Friday, June 10th, 2016

The FLiP Files: Allison Lin

The FLiP Files is a blog series spotlighting young professionals that are active in SPI’s Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP), a group for plastics professionals under the age of 40.  For our fourth entry, we spoke to FLiP member Allison Lin of The Coca-Cola Company.

AllisonLin-Where do you work and what’s your title? 

I work at The Coca-Cola Company and am a director of closures and labels in the Global Sustainable Procurement group.

-Tell us a little about what your company does.

Coca-Cola is an over 22 billion-dollar beverage company with brands sold in every country in the world except two.

-How did you find yourself working in the plastics industry?  

Very randomly. I have a Bachelor of Science in business and a Master of Business Administration, and was asked to take a role in global strategy development for plastics packaging at Procter & Gamble. I was hooked! I love how in packaging you have to balance product protection, shelf appeal, environmental impacts and much more. Plus, it’s amazing to see something you worked on in a store or in a consumer’s hand.

-Has anyone in the industry mentored you?  

No official mentorships, but I have a lot of role models. For instance Shell Huang, who pioneered bioPET’s introduction into mainstream packaging. I also have many heroes in the recycling industry, including people who have led the way to improve the perception of plastics packaging by working hard to improve recycling.

-Describe in one sentence what you do on an average day. 

I work with the external supply base and innovation network to improve the overall value of our plastic packaging while meeting internal and consumer requirements.

-What do you like most about working in the plastics industry? 

We touch everything and we are always changing.

-What’s one thing about your personal life that you feel has been changed by having a career in plastics? 

I see green-washing everywhere and try to help consumers and businesses make educated decisions on their plastic packaging choices.

-What are the major challenges you think are facing the plastics industry today? How do you think the industry can overcome them? 

Green-washing is adding to the negative perception of plastics. Also consumers’ lack of recycling, and the lack of availability of recycling infrastructure, hurts the industry; this is what leads to plastics in the oceans, on the streets and in land-fills.

-Why do you think someone from your generation should consider a career in plastics? 

We have the opportunity to positively impact perception in our industry and help to make consumers think differently about what matters. How do we make them think positively about plastics? How do we improve plastics’ carbon footprint? How do we leverage social media to improve recycling rates, explore new materials, and connect innovators/start-ups working on more sustainable plastics?

-What’s one plastic product you couldn’t live without?

Coffee maker.

Monday, May 16th, 2016

Keeping America Beautiful with #SPIEarthDay

recyclingEach Earth Day, we celebrate preserving our planet and put in some extra effort to clean up our communities. Now more than ever, those within the plastics industry understand the commitment to sustainable practices and programs that will help to protect the world we live in for generations to come.

Here at SPI, we celebrated Earth Day for the entire month of April, coinciding with our first-ever Re|focus Summit & Expo which included prominent speakers from the plastics, recycling, food, beverage and consumer products industries who gathered to take their environmental goals from aspirational to operational. We also launched an Earth Day Pledge Challenge, where we encouraged members of the plastics industry to pledge to perform at least one act of green, or actions that reduce our environmental footprint.

Participants representing regions ranging from North America to the Middle East, and the diversity of plastics professionals, committed to implementing small, yet impactful acts of green in their daily lives Survey participants pledged acts of green which included committing to recycling more, participating in local clean-ups, reducing food waste and much more.

KAB logoRewarding our industry’s commitment, SPI agreed to randomly select an individual who completed the survey, and also shared their act of green commitments using the hashtag #SPIEarthDay, to donate $1,500 to a local Keep America Beautiful (KAB) affiliate of his or her choice. Sandeep Kulkarni, senior principal scientist at PepsiCo Global R&D, was randomly selected among the participants. Sandeep has will select a local KAB affiliate as his choice to receive SPI’s donation of $1,500.

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

Brand Owners, Sustainability Leaders Launch Initiatives at First-Ever Re|focus Recycling Summit & Expo

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SPI’s first-ever Re|focus Recycling Summit & Expo wrapped up in Orlando last week. The two-day program featured executive-level forums, diverse educational sessions, dozens of cutting-edge vendors in the Expo Hall and a fair share of big announcements from some of the world’s most recognizable names in consumer products:

  • Keynote speaker Kelly Semrau, S.C. Johnson & Son Inc.’s senior vice president of corporate affairs, communication and sustainability, announced her company’s latest initiative to help build the infrastructure to eventually make Ziploc bags widely recyclable via curbside recycling programs.

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  • Walmart’s Ashley Hall noted that the world’s largest private employer will be using the How2Recycle label on its private label products.
  • Consumer goods giant Johnson & Johnson reiterated its commitment to creating sustainable products and educating consumers about the importance of recycling bathroom goods through the company’s Care to Recycle online toolkit, which shows families, what, how and where to recycle.

SPI also released its latest Plastics Market Watch report, Automotive Recycling: Devalued is now Revalued.

In addition to the announcements and educational sessions, Re|focus boasted a 10,000 net square foot exhibit hall, a core focus of the conference where attendees learned about various products that could help their companies achieve their sustainability goals. They could also see demonstrations of various types of recycling equipment, like this nifty shredder.

Shredder from Jacob Barron on Vimeo.

The Exhibit Hall also gave visitors the opportunity to learn more about how a plastic product can be recycled and converted into a completely different product for consumers. The Life Cycle Application center featured a number of different products that start out seemingly having little to no value, but, after reclamation and recycling, go on to become a valuable high-end feedstock for manufacturing. The Center was produced by SPI in partnership with Wellman.

