Tag Archives: going green

America Recycles Day

As the sun set on November 15th, 2011 the nation paused to reflect upon our struggles and achievements with recycling. This annual event, “America Recycles Day”  on November 15, comes at us every year as a chance to refocus our efforts with recycling and waste management. We have seen the percentage of plastics recycled when compared with the amount of plastics produced, continue to decline (less than 8% of all plastics produced today are recycled). With the concerns of global warming and effects of pollution, it is important to understand the impact we can have on our environment. At ENSO Plastics we encourage people to be mindful of what they can do to help, no matter how small or large. Recycling is just one of many ways in which we can help our environment and preserve nature.

Join us in taking a moment to think about what each of us can do to help our Earth. Whether it is supporting alternate energy resources like solar power, choosing biodegradable plastics, creating less waste, or considering hybrid vehicles – remember that recycling is the least we can do to sustain our future. With each of us doing what we can, America Recycles Day in 2012 will be a chance for the world to unite in celebration of success!

What did you do today to help?


Part #1 – A new look at Zero Waste


zero waste

I often hear the term “Zero Waste” in sustainability conversations, but what is zero waste and how can a business achieve it?
We must all understand that any living organism creates bi-products, commonly referred to as “waste”. From a plant that produces oxygen and biomass, to animals that produce carbon dioxide and excrement and finally humans that create immense amounts of waste. Over millions of years the earth has dealt with these “bi-products” of life and created systems to convert this bi-product into a value. In nature there is no such word as waste.

For humans, waste is a constant reality. Our ingenuity has created processes and materials that do not integrate with the natural cycles and have no value – this is not a bi-product – it is simply waste. Plastics are a sore example of human waste. Don’t misunderstand my intentions, I do not mean to state that our products are bad, just that we do not handle them properly. For example: in 2009 the US generated 30 million tons of plastic waste. Over 90% of this plastic is buried in our landfills filling up over 220,000,000 cubic yards of space. Every year this number compounds and we are forced to continue finding new space to bury this waste.

Keep in mind that waste is simply a by-product that has no value, and EVERY system has byproducts. Let’s look at a few ways companies today can create products and processes that produce byproduct, but no waste.
1. Reduce material use – I know! Reducing does not prevent waste – but it does reduce the amount of waste you will need to address so it is key to sustainability and zero waste. Can you buy in concentrate or bulk? How about light weighting your packaging? Can you reduce multiple layers of packaging to just one?

2. Recycle – Create products that integrate whenever possible with community collected recycling programs. Look internally at your processes to determine where you can re-use scrap or send to recyclers (many recyclers pay top dollar for industrial recyclables). Most common recycled plastics are PET and HDPE.
3. Evaluate – Audit your systems regularly to prevent excess energy use, unnecessary product waste, and unturned inventory. A small air leak in a compressed system is often overlooked. Can you continue using existing product labels rather than wasting them when doing a redesign?
4. Educate – Educate your staff and customers on how to create less waste. Implement educational programs and reward success.
5. Determine product end of life scenarios – Where does your product go after use? Ensure your product is designed for that end of life and creates a value in that scenario. In the example of plastics going to a landfill, ensure those plastics are biodegradable in the landfill. (stay tuned next month to learn how biodegradable can create zero waste)

This is just a brief listing of areas you can change to create zero waste in your environment. Keep in mind that you will always have byproducts, but you need not have waste. Next month we will explore in more detail how biodegradable ENSO plastics are part of the zero waste solution.

Fixing the Gap in the 3R’s


biodegradable plastic and recyclable ENSO


I’m often asked which option is better for end-of-life plastic packaging; should we recycle it or have it biodegradable? As is true with any sound environmental solution, the answer is often not as easy as choosing one option over another. The real answer to this question is: what is the problem and what end-of-life option(s) is going to solve that problem?

When it comes to solving the plastic pollution problem; a problem that we are already waist deep into, the best solution will not be those that are designed for the perfect world or the best case scenarios. There are a lot of ideas and beliefs that we should be coming up with a silver bullet perfect world solution, and we could do that – some even have. The reality is that we don’t live in a world with only one way of doing things and we certainly shouldn’t think that only one solution is going to solve plastic pollution. Many of those “perfect world” solutions find a short lived life because they don’t start solving the problem with where we are today. A sound solution for this issue has to be implementable today and allow the flexibility to take us into the improvements of tomorrow. So, a long way to get to the short answer to what is the best end-of-life option is we should be doing both: products that are both recyclable and biodegradable.

