Tag Archives: earth friendly plastics

Finding Circularity with Single Cycle Packaging

Let’s look at the issue of plastic waste and how we can use the circular economic model to resolve some of the problems that we face, that’s ultimately spilling into our environment.   Some 300 million tons of plastic is manufactured globally each year and “plastic packaging” accounts for about 78 million tons of it. That’s 172 billion pounds of non-reusable, non-recyclable and unequivocally unaccounted for plastic waste. This includes items such as flexible packaging, films, foamed material, small items, contaminated material, complex/multi-layer applications and anything colored, where recycling and reusability are practically non-existent.  These are single use, single cycle, applications.  Also, there’s unanimous agreement that the vast majority of all these applications are destined for a landfill. And these are not the demonized landfills from days gone by; I’m talking about today’s modern landfills that are now energy generating power plants.

This discussion is not for the consumer, this is for the difference makers, the sustainability managers, the leaders that can make a difference. They’re the companies that, according to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), are to be held accountable for the post-consumer aspect of its products and packaging. I’m talking about companies like Kraft, Coca-Cola, Nestle, PepsiCo, P&G, General Mills, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg, Mars, Unilever and all the brands under them.

companies

We all know, or the data tells us, that this is the single most common disposal method of all this material. It should also be known that waste-to-energy has proven to be one of our greatest resources for alternative energy.   Whether it’s an anaerobic digester, a bioreactor or today’s modern landfills, most plastic packaging is ultimately ending-up in a unique anaerobic environment that is controlling and converting biogas into clean energy. Some of these companies utilize the energy from landfills, yet they haven’t put the pieces together to figure out that the very trash that their products produce could be the feedstock for the alternative energy resource they’re already harnessing. Too often, the end-of-life aspect is ignored or swept under the rug with theoretical contemplations about disposal methods that simply don’t exist and senseless confusion.

Yet, nearly all 50 states include landfill gas-to-energy as part of their green energy portfolios. It’s recognized by the United Nations, the EPA, as well as dozens of Fortune 500 companies and government organizations that all utilize energy from landfills.  However, the dots just aren’t being connected.   I recently asked the Director of Sustainability for one of these 10 companies about this topic and they honestly said that they’ve never heard of such a thing and can’t imagine that we’ll ever get our energy from slowly decomposing waste. Yet, three years ago this same company won top honors by the EPA as one of the largest on-site green power generators because of its use of Landfill Gas-to-Energy (LGE) to power its manufacturing facilities! Seriously, why the disconnect between what companies are doing and what companies should and could be doing to think more circular? Imagine if you will, this same company implementing landfill biodegradable packaging and then using the energy from landfill gas.  This is true circular economy thinking, especially when energy needs will increase 50% in the next couple decades.  Without requiring any change to the infrastructures in place today and without modifying consumer behavior, these single use applications can be designed to cycle at a higher level.

I’ve heard the idea that plastics should be made NOT to biodegrade in a landfill because one day we might want to mine for this material. This is completely asinine and assumes that we’ll have a need to mine for this material within the next couple hundred years.  The reason being, plastic will eventually biodegrade, we just won’t be able to capture the gases produced if we wait too long. Instead, if these applications were designed to biodegrade within the managed timeframe of these anaerobic environments, for every million pounds of plastic waste that enters a LGE facility, it offers the equivalence of over 422,000 pounds of coal, 52,000 gallons of gasoline and more than 1100 barrels of oil, which is used to power homes and factories, as well as fueling vehicles!

The technology is readily available to make most any polymer application anaerobically biodegradable, or commonly referred to as Landfill Biodegradable.   The technology does not change any processing parameters, there’s no change in any performance characteristics, and it’s not expensive. In fact, for about the price of a Tall Cappuccino, tens of thousands of Starbucks Coffee cups can be designed to biodegrade in a landfill.   These multi-layer applications are not being reused or recycled, but they are going to a landfill. So what gives, is it because of the misguided concept that landfills are bad? Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the integral role of this disposal method that rely so heavily on; a lot has changed since the 80’s. In fact, you could say that we’re now diverting 75% of all MSW away from landfills, because the type of landfills that are being vilified are becoming obsolete – quickly.

