Category Archives: Testing and Data

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.

Something might be missing in that sustainable packaging playbook.

As we embark on 2017 a number of companies have rolled-out their packaging sustainability initiatives. I have to wonder, what the heck are some of them doing?  Last I checked the major problem is still the environmental impact that plastic waste is having on our planet – right?  I assume so, considering the latest projections estimate more plastic waste in the oceans (by weight) than fish by 2050. Which is plausible since production is through the roof and expected to double in the next 20 years, while we continue to struggle with dismal recovery rates and an antiquated view of recycling.

You might have also noticed an increase in the demand for clean, renewable energy.  With the world needing to greatly increase energy supply in the future, especially cleanly-generated electricity, this has become a top prioritySo, with that being said, how is it that the major producers of single-use plastic packaging seem to be unable to truly define the most common means of disposal and the value that can be achieved by simply complying with this fact?  Instead, they continue to irrationally demonize an asset that sits right under their proverbial noses.

Let’s try this exercise together. Let’s say you’re one of the giant producers of plastic packaging (Unilever, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Nestle, Pepsico, Kraft) and I were to ask you, what’s the most common disposal method of the plastic packaging you produce?  The collective and honest answer, albeit extremely basic, is a landfill. However, before panic sets in over this fact, let’s take a moment to define this a little more accurately.  Because today, 85% of all municipal solid waste in the U.S. actually ends-up in well-managed and heavily regulated anaerobic environment that controls and converts biogas into clean renewable energy. This is a fact and these facilities are generating power for communities and businesses, providing heat for homes and fuel for vehicles.

Can we stop pretending that this is a mystery? Recognize the innovations around how we manage waste and see what’s happening today. GM harnesses landfill-gas-to-energy for its 2.08-million square-foot facility reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 5,000 tons a year!  Tammy Giroux, manager of government relations for GM said, “(It’s) good for the environment, good for business and good for the community.” Waste Management’s landfill-gas-to-energy facilities power the equivalent of 470,000 households, offsetting 2.5 million tons of coal and 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. At the 2016 Resource Recycling Conference in New Orleans, David Steiner (former CEO of Waste Management) specified, “When you combine state-of-the-art landfill gas-to-energy systems with best-in-class recycling…That’s where you get the biggest bang for the buck environmentally.”  So why aren’t these major producers of single-cycle packaging including energy recovery as part of the overall “recycling” efforts and ensuring performance compliance with this asset?

Please don’t tell me that the molecules that make-up my bag of chips are far too valuable to waste and that it would make more sense to collect, sort and process this material into a worthless commodity rather than ensuring its removed from the environment and converted into energy.  Or worse, jeopardize both product stability and performance (including the ability to recycle) to achieve performance compliance with the least common disposal method that offers no end-of-life value.

According to the Environmental Research and Education Foundation (EREF), consumers are generating 6 lbs. of waste per day. It would take heavy-handed regulations and stiff government subsidies to program consumers into becoming hyper-vigilant garbage sorters.  For the foreseeable future, the political atmosphere does not appear to be conducive for such tactics.  We need to be smarter about the options before us and increase the value that can be derived from our existing infrastructures.  When high recycling rates are touted around the world, they usually include waste-to-energy.  Yet, too many companies still manage to overlook this valuable resource, disregarding the intrinsic environmental and economic benefits that it offers.   Hopefully, as we set forth into a new era, more emphasis will be placed on using LCA’s and factual scientific data to address the sustainability challenges we face.

Are sustainability efforts appeasing the myth or addressing the facts?

A recent blog on LinkedIn caught my eye, “9 Take-Aways That Resonated From SPC Advance.”  It was about the recent SPC Advance Conference, a GreenBlue / Sustainable Packaging Coalition members only plus guests event.

“SPC Advance is an amazing opportunity to gather different members of industry, academia, and government together to share perspectives, knowledge, and insight into sustainability,” said GreenBlue and Sustainable Packaging Coalition Executive Director, Nina Goodrich.

Sounds good, right? The who’s who of professionals, the decision makers on the environment, packaging and creating a more sustainable future… Then, you hear some of the feckless rhetoric that emerges from this brain trust and it leaves you wondering if this is just an exercise in futility.

