Category Archives: Environmental News

The New Plastics Economy’s “Global Commitment” defies commonsense

The “root cause” solution to plastic pollution is in making sure plastics work in today’s managed-waste systems. It seems too simplistic an answer considering the enormity of this problem. But when it’s all said and done, plastics (petroleum or plant based) must work in our managed systems, especially the one that primarily collects plastic waste – period. This is the only path to a full life-cycle and systems approach for profoundly better economic and environmental outcomes.

Plastics are created from energy and, through our managed systems, plastics should ultimately be recovered as clean energy, closing the loop and ensuring plastics never become “waste”. Energy growth is directly linked to well-being and prosperity across the globe. For developing nations, this need is fundamental to improving and even saving lives. Energy is the building block for creating plastics and ensuring Energy’s recovery at the end-of-life is essential in eliminating pollution and achieving Circularity.

Which brings me to the New Plastics Economy’s “Global Commitment” pledge which states, “The Foundation believes the use of anaerobic digestion is currently limited for plastic packaging as at the date of publication,” to justify the focus on Compostability as the only acceptable end-of-life solution, but only for “specific” and “targeted” applications. Otherwise, it’s Recycle or die! The myopic pledge even doubled-down declaring that plastics-to-energy is not part of the circular economy target state! A stance that is radically shortsighted and naïve considering the scope of this crisis and the current state of Recycling.

But what strikes me as incredibly odd is that out of the dozens of experts, the broad stakeholder review process involving 100 organizations and experts across businesses, governments, NGO’s, academics and standard-setting organizations, you’re telling me that nobody noticed that this statement is completely ass-backwards?!?

The vast majority of plastic packaging is commonly and customarily discarded in facilities that are large-scale Anaerobic digestors (a.k.a. modern landfills) Limited? Not true, nearly 90% of U.S. Municipal Solid Waste (especially plastic packaging, because that’s what it is – not organic waste) is sent to anaerobic waste systems (practice and scale) – BTW, 0% to Industrial Composting facilities! These anaerobically managed MSW facilities are actively collecting and turning waste into fuel for vehicles, heat for homes and providing power to industries. They are highly regulated and strictly managed, and no other waste-management system collects more discarded plastics – none!

We have a pollution crisis and to get any tangible grip on this problem plastics must work in the systems that are available to us today. Strategies and pledges based on contingencies and “further innovation” only stagnate our abilities to act now. Recycling will never be a solution to pollution. We have systems in place and technologies available to make meaningful strides today, based on data, science and certainty that eliminate pollution with return value, not just continuing to “fight against” it with sentiment and no substance.

Energy recovery must be included in strategy and design, it is the alpha and omega. From where it comes, it must return. Negating this principle in the management of plastics is blasphemous to the fundamental principles of “Circularity” and only serves to continue down a linear path that solves nothing.

APR Panics as Sustainable Materials Management Takes Hold

In the past 50 years, measuring the sustainability of plastic packaging has been centralized on recyclability. This multi-billion-dollar effort has resulted in less than 10% of plastics being recovered and recycled. As the field of sustainability is maturing, the approach is evolving to a more holistic approach that considers the environmental impact of the product throughout its entire life-cycle. An encompassing approach is critical in making sound decisions that have impact, however not everyone is on board and some that represent the recycling industry are in a downright panic.

In a recent interview discussing sustainability of plastics, Steve Alexander, executive director of APR, states; “Frankly, there is no sustainability without recycling.”. Steve pointed to brand owners making recycling-related commitments and expressed concern that there may be less importance placed on recycling as other sustainability factors are considered. Alexander emphasized that he wants “companies and consumer brands to continue their commitment to utilizing recycling.”

While I understand that Alexander’s job and the entire APR organization’s existence is completely dependent on the continued focus on recycling as the primary directive of sustainability, it is disheartening to see such a blatant disregard for achieving more sustainable communities. The hard-line approach by APR that recycling is the basis of sustainability demonstrates the complete refusal to accept the complex nature of sustainability and the science and data behind sustainable materials management.

Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) is an approach that evaluates a product across the entire life-cycle; sourcing, manufacturing, use and discard. SMM has provided alarming insight to many traditional approaches that while appeared beneficial were in fact environmentally detrimental. It is this reason that the EPA, waste companies and many brands are shifting from the archaic simplistic approach of simply recycling to the encompassing approach of SMM that utilizes science and data to drive true environmentally sustainable approaches.

Contrary to what Alexander and APR may promote, from a full life-cycle analysis approach, recycling is not synonymous with sustainability. In most instances, converting from recyclable rigid packaging into non-recyclable multi-layer flexible packaging is the optimal solution. There are some specific instances where using recyclable packaging is more beneficial, but this is not the majority.

As sustainability leaders, each of us must be willing to question traditional approaches and adopt methods that provide measurable results which are validated with data to provide environmental value. We must follow the science and data to create a sustainable future. And, we must at times make difficult decisions and admit when we have taken the wrong approach – even when it doesn’t benefit our pocketbook.

It borderlines dangerous and irresponsible to push solutions simply because consumers feel they are sustainable when in fact they have a significant negative environmental and financial impact to the environment and our communities.

The question I have for Alexander and APR is:

“Are you an advocate for sustainability or for your personal interests?”

Your actions and statements seem to provide a clear answer.

 

Read the full article here:

APR: ‘There is no sustainability without recycling’

Recycling: Making Sense out of the Cents

Last week I was reading the European Federation of Waste Management and Environmental Services (FEAD) assessment that the EU will need to invest up to $12 Billion (€10 Billion) to innovate and expand the separate collection, sorting and recycling capacity to reach the EU landfill diversion targets for plastic packaging.

I had to pause and reread the figure; $12,000,000,000??

I understand the desire to increase recycling, but at what cost do we stop pushing blindly forward and begin to compare the alternatives?

Let’s just look at the numbers:

The latest report from PlasticsEurope states that there was a total of 16.7 million tonnes of plastic packaging waste in the EU. 6.8 million tonnes of it was recycled. That leaves 9.9 million tonnes that would still need to be recycled to reach the proposed 100% recycling of plastic packaging. According to FEAD it will cost up to $12 billion to build the infrastructure to collect, sort and recycle this 9.9 million tonnes using traditional recycling methods.

This breaks down to an annual cost of $1200 per tonne to recycle this material. Even if they were to expand that expense over 10 years of recycling plastic packaging, it would still cost $120 per tonne.

As an alternative, let’s calculate the numbers when designing plastic packaging with the existing infrastructure in mind. Most plastic packaging is discarded into a landfill. Modern technology allows for plastics to be converted into biogas within these landfills. Subsequently, the landfills are currently harnessing this biogas for auto fuel and energy. The result is recycling waste plastic by conversion to energy.

Sounds like a simple solution, but do the numbers add up?

Incorporating the technology to recycle plastics to biogas costs an average of $120 per tonne. The infrastructure and collection are already in place so there is no additional expense. The value of the biogas energy produced is $550 per tonne. This leaves a net income of $430 per tonne of plastic packaging. For 9.9 million tonnes of plastic packaging the income would be $4,300,000,000 each year. Expanding that over 10 years would be a net benefit of $43 Billion.

So, the question: Is it better to spend $12 billion for traditional recycling or earn $43 billion by combining traditional recycling with energy recycling?

(And this doesn’t even begin to address the fact that LCA analysis shows that most plastic recycling is not environmentally beneficial, nor can plastics be effectively recycled indefinitely. But, that is a subject for another article….)

The Business Side of Green

We recently had the opportunity to spend an hour with a fantastic host and avid environmentalist, Peter Arpin, on The Business Side of Green. The topics ranged from how to improve recycling, what plastics belong in composting and how plastics increase renewable energy. There was even discussion about why the Circular Economy can be at odds with sustainability and how to bring these two methodologies into a synergistic solution. Throughout the show was an overarching theme of ‘thinking differently’ about plastic.

