Category Archives: Plastic news

By 2050, it’s estimated there will be more plastic waste in the ocean [by weight] than fish. Perhaps, we should start listening to Mr. Fish.

At the 2017 Waste Management Executive Sustainability Forum a message was delivered by Mr. Jim Fish, CEO of Waste Management (WM), echoing his predecessor, Mr. David Steiner.   “The goal is to maximize resource value while minimizing and even eliminating environmental impact, so both our economy and our environment can thrive.”  In 2016 Mr. Steiner told the National Recycling Conference in New Orleans that coupling landfill gas-to-energy with recycling would provide the “biggest bang for the buck environmentally.”   Mr. Fish concurs, specifically points out that WM’s day-to-day operational technology continues to evolve and it will play an even larger role moving forward, both on the collection and disposal sides of WM’s business.   And as Mr. Steiner indicated last year, what’s most exciting to Mr. Fish continues to be what’s happening with the materials that cannot be recycled or composted.   “Today, environmentally safe landfills play an important role for materials that don’t have viable end markets.” Why is this?   Because today’s modern landfills continue to clear all the hurdles, they work, they’re scalable, they’re economical and there are policies and regulations in place to support and encourage the developments of next generation alternatives in this space.   In short, these facilities are pumping-out clean, inexpensive, renewable energy like no other option!

This is where achieving true Circularity comes into play and it’s what most technologies are striving for when it comes to last/best option in handling waste – Energy Recovery. WM spends a great deal of time and expense exploring best possible options. However, one of the major pillars of WM’s strategy is adhering to the price discipline that is Mr. Steiner’s legacy. “In a business where there is no price elasticity in demand, we must stay dedicated to that discipline” and with the current low energy prices, “nothing can compete with the low landfill pricing.” According to Mr. Fish, other options have cost-structures that are at least 3-10 times the cost of landfill air space.

WM remains dedicated to a “sustainable” recycling business. As they should, not only are they the biggest landfill company in North America, they’re also North America’s biggest recycler – by an even wider margin.   In fact, it’s one of WM highest returns on invested capital, a business they want to ensure survives and thrives in the future. But Mr. Fish points out that we are in unchartered waters, the changes in products and packaging that are coming into our homes are significantly different and so are the recyclables going out, considerably increasing contamination rates and reducing value. This has led WM to take a hard look at what recycling means in term of environmental benefits.

When it comes to packaging, Mr. Fish wants us to realize that we’re an “on-the-go” society. This is translating into copious amounts of plastic packaging, much of which simply cannot be recycled.   This “convenience rules” trend is going to continue, causing tension between the desire to ‘recycle it all’ and the limitations of equipment, human behavior and the customer’s tolerance for cost.   With a 6-7% growth in non-recyclable flexible packaging, a 15% growth in E-Commerce and a recycling stream that’s 30% lighter than it used to be, Mr. Fish recommends evaluating the objectives to make sure we’re targeting that which achieves the greatest return value.   He explains, “Environmental benefits of recycling look very different when approached from a greenhouse gas emission reduction perspective versus simply looking at how many pounds or kilograms of material are averted from landfills.” So this got Mr. Fish and the rest of WM thinking, “What‘s the right goal? Is it to keep chasing that last ton to recycle or is it to achieve the highest possible environmental benefit? For years, recycle tons has been the goal and in response to high recycling goals, we’ve seen some creative efforts to achieve these goals. Even when the environmental impacts might be questionable and the economics just made no sense. We now believe that recycling should not be the goal in and of itself, we need to be a lot more specific to ensure that we are achieving the environmental benefits we want to and think we can.”

Mr. Fish goes on to explain that when it comes to the management of organic waste (including packaging) the first priority is in trying to reduce the amount of material from making it this far down the value chain – of course.  However, when this waste is collected for recovery (including non-recycled plastics, even the ones that say “recycla-bull”) it becomes feedstock for a process and a new product, either compost or an energy product.   Anything not designed to comply with either option reduces the quality of this feedstock driving-up cost and threatening the entire process.

To achieve real success, Mr. Fish emphasizes the need to be actively engaged in the entire value chain of material and suggests that we make-up our minds about packaging when talking about organic waste. “Do we love it for preserving food or do we loath it for making waste? Should we ban it, tax it, recycle it, compost it, burn it or landfill it? What are the comparative environmental benefits and the costs?”