A single loop system for handling our plastic waste is impractical, circularity does not mean singularity, there’s too much at stake, too much potential, and the infrastructure is already in place so there’s no need to implement Cass Sunstein’s “nudging” tactics to change consumer behavior. Besides, the fact that none of this material can/will be recycled is not because of consumer behavior, its feasibility and market demand, and it’s just not there. A company wanting to take accountability for its packaging needs to answer one candid question: What is the common disposal method of the application? Then, do what can be done to take advantage of this fact and understand the value in having our waste integrate into our waste infrastructures instead of working against it. The facts, the science and all the data, prove that there’s an enormous opportunity being overlooked.  I believe the circular economic model can work for plastics, but not if it’s simply a rebranding of the last 40+ years of rhetoric.

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!

 

 

 

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.

 

The Truth Shall Set You Free

We produce well over 200 billion pounds of plastic each year.  This is a well-documented environmental issue of grim proportions; plastic is literally trashing our planet.  Brands, manufactures and consumers are fully aware and the search for solutions is in full swing.  Fortunately, our awareness has spurred incredible technological advances to address this problem, some better than others.

As a brand, being environmentally accountable is a trait that serves well in the marketplace.  It’s a hallmark that projects the greater good.  But in a Cass Sunstein meets George Orwell world,  where the FTC, EPA, FDA, IRS, (insert acronym),  are watching your every move and new terms such as Extended Producer Responsibility emerge, it can be paralyzing to make that technological decision.  You want to choose something that is justifiable, reliable and proven.

In a small microcosm of the larger issue, we catch a glimpse of the efforts and problems we face.  In a recent article Coffee Makers wrestling with recyclability of single-serve pods,  TerraCycle is boasting about recovering 25 million coffee capsules over the last couple years, but has essentially found no use for them.  Are we to understand that companies are paying TerraCycle to collect and store these things in some warehouse?  Add to this, according to the article, 41 million adults drink a coffee made in a single-cup brewer every day.  So in a two year effort, TerraCycle could not recover a single days’ worth of coffee capsules?  Clearly, the Customary Disposal Method for this application is the garbage, in other words, the Landfill.   Let’s not jump on a bandwagon for the sake of waiving a green flag, the overall effect is useless.

Here’s one, California is now floating a new Bill to put the burden on companies to find solutions for plastic waste in our waterways.  The same State that bans the claim of biodegradable materials (and has sued companies legitimately making those claims), is now requiring brands and manufacturers to seek out and implement biodegradable solutions?? Are they expecting producers to put their necks on the line in search for innovation? Good luck taking that bait!

Unfortunately, the principle concern of environmental safety is being contaminated with agendas that have not proven capable of long term sustainability.  There is a tendency to gravitate towards colorful Green language instead of clear, black and white solutions.  Today, we have the capability to address plastic pollution on an incredible scale, without contamination.  Unfortunately, too many producers are paralyzed with uncertainty or are turning to the least point of resistance.

A perfect example is the less than bold stand that one of the largest producers of bottled water took, “Lightweighting”.  Holy crap! That’s it?  Reduce your costs and provide a rigid bag for a bottle?  C’mon…the “commitment to minimizing the environmental impact” is lackluster., considering 50 billion plastic water bottles end up in U.S. landfills each year.

Here’s my humble opinion.  Within a generation, we have witnessed the birth of the plastic EVERYTHING.  We began filling-up our Landfills with EVERYTHING and noticed NOTHING was reprocessing back into nature.   The raging river of plastic is pouring onto our planet and we place the majority of this material in Landfills.   There is a biodegradation process in Landfills that is beaming with potential and we have the proven ability to produce, capture and harness one of the most inexpensive and cleanest energy resources and fundamentally address our plastic pollution problem.

Recycling is an industry I support, but the numbers don’t lie and the goal is not to prop-up one particular industry, it’s to clean our planet.  We need to stop kidding ourselves and start dealing with reality.  I also understand Sourcing from renewable resources, but harvesting Corn for plastic in order to claim “Compostable” is absolutely wrong.  I’ve lived in many places over the years and I have yet to find my local Industrial Composting facility.  But if I did, I would respectfully not bring them my plastic waste.  Let’s face it, you can claim it, but it’s not going there and where it is going, this technology does nothing.   For those adding metal into the equation, this technology is borderline criminal.  That probably explains the parasitic tendencies of this technology in underdeveloped countries.  Both of these technologies have an adverse effect on our Food Source/Supply, which alone is highly irresponsible.