Traditional in-the-box thinking pushes us to think about solutions to problems as picking one option over another. What we are learning when it comes to making true environmental changes is that we need to think about things more as a whole – how does the result of something effect both the upstream and downstream of any given system or process? At ENSO we strive to think outside-the-box. To solve the plastic pollution issue, we need to implement solutions that take into consideration a number of factors.

For example; we’ve all heard about, and hopefully try to live by, the 3 R’s of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. These are important words we should all commit to implementing in our lives. Reducing our consumption would be a huge key in solving the plastic pollution issue we face. However, the reality with the growth of population, consumption and packaging “Reducing” is not really moving us in a positive direction. Sure, it’s a great short-term solution for manufacturers and brands to reduce the amount of plastics being used in their packaging. But in the end, it’s not really stopping the growth of plastic used – it is simply slowing it down for a bit. As populations grow in size and as parts of the world race to catch up to western living standards we will continue to see growth in the overall use of plastic packaging.

Reusing has even less of a positive impact towards reducing the volumes of plastics consumed and discarded each year. Sure, we should strive to reuse as much as we can but the trend is moving towards a more disposable approach. Here in the United States, “reusing is not embraced nearly enough to make much of a positive impact.

This leads us to the third “R”, or Recycling. Recycling is where most of our efforts come together. It’s hard not to find a recycle bin or sign encouraging us to recycle. Recycling is sexy and makes us feel good and it’s very tangible. You can do your part, by recycling, and feel like you are part of the solution. We have spent decades building recycling infrastructures and businesses and implementing legislation to help support and improve recycling.

However; the reality that we must recognize is that there is a BIG gap in the 3 R’s. The gap is that we still send a whole heck of A LOT of plastics to landfills. These are the same plastics that are technically recyclable and reusable but we send upwards of 93% of all plastics into landfills to get buried and forgotten. What can we do about this? Well, we could just ignore the problem; but, that isn’t going to get us closer to solving it. “Reduce, reuse and recycle” should be front and center to solving this issue; but even then, we still end up with too many plastics going into landfills.

At ENSO we believe we have engineered the solution for the gap in the 3R’s. A recyclable and biodegradable plastic closes the gap within the 3 R’s. ENSO Plastics has developed a family of biodegradable additive resins; which, when blended with standard polymers, result in plastic packaging which is fully recyclable and will not contaminate the recycle stream. If recycling happens to not be available, the plastic packaging that is enhanced with the ENSO additive, when placed into a landfill of soil environment full of microbes, will naturally biodegrade just like other organic material in that same environment.

ENSO technology is a revolutionary environmental break through and allows brands, manufacturers, retailers and consumers to do something about the plastic pollution issue today.

Danny Clark
ENSO Plastics

ENSO took PACK EXPO by Storm

ENSO proudly took PACK EXPO 2011 by storm with a fun, and clever marketing approach. If you attended PACK EXPO you probably saw or heard about the girl in the plastic dress. Being the girl in the plastic dress, I can personally say that I am proud to have connected with so many diverse individuals at PACK EXPO. By using in your face marketing, ENSO was able to capture the attention of many influential individuals; Some looking for a technology like ENSO, and some who had no idea that a solution like ours was available. We hope that all of you at PACK EXPO enjoyed our marketing approach, and hope that we made a positive impact on your view of the capabilities of our  biodegradable plastic technology. If you have a photo of the plastic dress, please post it on our facebook! For those who did not attend PACK EXPO and have no clue what I am talking about, Here is a photo…


biodegradable plastics ENSO plastics plastic dress

AT&T uses renewable plastic packaging

When it comes to plastic packaging it accounts for a huge chunk of our worlds single use plastic waste. Switching to a better alternative like plastic made with a renewable source is great. However when it comes to landfills/recycling….plastics like PLA corn plastics will act as traditional plastic. PLA acts wonderfully if placed into a industrial compost facility where it will be compostable but unfortunately a majority of people to not have access to these facilities. I am happy to hear that they will be using a renewable source for their plastic, but I wish the plastic would also be biodegradable in landfill like ENSO plastics. Let me know what you think! Leave a comment below dont forget to share this on facebook & twitter!