Kim Carswell of Target commented, “Bio polymers move packaging closer to petroleum independence as part of our move to a circular economy.”

Kathleen Sayler, Assistant Director of the EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery says that currently in the U.S. over 30% of edible food goes to waste resulting in significant social, economic and environmental costs, and it is estimated that Americans waste 141 trillion calories of food annually at a cost of over $161 billion dollars. Food production accounts for 50% of land use, 80% of freshwater consumption, and 10% of total energy use in the United States.

These two need to get together for a come to Jesus moment.  Land system change is a major environmental factor and our existing use in farming is already having perilous effects on our environment.  Let’s not be too quick to jump into corn, sugarcane or potatoes as something that’s going to save the planet.  We should not waste food and our farming should be to feed people, not our insatiable appetite for plastic, it’s not sustainable.  It’s a recipe for our economy and ecosystem to go down the circular drain.

Walmart Senior Sustainability Manager, Ashley Hall, said that customers should not have to choose between products that they can afford and products that are better for them and the environment. She emphasized Walmart’s focus on selling products in recyclable packaging, and stated that the company has made packaging made with recycled content a priority.

There is no term more ambiguous than “recyclable.”  Take a walk with me down Walmart’s isles and I’ll point out all the packaging that will not be recycled.   Heck, we can just visit one isle; you know the one that sells all the trash bags, tinfoil and plastic utensils and foamed plates?  Next time, take a look at all the Great Value brand items, along with the other brands – none of it is being recycled.  Don’t even get me started on those crappy light-weighted plastic bags that have “Recyclable” on them – nonsense.  We need to start basing our actions on facts and scientific data, instead of propagated myths.  If you’re going to make the claim, prove its happening.  It’s long overdue that we separate facts from fiction.  “Recyclable” – theoretically, and that’s the problem.

Kim Carswell, Group Manager at Target stated, “Packaging is a gateway to our consumers.”  She continued saying that Target likes to give consumers alternative options for the products’ and packaging’s end-of-life instead of the materials having to go to landfill, and that Target is constantly asking how its designs influence end-of-life.

Personally, I’m not interested in trying to find a non-existent alternative option; I’m not a garbage sorter.  When I buy the product, I throw away the packaging. There is nothing more counterproductive in advancing our environmental position than the demonization of landfills. Landfills are not the problem; packaging simply needs to be designed for the most common disposal method. If that’s a landfill, let’s not keep making decisions on folklore and pretending this isn’t happening.   Landfill Gas to Energy is the cleanest and most inexpensive alternative energy resource available; it’s the byproduct of the biodegradation process that is coming from the natural breakdown of organic waste in this specific anaerobic environment.  80% of all municipal solid waste goes to modern landfills that control or capture this natural gas.  Perhaps it would make it easier on everyone if companies like Target took genuine accountability and made all their plastic packaging Landfill Biodegradable, because it’s not getting recycled and I’m not getting in my car and taking it to my local industrial composter 80 miles away.

Amy Duquette, Sustainability Project Manager at HAVI Global Solutions, which represents the packaging department of McDonald’s, said that packaging is the consumer’s last experience with the brand, and that experience should be as positive as possible. Through mechanics such as the How2Recyle Label, brands can empower consumers to do the right thing, in this case recycle packaging.

Regulations such as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) are predicated on the brand/producer doing the right thing, not the consumer.  The experience being created isn’t positive, it’s downright misleading!  Think of all the plastic applications used at McDonald’s, the white cup, the lid, straw, utensil, packaging for utensil, condiments, all of it, IS NOT getting recycled.  It’s not happening, it does not exist, stop it.   EPR simply means producers will be held accountable for the post-consumer stage, not the consumer.  It does not say you need to recreate a new disposal environment or champion one over the other.  It starts with an easy question, where does all (minus the idiots who litter) the McDonald’s plastic applications end-up?  If you said a landfill, you’re on the right track.  Honesty is the best policy.  Now what?    That’s the path to accountability.

