Tag Archives: plastic

The missing link between the Circular Economy and Sustainability

For those of us in the field of sustainability, the Circular Economy is not a new concept. However, when it comes to the Circular Economy and plastics too often there is a misunderstanding of how the two relate. The Circular Economy is used as simply a re-branding of recycling. The idea that recycling will solve the plastics dilemma is a misguided direction that has been pushed for decades. To achieve a sustainable plastics economy, we must understand the Circular Economy and refocus the vision.

The Sustainable Plastics Economy is a guide, written for those wanting to implement the Circular Economy within the plastics industry, providing a deeper understanding of the Circular Economy, and a vision beyond simply recycling. It is a method to replicate the efficiency of nature as intended in the Circular Economy.

The Sustainable Plastics Economy integrates a complete Circular Economy approach with the unique challenges of plastic. It includes the concepts of Sustainable Materials Management by addressing the full life cycle impact of various plastic options such as, what types of materials to select, where to source raw ingredients, waste infrastructures, and customary discard scenarios. The Sustainable Plastics Economy creates a dynamic, data driven approach to create a system designed to replicate and ultimately integrate into nature, as intended in the Circular Economy precept.

The link below allows for a complimentary download of the Sustainable Plastics Economy guidebook. This guide provides an overview of the Circular Economy concepts and introduces the Sustainable Plastics Economy. Also included is a five-step process for organizations to implement the Sustainable Plastics Economy in a practical and pragmatic method.

Download a complimentary copy of the The Sustainable Plastics Economy here:

The Sustainable Plastics Economy Guidebook



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.

Bacteria Strain

Bacteria Strain that Biodegrades Polyethylene

Most people understand standard plastics to be resistant to the biodegradation process, but did you know that research from back in 2005 isolated a microbial strain called Brevibacillus borstelensis that is capable of utilizing polyethylene as the sole carbon and energy source?

So what does all that mean and how did they do this?

Soil taken from a polyolefin waste disposal site was used to isolate the bacteria strain that had adapted to its environment and energy source to be able to secrete the enzymes needed to utilize the carbon within the polyethylene chemical chain.  From the research there were a few BIG discoveries with one being that Brevibacillus borstelensis was able to use the carbon found in polyethylene as the sole source of energy.  This is important because we typically find that microbes will develop where there are easily accessible sources of energy.  This is the reason traditional plastics take so long to biodegrade, the carbon is too difficult to utilize by microbes resulting in plastics lasting for hundreds of years in the environment.  We now know of a microbe that is indifferent in using the carbon from polyethylene plastic or from other sources.

This research has opened the door to better understanding the adaptive nature of those microscopic creatures we share the planet with.  Although we can’t see them, they outnumber the human inhabitants by a factor of many trillions of them to each one of us.  They have also had millions of years more time on the earth than us humans have, and are instrumental in the cleaning process of creating a healthy viable planet.  There is a lot we can and will continue to learn about the tiniest creatures we call microbes.

To read the full paper: Biodegradation of polyethylene by the thermophilic bacterium Brevibacillus borstelensis


Pepsi follows Green washed Consumers

This is a great article. Companies should be going with the best environmental packaging out there, not just what consumers believe is the best environmental packaging because they have suffered from greenwashing or a lack of access to the facts.  How amazing would it be to have a bottle made from renewable resources & with the ENSO additive. A renewable, biodegradable & recyclable bottle, that would be amazing.

Consumer preferences driving PepsiCo sustainability efforts


Posted August 11, 2011

PURCHASE, N.Y. (Aug. 11, 12:40 p.m. ET) — For a brand owner like PepsiCo, sustainable packaging doesn’t just mean making decisions on a complex set of resource, energy and environmental issues. It also means that you have to understand and determine whether consumers will view what you do as sustainable.

“Everything needs to be in sync with the brand identity, and you have to ask yourself what is the right message so the consumer understands that what you are doing is sustainable,” said Denise Lefebvre, vice president of global packaging for food and beverage giant PepsiCo. “There already is confusion among the public about sustainability, so all our messages have to be clear, consistent and in sync.”

Lefebvre, who was director of advanced research for beverage packaging for the Purchase, N.Y., soft-drink giant until a recent promotion, also said that when it comes to sustainable packaging, much of what brand owners focus on is driven by “consumer desires and consumer thinking.”

“Consumers are looking for technologies and innovations where it is readily evident to them what to do with that product and how it benefits them and the environment,” Lefebvre said in a recent interview. “The benefit has to be clear to them and right in their sweet spot. Our messages give us an opportunity to simplify things for consumers.”

