Monday, April 20th, 2015

On Earth Day, a Chance to Tell the Plastics Industry’s Sustainability Story

There’s a difference between the way people in plastics view themselves and the way people outside of plastics view the industry. To bridge the gap between those two views, the plastics industry has to tell the general public the things it already knows: that plastics has played a vital role in supporting environmental stewardship, that the industry continues to play that role today, from its day-to-day operations to its forward-thinking innovations, and that it’s continually working on ways to make life in the future longer, cleaner and greener than it’s ever been before.

Earth-NASA-2The plastics industry has countless sustainability stories, and SPI knows its members are the ones to tell them. That’s why SPI and the SPI Recycling Committee launched the Sustainability Benchmarking survey in January, the results of which will go on to create the Sustainability Benchmark Tool, which plastics companies will be able to use in the future to see how green they are, and how they can be greener. An informational webinar on the survey and the effort will be hosted on Earth Day, April 22, offering all plastics companies a perfect, timely chance to do their part telling their industry’s environmental story.

“As the 3rd largest manufacturing sector in the United States, the plastics industry has a great economic story to tell, but we also have an important environmental story to tell as well,” said SPI Chairman of the Board of Directors Fred Daniell, president of Kureha America LLC. “The industry is achieving environmental success through the sustainability benefits of our products and the strides the industry is taking to ensure the manufacturing of those products are done in a way that is efficient and minimizes the environmental impacts where possible.”

But instead of just being another voice in the crowd, SPI needs good, hard information from its members in order to truly tell a sustainability story that leaves an impression, and doesn’t falter when critiqued. “We know the industry has good stories, but we need the data to be able to tell that story,” said SPI Senior Director of Recycling and Diversion Kim Holmes. “This is what we’ll capture in the Sustainability Benchmarking Tool effort.”

Daniell echoed Holmes, noting that “the information gathered through this effort will give us the data we need to tell that positive environmental story and shape the conversations about our industry,” he said. “Our advocacy at SPI is based on sound science, and science is based on data. We need your help to build the database necessary to turn our anecdotal debate into data-driven policy.”

PrintDoing your part to communicate the industry’s environmental success stories will afford your company a number of direct benefits, including:

  • Benchmarking your company’s sustainability practices,
  • Undertaking an inventory of sustainability activities if your company has not yet done this,
  • Generating varying levels of reports through the tool to share with customers, or being the critical first step in generating your own corporate sustainability report,
  • Identifying areas of success and opportunities for improvement,
  • Having the information to tell about your own sustainability activities to your employees, community and customers.

But participation in the Sustainability Benchmark Tool survey will yield its own benefits in the form of a potent instrument for illustrating all the good that plastics do for the environment each and every day. In an age of constant cultural sharing and storytelling, it’s often the loudest, clearest voice that cuts through the clutter and makes a lasting impact on public perception. For the sake of all the plastics industry has done, and will do to make life more sustainable, efficient and environmentally sound, we hope you’ll join us in this effort to speak as one industry, sharing the story of all the environmental benefits that plastic provides.

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

Putting Life Back Into Life—A Conversation with Two SCAD Design Students and Their Project Coordinator about the Pursuing Zero Waste Fashion Show

NPE2015 opened in style this morning with the Pursuing Zero Waste Fashion Show, which showcased garments designed by students from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) made using only post-consumer recycled plastic materials. After the Fashion Show the garments were moved to the Zero Waste Zone in the South Hall, where they’ll stay for the remainder of NPE._F4C5072_web

SPI caught up with two of the students who participated in the project and attended the show, Adewunmi Adetayo and Siobhan Mulhern, and SCAD School of Design Resources and Projects Coordinator Tenley Gilstrap to talk about their work with SPI, what it was like working with recycled plastics, 3D printing and what they hope everyone gets out of seeing their designs.

SPI: How did this project get started and how did things work?

Tenley Gilstrap: SPI came to SCAD and they were interested in collaborating. Here at SCAD we have what we have the CLC, also known as the Collaborative Learning Center. The CLC is where we engage students with real world company experience.  Companies that we’ve partnered with include anyone from Coca-Cola, to HP to Gulfstream.

The companies sit down with SCAD and try to figure out what the deliverables could be that could actually come from a great partnership and then we try to structure an actual course around the goals and the outcomes and what we actually want to accomplish.