Al Metauro, President & CEO of Cascades Recovery, Inc. said, “Doing the same things and expecting a different outcome is insanity.”  He’s absolutely right; we’ve been beating the same drum for a long time and it’s not improving our situation.  These Goliaths of industry need to understand where these plastics will be disposed of and implement solutions based on that environment and, as Laura Koss, Assistant Director of the Federal Trade Commission, points out:

  • Be as specific as possible.
  • Make environmental claims clear and prominent.
  • Don’t make qualifications about those claims only in asterisks and in tiny print.
  • Be honest about what your product represents and does not represent.
  • In the FTC’s eyes, it’s all about what a “reasonable consumer” might think about an on-package claim.

It’s absolutely unreasonable to take landfills out of the equation. Today, modern landfills are energy generating power plants and the vast majority of all of our waste ends-up in this managed and profitable environment. Let me emphasize this important and critical fact: today, nearly every State within the United States (including Alaska) already implements landfill gas to energy programs and each of these States count that energy creation as part of its green energy efforts. This is already an infrastructure that is in place and it’s a proven resource.   Spinning our wheels to create more programs and new infrastructure such as for recycling, composting, incineration, etc. will bear a significant environmental and economic cost to implement.

A recent study, “Plastics: Establishing the Path to Zero Waste” provides the most comprehensive and informative look at plastic disposal today and the environmental, economic and social impact of landfilling, recycling, composting and incarnation. The only way organizations will truly reach sustainability with plastics is if they take a step back look at the entire picture and evaluate the facts.

Let’s stop promoting environmental fairytales, get the science and data to make decisions about environmental solutions that will have the greatest positive impact today and begin doing something productive. We must strongly evaluate concepts such as bioplastics, recycling and compostable plastics that have no positive impact to our environment; show me the data!!! It’s time for these Big Boys to put their big-boy pants on and take responsibility and accountability for what’s actually happening. Let’s get past trying to just make the consumer “feel good,” progress feels good.

Waste Wise: Packing It In

Consider biodegradeable plastic packaging. It’s been touted as a good thing: If the material cannot be or is not recycled or re-used then it has the added benefit of degrading naturally once composted or landfilled. It seems product manufacturers, in an effort to be more sustainable, have focused on making plastic containers and packaging as highly degradable as possible, presumably based on the assumption that the more quickly it breaks down the more environmentally friendly it is.

On the surface, this makes sense. The more quickly something breaks down, the more quickly it goes away. But there is a flaw in this logic that suggests a disconnect between the manufacturers and their understanding of what happens to the materials upon disposal.

If biodegradable materials are composted, speedy biodegradation is a good thing, yielding a faster conversion time from waste to soil amendment. The problem is only 8 percent of U.S. municipal solid waste is composted. Of that amount, the vast majority of composted materials are yard trimmings and food waste, not biodegradable packaging materials.

Given this, where do most of the packaging materials go? While most paper packaging is recycled, nearly 85 percent of plastic packaging and containers (including the biodegradable kind) wind up in a landfill (a small percentage goes to waste-to-energy facilities).

So if it goes to a landfill, biodegradability is a good thing, right? Not necessarily. Results from a lifecycle analysis by N.C. State University have found that landfilled biodegradable plastics may not be as good for the environment as originally thought. Recall that when biodegradable plastics degrade in a landfill, microbes breakdown the material, converting it to either carbon dioxide or methane, both of which are greenhouse gases. Yet methane is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide, which means that if the methane generated from a landfill is not captured and utilized, then the biodegradable materials can do more harm than good.

N.C. State researchers Mort Barlaz, Ph.D., and Ph.D. candidate Jim Levis (who is supported via a Francois Fiessinger scholarship from the Environmental Research and Education Foundation) found that because biodegradable plastics were designed to break down as fast as possible, those placed in a landfill degraded too quickly to be sufficiently captured and utilized. This means that although the intent of the manufacturers is noble, the facts surrounding how packaging waste is currently managed and where it goes means that biodegradable packaging can actually be more harmful for the environment. So do we retreat to non-biodegradable plastics? Not likely.

There are two possible solutions. On the disposal side, the N.C. State study suggests that landfill gas collection systems put in place earlier go a long way toward capturing the methane released from rapidly degrading materials such as biodegradable plastics. There are logitistical challenges in applying this to every situation.

