Category Archives: Latest News

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

Study Finds Bioplastic Production More Damaging Than Climate Change

A recent study done by universities in Sweden and Australia, show the biggest risks to our planet are not in climate change as is popular beleif, as the levels of risk are still considered in the zone of uncertainty. Instead the critical risks to our planet are being caused by loss of biosphere integrity (the changes we are making to the land) are causing species extinction over 100 times faster than historical norms. The highest risk factors are found in the pollution not in our air, but in our water and soil from biochemical flows primarily nitrogen and phosphorus which are beyond the risk of uncertainty and have moved into the high risk zone. Fertilization use in farming is 8 times higher and the nitrogen levels entering the ocean has quadrupled. They clearly state that “the direct impact upon the land is the most important factor right now, even more than climate change.”

This brings into question the push for bio-based plastics that utilize farmed products such as corn, sugarcane and other crop based materials for plastic production. Is our drive for plant based plastics pushing our planet to the brink of collapse? What if we require all bio-based plastics to be made only with waste materials and not crops? Perhaps we should focus more on the overall environmental impact of materials rather than jump on the bandwagon with anything called “bio-based”?FREAHWATER

Click here for a copy of the original study: http://ensoplastics.com/download/2015_Steffen_1259855.pdf

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!

Are plastics the most sustainable packaging choice?

Six major categories of plastic packaging significantly reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions compared to packaging made with alternative materials, according to a new study.

Read the full study here.

Compiled by Franklin Associates for the American Chemistry Council and the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, and using 2010 as a baseline year, the data shows replacing plastic packaging with alternative materials would result in a 4.5 times more packaging weight, an 80 percent increase in energy use and 130 percent more global warming potential.

“The benefits hold up across a range of different kinds of applications and materials,” said Keith Christman, managing director of plastics markets for ACC. “Because plastics use so much less material in the first place it results in dramatic greenhouse gas reduction, and that’s just the start. It really adds up across the different types of packaging, to the equivalent of taking more than15 million cars off the road.”

The study pits the six major packaging resins — low density polyethylene, high density PE, polypropylene, PVC, polystyrene, expanded PS, PET — against paper, glass, steel, aluminum, textiles, rubber, and cork. It considers the implications of the materials used in caps and closures, beverage containers, other rigid containers, shopping bags, shrink wrap, and other flexible packaging in a detailed life cycle assessment.

Individual studies on particular products have been done before, Christman said, on products ranging from plastic pouches vs. cans for tuna and EPS vs. paper cups. But the new study, titled Impact of Plastics Packaging on Life Cycle Energy Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the United States and Canada, is comparatively sweeping.

It contains more than 50 tables and 16 charts and illustrations and examines each of the major life cycle stages for packaging: raw material production, packaging fabrication, distribution transport, post-consumer disposal and recycling.

The study also offers a glimpse into the potential unintended consequences of proposed and recently enacted bans on plastic packaging products, Christman said. While a plastic bottle ban might keep bottles out of waterways, the increase in energy use to manufacture, transport and even recycle their glass counterparts would be dramatic, according to the numbers.

“I don’t think that’s what people intend by some of those policies,” Christman said. “But it could happen if policies force people back to alternatives that use more energy and produce more greenhouse gas emissions.”

Read the full study here.

Click here for the original Plastic News article.

By Gayle S. Putrich
Staff Reporter Plastics News

Published: March 14, 2014 12:29 pm ET

Pack Expo’s Trashiest Girl Speaks Out!

Houston, we might be the  problem!

 Pack Expo – Las Vegas, my first major event within the “plastic industry” and it was a very eye-opening experience for me.

I went to this convention in a dress that was made completely out of plastic “trash.” I was very nervous to be in public dressed in what could be construed as a controversial outfit; however, the second I walked into the door I could tell that most people were going to be receptive and accepting of my “statement.”

I thoroughly enjoyed being at Pack Expo. I had a lot of fun walking through the aisles and meeting so many great people. I was often stopped and asked by many of the attendees to just take a picture with me and then was asked why I was wearing this particular outfit. Unfortunately, most people didn’t quite understand what was behind the sentiment of  my plastic dress and they thought I was there to endorse recycling. My colleagues and I were able to take the opportunity to share with so many people that even though we think recycling is great, it’s not enough and that there are more options for being truly sustainable.

Something that I think the plastic industry would be more cognizant of, is recycling and sustainability. However, there weren’t even recycle bins at Pack Expo (well, there was actually only one recycle bin that I saw. There were, however, bins for garbage at practically every corner) This is definitely indicative of the sustainability problem we face. Most of the plastic discarded doesn’t even get recycled, it ends up in landfills. The entire Pack Expo is a reflection of the plastic packaging industry and yet they didn’t even offer a sustainable option for discarding plastic refuse from the show.  Not to mention that on the final day when booths were being torn down, workers were just throwing away huge piles and handfuls of plastics into the garbage.