Mr. Fish went on to highlight the importance of managing food waste. The main objective here is to reduce food waste and fortunately plastic packaging plays a critical role in preserving our food. Plastic packaging is not food and it should not be expected to perform like food, which would defeat the purpose. Nor should this material be comingled with food waste disposal, elevating the risk of more waste-stream contamination. Besides, industrial composting standards (ASTM D6400) require 90% conversion to gas in 180 days, leaving no nutrient value and losing any ability to capture the gas. In my opinion, compostable standards for packaging, although well-intentioned, simply overshoot any return value.   To jeopardize the entire supply chain with inadequate product performance and stability for the least common means of disposal doesn’t make much sense to me. Instead, more focus should be on the primary means of disposal (anaerobic) and the proven asset that this environment offers, the recovery of clean renewable energy.

Nonetheless, Mr. Fish emphasized that we can attack both sides of this problem. “We are in the midst of rapid change, changing demographics, changing consumer behavior, change in purchasing habits and packaging innovations, all of which are having huge impacts on recycling and the waste industry. Our response needs to be sophisticated and strategic… And as we tackle sometimes competing needs, all of us, producers, retailers, regulators and others, must use data to make the right environmental and economic decisions… We have the data, let’s put it to use!”

The data provides a clear pathway to achieving our environmental goals. Packaging should have the highest value and minimize environmental impacts in its most common discard method– without compromising the package quality. For the vast majority of packaging this does not equate to recycling, instead the environmental and economical winner is conversion to energy in modern, environmentally safe landfills. This shift in creating science and data driven solutions, rather than basing actions on perception or environmental folklore, is vital in reaching WM’s goal to process this material to its highest worth, maximizing the resource value and eliminate the environmental impacts of packaging in a way that’s both good for the economy and our planet.  Although this message seemed to completely elude the panel of experts that followed, discussing the conundrums of complex packaging, I hope others will begin to take Mr. Fish’s advice before we’re all swimming in it.

Orange County is packing power in Landfill Gas-to-Energy

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Do it for the OC! Can you imagine the concentration of plastic packaging that’s accumulated in Orange County alone?   Beyond standard recycling, did you know that Orange County has installed four Landfill Gas-to-Energy facilities? The most recent $60 million dollar investment will power 18,500 homes. Altogether, the four facilities will produce 400,000 megawatts of electricity per year, enough to power more than 50,000 homes. These projects are turning our waste into clean energy all over the country and right now they’re the single-most common disposal environment of plastic waste. Ensuring energy recovery in packaging design offers the greatest value in full-scale recycling. Get it out of the environment and into the grid, make today’s waste, tomorrow’s energy!  Design for disposal.

The Top 10 and Not a 1?

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This diagram represents the top ten producers of plastic packaging. The vast majority of the plastic applications that are produced by these brands become waste. All the film packaging, pouches, diapers, detergents, hygiene products, wrappers, coffee bags, food containers and much more, that’s produced by these 10 companies accounts for an astonishing amount of the plastic waste that is certainly not being reused or recycled in any meaningful way.

We hear a lot that environmental pollution is a consumer problem. We get told how to prepare our waste for recycling. “Put this here and put that there. No! Not that, this. Well, sometimes that, but probably not. Maybe, use water and wash it out. No wait – water..? Take it here or actually take it someplace over there.  Otherwise, it may need to be shipped somewhere..?”  And when you stop to take a look at the results of all this effort, you’re left wondering, are you kidding me, is all this even environmental? Enough already!

News Flash: In the last 50 years, we’ve invested heavily in how we manage waste and the infrastructures we utilize. They’re very impressive works of innovation and they’re regulated for environmental efficiency at the highest level. In fact, today 85% of all U.S. municipal solid waste ends-up in an environment that converts biogas into clean energy, generating a valuable alternative resource for our growing energy needs. Some of these companies are actually using the same means to power their own manufacturing facilities! Yet, accountability for this aspect in packaging design is scarce. How is this being overlooked?

We’re now dealing with decades of plastic waste that’s been left in our environment; we see the devastating repercussions and the projected damage it will cause. Plastic production has surged to 311 million tons and is expected to double in 20 years. Currently, plastic packaging accounts for nearly a third of the total volume of plastics used, and unlikely to be recycled. By ignoring the single most common disposal method of this material, valuable energy is being wasted and continues to compound the environmental problem.

If these 10 companies took one simple step to ensure packaging design for disposal compliance, the impact would provide tremendous and measurable value, for company and community. Getting plastics out of our environment and into the grid falls on the shoulders of producers not consumers.