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“We were so impressed by the turnout and candid conversation about working together collaboratively to reduce waste and promote recycling, with stakeholders and industry influencers representing various parts of the supply chain,” said Kim Holmes, senior director of recycling and diversion at SPI. “Re|focus had a successful inaugural summit and next year, we will return with an equally robust program to continue to drive conversation on how we all play a role in collectively committing to sustainable practices. We look forward to hosting in 2017.”

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

Seven Ways You Can Make a Difference on Earth Day

The plastics industry’s best asset is its people; always has been, always will be. The nearly one million plastics professionals in the U.S. aren’t just the fuel of a $427 billion industry. Together they comprise a community of like-minded individuals who believe in the power of plastics to make the world a better, safer, greener place.

That’s why throughout the month of April, SPI is asking every plastics professional to pledge one act of green, using the hashtag #SPIEarthDay, to reduce their environmental impact this Earth Day, April 22, 2016 (4/22/2016). Here are seven small, individual acts of green that can collectively add up to big environmental changes:

Male hand putting plastic bottle in recycling bin1. Reusing and recycling: These are as relevant and important now as they ever have been. Whether it’s taking the bags back to the grocery store or taking your old electronics to a facility where they can have a new life, recycling and reusing plastic materials adds to their value and reduces their overall environmental footprint.

2. Waste avoidance: Composting isn’t just for hipsters and Portland residents anymore. Striving for zero food waste is a lot easier than you’d think, and that’s just the beginning. Paperless banking, double-sided printing and so many other simple steps can be taken to reduce or eliminate excess paper, plastic or any other material for that matter. For plastics professionals specifically, there’s also the Operation Clean Sweep guidelines that, when implemented properly, can eliminate pellet loss in your facilities, keeping those materials out of waterways, and in your machines and products where they belong.

3. Purchasing: The plastics industry promotes the use of recycled plastic content in products as a way to extend the lifecycle of the material. What better way to support and promote the use of recycled plastic than by buying products that use it in your own day-to-day purchasing decisions.

Showerhead4. Water: If you’re looking for a weekend project, try installing a low flow shower head, toilet or faucet, or planting some plants that require less water, installing rain barrels or investing in some drought resistant landscaping. If you’re not looking for a weekend project, do any of the above, and watch your water bills decline as you strike a blow for smarter management of humanity’s most valuable resource.

5. Energy Conservation: Even something as simple as washing your clothes with cold water, or unplugging your phone charger while it’s not in use, can, collectively, save a lot of energy, reduce your own carbon footprint and make a real difference.

BlogPhoto6_Transportation6. Transportation: So much of each individual’s environmental impact is comprised of the way one gets from one place to another. Cutting out one car trip, riding a bike or using public transportation are easy ways to decrease that impact without much hassle.

7. Team Up: Again, the plastics industry isn’t just an industry, but a community of people who believe in the unlimited potential of these materials to change lives, and to change the world. Consider teaming up with others this Earth Day, whether it’s with your fellow plastics professionals, your friends, your family, your neighbors or whoever, to augment the impact of your actions and spread the word that sustainability is everyone’s responsibility.

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Monday, April 4th, 2016

Bioplastics 101

Bioplastics are found in our daily lives, and people don’t know it. They drink from biobased plastic bottles or drive in cars with seats and tubing that come from biobased sources. They go to parties and eat with compostable plates and forks. At the hospital, bioplastics are found in sutures and implants.

biobased benefitsThe histories of plastics and bioplastics have always been closely linked. The first man-made plastic – celluloid – was created to replace ivory in billiard balls, and went on to imitate ivory in many other applications, including combs and piano keys. Poly(lactic acid), one of the most common biodegradable bioplastics, was commercialized in the 1950s and used for medical applications until a breakthrough in manufacturing enabled it to become a large-scale commodity plastic in the mid-1990s.

Biobased and Biodegradable

Bioplastics are plastics that are 1) biobased, meaning they come from a renewable resource, 2) biodegradable, meaning they break down naturally, or 3) are both biobased and biodegradable. There are durable bioplastics made entirely from sugar cane, and some biodegradable plastics that are derived from nonrenewable resources.

Biobased means that a percentage of the carbon found in the plastic comes from a renewable resource. Resources used to make biobased bioplastics are called feedstocks, and include corn, sugar cane, castor beans, saw dust and even algae. Some have raised concerns that making plastics from plants means that this process reduces the amount of food available, but less than .01% of the land used for growing is used to make bioplastics. That’s like saying for every 12.5 ears of corn grown, one kernel is used to produce bioplastics.

golden wheat field and sunny dayBiodegradable means that bioplastics break down completely through a natural process within a short period of time into elements found in nature. Microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi, and larger creatures like earthworms, eat the plastics for food, breaking them down for energy and converting them into carbon dioxide, methane and water.

Biodegradation, however, can vary based on a lot of factors and is therefore not as helpful a term for consumers. It’s more important for them to know how to properly dispose of a biodegradable object. That is why we use terms such as “home compostable” or “industrially compostable” to help give consumers the information they need to properly dispose of certain bioplastics. Home and industrial composting differ because home systems use simple methods, such as a compost pile, with much greater variability and lower temperatures than industrial composting.

Bioplastics and Degradable Additives

Oftentimes there is confusion between bioplastics and plastics to which a degradable additive has been added. Both SPI and others have concerns about products that claim to be able to convert traditional durable plastics into biodegradable ones, and consumers should be wary of these products as well.

Bioplastics and Recycling

Bioplastics can be recyclable—even those that are biodegradable! Composting is a complement to recycling, and provides an alternate end-of-life option for plastics that cannot be recycled due to food waste contamination.