AT&T to use sugarcane, cut petroleum, in plastic packaging

Posted on September 13, 2011 at 5:45 am by Simone Sebastian in Ethanol, Biofuels, Petrochemicals


AT&T will start packaging its cell phone accessories in bio-plastic instead of petroleum-based plastic next month, the telecom company announced this week.

AT&T says the change is its latest effort to reduce the company’s carbon footprint. While the new plastic packaging will contain petroleum, up to 30 percent will be manufactured from plant materials, the company said in a statement.

While most plastics are manufactured from petroleum products like ethane and propane, technological advances have made plant-based plastics more widely available. Like biofuels, bioplastics are manufactured from agricultural crops, like corn and sugarcane.

AT&T said it will start using sugar cane ethanol to produce some of its plastic packaging beginning Oct. 2.

Jeff Bradley, AT&T’s senior vice president for devices, said in a statement the company will be the first in its industry to use plant-based plastic packaging for consumer products.

“We are actively working with our accessory suppliers to incorporate both less packaging and more sustainable plastic and paper,” Bradley said.

The company cut 500 tons of paper and plastic by shrinking its packaging in 2010 and 2011, according to the written statement, and has used soy and vegetable-based ink for some of its accessories cases.

Green Packaging goes Beyond Size

egg carton



Sustainable Packaging Goes Beyond Size

by Walmart on 08.22.11   Business & Politics
Photo credit: FotoosVanRobin/Creative Commons

This guest post was written by Ronald Sasine, senior director of packaging at Walmart.

When you buy a product, your decision drives a series of environmental impacts. Imagine the benefits if everyone considered the impact of packaging as part of their buying decisions, benefits measured in the billions of pounds of packaging manufactured, shipped and disposed of each year.

When we talk about more sustainable packaging at Walmart, we’re focusing on more than just smaller packaging. We’re looking at the entire life cycle of packaging and knowing that improvement can take many forms:

Rethinking a product. A few years ago, we began selling only concentrated liquid laundry detergent. By urging our suppliers to reexamine their products’ formulation, we eliminated hundreds of millions of pounds of packaging and saved natural resources.

Rethinking a process. By simply stacking Galaxy box fans differently on a shipping pallet, we saw annual savings of 10,000 pounds of plastic and 113 fewer trucks on the road, reducing diesel use by 12,600 gallons and freight costs by $150,000.

Rethinking a presentation. By working directly with our large toy suppliers, Walmart has been able to eliminate the frustrating wire ties used to secure toys in packaging. This effort will keep more than a billion feet of wire out of the landfill annually.

One other thing to notice about these changes—you don’t just find them at Walmart. As we work with suppliers to find better options, those improvements are showing up on the shelves of other retailers, increasing the impact we can have beyond our own “four walls.”

Walmart has a goal to reduce our packaging by 5% by 2013 (using a 2008 baseline), and we’re making significant progress. Of course, it hasn’t always been easy. We’re working to ensure that improved packaging still protects the products we sell, and we’re working with our customers and members to gain their acceptance. Some packaging changes have taken longer for customers to understand and endorse.

When we announced our package reduction goal in 2008, some of our suppliers saw a great opportunity and jumped in to partner with us on some creative changes. But not everyone was convinced it was right for business. Some suppliers worried about changing their processes, while others worried about investing in new equipment. However, when they realized how serious we were about packaging and that we would work with them and reward them for better packaging, they became very enthusiastic about the effect they can have on the industry by, well, thinking outside the box.

Better packaging benefits everyone along the supply chain, from the manufacturer to the customer. Walmart’s private label wine, Oak Leaf, is a great example. The manufacturer found a way to reduce the amount of glass used in the bottle by changing the design of the neck and reducing the punt (the dimple on the bottom of a wine bottle). In addition to reducing packaging weight by 8 million pounds, carbon dioxide by 3,100 tonnes and taking 280 trucks off the road, these simple changes reduced the price of Oak Leaf by 20 cents per bottle.

We’ve made many of the easy changes; now it’s time to tackle the more difficult challenges like installing new packaging equipment to that requires long-term planning and partnership with our suppliers.

Working toward more sustainable packaging isn’t optional; it’s a priority and it’s a large part of our business plan. For suppliers it’s a chance to differentiate themselves from their competitors. For Walmart it’s an opportunity to provide more value to our customers, to be innovative, think creatively and make changes that can improve the retail industry.