If we, the “experts” in plastic packaging, don’t come up with solutions for sustainability the problem is only going to get worse. For being an event encompassing the plastic packaging industry, I was very surprised to learn that people in this industry aren’t more concerned with the end of life of their plastic packaging.  I thought for sure that the people in this business would realize that recycling just isn’t enough.

I wore a dress made out of plastic bags and packaging to make a point that represented the many items on my dress would not be recycled; but would ultimately end up in a landfill. What happens to all that plastic when it’s not recycled and gets discarded? Right now, nothing happens; it will stay buried in a landfill for thousands of years. Doesn’t it make sense to think that more should be done?

Unless you’re doing something with your packaging to make it more sustainable; you’re part of the problem!

 

 

 

Plastics Recycling-Where Did We Go Wrong Mentally?

 

Ok before the recycling folks and their allies come Para Trooping into my office and try to seize my computer, I need to get out right away that recycling IS good and should be pursued to every extent possible.  This rant is about how best to accomplish this without essentially putting our heads in the proverbial sand!!!

I came across an interesting article in Waste & Recycling, “Coffee makers wrestle with recyclability of single-serve pods” where it speaks to the challenges with recycling single serve coffee pods made by Keurig which was acquired by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc.  Apparently since 2009, the company Terra Cycle has been able to capture 25 million of similar discarded single-use cups, and has been attempting to make good use of them, but it sounds like it is very difficult to nearly impossible to recycle them.  Also, the article says that, “approximately 13% of the U.S. adult population drinks coffee using these single-use cups.”

So let me get this straight:  Approximately 40 million (13% U.S. Population) of these containers are discarded EACH DAY, and the recycling efforts over a 2 year period to recover these cups has amassed a whopping 25 million?  Of which there has not been any useful value found for these lucky cups?  Am I the only one that sees a problem here?  In 2 years it has taken a noble attempt by Terra Cycle (I have much respect for this organization, awesome innovators!) to get nearly half of ONE days worth of consumption of cups, to then turn around and make a useless pile of cups, all in the name of recycling!!!???  Is there no other way to approach this end of life issue?  Is this the best thing we can do with this issue right now –today?  Why does recycling feel so good for the marketplace?  I repeat; 1/2 days’ worth of material collected over the span of 2 years, with no outlet in sight, yet we turn a blind eye to this complete failure because it is labeled “recycling”…so many questions and comments.

So at this point, I should proclaim the easy answer -after all it is easy to be a critic and to point at what is not happening -or flat out failing.  But I do not propose to have an easy answer or “silver bullet” to cure all, but I do have sense enough to see that we need to quit being so brainwashed into thinking recycling is the silver bullet as well.  It is clearly not working alone in that only 7-9% of all plastics are being recycled.  And lets not forget that a vast % of our recycled plastic WAS going to China, and now may not find a home as China’s “Green Fence” is clearly revealing.  We need to incorporate a multifaceted approach to our waste issues and material resources.

What if these cups were made to biodegrade in a landfill where they most likely belong?  75.8% of all Municipal Solid Waste goes into landfills that capture the biogas created by biodegradation.  There has been unprecedented growth in utilizing Landfill Gas to Energy (LGE) in the U.S. recently as the experts now understand that it is better to promote and capture this alternative source of energy, rather than try and stop nature taking its course and entomb or dry landfill our waste.  The “no smoking” signs on an old landfill turned golf course has to make one nervous and draw some obvious conclusions-we cannot stop nature from taking its course. (:

Lastly, the Utopian Societyists say we need to move to 0% landfills.  I say that this is wrong and absolutely impractical.  We should rather be saying we need to achieve 0% waste.  If composting is considered Organic Recycling (which by the way creates 0% energy and captures LITTLE to no emmissions) then similarly, LGE is a valuable alternative to creating useful end of life values towards 0% waste.  Picture that huge pile of unusable “lucky because they were recycled” coffee cups and tell me I’m wrong.  Can we PLEASE do more than bury our heads in the sand and actually address today and tomorrow and not let “best” practices get in the way of the good we could do NOW?  If the total recycling rate of all plastics is 7-9%, that means roughtly 91-93% of our plastics is going to a landfill where it has no further value.  If they were biodegradable plastics like the kind ENSO Plastics assists brands and manufacturing to create, they would slowly biodegrade and be an excellent feedstock to LGE.  If you are one that thinks that recycling is the only answer, I ask you to shift your mentality and question status quo, question what is popular as “best practices” with our waste and push for a multi-pronged approach to our sustainability.  People are smart if they open their eyes and minds to innovations and bury their head in a more progressive endeavor like answering the question, “What more can we do?  Today?”   

-Del Andrus

 

Firm: Technology spurs degradation of rubber in landfills

Written by: Mike McNulty, Rubber News

AKRON—ENSO Plastics L.L.C. is moving quickly to gain a foothold in the rubber industry with new technology that a company official said accelerates the natural biodegradation of synthetic rubber in landfills.

The producer of biodegradable and biobased products has come out with a new technology, ENSO Restore RL, that issues in a new age for rubber, according to Teresa Clark, vice president of product development for the Mesa, Ariz.-based company.

