Tag Archives: innovation

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.


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.

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.

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.


ecoenthusiast Makes Valentine’s Day Green!

We all want to do our best to live green and make the world a cleaner place. When it comes to holidays though, I don’t always think about what is the greenest way to make the holidays environmentally friendly. Recently I have come across a great site that is focused on green products and living green. The site, www.ecoenthusiast.com , has great tips on different green topics and unique items of interest. Today I came across the article on how to make Valentine’s Day green. There are many great ideas there about how to make your Valentine’s green. Some of the great Valentine’s Day ideas that were in the post included sending e-cards, or saving a trip and having a romantic dinner at home. Or if you were going to buy gifts, it was suggested to buy from local craft fairs or better yet make it yourself! No matter what you do this Valentine’s Day, or any other holiday it is always great to find unique ideas on how to make it green. In this case with Valentine’s Day around the corner I would encourage you to see what the “ecoenthusiast” has in mind!

ecoenthusiast logo

Biodegradable Packaging-Nature Does it, We Should Too!

It dawned on me the other day when I was peeling a banana that nature uses its own “packaging” to protect food based material.  Yes I am talking about the banana peel as the example.   It seems as though a Banana will spoil within almost an hour when unpeeled, but if left in its peel (packaging) it will be protected for weeks being off the tree.

We peel oranges, bananas, corn etc. all paralleling the value ENSO plastics brings to the market.  The phrase, “nature does not produce anything that it cannot then break back down into its basic components” is so perfectly illustrated in this banana peel example.  Anyone will tell you, that when a banana peel is discarded in nature, they feel it will biodegrade (and I would also bet most would additionally picture someone slipping and landing on their backside because of a discarded Banana peel).

Nature accomplishes this miraculous process through the relentless activity of microorganisms designed to eat anything that has carbon available to “eat”.  Fruit, vegetables, leaves, meat etc. are just a few examples of the millions of items that are produced by nature, which will break back down into its basic microscopic components through the process nature provides.  These microbes are found everywhere, in fact there are more microbes found in a tablespoon of soil than inhabitants on the Earth.  Microbes are commonly known in high colony activity known as mold or fungus.

This nature produced packaging is a perfect parallel to what ENSO packaging is doing.  We see that we can initiate microbes to start the eating process of our treated plastic because they detect highly attractive food substances in our additive.  Once they begin to consume the additive, their digestive process, or enzymatic response, expands to consume the whole of the plastic and the additive.

This feature of our plastic working in harmony with nature is at the heart of our message to the world.  We can do things differently than we have in the past, and break out of “status quo”.  We can embrace innovation to foster change, and work with nature as opposed to working against nature.  The rewards overpower the downside when evaluated.  The upside to utilizing ENSO is growing in its understanding and impact.  Weather it is for a business wanting growth for doing the right thing, or the environmental impact of plastic on our planet, ENSO is here to help be a part of creating lasting, positive change.

During this New Year, we want to acknowledge those who are active in this change by utilizing ENSO material as part of their environmental mission.  In some instances, change has required courage and passion.  Anything worth-while has had to pass through the “growing pains” of society; hopefully those who have converted to ENSO has had more “growing” than they have had “pains”.  But in any event, the issue is too great, and the opportunity too real for anyone to not stand up and demand more.  So we want to invite others to create change for this New Year; to create a distinct legacy-whatever your position is at your company.  We invite those making key decisions for materials at their company to stand up and create change. We invite those who need to learn more about ENSO to make the decision to open their minds and get educated-misunderstanding or ignorance is part of the problem we face as a society, education can open up so many possibilities.  We invite all to hold ENSO to higher standard as well, and develop more information and answers to new questions and applications.  I hope everyone has a New Year’s resolution to be actively engaged in positive change to our environment, and elevate the status quo at your company/position to a new level of reality; even a higher standard.  We live in exciting times where someday I hope all of us can look back and say, “I was part of that great change in the market.”


Doing What’s Right When Nobody’s Looking

In a time when environmentally conscious branding is paramount in marketing circles, the overall adoption of “Green” initiatives should be, first and foremost, a fundamental decision. Where choices are made based on what’s right instead of what’s convenient. Often, technologies advance so rapidly that legislation is caught playing “catch-up”. It is during these times that brands face the decision of doing what is the scientifically proven best choice for the environment or shelving this choice because of marketing obstacles.

Often the final decision comes down to the corporate integrity of the brand and personal devotions of those brands leaders. The “why do we do what we do?” question. Do you implement environmental measures because it is the right thing to do, or do you implement them because it may improve your bottom line?