When making the decision on how to be accountable for your Plastic Footprint, know what is out there, get the full story and get the proof that it performs as claimed.  If you stand in the light of truth, you will be safe.  70% is greater than 30%, 2+2=4, what’s right is right.

landfill biodegradation

Manufacturers Beware!

Have you ever thought about where your plastic garbage goes?

Shopping for items packaged in plastic may end up costing you more in the long run; that is, if you discard the packaging incorrectly. The same could be true for plastic manufacturers if California passes their latest bill (Assembly Bill 521) on “extended producer responsibility”.

Right now; in San Francisco, California it is against the law to not recycle your trash.  That’s right…you; as a law abiding citizen must separate all of your garbage, recyclables, and compostable items.  To ensure that all citizens are complying with this law, trash auditors check garbage bins the night before it is scheduled for pickup. If you do not comply after several warnings, the non-complying residents will receive fines and/or have to take educational classes on recycling.

Taking this a step further, California is now working towards making plastic manufacturers responsible for the end of life of their product; ultimately, charging hefty fines for material that is not disposed of properly.  (This, after recently making the word biodegradable illegal on labeling)

So who is responsible for all of this plastic pollution that is littering our oceans and filling our landfills? Is it the consumer?  Is it the plastic manufacturer? Is it the recycling industry? (Who happens to discard more plastic than it recycles.) California may think they are doing the right thing by penalizing those who are in the path of plastic – from beginning to end – but they’re not supporting or encouraging better solutions…so who’s fault is it, really?

Despite whose responsibility this may be; it leads to a very important question…”Why are we not producing plastic that is biodegradable or even marine degradable? And, (ok, two questions) if there is a solution, why, as consumers and manufacturers, are we not jumping on that solution?”

I think that if there is a solution to this plastic pollution problem and a plastic manufacturer is using a product that is proven to be biodegradable and/or marine degradable, they are showing their end-of-life responsibility and it should be encouraged and rewarded amongst those companies; as well as, consumers who use such a product.

Does such a product exist?

Yes!

ENSO Plastics has created an additive, that when added to the plastic manufacturing process will cause the plastic to become biodegradable; as well as, marine degradable. There are two customizable blends that offer many options to manufacturers – ENSO RESTORE and ENSO RENEW.

This is the solution California needs to recognize, before they start penalizing all of their citizens and plastic manufacturers. California may want to make the people responsible, but I think the state needs to be responsible by allowing new technology and better options for their residents and local commerce.

Wake up California! The solution is staring you in the face!

 

Are We Our Own Worst Enemy in Fighting Plastic Waste?

The “Green” plastics industry can be very puzzling.  When I first came to this industry, I felt great that I could be involved in something that’s good for the world.  Save the world!

But then, one starts to question if the world even wants to be saved – bizarre.  This industry includes bioplastics, composting, recyclers, oxo-degradables, PLA, Biodegradables, brand owners, manufacturers and of course our wonderful legislative leaders – each with differing perspectives and objectives.  I’m fortunate to be involved with a company that provides multiple options, so I don’t have a single horse in this race.  But I’m certainly happy not to be betting on a few of these ponies.

Nevertheless, there is no single technology available that can address all the problems or appease everyone, but there are solutions that do take a very responsible approach to the problem of plastic waste, depending on realistic methods of disposal.  And this is where we run into a problem.

The recyclers do not want anything to contaminate the recycling stream.  Understandable, it’s a viable industry, but the infrastructure is not capable of handling a significant enough percentage of the plastic output.  I strongly support increasing our capacity to recycle. Yet, we have just as much, if not more, ability to harness landfill methane capturing (LFG) for clean, cheap energy. And due to the fact that the majority of this plastic is heading that way (landfill), we need to focus resources on supporting this effort.   We can’t dismiss the greater value for the sake of a fledgling industry, it doesn’t make sense.

California (legislatures), you’re the mother ship for the quagmire that prevents innovation.  California, for some very curious reason, supports solutions that are absolutely incapable of being a viable option for plastic waste.  There are more practical options that address “plastic pollution” without compromising efforts to reuse.  Limiting manufactures to one technology that supports only compost-ability, especially when this is such an inferior option in the big scheme of plastic usage and waste, is mind-boggling and counterproductive.

