Bioplastics, Refillable Containers are Top Stories, Volume 5, Issue 3

Bioplastics, Refillable Containers are Top Stories

Volume 5, Issue 3

In This Issue:

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Market for Bioplastics Continues to Grow

Global bioplastics production capacity is expected to exceed 1 million tonnes in 2011, according to a survey for European Bioplastics, Berlin, Germany (see chart on p. 2). By 2015, the report predicts the market will more than double to 1.7 million tonnes from 700,000 tonnes in 2010.

The market study by the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Hanover (Germany) also notes a change in market composition with bio-based commodity plastics overtaking biodegradable materials, especially for packaging. “Our market study shows that biobased commodity plastics, with a total of around 1 million tonnes, will make up the majority of production capacity in 2015,” reports Professor Dr. (Eng.) Hans-Josef Endres of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Hanover.


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In fact, major brand owners like The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, GA; H.J. Heinz, Pittsburgh, PA; PepsiCo, Purchase, NY; and Procter & Gamble Co., Cincinnati, OH; already are transitioning products to bio-based plastic packaging [see TB Sustainability Times, Spring 2011].

PepsiCo’s container is said to be the first polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle made from 100% plant-based, renewable materials. Pilot production begins in 2012. A combination of biological and chemical processes converts raw materials such as switchgrass, pine bark and corn husks into PET with a molecular structure identical to petroleum-based PET.


In the future, the company expects to broaden the renewable sources used to create the “green” bottle to include orange peels, potato peels, oat hulls and other agricultural byproducts from its foods business. “This breakthrough innovation is a transformational development for PepsiCo and the beverage industry, and a direct result of our commitment to research and development,” says Indra Nooyi, chairman and chief executive officer of PepsiCo. “PepsiCo is in a unique position, as one of the world’s largest food and beverage businesses, to ultimately source agricultural byproducts from our foods business to manufacture a more environmentally preferable bottle for our beverages business – a sustainable business model that we believe brings to life the essence of Performance with Purpose [goals],” she adds.

“By reducing reliance on petroleum-based materials and using its own agricultural scraps as feedstock for new bottles, this advancement should deliver a double win for the environment and PepsiCo,” notes Conrad Mackerron, senior program director of As You Sow, San Francisco, CA, a foundation that promotes corporate social responsibility.

Totally plant-based PET bottles require plant-based ingredients. Plant-based ethylene glycol has been available for some time and accounts for about 30% plant-based content in a finished bottle. Plant-based purified terephthalic acid (PTA) has been problematic, but may soon be more readily available. For example, Virent Energy Systems, Inc. Madison, WI, produces para-xylene, the precursor to PTA, from plant sugars.

The patented catalytic process, now scaled up to a 10,000 gallon-per-year demonstration plant, yields para-xylene identical to that made from petroleum.

A demonstration based on sugar beets was described at BioPlastek 2011, an event presented in June by Schotland Business Research, Skillman, NJ. However, Virent believes feedstocks other than sugar beets could be used. For more information, visit,

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Yogurt Cup Switches to PLA for German Market

Switching from polystyrene (PS) to Ingeo polylactic acid (PLA) from NatureWorks, LLC, Minnetonka, MN, for Activia yogurt sold in Germany by Danone, Paris, France, reduces the product’s packaging carbon footprint 25%. The PLA packaging for four- and eight-packs of 115-gram cups also consumes 43% less fossil resources than the previous PS packaging, according to a life cycle assessment study conducted by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Heidelberg, Germany.

In terms of the aggregate annual environmental benefit, NatureWorks estimates the change will save fossil energy equivalent to the electricity consumed per month by 13,000 German homes, along with greenhouse gas savings equivalent to not driving a vehicle 12 million miles (19 million kilometers).

“NatureWorks worked closely with Danone, not only to supply the material solution, Ingeo, but also to rigorously address questions and provide data around the entire supply chain from field to product,” reports Marc Verbruggen, chief executive officer of NatureWorks. “Now,” he says, “we’re continuing our collaboration to create a new option for recovery of the package after use.”

In addition, NatureWorks and Danone are working to achieve International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) for the new Activia packaging. The seal from ISCC System GmbH, Cologne, Germany, assures that the entire supply chain for the Ingeo raw materials meets rigorous social and environmental criteria.