Read more about Walmart:

PLA I am whatever I say I am

So what exactly is PLA?


PLA also known as  Polylactic acid or polylactide (PLA) which is a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources, such as corn starch in the United States, tapioca products (roots, chips or starch mostly in Asia) or sugarcanes (in the rest of world).

In the U.S  a majority of PLA is made with genetically modified corn (Nature Works is the largest provider of genetically modified cornstarch in the world.) According to Elizabeth Royte, in Smithsonian, “PLA may well break down into its constituent parts (carbon dioxide and water) within 3 months in a controlled composting environment, that is, an industrial composting facility heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and fed a steady diet of digestive microbes. But it will take far longer in a compost bin, or in a landfill packed so tightly that no light and little oxygen are available to assist in the process. Indeed, analysts estimate that a PLA bottle could take anywhere from 100 to 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill.”

Let’s get one thing straight PLA is not compostable in home compost, go ahead and try…you will be waiting a very long time and it still might not happen. PLA is ASTM 6400 which means a product can be considered compostable if a product has undergone 60% biodegradation within 180 days; the standard is 15-18 weeks at a majority of industrial compost facilities. So these industrial compost facilities, where are they? According to this site in the United States there are 422 composting facilities registered, what each facility is capable of composting I am unsure, you would have to contact the particular facility you are interested in.

So if you buy PLA products, such as PLA single use eating utensils and you do not have access to an industrial compost or you just think it will be okay to throw the fork, spoon or knife in the garbage because it seems natural enough, unfortunately it is not. That fork, spoon, or knife could take hundreds of years to decompose. If you do not plan to send your single use PLA purchases to an industrial compost, I do not see how it would be a rational investment. Not only because PLA utensils will sit in a landfill forever but because they are not very durable, they bend and break very easily and can become droopy if placed in heat. So if you’re not planning on disposing  of PLA properly what have you accomplished?  If you are one of those people who does not have access to an industrial compost or really just do not have time to think about it and prefer quality products, try purchasing biodegradable & recyclable plastic products , for example ENSO plastics.

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Debunking the Myths of the Paper vs. Plastic Debate, Part II

Photo by eco-wisdom

Last week, we weighed in on the Paper vs. Plastic Debate, and examined the pros and cons of each where waste, energy, and resources are concerned. This week, we’ll take a look at how the contenders fare when it comes to pollution and recycling.

Pondering Pollution

Myth #3: Plastic is man-made and chemical-based, so it’s better to choose paper.

When it comes to pollution, plastic has become the chosen whipping boy, but in fact, craft paper production requires huge amounts of chemicals, that end up in our rivers each year, and are released into the air contributing to air pollution. Plastic production generates about 60% fewer greenhouse gases than turning wood pulp into paper bags.

Let’s consider PLA. It’s been touted as a panacea for the plastic problem, because it’s compostable, and comes from a renewable resource. But upon closer examination, unless the corn crop is grown organically, it still requires fossil fuel-based fertilizers and chemicals that cause other environmental problems and does not reduce our dependency on oil. In fact, one study found that the production of corn- and other bio-based plastics actually use more fossil fuels than a standard PET plastic. PLA isn’t as eco-friendly as it seems.

When it comes to waste and pollution, the frontrunner so far is the bag made from biodegradable plastic.

Reconsidering Recycling

Myth #4: It’s easier to recycle paper, so it’s the more sustainable choice.

Photo by greennature.com

In reality, it is more efficient to recycle plastic, requiring about 91% less energy pound for pound than paper, but the sad truth is that the recycling track record for either bag isn’t good. Only about 10-15% of paper bags, and just 1-3% of plastic bags are recycled; although paper bags have a higher recycle rate than plastic, every new paper bag is made from virgin pulp instead of recycled fibers for better strength, while many plastic bags are made from once-recycled plastic polymers.

PLA and other bio-plastics get another strike when it comes to recyclability. They cannot be recycled with regular plastics, but so often are, creating an expensive problem of having to sort them from the rest of the plastics.

Plastics that are biodegradable in the landfill and under natural conditions, like ENSO’s products, are recyclable with conventional plastics, and do not contaminate the recycling stream.

