2008, waste reduction efforts at the company’s Clackamas distribution center reduced the amount of landfilled waste by more than 600,000 pounds.

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Return program recycles temperature monitoring labels

The PakSense GreenSense recycling program facilitates the return of temperature monitoring labels from PakSense, Inc., Boise, ID, by providing U.S. customers with a free, eco-friendly return box and prepaid postage label. The medium-size box holds hundreds of PakSense labels and ensures proper recycling of the label’s battery and components.

Available in contact and wireless modes, the PakSense Ultra Labels measure surface temperature and do not require recalibration to maintain accuracy. Onboard lights flash if temperature abuse occurs and all data can be downloaded and graphed. Labels comply with Europe’s RoHS regulation and are 100% lead free.

“Competitive [temperature] recorders are much bigger and require larger boxes or even pallets to return the same amount,” reports David Light, chief executive officer at PakSense. “The GreenSense program makes it easy to return labels and will help increase the recycling rates of recorders throughout the industry,” he predicts. In addition, GreenSense can be considered an extension of any company’s effort to reduce its overall environmental profile.”

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Aluminum can recycling rate hits 54.2%

The aluminum can ranks as the most recycled beverage container in the United States with a 54.2% rate in 2008, according to statistics from the Aluminum Association, Arlington, VA; the Can Manufacturers Institute, Washington, DC; and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, also of Washington, DC.

Infinitely recyclable, “a can that is recycled can be back on the store shelf in as little as 60 days,” explains Kevin Anton, president, Alcoa Materials Management, Knoxville, TN, and chairman of The Aluminum Association. In addition, he notes, “Recycling conserves energy, saves resources and minimizes consumer and production waste.” In fact, a recycled can requires 95% less energy, generates 95% fewer emissions and creates 97% less water pollution than producing new metal. Furthermore, the aluminum can is the only packaging material that not only covers the cost of its own collection and reprocessing, but also helps subsidize the collection of other recyclable materials.

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North Carolina bans plastic bottles from landfills

As of October 1, 2009, landfills in North Carolina no longer accept rigid plastic containers, except those used for motor oil or pesticides. If curbside recycling is not available, residents must take plastic bottles and other items on the prohibited list to a recycling center.

If successful, the effort could collect and recycle an additional 2.4 billion plastic containers per year. The ban also could boost the state’s recycling rate for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) containers, which is estimated at 18%, well below the national average.

Higher recycling rates could supply material for several major plastic container recycling facilities in the state, including Envision Plastics, Reidsville, NC, the second largest recycler of high-density polyethylene bottles in the United States and Clear Path, a 280-million-pound-per-year PET recycling facility under construction in Fayetteville, NC.

“Widespread compliance with the plastic bottle disposal ban will ensure a flow of plastic bottles to meet market demand for material and will result in additional job creation through the expansion of recycling collection companies,” predicts Scott Mouw, environmental supervisor for the North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance, Raleigh, NC.

The latest prohibitions join a landfill and incineration ban already in effect for aluminum cans and beverage containers subject to recycling under G.S. 18B-1006.1.

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Source Reduction

Bottle redesign saves 4000 tons of glass per year

Soft drinks company Britvic, Chelmsford, UK, has lightweighted the glass bottle for its J2O juice drink by 20 grams. The move, part of the company’s corporate responsibility program, will save 4000 tons of glass per year at current production levels. That’s the same as eliminating 20 million bottles from the marketplace.

At only 5 millimeters shorter, the 180-gram bottle looks the same as the previous design, contains the same amount of product and exhibits equivalent durability and stacking strength. In addition, the shorter height boosts filling efficiency, reduces bottle blowing energy consumption about 10% and saves transportation fuel at all points in the supply chain. Further savings and waste reduction result from modifications to the filling line and control system to reduce impact speed between bottles as much as 40%.

The latest lightweighting effort joins a 26-gram reduction made in 2004, which saves about 5000 tons of glass each year.