With that in mind, the company has focused on producing increasingly lightweight PET bottles, developing technology to make PET bottles from plant-based resources and agricultural and food waste, and putting Dream Machine recycling bins and kiosks into place in cities to increase the number of bottles and cans that are recycled, she said.

“When consumers see a bottle that is fully recyclable and ultra-lightweight, it helps them in terms of making their purchase,” Lefebvre said. “The consumer understands source reduction and the use of less material. It is tangible and they can understand that. So if we can create technologies to push that faster, that would be ideal.”

Similarly, consumer perceptions are one of the driving reasons why PepsiCo is working, in partnership with others, to make a PET bottle completely from plant-based materials, including switch grass, pine bark and corn husks.

“If I tell [consumers], it’s 100 percent renewable PET, they understand it and they get it because they want things straightforward,” Lefebvre said.

Since the firm announced in March that it had developed a 100 percent renewable bottle, it has received positive consumer feedback, she said — although that bottle won’t eat go into pilot production until sometime in 2012, and even then, in limited quantities of 100,000-500,000 bottles.

“Consumers like it because you have eliminated fossil-based products [and] they believe that pulling oil out of the ground” is not the route to use anymore, Lefebvre said.

PepsiCo is also working to make its planned renewable PET bottle from organic waste from its food businesses, including orange and potato peels, oat hulls and other agricultural byproducts.

“Consumers have made it clear that they want us to use non-food resources, or food or agricultural waste [for bioresins] because it doesn’t detriment the environment and it doesn’t take away from food supplies,” she said.

Although many of PepsiCo’s sustainability package initiatives are driven by consumer perceptions, the firm realizes it can’t do things that are not sustainable just because consumers perceive them to be, she said. “Consumers would love an oxo-biodegradable bottle,” Lefebvre said “But right now, the technologies out there would do more harm than good.

“So to deliver something that would be more detrimental to the environment … It would be wrong and it would be greenwashing.”

Similarly, PepsiCo is not using polylactic bioresin for bottles because she said the material does not have the necessary barrier properties and is problematic in the PET recycling stream.

During a presentation at the Bioplastek conference in New York in late June, Lefebvre said PepsiCo’s objective is to create “performance with a purpose” in its packaging.

“Our objective is to make a 100 percent renewable, sustainable, non-fossil-fuel-based PET bottle in a closed-loop system using agriculture waste,” she said. “We want performance identical to what we have now: a product that is fully recyclable and a product that significantly reduces the carbon footprint.”

A number of companies now make non-petroleum-based ethylene glycol — which is 30 percent of the formulation of PET. And roughly a half-dozen firm say that they have demonstrated in a lab that they can make paraxylene, the building block for terephthalic acid, which constitutes the rest of PET, or plant-based terephthalic acid.

PepsiCo’s main competitor, Coca-Cola Co., has been making its PlantBottle from conventional terephthalic acid and renewable ethylene glycol since December 2009. H.J. Heinz Co. also began using the Coca-Cola PlantBottle for its 20-ounce ketchup containers in July.

Heinz expects to sell 120 million PlantBottle ketchup bottles in 2011; Coca-Cola expects this year to package 5 billion beverages globally in 15 countries in the PlantBottle compared to 2.5 billion last year.

PepsiCo has not discussed technology details for making the renewable terephthalic acid needed for a PET bottle manufactured 100 percent from renewable resources.

“We can buy and source the renewable ethylene glycol from any number of sources,” Lefebvre said. “That has been around for awhile. The key is the T piece [terephthalic acid]. That is critical in driving a renewable PET bottle to a mass scale.”

PepsiCo plans to model several different types of chemistry in its pilot -cale project to determine their efficiency to make renewable terephthalic acid. “There are a lot of emerging technologies that we will be evaluating, and they all have their pros and cons,” she said. “We’re very open to looking at them all and would be comfortable using several of them,” she said.

“We don’t make PET. We’re not going to. So we need the quality to be right.”

Lefebvre said she expects PepsiCo to announce soon on its sourcing strategies for renewable PET bottles. None of those strategies, she said, mean the firm will reduce its efforts to boost recycling of its plastic bottles or aluminum cans.

Since it embarked on its Dream Machine recycling initiative in April 2010, PepsiCo has placed 2,600 Dream Machines bins and reverse-vending kiosks in more than 30 states — at supermarkets, on city streets and other public venues.

The recycling bins are similar to trash cans, but they’re painted Pepsi blue with a recycling message on them. The computerized kiosks give reward points for each bottle or can recycled, which consumers can redeem online at greenopolis.com. — a partner in the program along with Waste Management subsidiary WM GreenOps LLC.