Ensuring energy recovery should be paramount in packaging design, it’s the only opportunity to recoup value and it should be the top consideration in packaging sustainability initiatives. It’s the missing link to creating circularity; it’s recycling at its highest peak. With an immediate 85% capture rate at the fingertips of corporate sustainability leaders, what are you waiting for?

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition – Not so sustainable

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) claims to take a material neutral, lifecycle oriented approach to packaging sustainability with a goal of enabling and encouraging a more sustainable economy for all materials. However, their recent opinion publication against enhancing the biodegradability of plastics is detrimental to the sustainable management of plastics after use. They also claim to have evaluated the use of additives that accelerate the biodegradation of plastics. However, their conclusions and information make it apparent that the only “evaluation” that was conducted was input from organizations that have a competitive interest to these technologies and will directly benefit from the falsities presented. The study was elementary at best and does not include the critical information to accurately evaluate the impact of a material or technology. The position of the SPC lacks credibility, accuracy and directly promotes misinformation to an industry already confused by green-washing and clever marketing.

Sustainability will only be achieved by evaluating the facts, educating the industry and making changes that are effective in real world situations. Unfortunately, many of the “trendy” ideas regarding sustainability are more environmentally damaging than our current methods and materials. This is exacerbated by organizations that promote themselves as sustainability experts and spread misinformation to promote a specific agenda. Often these ideas have a “feel good” aspect, so it is simple to sway opinion. Sustainability however is not achieved by following emotional response or by doing what seems to be right. Sustainability decisions must be based on facts, results and the current infrastructure.

Here is a factual look at the opinions presented by the SPC: Get the Facts

ENSO aims to manage rubber waste with Restore RL

By Mike McNulty

FAIRLAWN, Ohio—Some might call it a pipe dream. Teresa Clark scoffs at the naysayers.

The vice president of product development at Enso Plastics L.L.C. continues to preach about the benefits of technologies that accelerate the natural bio-remediation of materials, including rubber, in the waste environment.

Speaking at the International Latex Conference, held in Fairlawn, she stressed that “rubber items are a critical part of modern society, and a focus on the waste management of rubber is becoming more critical.”

In a paper she presented at the conference, titled “Enhancing the Biodegradation of Waste Rubber,” Clark said advancements have been made in recycling rubber goods, “but a vast majority of rubber products are discarded into landfills and in the environment.”

Two years ago she gave a presentation at the latex conference and unveiled Enso’s new technology, Enso Restore RL, which she said is a unique material designed to attract specific naturally occurring microorganisms and “induce rapid microbial acclimatization to synthetic rubbers and resulting biodegradation.”

Enso primarily served the plastics industry until it came up with Restore RL, which was in the development stage when she initially discussed it at the 2013 conference.

That’s changed, she said. Restore RL is being commercialized and advances have been made. “We expanded from just synthetics, such as nitrile, to rubber-based adhesives, natural rubber, gloves of all kinds and numerous other applications.”

Clark also said Enso is researching the use of the firm’s material on tires.

Basically, Restore RL is an additive used during the manufacturing of rubber products. It’s dispersed throughout the matrix of the rubber.

“A novel aspect of this material,” she said, “is its inertness to the host rubber resin; it does not contribute to any degradation of the rubber, thus leaving the shelf life of the rubber article intact.”

Clark noted that the material increases the biodegradation of rubber within natural microbial and municipal landfill environments.

A prime difference in the paper she presented at the conference this year and her presentation in 2013 is that this time around she stressed why it is important. Two years ago, she primarily discussed the technical aspects of Restore RL.

She maintained in her most recent presentation that “there is significant benefit to adjusting our waste management strategy for rubber to include biodegradation within landfills.

“By utilizing technologies such as Enso Restore to achieve controlled biodegradation, it is possible to implement biomimicry and achieve zero waste through full biodegradation.

“This complete biodegradation integrates in the natural carbon cycle while also creating clean energy to offset fossil fuel use.”

Clark said that because landfill gas is generated continuously, it provides a reliable fuel for a range of energy applications, including power generation and direct use. “Landfill gas is one of the few renewable energy resources that, when used, actually removes pollution from the air.”

Using the gas is cost-effective, she said, and generates economic opportunities.

The bottom line, she said, is to eliminate toxic waste.