Danone plans to expand the use of Ingeo-based packaging to the entire Activia product line, including drinks, yogurt fruit puree and larger consumer formats.

In the United States, Stonyfield Farm, Londonderry, NH, switched its multipack yogurt packaging from PS to PLA in 2010 [see TB Sustainability Times, September/October 2010]. For more information, visit,,,

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On-Demand Box-Making Machine Cuts Inventory, Material Consumption

With installation of a Right-sized Packaging on Demand system from Packsize International LLC, Salt Lake City, UT, Big Bad Toy Store (BBTS), Somerset, WI, stocks three sizes of corrugated board instead of 70 different boxes. The machine occupies about 100 square feet of floor space and converts fanfold corrugated into a box optimized for the dimensions of the item(s) being shipped.

Smaller boxes mean less cushioning, more product per truck and lower transportation costs. “By designing a production line around the Packsize machine, we increased…throughput to result in more orders completed with less labor, reduced product damage and cut down on waste significantly,” reports Dan Boblit, co-owner of BBTS. Making boxes on-demand eliminates out-of-stocks and obsolete box inventory. It also reduces storage space requirements and increases efficiency since it eliminates the handling, inventory planning and management and vendor communication associated with stocking so many box sizes. For more information, visit

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Shrink Sleeve Labels Simplify Container Recycling


PETsleeve labels, made by Sleever International, Morangis, France, from TPE-G and –S thermoplastic elastomer films, separate completely from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) containers during the recycling process.

Lighter than PET with a density of less than 1.0, means label material poses no risk of contamination to the recycled PET (rPET), because the PET sinks. The quality of the resulting rPET has been confirmed by Cleanaway UK, now part of Veolia Environnement , Paris, France; Returpack AB, Norrköping, Sweden; and Visy Pty. Ltd., Southbank, Australia.

Printed in up to 10 colors on both sides with solvent-free inks, the PETsleeve can be applied on a steam-shrink Powersteam® or infrared Powerskinner® machine that handles between 15,000 and 30,000 bottles per hour. Early adopters of PETsleeve labels include The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, GA, for the Aquarius energy drink sold in Belgium. For more information, visit

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Governor Signs Expanded Bottle Bill

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber signs law broadening the state’s 40-year-old deposit law. Under House Bill 3145, nearly all glass, metal or plastic beverage containers ranging in size from 4 ounces to 1.5 liters become subject to deposits by 2018, making another 171 million containers eligible for redemption each year. Exceptions include bottles for milk, infant formula, wine or liquor. The law also specifies an increase in the deposit fee from $0.05 to $0.10 per container if redemption rates, currently averaging 75%, fall below 80% two years in a row. The legislation opens the door to continued exploration of off-site redemption centers versus the current in-store collection scheme. Oregon’s deposit law is credited with collecting more than 3 billion containers for recycling since its inception in 1971. For more information, visit

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Competition Collects Millions of Cans, Rewards Schools

Schools in 30 states collected more than 2.3 million aluminum bevcans and earned more than $34,000 in redemption value during the first Great American Can Roundup – School Challenge. The 68,000 pounds of cans collected earned top recycling schools $36,000 in prize money from the contest sponsor, the Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI), Washington, DC, and helped boost the 2010 can recycling rate to 58.1% from 57.5% in 2009.

Competing schools were rated on a per capita basis, comparing the pounds of cans recycled to the number of students participating. With a recycling rate of 29.21 pounds (approximately 1,000 cans per student) – more than double the per capita rate of any other school – Expedition Academy in Green River, WY, was the national winner. Spalding Academy in Spalding, NE, and Cascade High School in Cascade, MT, placed second and third, respectively.

CMI awarded $5,000 to the top school nationally as well as $1,000 to the top recycling school in each state. A total of 56,000 students from 108 schools participated.

The competition began on America Recycles Day, November 15, and ended on Earth Day, April 22. CMI plans to quadruple the number of schools participating in the 2011-2012 challenge. For more information, visit

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Convenience Store Chain Installs Recycling Machines

7-Eleven Handee Marts, Pittsburgh, PA, boosts on-the-go recycling with the installation of Dream Machine Recycling Kiosks at 20 area stores. For all the bottles and cans recycled in a Dream Machine, PepsiCo, Purchase, NY, will support career training, education and job creation for post-9/11 U.S. veterans with disabilities.