For example: Novartis is an international company who has made a corporate commitment to pay a ‘living wage’ to all employees worldwide. This means that they are often paying above legally required minimum wage because they understand that minimum wage does not provide for basic human needs. They implemented this corporate directive, not because it improved their immediate bottom line; but because their corporate moral standing includes a belief that an appropriate standard of living should always be respected in the course of business.

This is a specific example about human rights issues, and environmental rights follow the same path. Many companies are in business simply to make money for the shareholders, while others hold themselves to a higher standard or social cause, whether that is human rights, environmental issues, legislative involvement or truth in advertising. When your brand faces these tough decisions, it is much like a refiner’s fire where the true moral standing of your brand shines through. When all is said and done, those companies that tout their environmental accountability through the integrity of that decision and not the convenience that it offers will be clearly recognized by the consumers as brands with integrity and moral.

ENSO Plastics is both proud and honored to be partnered with many brands and manufactures who stand behind their commitments, with the foundation of scientific research, to become leaders in the adoption of improved methods for a healthier planet.

The Maturing of Biodegradable Plastics

Striving for growth and improvement is a fundamental part of the human experience. We, as a whole, are never satisfied with status quo.  This is true both personally and as a society. If one were to travel back in time to the beginning of any industry; we would discover a couple of things; industries began with the initial ideals of improving lives, they utilize best of current knowledge and understanding to bring those ideals to the masses and they improve over time.  We can clearly see that as time marches on from the beginning days of each industry, the  knowledge and understanding  changes;  resulting in improvements, wide acceptance and change.

History is riddled with examples of industries beginning as young ideas then growing and maturing over time to become well-established. In doing so, they’ve added essential improvements to the quality of life for mankind and often overcome significant opposition in the process.

It’s easy to take look at where we are today in industries such as aviation, space exploration, manufacturing, construction, education, legislation, science, and many others and forget the massive changes that have taken place since the beginning of each of these industries began.

  • Human flight was only dreamed of until the first powered flight by the Wright brothers in 1903 (which lasted only 12 seconds!). Through improved technology we now fly not only across the world daily but into space as well!
  • Copernicus suggested that the earth revolves around the sun in the early 1500’s. Books written supporting this theory were banned and supporters were persecuted and executed for heresy.  In fact Galileo was ordered by law to not hold, teach or defend this concept. Today, we accept this theory as common knowledge.
  • People laughed at Henry Ford’s “horseless buggy”. Today it is not only an essential mode of transportation, but we are finding better ways to prevent pollution and conserve energy resources consumed by these “horseless buggies”.

Industries begin just as the examples above, with the best knowledge available and often a bit of controversy. However they are regularly improving as a result of lessons learned, developments of new processes and protocols, scientific breakthroughs, and having a better understanding of what questions to ask; as well as knowing what issues to focus on and allocate resources to.

The story of ENSO is no exception to this process.  ENSO was created with the mission to change the world in the way we handle plastics – we want to solve the world’s plastic pollution issue.  Following more than a year of research to understand the plastic pollution issues; we developed ENSO additives. This additive is designed to enhance the biodegradation of standard plastics and allows the plastic material to recycle along with standard polymers.

ENSO utilizes the best of science’s understanding, processes and protocols to test and validate our technology.  As our industry matures we recognize that it is no different than the many industries that have come before us.   This industry is young and has much maturing to work through.  The culture of ENSO to improve the life of mankind with solving the plastic pollution issue does not make us shy away from the growing pains that happen with young industry and we are in the forefront, pushing the envelope by improving the science, process and protocols associated within this industry.   This does not come without hurdles, but as we see from the examples throughout history of matured industries, the key to success is continually improving the science, knowledge and education of our products. ENSO is dedicated to this continued maturation and the value that this provides to the industry and our environment.

Part #2 – A New Look At Zero Waste

If you recall, last month we discussed ZERO Waste. The key points were that every living entity creates bi-products, which can become waste if the byproduct has no value – think of your kitchen trash.

This trash is comprised of food waste, paper, plastic and anything else you did not find value for in your home. Luckily this trash goes to your curb and is neatly taken away where you no longer have to see it. Perfect right? A few years ago I would have said “NO WAY! This trash is going to the landfill where it will sit for decades or centuries. How is that perfect?” Fortunately, today we are learning how to turn that landfilled trash into a huge value – for you and the environment!

Methane. One of the cleanest and most inexpensive sources of energy available today, straight from your neighborhood landfill! That’s right, you send out trash and get back electricity! OK it is a bit more complicated than that but fundamentally that is exactly what is happening at over 550 landfills across the US.