Read the original article here: http://www.rubbernews.com/article/20150930/NEWS/309219980/enso-aims-to-manage-rubber-waste-with-restore-rl

Compostable Plastics Banned from Composting Facilities

Portland has announced a major change to their community compost system – as of March 1, 2015 they will no longer be accepting compostable plastics such as forks, spoons and cups. In fact, any food scrap loads with more than trivial amounts of compostable plastics will be diverted to the landfill. This also means that compostable plastics should not be marketed as compostable in Portland because they are not allowed in the system.

This decision comes as a surprise to many restaurants who have diligently converted to compostable plastics trying to “go green”. Unfortunately, what they were not told when they were sold on the “compostable plastic” was there is many different plastics that will compost, some provide value while others do not.  There are natural plastics such as starch and ENSO RENEW that are virtually identical to food waste. There are other synthetic plastics that will compost, such as PLA, that are not similar to food waste (and will not biodegrade in your back yard either). These second types of compostable plastics add absolutely no value to the compost system. Current ASTM D6400 requirements for compostable plastics require that the plastic convert 90% to CO2 within 120 days. These requirements are also built for commercial compost systems that operate at extremely high temperatures – much higher than most compost piles ever reach (why? because PLA requires the high heat to break down). The result? You end up with plastics that turn into greenhouse gas or don’t break down at all in the compost system. Either way, there is no value or benefit left in the soil.

Contrary to popular belief, these synthetic compostable plastics are not the same as plant matter in the compost. Plant matter degrades slowly over time and results in carbon retention in the soil as well as minerals and nutrients (together all of this known as humus). The value of composting is to create nutrient rich top soil – not to convert everything into air or to leave plastic fragments in our soil.

As we move toward more natural compostable materials such as ENSO RENEW, perhaps it will help Portland to reconsider accepting plastics in the compost system.

Read the full article

Court Rules On Landfill Biodegradable Claims

The judgment was a huge win for companies looking to address the plastics they produce that will end up in a landfill, including the support of marketing such biodegradable materials. The judge stood by the science of the matter and recognized legitimate testing. He also recognized the variations that are inherent in any natural process. The complete report is very interesting, so if you need some evening reading take a look at the entire 300 pages. Complete Report

In the meantime, here is a synopsis of the court findings:

  1. Biodegradability is an inherent feature of a material, much like color or IV, the environmental conditions will affect the rate of biodegradation – but it does not change whether the material is biodegradable. Basically, it either is or it isn’t.
  2. Biodegradation is the degradation of a material through the action of naturally occurring living organisms – there is no time frame limitation as the biodegradation time frame is dependent of the environment. This would imply that any material requiring an initial mechanical degradation prior to biodegradation would not be inherently biodegradable.
  3. The only testing valid for landfill biodegradable is anaerobic testing that uses gas production as the measurement for biodegradation (ASTM D5511, ASTM D5526 and Biochemical Methane Potential Testing would all apply). Weight loss is not valid for biodegradation testing. Aerobic testing is not valid for landfill biodegradation validation.
  4. The FTC surveys that concluded consumers believe biodegradable material will go away in less than a year was thrown out as invalid. Instead it was shown that a majority of consumers understand that the rate of biodegradation is dependent on the material and the environment. Hence the one year restriction the FTC has placed would not be scientifically or socially sound.
  5. Biodegradation of additive containing plastics can and does produce biodegradable materials.
  6. It is not appropriate to place a time frame for complete biodegradation as it is dependent upon conditions.
  7. A material need not be tested to complete biodegradation to be considered biodegradable, however the percent of biodegradation validated in the test must be statistically significant and well beyond any additive percentage. (also the background gas production from the inoculum must be accounted for and subtracted from the results).

It is wonderful to see a judge astute enough to recognize the facts and stick with the science regardless of industry pressures and misconceptions!

Plastics News: Auditor recommends changes to California container recycling program

By Jim Johnson
Senior Staff Reporter

Published: November 12, 2014 5:02 pm ET
Updated: November 12, 2014 5:14 pm ET

California’s beverage container recycling program, at nearly 30 years old, is broken.

With cost overruns of $100 million in three of the last four years, one key problem is paying out refunds for beverage containers that were actually purchased out-of-state and never subject to California’s deposit system, according to a new report from the California State Auditor.

Last fiscal year’s cost overrun at the program overseen by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery was nearly $29 million, the report states.

“CalRecycle needs to better respond to the fraud risk presented by the importation of out-of-state beverage containers for recycling refund payments,” warns a summary of the report issued by the auditor’s office.