If you make plastics, use plastics or think about plastics (we all do!), this is a must listen to episode.

Listen Now

If you would like to listen to more from Peter Arpin and the Business Side of Green:

Click Here

 

 

The Stupidity in Sustainability

In a recent article by Laura Parker, “You Can Help Turn the Tide on Plastic. Here’s How,” 6 feeble recommendations are provided for consumers, none of which will turn any tide on the plastic pollution problem.  I understand Laura Parker may not be an expert in this field, but when it comes to the sustainable management of plastics, can we stop the stupidity?

For example, Laura Parker begins with the blanket statement, “The industry is debating on what biodegradable means.”  Really, what industry?  If Sustainable Packaging is your expertise and you do not understand the difference between [Anaerobic] Biodegradation, Compostable, Degradable and how today’s waste is being Managed, you might be out of your depth and in need of a career change.  For those of us in the field of sustainability there is no debate on what biodegradability means as this is a scientific process with industry testing standards structured to test and validate biodegradation in these types of environments.

Or this drivel, “Biodegradables don’t live up to their promise, for example, in the dark, oxygen-free environment of a commercial landfill…”  The general term means little, but when backed by scientific data to support the claim, like internationally recognized ASTM D5526 testing standards, guess what?  It does biodegrade in landfills (ANAEROBICALLY MANAGED).

When it comes to the management of our waste, the “open environment” should never be an acceptable option or target for discard – do not litter, remember?  Also, aiming and designing for Industrial Composting is irrational, sacrifice the entire supply chain and product performance, for what?  Plastics don’t end-up there and they do not make compost, where’s the value?

Then there’s the “Circular Economy” theory, which makes sense, but let’s be clear, the “New Plastics Economy” does not – at all!  Nearly 50 years of a massive effort to propagate and encourage the recycling of plastics and today the industry is in complete collapse.  Yet, with no shame, companies double-down on this nonsense, telling consumers that its plastic packaging will be “100% recyclable/reusable” in 7 years!  The 2 biggest “BS”-ables in Sustainable Packaging and the root cause of why the recycling industry has been destroyed – but Nero keeps fiddling!  Why do we insist on science and data to back up biodegradation, but use no science and data to back up plastic recycling?

What needs to be achieved is a Sustainable Plastics Economy.  Every plastic application cannot be recycled into another plastic application and plastics cannot be recycled indefinitely. However, if “Zero-Waste” is the goal, value must be derived from the entire lifecycle of the application, not just material recycling, but end-of-life and chemical recycling as well, ensuring conversion into useful Energy.  This happens by taking the contamination factor out of the primary method in which plastic waste is discarded and can be managed.

Sustainable Packaging 101: Stop blaming consumers and take accountability.  Companies need to define the primary MANAGED-WASTE method for its products and packaging and make sure (using science and data) that it works in that system.

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

 

 

FMCG’s, please THINK DIFFERENTLY

The latest estimates indicate that 8300 million metric tons (Mt) of plastics have been produced to date. As of 2015, approximately 6300 Mt of plastic waste had been generated. Despite the efforts of the last 40 years, only 9% of this material is getting recycled. The environmental impact of plastic pollution is wreaking havoc and if smarter decisions are not made regarding how this material is being managed the effects will certainly be catastrophic for the entire ecosystem.

We have a plastic pollution problem, not a plastic sourcing problem. It begins in design, not disposal. Whether the resin is petroleum based or bio-based, if that complex molecule that’s been created does not perform in accordance with the common method in which this waste is effectively and customarily managed, especially when the returns contribute to lowering CO2, increasing clean energy recovery and eliminating plastic waste as an environmental pollutant, then the sincerity of the entire sustainability platform should be questioned.