The Dream Machine recycling initiative, created by PepsiCo in partnership with Waste Management, Inc., Houston, TX, and Keep America Beautiful, Stamford, CT, is placing thousands of recycling kiosks and bins at public locations across North America. The computerized receptacles include a personal reward system, powered by Greenopolis, which allows consumers to earn points for every bottle or can they recycle in the kiosk. Those points can then be redeemed for local discounts on entertainment, dining and travel by visiting

“By recycling in a Dream Machine, those who shop at 7-Eleven locations can earn rewards and help make a real difference for our planet and in the lives of disabled U.S. veterans,” says Jeremy Cage, senior vice president of Innovation and Insights at PepsiCo and head of the Dream Machine recycling initiative. For more information, visit,

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Retailers Continue Pushing Sustainability

Retailers continue to require suppliers to meet sustainability requirements. Labels on household products sold at Whole Foods Market®, Austin, TX, must carry a complete ingredient list and undergo a third-party audit. Part of a color-coded Eco-Scale Rating System, the third-party audit classifies the household cleaner as red, orange, yellow or green depending on how well its meets Whole Foods’ environmental and sourcing standards.

By Earth Day 2012 all household cleaners sold by Whole Foods must achieve orange, yellow or green ratings. Red-rated products must be reformulated if makers wish to continue selling them to Whole Foods.

“Shoppers have a right to know what’s actually in the products they use to clean their homes,” says Jim Speirs, global vice president of procurement for Whole Foods Market. “We’ve always carefully monitored ingredients. Now, with Eco-Scale, we’re able to help shoppers buy eco-friendly products with confidence and provide safer alternatives for their households and for the planet as a whole.”

Several national cleaning products have already been rated – from liquid laundry detergent and fabric softener to all-purpose, glass and toilet bowl cleaners. For more information, visit

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Surveys Reveal Thinking about Sustainability

In a survey by DuPont, Wilmington, DE, nearly 40% of respondents from consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies and packaging converters identified sustainability as the top challenge facing the packaging industry. This was followed closely by 33% who named cost. Nearly 500 packaging professionals worldwide responded to the open-ended question, citing these two issues twice as often as any other.

More than half (57%) of the respondents say their efforts are focused on reducing packaging weight. “Reducing weight is driven in part by regulations, but also cost savings,” says Bernard Rioux, DuPont Packaging & Industrial Polymers marketing and development manager for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

As CPG companies and packaging converters work to enhance sustainability, consumer demand for “green” products remains strong. The annual ImagePower® Global Green Brands Study by Esty Environmental Partners, Boston, MA/Washington, DC, and WPP plc, Dublin, Ireland, of more than 9,000 people in eight countries reveals that consumers worldwide intend to purchase more environmental products in the auto, energy and technology sectors compared to last year, but fewer green-packaged beverages, grocery and household products. We’re seeing a shift in the ‘In Me, On Me, Around Me’ mentality when it comes to purchasing green products,” says Russ Meyer, chief strategy officer of Landor Associates, San Francisco, CA, a WPP agency. “Consumers have a good understanding of how green choices in personal care, food and household products directly affect their families, and they are now seeing benefits like cost savings that attract them to higher cost items like cars and technology.”

At present, “green” household products and grocery categories have the highest consumer adoption rates in all countries except China, where packaged goods/beverages and personal care top shopping lists and in Brazil, where household products and personal care dominate.

Consistent with last year’s study, more than 60% of consumers globally want to buy from environmentally responsible companies. Respondents in all eight countries surveyed indicate that they are willing to spend more on green products. In developed countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, roughly 20% of those surveyed would spend more than 10% extra on a green product.