Here are the facts:

As material biodegrades in landfills it produces methane. Methane has over 22 times the greenhouse gas effect of CO2, however when landfill methane is used for energy production, there becomes a carbon positive effect. The NRDC states that the use of landfill gas for energy has the potential to offset up to 12006lbs of CO2 per MWh, as it offsets traditional energy production such as coal and gas.

The greenhouse gas reduction benefits of a typical 4 megawatt LFG project equate to:
• Planting over 60,000 acres of forest per year or removing the annual carbon dioxide emissions from over 45,000 cars.
• This would also offset the use of 1,000 railcars of coal or prevent the use of almost 500,000 barrels of oil.

Producing energy from landfill gas avoids the need to use non-renewable resources such as coal, oil, or natural gas to produce the same amount of energy. LFG electricity’s offsetting of fossil fuel derived energy can avoid gas end-user and power plant emissions of CO2 and pollutants.

Did you know that 14 percent of renewable electricity generation (not including hydroelectric dams) comes from operations that recapture energy from discarded waste.

Companies today have a unique opportunity to utilize packaging that retains the beneficial properties of traditional plastic, such as strength, shelf life, visual aspect and process-ability, while creating a zero waste program and potentially reducing your carbon footprint. ENSO plastics are designed for disposal in today’s biologically active landfills where they will biodegrade and convert to methane for clean and inexpensive energy production. In 2009 there was 30 million tons of plastic packaging discarded into US landfills, converting this plastic to ENSO would result in about 10 million tons of plastic being converted to clean energy and offsetting the dirty energy production of coal and gas. It would also potentially free up over 70 million cubic yards in our landfills.

Did you know?

When converted to methane, 34 ENSO bottles (19.2 gram) can light a 100W light bulb for 1 hour.

Using ENSO materials provide companies a unique opportunity to step into a future of zero waste, where all product packaging is converted to clean energy, and returned to the earth in a beneficial form. In a life cycle analysis this could prove to be a carbon negative option to traditional plastic packaging.

Waste is a byproduct that has no value. Plastic that is recycled or biodegrades in a landfill has a value (economically and environmentally) and is not waste.


As featured on Newhope 360; Full Article link http://newhope360.com/packaging/enso-plastics-develops-near-perfect-plastic-bottle

ENSO Plastics develops near-perfect plastic bottle

Wed, 2011-11-09 13:09

While many can’t imagine life without bottled water, it wasn’t that long ago—the 1960s, in fact—that plastic bottle production didn’t exist. Today, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is the plastic of choice in the beverage industry. According to ENSO Plastics, more than 75 percent of the ubiquitous bottles (and 94 percent of all plastics) end up in landfills. “We really want to solve the world’s plastic pollution issue,” said President Danny Clark of the Mesa, Ariz.–based company. ENSO is taking advantage of this statistic with its current solution: fully biodegradable and recyclable PET plastic.

“When we started, some of the cofounders had experience with bottled water companies. I was one of them,” said Clark. “We were exposed on a regular basis to the environmental impacts that bottled water has in the environment.” Customers asked the co-founders regularly for alternatives. Continue reading

USF Patel School of Global Sustainability visits ENSO!

Here at the ENSO corporate office, we currently have a special guest visiting with us for 2 weeks. Heidi Grace Paintner, a student at the University of South Florida and is currently working on a project for her MA in Global Sustainability. The Patel School of Global Sustainability at the University of South Florida was the nation’s first school of its kind and is seen as an educational leader in this growing field. This program aims to train students to be leaders in the area environmental stewardship and prepares them for work in “green collar” occupations.

The title of Heidi’s thesis/project is PET Plastics: Biodegradability & Sustainable Packaging in the Bottled Beverage Industry. She found ENSO when researching solutions to the current landfill crisis the bottled beverage industry is struggling to resolve. We are very excited to be working with her and helping her to further develop her research in the area of sustainable beverage packaging.

Heidi’s First Day

Today was Heidi’s first day at the office. After meeting everyone and showing her what we do here at ENSO, I helped her to develop a bottled beverage consumer survey. If you all could please take a moment to participate in this survey, Heidi and I would greatly appreciate it.

The survey pertains to PET plant based plastics and the perception consumers have on their biodegradability. She will be using the results of this survey in her research project. Tomorrow she will meet with Del, the VP over our Environmental and Technology group and begin learning about the legislative issues that surround biodegradable plastics. ENSO is very excited to have Heidi with us for the next few weeks!