PepsiCo has also developed a recycling initiative for schools, called Dream Machine Recycle Rally, which rewards schools with points for each non-alcoholic plastic bottle or aluminum can students bring to school for recycling.

“It is a self-supportive strategy,” Lefebvre said of the initiatives. “As the program proliferates, it reaffirms to the consumer that recycling is important, and that recycling is just as good as renewables.” The Dream Machines also help the firm bring up recycling rates and get the material it needs to incorporate recycled content in its products, she said.

Just last week, PepsiCo announced that in August it will market the first plastic soft drink bottle to be made from 100 recycled PET in North America. The bottle, 7UP EcoGreen, will be used for diet and regular 7UP sold in Canada. It is expected to reduce the amount of virgin PET used for that product by 6 million pounds a year.

“We want to use more recycled PET” in all plastic bottles, Lefebvre said. “It is a matter of obtaining the right quality and getting the material — which is in short supply. “

To augment PepsiCo’s supply of recycled PET, the firm last year agreed to buy the majority of its bottle-grade PET pellet and flake from the new CarbonLITE plant in Riverside, Calif., which is scheduled to launch by Sept. 30 with nameplate annual capacity of 100 million pounds.

Exclusive Podcast with ENSO Plastics


This past Sunday creator of Green News 4 U Mel Wylie interviewed our very own Teresa Clark, Co-founder of ENSO Plastics, LLC.

What is ENSO…How does ENSO work…& Why is the ENSO product different ?

These are just the surface questions that Teresa will be answering in the 14 th episode of Green News 4 U’s Podcasts. Listen to the podcast here!

With the array of misconceptions the “earth friendly” plastics industry current holds, Green News 4 U’s Mel Wylie was determined to get the facts. Being an avid environmental guru, Teresa was able to clearly educate listeners with the facts…no green-washing here. Mel also took the time to get Teresa’s views on some of the most controversial cultural plastic debates of the moment. Some of the topics covered in this podcast include the single use plastic bag debacle, chemicals leaching into water of plastic bottles, proper packaging labeling and much, much more.

Go ahead and check out the podcast here to see how Teresa answered all of green news 4 u’s questions! Let us know what you think of the podcast in the comment box below, and don’t forget to share this blog with your friends.

If you like this podcast be sure to keep up with Green News 4 U’s via facebook & twitter

Project Kaisei Cleans up the Plastic Vortex with your “Clicks”

What is Project Kaisei?


I recently came across an unusual and touching fundraiser put on by Project Kaisei. If you haven’t heard of them, Project Kaisei is a California based NGO that focuses on cleaning up plastic waste from the North Pacific Gyre. This company also concentrates on integrating technologies to turn the plastic they collect into fuel or secondary products. Project Kaisei strives to bring awareness, education and showcase new technologies. So far they have taken 2 expeditions into the N Pacific Gyre to study the impacts and issues that result from plastic waste. The plastic waste found there is a mixture of new trash and small plastic pieces that have been broken down by the sun. Most of the plastic is not biodegradable plastic or does not have a chance to, and if it has not washed up on a shore somewhere or sunk to the bottom of the ocean it is still floating at sea.

To learn more about Project Kasei visit their website http://www.projectkaisei.org

The Campaign   “Save Kai”

In order to take another expedition Project Kaisei has come up with a facebook fundraising campaign that involves a Goldfish named Kai.

On the Save Kai page you can watch Kai 24 hours a day swimming around in a aquarium protected by a plastic wall. After  30 days from the start of the campaign Kai will be removed from his safe home and into a new home, known as the Plastic Vortex. You can learn more about the waste filled Plastic Vortex on the Save Kai page http://on.fb.me/savekaino

With every donation, Project Kaisei will remove a piece of plastic from Kai’s future plastic polluted home. This may seem cruel but it’s there way of convincing people to help clean up the Plastic Vortex and save millions of sea life. Whether you plan to donate or not you should check out the page to learn more about this campaign and the amazing work done by Project Kaisei.

Help Spread the word!

ENSO Biodegradable Plastics appreciates this cause because we have a passion for making plastics Earth Friendly.

Please visit Kai on the Save Kai Facebook page http://on.fb.me/savekaino

Tweet & Facebook post about Kai!

Check out this Video! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AO5asmSvrL0


The Ocean’s Plastic Garbage – A Serious Environmental Hazard

Our world’s oceans are home to five growing plastic gyres – vortexes of swirling ocean currents filled with degrading plastic that pose a serious threat to marine life.