Green products are valued even more highly in developing countries. Ninety-five percent of Chinese consumers say they are willing to spend more on a product because it’s green—with 55% of them willing to spend 11% to 30% more. Similarly 29% of Indian consumers and 48% of Brazilians say they are willing to spend 11% to 30% more on green products. “Consumers in developing countries express greater concern over the state of the environment in their countries, which may contribute to their greater willingness to pay more for green products,” says Paul Andrepont , senior vice president of Penn Schoen Berland, Washington, DC, another WPP company. “Consumers in these markets also differ from their developed-nation counterparts in believing that selection, rather than cost, is the greatest barrier to buying green products. Brands that address these consumers’ very real concern – over air pollution in India or deforestation in Brazil – have the ability to position themselves as premium in the market, a possible competitive advantage.”

Packaging continues to be a matter of great concern for U.S. consumers. Seventy-one percent believe companies use too much material in product packaging – though only 34% say they consciously purchase products that use less packaging. Almost half of American consumers feel that packaging that can be recycled is more important than packaging made from recycled or biodegradable materials.

Packaging also plays a critical role in communicating product benefits to U.S. consumers. More than 50% say on-pack information helps them understand how green a product is. Additionally, 40% say that packaging is their primary source for information on environmental issues regarding products.

“Other than price, the two biggest influences on purchase decisions are on-package messaging and prior experience with the product, both of which satisfy the consumer need to understand a benefit beyond ‘saving the world,’” says Annie Longsworth , global sustainability practice leader for WPP’s Cohn & Wolfe, New York, NY. “It’s critical for green brands to communicate the real and tangible benefits of their products in addition to being green, which still feels like luxury to many consumers.”

For the first time since the inception of the ImagePower® Green Brands Study in 2006, the four brands perceived to be the greenest are “born green” companies. The full list includes: Seventh Generation, Burlington, VT; Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas; Tom’s of Maine, Kennebunk, ME; Burt’s Bees (now owned by The Clorox Co., Oakland, CA); Trader Joe’s, Monrovia, CA; The Walt Disney Co., Burbank, CA; S.C. Johnson, Racine, WI; Dove (owned by Unilever, New York, NY) and Apple Computer, Inc., Cupertino, CA. Starbucks, Seattle, WA; and Microsoft Corp., Redmond, WA, tied for 10 th place.

“When we analyzed the approach of the top 10 brands companies, using our Esty Environmental Scorecard™, it was clear that the winners achieve a product-value-information trifecta,” says Amy Longsworth , partner at Esty Environmental Partners. “The top brands offer clear price value through co-benefits: a great innovative product that meets…functional needs plus green attributes that meet…values needs. These companies also tend to have robust life-cycle insight and complete sustainability strategies across their value chains...” For more information, visit,,

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CPG Companies Celebrate Successes, Set New Sustainability Goals

Many consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies have been working on sustainability initiatives for several years. As companies reach goals, new targets are set. Although environmental goals remain, a growing number of initiatives seek to practice a higher level of social responsibility. Notable achievements include:

  • Frito-Lay’s 21-year-old, 340,000-square-foot facility in Modesto, CA, becomes the first existing food manufacturing site in the state to achieve LEED® Gold status from the U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, DC. Aided by solar power, the facility has reduced electricity, natural gas and water consumption. More than 98% of the Modesto facility’s solid waste is diverted from landfills. Frito-Lay North America, which is part of PepsiCo, Purchase, NY, now has eight certified LEED® Gold existing buildings across the country including manufacturing sites in Casa Grande, AZ; Topeka, KS; Perry, GA; Beloit, WI; Jonesboro, AR; Killingly, CT; and its Plano, TX-based headquarters. “Frito-Lay’s certification shows tremendous leadership in greening an existing building, which makes up the vast majority of the U.S. building stock,” says Rick Fedrizzi, president, chief executive officer and founding chair, U.S. Green Building Council. For more information, visit
  • Hormel Foods Corp., Austin, MN, achieves its water use goal one year early by reducing consumption by 30 million gallons since 2009. It also cut landfilled waste and energy use. It too has a LEED Gold-certified plant: its Progressive Processing LLC production facility in Dubuque, IA. A member of the Dow Jones Sustainability and Maplecroft Climate Innovation Indexes, Hormel was named to the Global 1000 Sustainable Performance Leaders list by Forbes in 2010. For more information, visit