The vast majority of this plastic pollution is coming from FMCG companies that rely on single-use/non-recyclable packaging to deliver goods. The packaging provides unparalleled performance and value in achieving this purpose. However, the post-consumer repercussions are disastrous. Consumers are being used as scapegoats, blamed for low recycling rates and even buying the product in the first place, but most consumers are dutifully ensuring this material is in fact being sent to a managed waste environment. But sustainability professionals within FMCG companies fail to recognize and capitalize on this asset that sits under their proverbial noses.

This problem must be viewed through a different lens and nothing is more critical in accomplishing this then getting a handle on how today’s waste is actually managed and the intrinsic value propositions that exist in complying with these infrastructures.

Does recycling cause mental illness?

In psychology, there is a mental illness or mental disorder called Delusional Disorder. The main feature of this disorder is the presence of delusions, unshakable beliefs in something untrue or not based on reality. Over the past forty years there has been a growing increase in the feel-good result of recycling. Many sustainability managers today approach sustainability as being synonymous with recycling. The idea is that we should recycle everything no matter the economic or environmental costs. We should do it because it “feels” like the right thing to do. But none of this is based on facts, data or science. In fact, the data and science tell us otherwise and points to the dark side, that this delusional approach of “recycle everything no matter the cost” creates more environmental and economic harm than doing nothing.

Over the past forty years we have subsidized billions on top of billions of dollars, and have increased taxes (bottle bills, bag fees) to subsidize plastics recycling. The result? An industry that doesn’t and wouldn’t survive on its own, recycles less than 10% of our overall plastics and hasn’t even remotely fixed, solved, or made a dent in plastic pollution. All this time, effort and billions of dollars have not even begun to make a positive impact in the massive amounts of coffee pods, sachet packets, personal care packaging and products, zipper bags, plastic bags, plastic film, foam coffee cups, foam and plastic soda cups, lids, straws, utensils, food and product packaging, Styrofoam….. The list goes on and on, to the tune of billions upon billions of these items being disposed of each year and increasing, mind you, because we are adding more and more people to the planet and we continue to consume more and more stuff. None of the efforts that have been made thus far, or that are currently being proposed, to recycle these items have or will change the direction we have been on and are currently heading in.

When sustainability managers develop, and implement ideas and programs such as bring back programs which require additional infrastructure for managing, shipping, transportation to processors which will address less than 5% of a company’s plastic packaging and do so because it feels good or sounds good but neglects the use of facts and data to validate that the overall environmental impact is beneficial, these kinds of programs are hopeful or wishful thinking at best.

One might even ask how it’s possible to perform the responsibility of sustainability guardian’s without the use of facts, data and science? How does one solve a problem of this magnitude neglecting science and data and facts? This “feel good” approach to recycling has resulted in some people becoming mentally ill with Delusional Disorder.

So how do we begin to move in a direction to fix this mental illness? How do we open the eyes of those with Delusional Disorder and get them to start using facts, data and science to develop solutions that will have true environmental benefits and value? Delusional disorder is considered difficult to treat. Antipsychotic drugs, antidepressants and mood-stabilizing medications are frequently used to treat this mental illness and there is growing interest in psychological therapies such as psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a means of treatment.

These treatments would take years to get society back on track with using science, data and facts in our solutions to addressing humanities plastic waste problem. So how do we (as a society) effectively and quickly treat this widespread mental illness before it’s too late for the environment? We must begin to make reality based science and data driven decisions and develop solutions that will address the plastic waste we humans continue to produce, use and discard so that we can move in the direction of making real positive changes that will have true environmental value and benefit, instead of the delusion of acting on what might feel good but will ultimately never solve plastic pollution.

Study Finds Recyclability Issues In Weight, Labels for PET Bottles

By Martín Caballero, BEVNET

For consumers, the recycling process begins and ends the moment they place a used plastic bottle in the bin.

For brands and bottle manufacturers, that process is considerably more complex. And as a movement towards sustainability and waste reduction continues to shape the industry, both are taking a closer look at how physical characteristics, design, and supplemental materials like ink and glue can affect the recyclability of bottles made with polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

Plastic Technologies Inc. (PTI), a firm that provides package design, development and engineering services to bottle manufacturers, explored this issue in a recent study analyzing how PET bottle weight affects performance, cost, and environmental impact, as well as how other design decisions influence recyclability.