California has never expected every single one of the containers subject to the deposit law would actually be recycled. And it’s that difference in what is paid by consumers and what is actually refunded that has historically covered operational costs of the program.

A break-even point for the program is a 75-percent recycling rate, but CalRecycle reported a recycling rate of 85 percent in 2013, the auditor’s report states.

“Based on that recycling rate, the revenue collected from beverage distributors is no longer adequate to cover recycling refund payments and other mandated spending,” the summary states.

While the problem is now years in the making, the program has been able to stay solvent thanks to what the auditor calls “significant loan repayments, primarily from the State’s General Fund.”

The state General Fund and Air Pollution Control Fund, at the end of the 2009-10 fiscal year, owed the beverage container program $497 million. But repayments in recent years have brought that balance down to $82 million.

These loan repayments have allowed the beverage container program to continue operating, but have also masked the program’s cash flow problems, the auditor reported. “Based on the recent financial condition of the beverage program … immediate action is needed to ensure the continued viability of the beverage program,” the auditor warns.

Solutions include reducing or eliminating subsidies to beverage makers, “requiring them to pay the full cost of processing fees” paid to recycling centers and other entities, the report states.

The state currently subsidizes more than half of thee processing fees, and eliminating that subsidy would add $60 million to $80 million.

Another way to raise revenue for the program that started in 1986 could be the elimination of a 1.5 percent administrative fee that beverage distributors are allowed to retain. This could add another $18 million to the coffers, the auditor’s report states.

In total, the audit report has identified potential savings and additional revenue of up to $233 million annually for the program.

CalRecycle Director Caroll Mortensen, in a letter to the auditor, said the agency “generally agrees” with recommendations regarding recycling program fraud detailed in the report “and will strive to implement them over time.”

Read the original post here: http://www.plasticsnews.com/article/20141112/NEWS/141119970/auditor-recommends-changes-to-california-container-recycling-program

Comment by Danny Clark:

While ENSO supports recycling efforts and recycling (when done correctly) is a key part of an overall sustainability mission it begs the question why are recyclers in other states able to run a successful recycling business but in California the recyclers can’t? Maybe its time to eliminate the subsidies to recyclers in California and put that money towards a better use?

microbes,

Fungus Discovered in Rainforest Capable Of Eating Plastic Pollution

One of the biggest problems facing the earth, plastic pollution, could soon meet its match if students at Yale University are able to breed a recently discovered plastic-eating fungus on a large scale.

Plastic pollution, exemplified by the giant floating island of trash the size of Texas in the Pacific ocean, is highly detrimental to the world’s ecosystem because it breaks down extremely slow. In fact, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, plastic doesn’t actually biodegrade:

“Plastics do not biodegrade, although, under the influence of solar UV radiations, plastics do degrade and fragment into small particles, termed microplastics.”

This presents humans with a challenge that must soon be met, considering much of our plastic trash ends up in the ocean where it breaks down into toxic microplastics, winding up in sea life. Not only is this dangerous to the sea life, but it’s also dangerous to people because we end up consuming these very fish which we are poisoning with our trash.

Many groups and organizations have been formed to clean up plastic that ends up washing ashore on our beaches, but the vast majority of plastic pollution ends up in the ocean. The planet has a growing addiction to cheap and industrious plastic, increasing in use exponentially every year with no end in sight.

This is why the discovery of plastic-eating fungus is so exciting. According to Inhabitat,

On an expedition to the rainforest of Ecuador, students from Yale’s Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry discovered a previously unknown fungus that has a healthy appetite for polyurethane. According to Fast Company, the fungus is the first one that is known to survive on polyurethane alone, and it can do so in an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment, which suggests that it could be used at the bottom of landfills.

The discovery was published in the scientific journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Researchers were also able to isolate the enzyme responsible for decomposing the plastic.

It isn’t exactly clear how this fungus will be implemented in bioremediation, but one can picture floating plastic islands covered in mushrooms which will eat the entire trash pile then sink into the ocean.

It’s also important to wean ourselves away from petroleum based plastics because they require many resources just to manufacture, and pollution doesn’t start or end with the trash in the gutter. Many other sustainable options are available which could used instead, like hemp based or other plant based plastics.

Original article by Nick Bernabe on 28 August, 2014 at 02:20 http://themindunleashed.org/2014/08/fungus-discovered-rainforest-capable-eating-plastic-pollution.html

If you’re business isn’t thinking GREEN it will soon be!