A second and perhaps more plausible solution lies further up the supply chain. If the biodegradable materials were designed to degrade more slowly, say on the order of years versus months, then this would ensure that materials ending up in a landfill would generate methane that is sure to be captured and beneficially utilized. Given the amount of plastic that still ends up in a landfill, the larger point is that product manufacturers should take the time to really understand where their materials end up and how this truly impacts sustainability, while at the same time evaluating how policy and human behavior can be modified to shift the scenario to one where the higher recovery of these materials can be achieved.

“Is Biodegradability a Desirable Attribute for Discarded Solid Waste? Perspectives from a National Landfill Greenhouse Gas Inventory Model” by James Levis and Morton Barlaz has been published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. More information can also be obtained by visiting www.erefdn.org.

Bryan Staley

Bryan Staley, P.E., is president of the Environmental Research and Education Foundation, a non-profit foundation that funds and directs scientific research and educational initiatives to benefit…

Oxo-bio Critics hit back at ‘no evidence’ claims

http://www.prw.com/subscriber/headlines2.html?cat=1&id=1319449891

Critics of oxo-bio hit back at ‘no evidence’ claims

By Hamish Champ
Posted 24 October 2011 9:51 am GMT
An organization involved with a University of Loughborough report into oxo-biodegradable materials has rejected claims that its conclusions were not supported by evidence.
Dr John Williams, head of materials and energy at the NNFCC, the UK’s National Centre for Biorenewable Energy, Fuels and Materials, said he was “disappointed but not surprised” to read of a recent attack on the Loughborough report in PRW by companies involved in the manufacture of oxo-biodegradable materials.

“The Loughborough report was peer reviewed and checked by the chief scientist of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA),” he said.

The report, commissioned by the then-Labour government and published in March 2010, argued that “some plastics marked as degradable might not be as environmentally-friendly as consumers think”.

However recent criticism of the document by three companies which manufacture oxo-biodegradable materials prompted Williams to defend its findings.

“It is to be expected that any industry group will disagree with a report that does not support their view. The Loughborough report set out to with one aim, to find independent, verifiable evidence for the claims made by oxo-degradable material manufacturers and could not find any,” he said.

Williams added: “The fact that oxodegradable manufacturers have produced their own scientific dossier is meaningless without independent supporting evidence and this was not provided when asked for.”

Dr Williams’ comments followed the publication of a scientific dossier compiled by Symphony Environmental, EPI and Wells Plastics and published on their respective websites.

In a joint statement issued earlier this month the three firms argued that the Loughborough research team “had no expertise” in the field of oxo-biodegradable plastic technology.

However the NNFCC, which said it persuaded supermarket giant Tesco to stop using plastic bags made of ox-biodegradable material earlier this year, rejected this and counter-argued that it was the oxo-biodegradable industry that had yet to table peer-reviewed evidence for its own claims.

PEC Making Moves

Plastics Environmental Council

We have just returned from Atlanta, Georgia where the first PEC (Plastics Environmental Council)   conference was held.  As you recall, ENSO organized the EPC (Environmental Plastics Coalition) to fight the proposed bill AB1454 in the state of California, and many answered the call resulting in a successful veto of the anti-competitive, and anti-truth in labeling bill.  From that successful organizational effort, all saw the need to continue the effort of keeping the market friendly and educated on biodegradable plastic products on a national level, so from this initial organization, the PEC was formed.  I was truly floored by the amount of “top in their field” experts who are participating in the PEC.  It was held on the campus of Georgia Tech. (who is a major participant of research and support of our technology as it applies to the marketplace) and as everyone in attendance introduced themselves, it became quite apparent that we had a second to none force on our side.  From landfill research engineers, to polymer scientists, to political and legal professionals, the deck is extremely “stacked” in our favor to a solid future in the marketplace.

That being said, no one works for free, and although these individuals are in an attitude of assisting the progress of environmental friendly plastics, their activity and research needs funding.  Please contact me to get more details on how you can get involved.  Some of this year’s activities for the PEC will include; Creating an ASTM standard specification for Anaerobic and Aerobic biodegradation (a pass/fail specification), work in California with creating a good green packaging law, FTC education, biodegradability certification, massive amounts of pertinent information regarding how your products behave in landfill environments, recycle stream impacts, and more.