We have a raging river of plastic being produced every year, over 30 MILLLION TONS, the very large majority of this material is heading to a landfill – it needs to be managed.  Many companies don’t want to get in the game, too much fluid legislation and regulation – shocker.  Many adopt solutions that placate the cause of the day, despite their full knowledge that it is fundamentally flawed.

We need to get our heads out of our proverbial asses and start addressing the bigger problem, the larger percentages.  There are amazing technologies out there, but there is no doubt that we are getting in our own way of making incredible progress.   This is a young and rapidly evolving industry; the progress being made to address the fundamental problem we face is phenomenal.  Instead of hindering ourselves with knee-jerk legislation and bans; perhaps we allow our ingrained ability to rise to the occasion with innovation.  Technologies that have misrepresented their performance should not stand as the be-all to end-all to what we can achieve, it’s premature and shortsighted.

The question we need to ask ourselves is not who will win the race, but what race are we trying to win?

The plastics race is a close one, but PLA shows a clear advantage and recycling continues to drag behind.

The plastics race is a close one, but PLA shows a clear advantage and recycling continues to drag behind.

Plastic Recycling: Green or “GREEN”?

 

Recycling is all about the environment, conserving our resources and greening our planet.

Isn’t it?

With the recent onslaught of laws angled at restricting the types of materials allowed to be recycled, one could start to wonder. After all, technically all these materials can be recycled. Are they implying that we should not encourage recyclers to find outlets for new materials? As companies are pushing for new materials that are more sensitive to our fragile environment, recyclers are pushing for laws that prevent recycling these materials, because they want to “protect” their profits and use of traditional plastics?

Are you kidding me?

Sounds a bit more like the green they are pursuing is the money in someones pocket. Even NC Representative Brawley’s site positions “These companies are developing new and innovative technologies to recycle plastic, including the development of new types of degradable and biodegradable plastic materials designed to decompose in landfills or when they are exposed to soil, water, and other natural elements over time. This has great benefits for our environment.” and then at the same time, acknowledges that despite the environmental benefits, we should protect petroleum based plastic recycling. I hear dollar signs  $$$..

I may be out in left field, but wouldn’t it make sense to send all materials that have the potential to be recycled to the recyclers and encourage them to find new and innovative ways to recycle those materials? Why are we OK with only recycling a few select materials?

With the latest reports on recycling rates in the US, it definitely seems our recycling infrastructure has a terminal illness; traditional medicines are not working to solve this illness. PET bottle collection rates are stagnant, HDPE recycling rates have dropped and there is no plan in sight to fix this. Even NAPCOR recognized this in their recent statement “without additional collection efforts or NEW STREAMS OF MATERIALS, the increased capacity will only serve to drive prices to unsustainable levels” and from Scott Saunders of KW Plastics Recycling “unfortunately, the recycling rate is going to stay where it is unless some NEW IDEA pushes recyclers forward.”

How about this NEW IDEA to provide NEW STREAMS OF MATERIAL:

Let’s place all clean materials (paper, plastic, metal, wood) in our blue bin and use the subsidies paid to recyclers to find out how to effectively recycle. and if that seems too radical check out this new idea that is already 5 times more effective than recycling: 35% success rate for waste management

I find myself placing plastics and other recyclable material that are not “on the recyclable list” in my blue bin in hopes that my little bit of rebellion will encourage recyclers to find ways to utilize these materials.   I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this subject.

Compostable Products Go Straight To Landfill

In Marin, Many Compostable Materials Go Straight to Landfill

Despite proliferation of biodegradable foodware, those products aren’t being composted at the two waste management facilities in Marin. As a result, people’s choices might not be as eco-friendly as they think.

Greenwood School 8th grader Leyla Spositto and her classmates knew something was amiss just a few weeks into the school year when they saw the trash piling up.

Greenwood administrators had chosen San Ramon, Calif.-based Choicelunch as the school’s new lunch provider largely because nearly all of its packaging was made of compostable materials – from corn-based bio-plastic cups to potato-based “spudware” forks and spoons – and therefore would be diverted from the landfill. The move fit with one of the school’s core values of environmental stewardship.

But when Greenwood environmental science teacher Julie Hanft told the students that so-called bio-plastics weren’t being composted in Marin, Greenwood’s 7th and 8th graders, who handle the school’s trash as part of their after-school chores, were stunned.