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Airline adopts lighter PET wine bottles to save fuel

Chances are flight attendants for Japan Airlines, Tokyo, Japan, are pouring wine from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles as the airline transitions from glass containers. Reportedly the first carrier in Asia to switch to PET in coach, the airline launched the service on August 6, 2009, on a Tokyo-London flight on a JAL Eco Jet aircraft painted in a special green livery.

The PET bottles for Baron Maxime wine supplied by Wines Tree, Paris, France, and Paul Sapin, S.A., La Chapelle de Guinchay, France, look the same as glass but weigh only 22 grams, 86% less. Reducing the aircraft weight shrinks fuel consumption and carbon footprint, particularly since empty PET bottles are recycled.

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ConAgra lightweights Peter Pan jars

New polyethylene terephthalate (PET) jars and a 24-hour production schedule are reducing the carbon footprint of Peter Pan peanut butter equal to removing 233 cars from the road each year. A medallion on redesigned labels announces, “New Earth-Friendly Jar.”

ConAgra Foods, Omaha, NE, reports the size reduction and lightweighting has reduced resin usage per ounce of product by 12% for the 28-ounce jar and 9% for the 16.3-ounce size. These changes save enough PET each year to fill 24 garbage trucks.

The 24-hour production schedule reduces peak electrical demand. Energy savings gained from the new schedule and lighter containers could power 253 homes for a year.

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Biodegradable Materials

USDA experiments with bio-based foam cushioning

Scientists in the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC, have discovered bio-based alternatives to expanded polystyrene cushioning. Derived from potato, wheat or corn starch, the resulting foam can be manufactured in a range of densities and die-cut or molded into various shapes, sizes and thicknesses.


ARS Food Technologist Artur Klamczynski (left) and ARS Plant Physiologist Gleg Glenn have developed a way to use corn, potato or wheat starch as an alternative to expanded polystyrene for making rigid foam inserts for shipping cases.

Two patent-applied-for biofoam production technologies rely on an extruder to heat and mix starch and other all-natural compounds. To enhance strength, softwood fibers can be added to the mix before it goes into the extruder. Plant-based moisture barriers also can be incorporated to impart water resistance while maintaining renewable content.

In one process, the extruder squeezes out long strings, called “thermoplastic melt,” that are later cut into beads about half the size of a marble. The beads puff and expand at various points in the process, such as when they are put into a heated mold and pressed into the desired shape. Expanding beads expand fuse together to form a strong matrix.

In the second process, the extruder shapes a continuous hollow tube. As it moves, it is slit so it opens flat. It’s then rolled for storage. Later, it can be heated, unrolled and die-cut into the desired shape.

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Plasma coating could improve barrier properties of PLA

Plasma coating imparts barrier properties to polylactic acid (PLA) containers, according to research by the Institute of Plastics Processing at Aachen University in Aachen, Germany. The resulting PLA container exhibits an oxygen and carbon dioxide permeability rate similar to that of an uncoated polyethylene terephthalate bottle, potentially expanding applications for PLA bottles. The PLA containers require an oxygen pretreatment process, and the plasma must be pulsed to prevent thermal damage.

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Additive imparts biodegradability to LDPE cushioning

An organic additive in HC Renew hybrid cushioning from Pregis Corp., Deerfield, IL, accelerates microbial biodegradation without impairing recyclability. The green-tinted low-density polyethylene (LDPE) film also contains 10% recycled content. An AirSpeed HC unit, also from Pregis, fills air into chambers in flat, perforated LDPE rollstock to create rows of small air-filled pockets. The multiple smaller air chambers yield a cushioning structure that is stronger than traditional single-cell “pillows.”

Unlike other films which are marketed as biodegradable, HC Renew doesn’t contain any heavy metals or salts. Additionally, the product can be transported in high heat and has a longer shelf life than starch-based degradable products.

HC Renew™ cushioning complies with ASTM D5511 (determines the degree and rate of anaerobic biodegradation of plastic materials in high-solids anaerobic conditions such as landfills). Depending on conditions, complete biodegradation occurs in one to five years. The biodegradation process does not begin until the material resides in a microbe-rich environment.