The Bottom Line

Choosing paper or plastic is still a tough decision because biodegradable plastics are not yet mainstream. The biodegradable disposable bag is the best solution because it can be recycled if that’s an option, or thrown into the landfill where it will biodegrade in a relatively short amount of time. In addition, the industry is moving toward renewable sources, like algae, for plastic production, improving biodegradable plastics even further. For now, bring your reusable bags, or choose a plastic bag and reuse it or recycle it, and keep up with latest developments on the biodegradable plastics front.

350, 365 Days A Year

Photo courtesy of 350.org

On Sunday, 10-10-10, people in all corners of the world joined together for a Global Work Party to support the grassroots movement known as 350. Thousands of participants in 188 countries worked on more than 7,347 projects to raise awareness about, and take steps toward solving, climate change. By building community gardens to fortify local food systems and planting trees to offset CO2 emissions, to installing solar panels in the Namibian desert, project organizers hoped to send a clear message to world political leaders: “If we can get to work, so can you.”

Why 350?

Scientists and climate experts say that 350 parts per million is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere; the number currently hovers around 392 ppm, so it’s become a matter of both reducing emissions to keep the number from creeping upward, and changing behaviors to reduce the amount.

It’s a tall order, no doubt, that requires an overhaul of not only our lifestyles, but our political policies, business practices, and everything in between.

A Little Less Talk, A Lot More Action

It’s not just about 350. Reducing carbon emissions and fighting climate change are at the forefront of a worldwide dialogue, and it’s a long conversation. Add to the docket the related problems of the energy crisis, waste management, petro-laden conventional farming methods, the dwindling supply of fresh water, and the discussion could go on forever.

While having a clear understanding of the issues at hand is important, there is more than a lot of work to do to affect change on the large scale. Let’s hope the Global Work Party and similar events will inspire people and governments across the globe to get moving, and make these activities a part of everyday life. But where do we even begin, and how can the average person make a difference?

Getting to 350

Image courtesy of ENSO Bottles

The most sweeping changes must be mandated at the federal and international levels; policy and environmental impact go hand in hand, so a logical first step is to keep up with the issue and be vocal about it. Tell local and state representatives, congressmen and women, and the President how critical the issue is, then get to work at home, at work, and in your community.

Many of us are already working to reduce our impacts, and efforts like bringing reusable shopping bags to the grocery store, opting for the to-go mug instead of a paper cup, and even driving a hybrid car are a great start. But there are other overlooked steps we can take to further minimize our impacts, and make an even bigger difference.

Reduce environmental impacts at home and in the workplace by:

  • Examining daily habits, including consumption, energy, and waste. Track patterns for one month.We often don’t realize how much we are consuming, and how much goes to waste in a typical month-long period of day-to-day living.
  • Consuming less. Buy only what you need, share when you have extra, and use less water and electricity. You’ll save money, and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide your household contributes to the atmosphere.
  • Investing in alternative, clean energy to power your home. The upfront cost of technologies like solar panels is coming down, and many states offer tax credits and rebates to help offset the initial investment.
  • Understanding that all labels are not created equally. Currently, the onus is on the consumer to know what they’re buying. Just because a product claims to be eco-friendly that it really is; research, and substantiate green claims.
  • Changing the way we look at waste. Whether we recycle or not, all waste eventually ends up in the landfill, and can take thousands of years to degrade–if ever. It’s important to look at the inevitable last phase of the cycle, and factor it in to consumer decision-making. For example, biodegradable packaging, like ENSO Bottles, is a good option because it can be recycled along with other plastics, and completely breaks down in the landfill, often in less than a year’s time.
Paying it Forward

Photo courtesy of 350.org

Get involved with grassroots efforts already underway, like 350.org and other local causes. Once we’ve taken steps in our own lives, raising awareness and educating others is the only way to affect change on a large scale. For our kids, families, neighbors and our friends, set the example, and inspire others to take steps toward healthier living, and a healthier planet.

Recycling: Where to Start


  • The materials that recycling centers accept vary from region to region, so check your municipality’s website or phone book for details.
  • Earth 911 is the best place to find local recyclers, plus recycling news and advice.
  • General recycling tips can be researched online.
  • For unusual items, check out How Can I Recycle This?, which offers recycling tips for anything from karate belts to television wires.
  • And don’t forget that recycling can earn you some cash in certain states.
  • Some items should not be recycled as they do more harm than good. The list includes pizza boxes, wet paper, and more.