Captain Charles Moore, noted author and oceanographer, has spent years conducting ocean and coastal samplings documenting plastic fragments along the 40,000 miles of the North Pacific Ocean. Captain Moore was the first to discover the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, otherwise known as the Pacific Gyre, which lies in the northern Pacific near Hawaii. This is the largest of the known gyres – roughly 12,400 square miles in size and growing – and filled with swirling fragmented colorful plastic debris.

Plastic in the ocean takes roughly 600 years to degrade fully. Marine life like sharks, dolphins, whales and numerous species of fish mistake these colorful remnants of our castoff trash as food, often suffering starvation due to the trash being indigestible. Oddly, it’s only the colored plastic they go for, though the clear plastic is also hazardous. Plastic water bottles are regularly found tangled in ocean coral, littering the ocean floor.

Plastic garbage doesn’t just stay in the ocean. Storms periodically break gyres up, pushing waves of trash onto beaches around the globe. Hawaii’s Kamilo Beach is frequently known as Plastic Beach due to its continually being overrun with plastic trash brought in by the ocean’s waves.

This plastic comes in all sizes and forms – discarded toothbrushes, combs, cups and, of course, plastic water bottles. Plastic trash discarded in Asia and Europe makes its way to the ocean, gets caught in the Indian Ocean gyre, then gets pushed back again to litter the once pristine shoreline.

We use 2 million plastic beverage bottles every 5 minutes in the U.S.

“No one is (looking) at it as a global phenomena and at the root causes (to) try to make it stop,” said Cecilia Nord, Vice President – Floor Care Sustainability and Environmental Affairs of Swedish-based Electrolux.

“We need to make it stop,” she said.

“Only we humans make waste that Nature can’t digest,” says Moore.

ENSO Bottles realizes that what’s needed is a shift in thinking as well as action.  By creating their innovative biodegradable plastic bottle with the ENSO additive, these PET-based bottles break down, rather than contribute to the world’s plastic pollution. It’s part of ENSO’s commitment “to act as environmental stewards.”

With plastic trash increasing the world over, and the devastating effect this has on marine life, it’s crucial for consumers to become responsible stewards who take on recycling to a level not seen before is needed.

Individuals doing their part can make the difference.

The wobbly “truth” about the success of plastic recycling

According to the 2009 Report on Post Consumer PET Container Recycling Activity, recycling increased 28% in the US for the 6th consecutive year.

This statistic was touted in the news as an ever-growing commitment by consumers across the country to recycling efforts. But all is not what it seems.

Continue reading

Choosing the more eco-friendly plastic

All plastic is not alike.

Oxo biodegradable plastic fragments into small pieces animals mistake for food

Consumers have gotten somewhat familiar with what can or cannot be recycled. But few consumers understand what oxo biodegradable plastic is or the impact that it has on the environment.

Oxo Biodegradable Plastic (OBD) is a polyolefin plastic – a type of transparent plastic often with an oily or waxy feel to it – that’s had small catalytic amounts of metal salts and/or heavy metals added to it.

According to the Oxo-Biodegradable Plastics Association, “until the plastic has degraded, it has the same strength, impermeability, printability and other characteristics of normal plastic.”

This statement, however, is misleading. The nature of oxo biodegradable plastic is that it begins to break down almost from the point of its manufacture. This is what gives it a limited shelf life. Manufacturers have tried to combat this by adding anti-oxygen components to the plastic. This, however, weakens the polymer and ends up contaminating the recycling stream. Also these salts and metals are inorganic materials and, because they don’t break down, will remain in the soil or environment long after the material itself breaks down.

This type of plastic poses a real hazard to the environment.  Its components break down in fragments, small pieces that are often mistaken by animals for food. There’s no real scientific evidence that small microbes are breaking the plastic down to its natural elements.

ENSO bottles won't contaminiate the recycling stream or the environment

ENSO plastic bottles are more environmentally-friendly.

ENSO’s additive is comprised of organic renewable sources. The additive doesn’t react to anything in the plastic, allowing it to retain its original strength, rather than breaking down when exposed to light or oxygen as oxo biodegradable plastic does.

ENSO bottles only begin to break down when placed in a dirt or some other microbial environment that allows microbes to colonize on the plastic, utilizing it as a food source  then beginning the process of breaking it down to its basic components of biogas and biomass. ENSO bottles can also safely be integrated into the recycling stream without any worries of contaminating it.

The difference between plastics can be both simple and profound. The type you use can either have a negative impact on the environment such as with oxo biodegradable plastic or a more neutral impact as with ENSO bottles.

Which one you choose makes a difference.