“All of the stuff from Choicelunch was going to the trash,” Spositto said. “We were very surprised that a system didn’t exist for the packaging to be composted like it was supposed to be.”

So was Greenwood School Director Debra Lambrecht.

“We were very, very surprised,” Lambrecht said. “And the fact that the children were shocked and appalled? We thought, ‘Well right on.’”

With lots of packaging that could neither be composted nor recycled – bio-plastics can’t be recycled like regular plastic – the students and Hanft arranged to have a large collection of their Choicelunch packaging taken to Recology near Candlestick Park in San Francisco, where bio-plastics are composted. But they quickly realized that having a parent or teacher drive a truck across the Golden Gate Bridge weekly wasn’t exactly a sustainable solution.

Greenwood’s students and school administrators found themselves at the crossroads of an issue that all involved say is riddled with complexities. As a result, many Marin residents who think they’re making eco-friendly decisions – buying only compostable plastic cups for their children’s birthday party, for example – are sending more garbage to the landfill than if they were using recyclable materials.

“That’s the big shame about bio-plastics – people think they’re doing the right thing,” said Jessica Jones, the district manager for Redwood Landfill and Recycling Center in Novato, where most of the trash, recycling and compost from northern and southern Marin is taken.

Jones said Redwood, a subsidiary of Waste Management Inc., doesn’t compost bio-plastics because the compost the company produces is sold to and used on organic farms. If its compost contained any materials that took longer to biodegrade – like corn-based foodware or bio bags, for instance – it could not be certified by the Organic Materials Review Institute, the Eugene, Ore., which provides independent review of products to be used in organic farming.

Jim Iavarone, managing director at Mill Valley Refuse, which sends all of its waste to Redwood, said the inability to compost bio-plastics “has been a continual issue for us” ever since the company rolled out compost service in August 2010.

“The makers of these products and food services (like ChoiceLunch) have hung their hat on that,” Iavarone said. “It’s a good idea that just isn’t delivering as hoped or as advertised.”

Devi Peri, the education coordinator for Marin Sanitary Service, which serves most of Central Marin, including San Rafael, Larspur, Corte Madera, San Anselmo, Fairfax and the Ross Valley and Las Gallinas sanitary districts, says her company is in the same boat as Redwood.

“Not all compostable plastics are created equal and we don’t even have any way to see if it’s a true biodegradable plastic,” she said.

But compostable bio-plastics are accepted by other Bay Area waste companies like Recology, which processes most of its OMRI-certified compost at Jepson Prairie Organics, a facility in Vacaville.

“There is a clear disconnect between how Recology can compost bio-plastics and how we can’t,” Jones said.

The difference, according to OMRO Program Director Lindsay Fernandez-Salvador, is that Recology has an extensive “foreign removal program.” That program, essentially a filtering system, calls for manual removal of any all bio-plastic products not clearly labeled compostable. Under California law, products labeled compostable must meet the Biodegradable Products Institute’s ASTM D6400 standards, which “determine if plastics and products made from plastics will compost satisfactorily, including biodegrading at a rate comparable to known compostable materials.”

“Any compost may become contaminated with compostable plastics, but if the program has a reasonably robust foreign removal program, that satisfies OMRI’s requirements,” Fernandez-Salvador said.

A foreign removal program means that bio-plastics that aren’t labeled clearly or don’t meet the standards either end up in a separate compost stream of only products that will degrade at a slower rate than food scraps or yard waste – or they’re tossed into the landfill.

Peri said there is some industry skepticism about how much bio-plastic material is actually ending up in the compost streams at places like Recology.

“I have a feeling that it might be more (going to the landfill) than people might want to hear,” Peri said. “And maybe more than they are reporting.”

Jack Macy, the Zero Waste Coordinator for the city of San Francisco, acknowledged that some “compostable stuff that is not labeled well ends up in the landfill.”

“But the reason that we accept compostable bags and compostable foodware is that it allows us to capture more of the organics that we’re trying to divert from the landfill,” Macy added. “Every composter would prefer not to take that stuff because of the challenges of identification and the breaking down aspect. It’s easier to say no.”