As you might already know, ENSO has already delved deeply into most of these items, now the good news is that we have more individuals assisting in the cause and the numbers are growing!  Please let me know if you have any questions about what is going on, and also find out how you can get involved!

Sincerely,

Del Andrus

Are methane emissions good or bad?

Research and articles about biodegradable plastics releasing methane too quickly in landfills have been taking over the internet this past June. An alarming title to draw readers in, splashed on a article/blog written with bits of information that have trickled down from a once reliable source, leaving readers with the question in mind….Is “biodegradable” plastic  really harmful?

The original research was performed using “compostable plastics” designed to break down in as fast as 180 days!  ENSO Plastics are not “compostable plastics”.

ENSO is a global company and recognizes that some people aren’t as far ahead in methane-friendly landfill technology as North America (Environmental Protection Agency’s Landfill Methane Program at http://www.epa.gov/lmop ).  The fact is that even banana peels and apple cores release methane in a landfill as a natural byproduct of biodegradation.

Common sense says that truly Earth Friendly Plastics” are not in a race to biodegrade as quickly as possible for many reasons.  ENSO Plastics are engineered to biodegrade in a controlled manner; between 5 and 15 years in real-world landfill conditions.  This strikes a wonderful balance between a manageable release of naturally occurring biogases and the timely breakdown of plastic waste in a landfill.  Just another example as to why ENSO is the answer to today’s plastic problem.

 

Reusable Shopping Bags Not Risk Free

The newest fad: The Reusable bag .




Reusable bags are being greatly pushed against the single use plastic bag and people seem to be latching on to the concept. It sounds like a good enough idea, and with all the design options you can really expressive yourself, but is the reusable bag really risk free? Just like many new products there may be some drawbacks that weren’t discovered before becomingso popular and “savior-esque.” The Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science at the University of Arizona and the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University conducted a study called the Assessment of the Potential for Cross Contamination of Food Products by Reusable Shopping Bags. Now I am going to brief you on the results of this study!

So what is “Cross contamination” ?

Cross contamination occurs when disease-causing microorganisms are transferred from one food to another.

The assessment was divided into 3 Phases

1. Determine the occurrence of bacteria and bacteria of health concern in reusable shopping bags
2. Determine the potential for microbial cross-contamination in reusable shopping bags
3. Evaluate and recommend the washing/bleaching procedures necessary to decontaminate reusable shopping bags

They started off by collecting bags from consumers entering grocery stores in the San Francisco Bay area, Los Angeles and Tucson, Arizona. 84 bags total were collected, 25 from LA, 25 from San Francisco and 34 from Tucson. All but 4 of these bags were woven polypropylene (a little softer than polyester which is what a typical plastic bottle is made out of.) Each bag owner was interviewed on bag usage, storage, and cleaning procedures. (4 unused reusable bags were also purchased and tested)

 

And the Results are in…

Large numbers of bacteria were found in all but 1 bag & coliform bacteria in half.

E-Coli was identified in 12% of the bags & a wide range of enteric bacteria & pathogens.

After meat juices were added to bags & stored in car s for 2 hours, bacteria increased 10-fold.

 

 

How to Clean your bags?

Hand or machine washing was found to reduce the bacteria in bags by >99.9%. So if you clean your bag after every separate use, you should be good! (Don’t forget to think of the water and energy that adds up over time)

 

What were the bag owners habits?

Cleaned bag at home?
97% No
3% Yes

Days bags were used in a Week?
49% 1 day
22% 2 days
18% 3 days
3% 4 days
2% 5 days
3% 6 days
3% 7 days

Bag used Soley for Groceries?
70% Yes
30% No

Other uses of Bag?
57% Other Shopping
19% Clothes
10% Books
9% Snacks
5% Biking Supplies

Separate Bags for Meats & Vegetables?
75% No
25% Yes

Transport in Car?
55% Trunk
45% Backseat

Stored at home?
55% Yes
45% No

 

As you are learning these bags get pretty filthy and are brought back into stores, which is proven to be not at all sanitary. So if reusable bag users do not make the continuous effort to keep their bags clean maybe this isn’t  the cleanest solution to the single-use plastic bag problem, why not explore another option like using Earth friendly  biodegradable and recyclable plastic instead, Like ENSO?