  • Since setting its first environmental improvement goals in 1994, Kimberly-Clark Corp. (K-C), Dallas, TX, has updated its targets every five years. Under the framework of People, Planet and Products, Sustainability 2015 goals move beyond environmental concerns to greater emphasis on social responsibility. In fact, K-C not only adheres to social standards, but also expects compliance from its contract manufacturers and top-tier suppliers. Product-related goals include 25% of 2015 net sales from environmentally innovative products and a 20% reduction in the environmental impact of packaging. For more information, visit

  • After achieving double-digit decreases between 2005 and 2010, Kraft Foods, Northfield, IL, moves forward with new goals involving energy, carbon dioxide, water, waste and packaging. Manufacturing-related targets include a 15% reduction in energy use, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, water consumption and waste versus 2010 levels. Kraft also plans to cut 50 million miles (80 million km) from its transportation network. In addition, “We’re learning, improving and looking beyond our four walls for opportunities,” says Steve Yucknut, vice president, Sustainability. For example, Kraft’s European coffee brands intend to achieve 100% sustainable sourcing for coffee and certify efforts via groups like Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International and 4C Association, both of Bonn, Germany, and the Rainforest Alliance, New York, NY. “Our consumers and customers care about the benefits that certification delivers,” says Hubert Weber, president, Coffee, Kraft Foods Europe. “That’s good for business,” he concludes. For more information, visit

  • Noting that it takes 345 million pounds (the equivalent of 734 jumbo jets) of paperboard to make a year’s supply of cereal boxes, Malt-O-Meal, Northfield, MN, launches a “Bag the Box” campaign. A website and blog advocates going carton-less, something it did several years ago when it began putting its cereal in resealable bags. In addition to promoting flexible packaging, the campaign provides a platform for fan-created videos and ideas about sustainable packaging and green initiatives. Eliminating cereal boxes has saved Malt-O-Meal 1.1 trillion British thermal units of energy since 2001– enough to light 10 100-watt bulbs for 36,000 years.

    Malt-O-Meal’s sustainable practices extend beyond packaging. Conservation efforts related to wastewater at its plant in Northfield have earned the company the Industrial Environmental Achievement Award from the Central States Water Environment Association, Crystal Lake, IL. A unique system collects unusable liquid food materials for use as animal feed or soil additives and results in cleaner wastewater and lower wastewater emissions. In addition, between 1996 and 2009, Malt-O-Meal reduced the amount of water and energy used at this cereal production plant by 35% and 9%, respectively. For more information, visit,

  • The Coca-Cola Foundation, the philanthropic arm of The Coca-Cola Co. Atlanta, GA, awards sustainability-supporting grants totaling $27 million to 65 organizations worldwide. Awards include $12 million for water stewardship projects, $1.2 million for fitness and nutrition programs, $1.6 million for community recycling programs; $6.8 million for educational initiatives and approximately, $5.2 million to support additional local priorities, such as youth development and HIV/AIDS in Africa. The Foundation also donated $550,000 to five organizations assisting with disaster relief efforts in tornado-affected areas in the United States. For more information, visit

  • Sustainability efforts at Sunny Delight Beverages Co., Cincinnati, OH, center on reducing the company’s environmental footprint, improving the wholesomeness of its products, delivering balanced growth and enhancing the wellness of the company’s employees and the communities in which they live, work and play. Achievements include elimination of landfill-destined waste at every plant, the introduction of a square 1-gallon QUAD bottle that fits more product per shelf or truck and a 10 million pound reduction in plastic and packaging consumption. In addition, the company minimizes its carbon footprint by shipping more than 90% of its volume in full truckloads. Other efforts include a reduction in the average calories per serving from 92 in 2007 to 57.6 in 2010, donating 300,000 books (worth $2.3 million) to school libraries and contributing nearly $1 million in product and cash. For more information, visit

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Software Helps Compare Packaging Options

PackageSmart™ life cycle assessment software from EarthShift, Huntington, VT, helps packaging engineers and designers evaluate the environmental impacts of packaging choices. The tool allows users to import their own Life Cycle Inventory and Life Cycle Impact Assessment Method data, permits simultaneous comparison of different options, accepts custom end-of-life recycling rates for individual materials and models metrics for Walmart or Global Packaging Project requirements. EarthShift offers a free two-week trial. For more information, visit

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