Are you thinking green? Worried that it will “hurt” your bottom line?

If you’re in the plastics business you might want to think about putting the idea in your business model. Attached is an interesting reprint of a talk that you should read… and start thinking about how your business might PROFIT from “Going GREEN.”

Get green before it gets you, speaker advises

By Mike Verespej
CHICAGO (Nov. 20, 1:50 p.m. ET) — When it comes to doing something with sustainability and climate change, “No is not an option.”

That was the message that keynote speaker Andrew Winston, founder of Winston Eco-Strategies in Riverside, Conn., delivered at Sustain 08 in Chicago.

“It is not just an add-on to your job. It is your job,” said Winston, who urged plastics industry executives to make green thinking and sustainability a core part of their strategy instead of thinking of them as just costs.

“Apply a green lens to your business. This is happening. This is real. It is time to start moving,” he said.

The Nov. 5-7 conference was organized jointly by Plastics News and the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.

“You have to be the brain trust on this,” he said. “You dont want someone else to do it for you. You need to be the solution and help your customers find ways to change their carbon footprint up and down the value chain. You have to compete or you will fall behind.”

Winston told attendees to think broadly and creatively about sustainability and climate-change issues. Companies should heed the new drivers in the marketplace and changing attitudes among customers and communities, he said.

“Governments are now regulating things down to the chemical level,” said Winston, pointing to European Union regulations;, state take-back laws and bans in the United States; the Western Climate Initiative; and the growing debate on cap-and-trade programs for carbon emissions.

There is no federal action so far on climate change, but that is likely to change after President-elect Barack Obama takes office. In a taped message to a bipartisan conference on climate change Nov. 18, Obama said, “Few challenges facing America and the world are more urgent than combating climate change. Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all.”

In addition, retailers are forcing changes, Winston said.

He noted that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. now wants a “sustainability footprint” for every product it sells and is setting standards, such as how much lead toys can contain, that are “stricter than the federal government.”

“Compliance now is compliance with your customer,” he said, pointing out how Wal-Mart told detergent makers to eliminate water from their products destined for its stores and to sell concentrates — a standard that reduced the amount of resin in such containers by 95 million pounds annually and the water in those detergents by 450 million gallons.

In addition, he said, consumers are deselecting products with a perceived, even if unproven, risk to health or the environment. For example, Winston predicts the plastic bag “will be gone globally in its present form” in 10 years.

“Feelings are facts,” Winston stressed. “It may be easier to design something out than to argue with [consumers]. You should not seek out applications where the [consumer] use is about two minutes.”

He noted there are other, more valuable opportunities that can be found to replace revenue from plastic bags.

“Instead of fighting losing battles, plastics companies should be asking themselves, What can we do to reduce the carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions globally, ” said Winston. To do that well, they need to look at more than just their own products and manufacturing operations to the full value chain.

“You need to look downstream to your customers and upstream to your suppliers” to determine where the biggest impact can occur, said Winston. “You dont want to make the wrong investments” and spend money in one area when dollars spent elsewhere can have a greater effect.

It also means thinking creatively, he said.

For example:

* Procter & Gamble Co. determined that developing a cold-water detergent would have the biggest impact on the carbon footprint of its laundry products, so it developed Tide Coldwater.

* UPS developed delivery routes for its drivers that eliminated left turns, reducing wasteful idling and cutting fuel use by 3 million gallons annually.

* Wal-Mart cut energy use in the dairy sections of its stores by 70 percent by putting doors on its refrigerated aisles. It also is using a redesigned, square plastic milk container at some of its Sams Club stores. The container needs only half the storage space used previously, eliminates crates and cuts transportation costs by using 60 percent fewer trucks.

“You have to learn how to make products using a lot less stuff,” Winston said, noting global competition for limited resources. China is building the equivalent of 30 midtown Manhattans each year, he said, and 30 people in India move to cities each minute, creating the equivalent of 400-500 new cities in India annually.

“The challenge for us is to provide solutions,” he said. “Five years ago, the companies leading the sustainability charge were not U.S. companies. They were in Europe because they have a much more strict regulatory environment in the European Union. They are much more aggressive about the precautionary principle and ahead of us in managing waste.”

But the payoff can be the difference between making and losing money, as well as marketplace survival. A case in point: the money DuPont Co. saved from waste reduction and keeping energy costs flat from 2003-07 equaled its net profit in that time frame, said Winston.