The results concluded that ultra-lightweight bottles can negatively impact the effectiveness of recycling systems, while showing that the a majority of the bottles tested showed significant issues in recyclability, based on Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) guidelines.

The study analyzed 500mL PET bottles, sold individually at room temperature, from the highest bottled water consumption regions where market-leading global brands are sold, including the U.S., Mexico, Europe (France, Italy, Switzerland), and India. Each were tested for weight, pressure, product volume, fill point, top load, thickness, section weights, color and closure types.

In an interview with BevNET, Marcio Amazonas, Director of Latin American Operations for PTI, said that study was partially intended to send a message to the category market leaders that good design, in terms of recyclability, can be a positive influence on the industry.

“We wanted to make this study as a competitive analysis to show who are the best brand owners in terms of a good design for recyclability,” said Amazonas. “It’s also sending a message to our own customers that we can help you improve your design.”

Weight is a crucial factor in determining bottle recyclability, but it has also increasingly become a way in which brands communicate a premium offering to consumers, and attempting to balance these two competing interests can make things even more complicated.

The samples evaluated from the U.S. reflected this stratification. Out of the seven, two samples came from premium-priced packages sold in 6-packs, which were around 22-23 g. The rest came from bottles of mid-range priced water, weighing 13-17 g, and value-priced bottles, weighing 7.5 to 8.5 g.

However, the study notes that the performance was not a direct correlation to the weight of the package.

“Sometimes the best ones were too heavy, so they are good in a way but they are not the most environmentally sound, because they could be lighter, Amazonas said. “But that’s a brand owner choice to position that brand as premium. So they want to go with the heavy plastic; that’s their call, but it’s not ideal for efficiency.”

In recent years, some brands, such as Nestlé Waters, have adopted ultra-thin, super lightweight bottles based on the idea that they are more environmentally friendly because they require less energy to manufacture and transport. Yet according to Amazonas, recyclers are complaining about problems related to those bottles as well.

For example, lighter packaging can increase the number of bottles entering the recycling stream; Amazonas estimated that it could add 10,000 bottles per ton of recyclable materials.

Furthermore, when labels are sorted in a process called elutriation, they are soaked in a large tank of water to separate PET from polyolefins. Afterwards, an air current dries the materials and pushes the labels out of the chamber, but if the bottle is too light, it will be forced out as well.

“The yields suffer not only because of the potential presence of non-PET, but also mechanically speaking, the process is designed for a certain density that suffers with this lightweighting,” said Amazonas.

Besides weight, Amazonas noted that ink and label type as other potentially disruptive factors to the recycling process, as materials, colors, sizes and even the label application process all have an impact.

Of the seven U.S. samples tested, five had polymer labels, one had paper and one had a combination of the two. Five out of seven samples used a wrap-around label, while two used an adhered label.

All seven U.S. bottle samples tested had labels that caused color and clarity change in the wash, and label bleed was the most common issue observed. The study concludes that “the use of soluble inks and glues and the specification of the label substrate could have resulted in much better recyclability scores.”

“I think the ink is one of the big issues because it is so simple to resolve, and of course [the brands] are all competing on price and going for the cheapest thing,” said Amazonas, noting the presence of other non-PET contaminants in labels, such as PVC, that burn at different temperatures can cause recycling operations to reject certain bottles. “So sometimes it’s an economic decision on the design side to get to lower cost labels, inks and glues, and that’s what makes the design a little poor.”

In terms of solutions, Amazonas said the ideal PET bottle from a recyclability perspective would be clear with no colorants and none of the chemical additives that are sometimes used to create a barrier between the plastic and the liquid in bottles of milk or juice.

On a moral level, he noted the efforts of regulatory agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in promoting sustainable materials management, and said that brands will seek to capture the market of conscious consumers who expect recyclability to be a key component of a company’s mission.