Restore RL “is a unique material designed not only to attract specific naturally occurring microorganisms, but also to induce rapid microbial acclimatization to synthetic rubbers and resulting biodegradation,” Clark said.

“The method of biodegradation caused is strictly enzymatic and is designed to utilize naturally occurring microorganisms within waste environments, including landfills.”

Its new development opens the door for ENSO to begin servicing the rubber industry, she said. Previously, it primarily served the plastics sector.

Basically, the company has transferred its knowledge of biodegradable plastics to the rubber industry and developed ENSO Restore RL, Clark said. The rubber industry, she noted, has produced little technology regarding environmental remediation until Restore came along.

From plastics to rubber

“We were founded in 2007 to find solutions for plastic waste, and at the time we didn’t have a product,” she said. “We ended up forming a joint venture, and eventually the company came to market with a product for the plastics industry.”

“We’re a young company that’s growing,” said Clark, one of the firm’s founders.

Clark discussed ENSO and the new technology at the International Latex Conference, held July 23-24 in Fairlawn, a suburb of Akron. She also gave a presentation at the meeting, titled “Advancements in Rubber and Latex Disposal—Biodegradation and the Environment.

Restore RL is an additive used during the manufacturing of rubber products “in such a way as to disperse the additive throughout the matrix of the rubber,” she said.

It does not “involve an initial abiotic breakdown as is seen with degradable products in other industries,” according to Clark. “A novel aspect of this material is its inertness to the host rubber resin; it does not contribute directly to any degradation of the rubber, thus leaving the shelf life of the rubber article in¬- tact.”

She said independent laboratory testing shows nitrile treated with Restore biodegrades about 17 percent in the first 20 days compared to nitrile showing no biodegradation during the same time frame.

Similar biodegradation test results were found in polychloroprene, polyurethane and other synthetic materials when treated with the product, the executive said.

According to Clark, the material increases the biodegradation of synthetic rubber within natural microbial and municipal landfill environments.

“Given the unique properties of rubber materials, the overall use of rubber for a large number of applications is constantly on the rise and becoming an ever increasing focus of concern … not only in industrialized countries but also in less developed nations,” she said.

The ENSO executive said testing shows significant increases in the rate of biodegradation in various synthetic rubbers when treated with Restore RL “and with the biodegradation being in anaerobic environments offers a unique waste disposal solution.”

Restore’s purpose is to impact biodegradability without affecting the physical characteristics or the shelf stability of treated rubber products, Clark said, which is in contrast to other methods, including degrading materials through oxygen or UV exposure, which risks the stability of rubber goods.

read the full article

If you would like to learn more or if you missed the presentation at the International Latex Conference join ENSO’s free upcoming webinar titled; “A New Solution for Rubber Waste”.

Looking Beyond the Borders for Plastic Pollution Solutions

Plastics rock!  In a brief moment, if you focus on the role of plastic in our lives, it’s incredible all the applications we use it to our benefit.  Unfortunately, the end-of-life for most plastic is hundreds of years away, if not longer, a fundamental problem.   Over the course of the last few years I’ve had the privilege of playing a role in the Sustainability efforts of numerous producers of plastic.   I’ve heard about their attempts at previous technologies, their struggles of processing and performance, the regulatory quagmire they face, what they’re trying to hang their hat on now and everything under the sun and including the sun.

During this time, I’ve also been privy to some remarkable advancement in technologies and I’m amazed at the innovations that are available today as well as what is on the horizon.  It’s that focus on what tomorrow brings that truly provides a synergistic sustainable solution for a company.  It’s about implementing a solution that understands that plastic, and the issue of plastic waste, is not an island unto itself.  We must look beyond the borders to see the true possibilities, the interaction of multiple elements and cooperative action.  It’s why ENSO applauds the efforts and recent announcement by NatureWorks, for recognizing the possibilities beyond its current technology.   The silver bullet may not exist today, but with concerted efforts, we can move closer and closer to the goal.  The value proposition of methane capturing is far beyond any of its counterparts and it is increasingly being recognized as a more logical and fundamentally sound platform to adopt.

Methane, despite the perceived negative connotations, is one of our most inexpensive and cleanest energy resources.  This naturally produced gas can be used either in combustion engines or for conversion to electricity.  To include the possibility of harnessing methane for plastic production would be a huge game changer.  It is why current technologies such as ENSO RESTORE®, which proves to accelerate the natural biodegradation process in landfill environments, are being sought after.  Many initiatives being touted today are simply incapable of proportionally meeting the increased production rate of plastic.  What may appear to be “green” in theory essentially remains inadequate at meeting the greater objective of a cleaner planet.  It is why ENSO RESTORE® provides a significantly more dynamic solution to stand behind when it comes to adopting technologies that support sustainability goals.  Beyond bans and regulations, the objective is to provide a clear end-of-life solution in any plastic application (PET, HDPE, LDPE, PE, PP, EVA, PS, nitrile, rubber or latex); otherwise, we’re merely offering lip service in addressing the plastic waste in our environment.