Available in three cell heights, small (0.75 inch), medium (1.0 inch) and large (1.25 inches), HC Renew cushioning is available in pre-perfed lengths of 6 (small and medium cell sizes) or 7 inches (large cell). Applications include void fill, cushioning, block and brace and wrapping and packing.

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Tray inserts rely on starch-based material

Recyclable or biodegradable packaging helps Key Baby, LLC, Lutz, FL, reinforce the environmentally responsible message of its Weil Baby infant care line. A key packaging component, a compostable tray, consists of Biomax TPS, a high-amylose thermoplastic starch from DuPont, Wilmington, DE. The Biomax® TPS used in this application consists of sheet material that contains between 85% and 90% renewably sourced content and is certified for home and industrial composting.



Plastic Package Inc., Sacramento, CA, thermoforms the sheet into trays that hold Weil Baby products in place inside a carton.

 “These high-performance materials perform equal or better than the materials they replace so that customers do not have to compromise on performance in order to get environmental benefits,” says Shanna Moore, DuPont’s global director of Sustainable Packaging.

The Biomax® TPS line is complemented by DuPont™ Biomax® polytrimethylene terephthalate, which contains up to 35% renewably sourced content and serves as an alternative to polyester for applications such as injection-molded containers and cosmetic packaging.

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Bio-based inks earn certification

EcoTech™ process color inks from INX International Ink Co., Schaumburg, IL, are now certified as a Bio-Derived Renewable Resource (BRC) by the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers, Woodbridge, NJ. The BRC label also shows the percentage of bio-based content. More than 65% of EcoTech’s content is bio-derived, with vegetable oils accounting for nearly three-fourths of EcoTech’s BRC percentage. The proprietary ingredients in the EcoTech formula further enhance performance of the inks, which conform to ISO 2846-1 standards, which define the color and transparency of printing ink sets for four-color printing, and are suitable for GRACoL G7 certification.

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Sustainable Efforts

Packaging changes help achieve sustainable successes

When consumer packaged goods companies report on their sustainability efforts, packaging changes inevitably play a role in their successes.

At Abbott, Abbott Park, IL, 40 sustainable packaging initiatives are propelling the company toward its 2013 goal of a 5% reduction in packaging used for key products. In addition, Abbott shares information on packaging reduction with major retail customers and holds suppliers to stringent requirements. A guideline, drafted in 2008, facilitates sustainable decisions throughout the package design and development process.

Recent achievements include an 8.3% reduction in the polypropylene used for nutritional products, an annual savings of 2.7 million pounds, and a 15% lightweighting of plastic containers for infant formula. The reduced-weight bottles also will help save 436,000 gallons of gasoline used for transportation each year.

In addition, a pilot program for physician samples that require refrigeration is testing an alternative to its one-way shipper. The smaller, recyclable, reusable box consists of 100% organic-based materials and withstands 100 trips.

At L’Oreal, Paris, France, lightweighted bottles reduced plastic consumption by 800 tons in 2008. The company also achieved its goal of sourcing all pulp for its chlorine-free paperboard and corrugated packaging from sustainably managed forests. In some cases, the paperboard also contains 50% recycled content and bottles consist of 100% recycled plastic. A new two-day environmental training course for packaging designers is expected to further improve the environmental profile of its packaging, which accounts for approximately 14% of the company’s carbon footprint. The company also plans workshops with suppliers to foster collaboration on sustainability efforts.

Other 2008 milestones included reductions of 23% in waste (excluding returnable packaging), 25% in water consumption, 17% in energy consumption and 23% in direct carbon emissions.