Take a few min to read the rest of the assessment it’s definitely worth your time!
http://www.llu.edu/public-health/news/news-grocery-bags-bacteria.page

 

 

BPI Releases Biodegradation Test Results of Aquamantra Bottles

On Feb 01, 2011 the Biodegradable Products Institute released its biodegradation test results of Aquamantra’s ENSO Biodegradable PET Bottle. BPI which is an industry organization for compostable plastics had the biodegradation tests performed by the highly recognized NSF laboratory.Lab Worker - Testing biodegradation

NSF conducted the biodegradation test of Aquamantra’s biodegradable PET bottle, using ASTM D 5511 Standard Test Method. The ASTM D5511 is a standard test method for determining anaerobic biodegradation of plastic materials under high-solids anaerobic-digestion conditions”.

This ASTM Test Method calculates the amount of carbon dioxide and methane produced during the testing period. The cumulative amount of carbon dioxide and methane evolved from each vessel is calculated and compared to the amount of CO2 and CH4 evolved from blank specimens to determine percent degradation.

After 60 days, the Aquamantra ENSO bottle achieved an overall biodegradation total of 4.47% or 10% of the positive control. As part of the normal biodegradation process with this test method, the biodegradation process drops significantly for both the cellulose and plastic material, shown by the gas generation curve plateauing. Using the test results from this test of 4.47% biodegradation over 60 days and providing an environment with a steady innoculum the test material would fully biodegrade in approximately 3.7 years.

The Aquamantra ENSO bottle utilizes less than half of a percent of active biodegradable ingredients. In other words, the bottle BPI purchased in the market and used for testing was 99.5% PET and .05% biodegradable additive material. Comparing the biodegradation of the Polyethylene material (.37%) the results clearly indicate that biodegradation by microbial assimilation of the ENSO bottle is happening at a rate 8x more than the organic additive within the bottle. By moving the ENSO plastic into a new batch of innoculum biodegradation would continue to happen. There is no indication or scientific reason to imply otherwise.

There were a few notes to keep in mind about this test. The key to performing an effective ASTM D 5511 is in the proper preparation of the innoculum. Many labs are challenged when it comes to preparing a functional innoculum for this test. This is evident when the biodegradation rate of the cellulose material does not reach 70%. In the case of this particular test the cellulose material reached a maximum of 44.31%. Cellulose is a basic material that is normally biodegraded very rapidly and is used as a baseline to validate biodegradation. As stated by NSF, because there was clear biodegradation of the cellulose the the test results are acceptable even though the ASTM D 5511 required minimum of 70% was not obtained.

As a final point; with beginning with a healthy innoculum, biodegradation would have been improved for both the cellulose and ENSO biodegradable bottle; thus resulting in an improved biodegradation timeframe. We recognize that the slower performing innoculum may in someways perform closer to a true landfill environment.

To view the NSF ASTM D 5511 test results please click here.

Pitt Researchers: Plant-Based Plastics Not Necessarily Greener Than Oil-Based Relatives

Biopolymers are the more eco-friendly material, but farming and energy-intense chemical processing means they are dirtier to produce than petroleum-derived plastics, according to study in Environmental Science & Technology

Contact: Morgan Kelly | mekelly@pitt.edu | 412-624-4356 | Cell: 412-897-1400

PITTSBURGH—An analysis of plant and petroleum-derived plastics by University of Pittsburgh researchers suggests that biopolymers are not necessarily better for the environment than their petroleum-based relatives, according to a report in Environmental Science & Technology. The Pitt team found that while biopolymers are the more eco-friendly material, traditional plastics can be less environmentally taxing to produce.

Biopolymers trumped the other plastics for biodegradability, low toxicity, and use of renewable resources. Nonetheless, the farming and chemical processing needed to produce them can devour energy and dump fertilizers and pesticides into the environment, wrote lead author Michaelangelo Tabone (ENG, A&S ’10), who conducted the analysis as an undergraduate student in the lab of Amy Landis, a professor of civil and environmental engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. Tabone and Landis worked with James Cregg, an undergraduate chemistry student in Pitt’s School of Arts and Sciences; and Eric Beckman, codirector of Pitt’s Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation and the George M. Bevier Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School. The project was supported by the National Science Foundation.