That’s the choice Redwood has made, which spurred Greenwood’s 7th and 8th graders to take on the issue as a community action project. The students researched other options, spoke with potential vendors and made a presentation to Lambrecht right before the holiday break. The school intends to move to a completely independent lunch system next year, with an in-house chef making lunches dispensed with reusable plates and utensils. The move is one that only schools as small as Greenwood, with just 127 students, can afford to make.

In the meantime, Greenwood administrators have decided to dump Choicelunch and explore alternative options for the rest of this year.

“It is very disappointing,” said Karen Heller, the director of business development for Choicelunch, whose company supplies lunches for more than a dozen schools in Marin, including the Mill Valley and Ross Valley school districts. “But it hinges on the waste management company. Our hands are kind of tied.”

For two days a week, the school’s 8th graders will be selling lunch from Grilly’s and Tamalpie Pizzeria (one day apiece) to raise money for their 10-day spring trip. Lambrecht hopes to have a new deal in place in the coming days for the other days.

“We’ve really felt like we’ve accomplished something,” Spositto said of the student’s campaign. “We’re glad we had the authority to make this happen.”

Regulation: Friend or Foe? Is it coming soon to your town?

We have heard regulatory agencies wanting to do more to protect the consumer and the environment alike.  And while regulation is a necessity for a properly functioning society, what does the current trends of regulation do for your business?  What does it do for our economy?  What does it do for innovation and ultimately the environment?

Unfortunately, there is also an additional qualifying question anyone familiar with the way the world spins around will ask themselves… “it depends on which private business is lobbying for, and what agenda…”  Todays environmental issues have an opportunity to be treated with innovation and forward thinking.  Perhaps never before in our history have we been more prepared and evolved to address the real problems relating to the environmental issues we face.  Words like; Life Cycle Analysis, Carbon Footprint, Sustainability, green movement…the list goes on-all in the name of greening up business and consumer habits.  But at the end of the day, what has been the net result?  Because in the end, what is paramount is results-positive results.

How is regulating this “green movement” helping?  Today, innovations have to answer questions of legitimacy and solid science.  Federal agencies like EPA, FTC, FDA are all both educating and becoming more educated on what the market trends are doing, and what materials are available to help green up materials and processes.  They demand companies to sufficiently demonstrate the validity of their claims, and help to curb “green washing” for the irresponsible opportunists looking to only capitalize on our consumer base sincerely wanting to do the right thing.

We at ENSO take this demonstration of legitimacy and solid science behind our innovative material VERY seriously.  We have engaged top-of-their-field scientific minds to aid in the quest to help our innovation receive the understanding and market reception it warrants.  Sometimes innovation outpaces conventional understanding, and what helps bridge the gap between innovation and acceptance is education and credibility.  Some of these processes take more time than desired, but in the end, things that are worthwhile and lasting often endure hurtles.  Many of our past innovations were looked at as a “pipe dream” only to turn into life changing propositions for markets-cars, electricity, a round earth etc. all took time for conventional wisdom to catch up to these innovations.

Today, I believe the market is ripe to receive an increase in both innovation and education, with responsible regulatory agencies sifting through relevant information to help environmental and economic impacts in our market.  Although the budgets in many agencies have been drastically reduced, they are hard at work to create a viable market which will include an earth friendly future marketplace.  Hopefully this work combined with everyone’s convictions and individual effort will drastically reduce the length of time processes can take, so we can more efficiently make innovative materials a positive conversion in our market.  So all can answer, regulation is a friend, not a foe.  One thing is for sure, we need regulation, as long as it helps an ever evolving marketplace.  Indeed nothing these days seem to remain static, questions and answers will always evolve, and so will regulatory process.

 

Community for Biodegradable Plastics

The “Green” movement is growing at a breakneck speed. Brands are positioning themselves around their environmental initiatives in many ways, but whatever they do, addressing their use of plastic seems to be the most prevalent step in having a greener footprint on the environment. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation and confusion in the marketplace about this subject. It seems like every time you turn around there is a new ban or an extreme move to address the use of plastic and it’s as if nobody really knows what to do at this point. But it’s my understanding that the advancements in new technologies are what we should really be focusing on embracing and bringing to market. I appreciate groups like the Community for Biodegradable Plastics that allow an open forum to discuss this matter. If you find yourself looking for answers to questions about biodegradable plastics and technology then this is the place where you can find them.