Mars Petcare US, Franklin, TN, has opened the first sustainable pet food manufacturing facility in the world in Fort Smith. The 305,000-square-foot plant, which produces Cesar Canine Cuisine for dogs, also ranks as the first sustainable manufacturing facility in Arkansas. Water recycling, energy conservation and erosion and light pollution reduction efforts helped earn the building gold-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, DC. In addition to securing LEED certification, the company has expanded petcare plant recycling systems, modified packaging from paper to woven polypropylene and dramatically reduced solid waste. “Just a few of the steps we’ve taken with our Petcare business in the last few years have resulted in the elimination of 4500 tons of packaging per year and 2300 tons of carbon dioxide emissions,” says Kevin Rabinovitch, global sustainability director at Mars, Inc., McLean, VA, parent company of Mars Petcare.

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LCA of beverage containers gives nod to PET

In a lifecycle analysis by Allied Development Corp., Burnsville, MN, for Husky Injection Molding Systems, Bolton, ON, Canada, a 355-milliliter (ml) polyethylene terephthalate (PET) container offers environmental advantages over aluminum cans or glass bottles in North America. The 355ml PET containers emit 314.9 pounds of greenhouse gas per 1,000 units, 250 pounds less than aluminum and 180 pounds less than glass. PET also consumes less energy: 3,225 millijoules (MJ) per 1,000 units versus 3,917 MJ for aluminum and 4,227 MJ for glass.

Husky’s HyPET® Recycled Flake system further improves PET’s environmental profile by optimizing the production of preforms with up to 50% food-grade, post-consumer-recycled flake. Husky also helps brand owners minimize container weight via its EcoBase lightweighted preform design process and HyCAP production system for one-piece, short-skirt closures, which typically weigh 5 to 7 grams less than conventional beverage cap designs.

In addition, Husky’s Manufacturing Advisory Services team helps customers maximize operating efficiency by streamlining processes and lowering energy consumption. In one effort, Husky helped a manufacturer cut energy costs 17% in approximately one year.

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‘Green’ shoppers want recyclable packaging

Recycable packaging ranks as an important feature for virtually any “green” product, according to the Green Revolution report from Grail Research, Cambridge, MA.

The survey also shows nearly all consumers buy some green products. Although green consumers are found in every demographic segment, the most ardent supporters are likely to be older, more educated and more affluent.

Despite the fact that 93% of survey respondents cite “greenness” as at least somewhat important to their purchase decisions, few have noticed green initiatives from brand owners. On average, 85% of consumers are unaware or cannot recall the green initiatives of companies like Hewlett-Packard, San Jose, CA; Estée Lauder, Inc., New York, NY; and Intel Corp., Santa Clara, CA; which are recognized by industry groups as leaders in sustainability initiatives.

Since the survey indicates 63% of consumers rely on product labels as the primary source of information about green companies and their products, more and better on-pack messaging appears to be the most likely antidote to overlooked information about environmental attributes. For more information, visit

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Pasteurizer conserves water

Advanced automation helps Tetra Therm Aseptic Drink pasteurizers from Tetra Pak International SA, Lausanne, Switzerland, cut water requirements up to 80%, energy consumption up to 30% and product losses by nearly one-third.

A new balance tank, heat exchangers and deaerators sharply reduce water and energy consumption as well as product loss. A closed cooling circuit in the deaerator and closed water system for the vacuum pump minimize water requirements, while double hot-water circuits in the tubular heat exchanger improve heat recovery and transfer. Vessel and valve design minimize product losses as does a product return recovery system that pushes product from the return pipe back into the balance tank when it’s time to stop production. An improved mix phase control, in which instrumentation measures product changeover, cuts product losses further. In addition, “… self-diagnostics assure optimal performance at all times,” says Sam Strömerstén, president of Tetra Pak Processing Systems. Other automation features include operator and maintenance alerts if operation deviates outside process parameters or a breakdown is imminent. In addition, to cut the risk of human error and enhance food safety, the Tetra PlantMaster control system provides intelligence functions such as full traceability with unit history, batch control and review of all previous actions.

Applications include juices and nectars, still drinks, tea drinks and enhanced water, including new “wellness” drinks with sensitive ingredients.

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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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