The researchers examined 12 plastics—seven petroleum-based polymers, four biopolymers, and one hybrid. The team first performed a life-cycle assessment (LCA) on each polymer’s preproduction stage to gauge the environmental and health effects of the energy, raw materials, and chemicals used to create one ounce of plastic pellets. They then checked each plastic in its finished form against principles of green design, including biodegradability, energy efficiency, wastefulness, and toxicity.

Biopolymers were among the more prolific polluters on the path to production, the LCA revealed. The team attributed this to agricultural fertilizers and pesticides, extensive land use for farming, and the intense chemical processing needed to convert plants into plastic. All four biopolymers were the largest contributors to ozone depletion. The two tested forms of sugar-derived polymer—standard polylactic acid (PLA-G) and the type manufactured by Minnesota-based NatureWorks (PLA-NW), the most common sugar-based plastic in the United States—exhibited the maximum contribution to eutrophication, which occurs when overfertilized bodies of water can no longer support life. One type of the corn-based polyhydroyalkanoate, PHA-G, topped the acidification category. In addition, biopolymers exceeded most of the petroleum-based polymers for ecotoxicity and carcinogen emissions.


Once in use, however, biopolymers bested traditional polymers for ecofriendliness. For example, the sugar-based plastic from NatureWorks jumped from the sixth position under the LCA to become the material most in keeping with the standards of green design. On the other hand, the ubiquitous plastic polypropylene (PP)—widely used in packaging—was the cleanest polymer to produce, but sank to ninth place as a sustainable material.

Interestingly, the researchers found that the petroleum-plant hybrid biopolyethylene terephthalate, or B-PET, combines the ills of agriculture with the structural stubbornness of standard plastic to be harmful to produce (12th) and use (8th).

Landis is continuing the project by subjecting the polymers to a full LCA, which will also examine the materials’ environmental impact throughout their use and eventual disposal.

<table style="cursor: default; margin-top: 1em; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 0px; width: 600px; border: 0px dashed #bbbbbb;" border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" align="center">
<tbody>
<tr>
<td style="width: 50px; text-align: center;"><strong>Polymer</strong></td>
<td style="width: 50px; text-align: center;"><strong>Material</strong></td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">&nbsp;<strong>Green Design Rank</strong></td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;"><strong>LCA Rank</strong></td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td style="width: 50px;">Polylactic acid-NatureWorks (PLA-NW)</td>
<td style="width: 50px;">Sugar, cornstarch</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">1</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">6</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td style="width: 50px;">Polyhydroxyalkanoate-Stover (PHA-S)</td>
<td style="width: 50px;">Corn stalks</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">2</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">4</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td style="width: 50px;">Polyhydroxyalkanoate-General (PHA-G)</td>
<td style="width: 50px;">Corn kernels</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">2</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">8</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td style="width: 50px;">Polylactic acid-General (PLA-G)</td>
<td style="width: 50px;">Sugar, cornstarch</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">4</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">9</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td style="width: 50px;">High-density polyethylene (HDPE)</td>
<td style="width: 50px;">Petroleum</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">5</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">2</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td style="width: 50px;">Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)</td>
<td style="width: 50px;">Petroleum</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">6</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">10</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td style="width: 50px;">Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)</td>
<td style="width: 50px;">Petroleum</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">7</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">3</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td style="width: 50px;">Biopolyethylene terephthalate (B-PET)</td>
<td style="width: 50px;">Petroleum, plants</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">8</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">12</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td style="width: 50px;">Polypropylene (PP)</td>
<td style="width: 50px;">Fossil fuels</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">9</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">1</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td style="width: 50px;">General purpose polystyrene (GPPS)</td>
<td style="width: 50px;">Petroleum</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">10</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">5</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td style="width: 50px;">Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)</td>
<td style="width: 50px;">Chlorine, petroleum</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">11</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">7</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td style="width: 50px;">Polycarbonate (PC)</td>
<td style="width: 50px;">Petroleum</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">12</td>
<td style="width: 10px; text-align: center;">11<span style="color: #494949; font-family: Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: small;"><span style="font-size: 12px;"><span style="color: #000000; font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: x-small;"><span style="font-size: 10px;"><br /></span></span></span></span></td>
</tr>
</tbody>
</table>