“The heaviest volumes of bottle-to-bottle use is here, so we have all the good reasons to thank the market leaders like the guys we tested and we keep pushing,” he said. “They are not doing anything horrible, but if we don’t talk about it they will probably go with the most economic solution.”

Yet despite his deep knowledge of the industry, Amazonas said that the most important logistical piece of the recycling process is the simple act of the consumer throwing the bottle into the collection bin.

“If there’s no collection, there’s no recycling — so what’s the point?”

Read original article here: https://www.bevnet.com/news/2017/study-finds-recyclability-issues-weight-labels-pet-bottles?utm_source=BevNET.com%2C+Inc.+List&utm_campaign=37a1f533c8-mailchimp&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f63e064108-37a1f533c8-168618890

Global Landfill Gas Market is set to grow appreciably owing to stringent norms associated with greenhouse emission.

The report “Landfill Gas Market Size, Industry Analysis Report, Regional Outlook (U.S., Canada, Brazil, Germany, Italy, France, UK, Netherland, Russia, China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa), Application Development, Competitive Market Share & Forecast, 2017 – 2024” Rising demand for the clean energy technologies will further enhance the industry outlook across the forecast period. In 2016, Singapore government had setup a new target towards the reduction in carbon emission by 36% by 2030 below 2005 levels.

Depleting conventional resources leading to growing energy security concern will positively steer the global landfill gas market. Effective energy utilization and integration of competent equipment will further drive the technology by 2024. In 2017, UK based Brunel University in collaboration with a waste management firm Mission Resources have announced development of a Home Energy Recovery Unit (HERU) to heat water in the country.

Rising waste disposal leading to increasing waste to energy techniques will foster the global landfill gas market share by 2024. Government favorable waste management initiatives will thrust the global industry. In 2017, the Australian government have initiated a USD 2 million program in support of waste to energy technologies across Victoria City.

Complex design of treatment facility and inconsistency of waste composition will hamper the global landfill gas market. Extensive urban population growth favoring to the domestic solid waste technology leading to low generation rates and enhanced treatment technologies.

On the basis of application, the global landfill gas market can be segmented into utility flares, pipeline-quality, process heater, leachate evaporation and electricity generation. These applications are anticipated to grow substantially complying to growing environmental concern and industrialization across the globe. In 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission(FERC) has approved the settlement that provides a single natural gas quality specification for heavier hydrocarbons and ethane in the U.S.

Landfill gas market from electricity generation is set to grow appreciably pertaining to developing distributed generation technology and intensive growing demand for electricity. In 2016, the U.S. based ENER-G systems piloted an independent USD 7.58 million, 11MW landfill gas to power project in South Africa. Landfill gas market from utility flare is anticipated to grow considerably with increasing demand for reduced carbon emission technologies across the globe. The U.S. based Atlantic County Landfill Energy has established a USD 440,000 worth enclosed flare to reduce excess methane to electric plant besides the landfill in New Jersey.

Landfill gas market from pipeline-quality gas is set to grow appreciably owing to stringent government initiatives and advanced infrastructure implementations across the globe. In 2017, Wiscosin council has requested for installation, delivery and fabrication of a biogas treatment system in compliance to convert landfill gas into high-BTU biomethane in the U.S.

Key players in the global landfill gas market are namely, Waste Management Inc., Infinis, Veolia, A2A Energia, Aterro Recycling Pvt. Ltd., AEB Amsterdam, Shenzhen Energy, Babcock & Wilcox technology implementations. Mergers & Acquisitions and effective turnkey project implementations and are the key market player strategies. In 2017, UK based Veolia acquired Kurion, the U.S. for USD 350 million to expand its presence across nuclear waste business.

Read original press release from: Global Market Insights, Inc. here http://www.openpr.com/news/486221/Global-Landfill-Gas-Market-is-set-to-grow-appreciably-owing-to-stringent-norms-associated-with-greenhouse-emission.html