Siobhan Mulhern: They created what they called the zero waste design lab. They gathered 9 students—eight of us were senior design fashion students and one sculpture student. And they basically asked us to create a line of garments made out of post-consumer recycled plastics.

TG: The sculpture student is responsible for most of the jewelry in the show and also in the catalog that was created from the course. (more…)

Friday, March 20th, 2015

A Deep Dive: Prince Charles Promotes Recycling, Behavioral Change to Combat Marine Debris during Washington Visit

“Stimulating a second life for plastics is…essential; they are too valuable to be thrown away,” said the Prince of Wales in his comments as prepared for delivery in a speech at the Hay Adams Hotel in Washington, D.C.

FriendlyTurtle_AnimatedWebDuring his visit to Washington, D.C. this week Prince Charles delivered a speech on the threat posed by ocean litter and debris and made recommendations for how the world should address the problem. Among those solutions were recycling, recovering or reusing plastics, and for both consumers and the plastics industry to take strides to give every plastic product a second life.

“A truly integrated, systemic solution to this challenge will need to go beyond simply containing the flow of waste and will require a critical examination of how waste is created within our supply chains and economies in the first place,” the Prince of Wales said in his address as prepared for delivery and published on the Prince of Wales’ official website, outlining three specific long-term solutions to the challenge of eliminating plastic waste from the world’s oceans and waterways. “First of all, improving waste management, so that all plastic waste is collected and then either recycled or used for energy production, is a key factor in decreasing the problem of litter,” he said. “Secondly, governments around the world need to integrate the issue of marine littering into their national waste management strategies. Countries with advanced waste management systems and landfill restrictions have demonstrated that even though this path can be more complex and time-consuming, there is no alternative to achieving a long-lasting behavioral change.”

“Thirdly, both the consumer and industry need to consider the value of plastics and thus need to pay the real cost (including externalities). Stimulating a second life for plastics is therefore essential; they are too valuable to be thrown away!” Prince Charles added.

SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association agrees, and has worked tirelessly to expand recycling, promote zero waste manufacturing processes and educate the public on the inherent value of plastic materials. SPI promotes the concept of a shift away from a “throw-away” society where items are created, used and then thrown away, advocating for a global transition to what Prince Charles described in his remarks as “a more ‘circular’ economy—that is to say, one in which materials are recovered, recycled and reused.”

More than 20 years ago, SPI helped found Operation Clean Sweep, an industry stewardship program specifically designed to prevent resin pellet loss and help keep plastic materials out of the marine environment. While OCS continues to grow, SPI has more recently made the pursuit of zero waste one of its chief priorities, working with its members and the entire plastics industry to establish practices and policies that make it easier for all plastic materials and products to be recycled and given the second life they deserve, and that our environment so sorely demands.

“SPI is proud to have contributed to these efforts, and continues to promote their use internationally… But we also support the cause of eliminating marine debris by supporting recycling and educating the public about the value of plastic materials,” said SPI President and CEO William Carteaux last month. “SPI works tirelessly to create new markets for recycled plastic materials, and to spur innovation that makes recycling plastic products easier and more widespread for all consumers and for all types of plastics, from polystyrene foams to rigid packaging to plastic bags and everything in between.

“SPI will continue to work and collaborate with other industry organizations to facilitate programs that increase recycling and eliminate the loss of plastic pellets and materials that end up in our oceans and waterways. By working together, we can drive the meaningful recovery of plastics products that will stop marine debris at its source,” Carteaux added.

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

NPE2015 Preview: A Sneak Peek at the Pursuing Zero Waste Fashion Show

Just one of the 13 different dress designs made from recycled plastics that will be displayed on the runway at the Pursuing Zero Waste Fashion Show at NPE2015.

Just one of the dress designs made from recycled, reused or repurposed plastics that will be modeled on the runway at the Pursuing Zero Waste Fashion Show at NPE2015.

Vinyl sheet protectors, yoga mats, plastic beads—not exactly the cashmeres, linens, silks and cottons one might normally think of when it comes to fashionable fabrics, but the results speak for themselves.

The Pursuing Zero Waste Fashion Show will kick off NPE: The International Plastics Showcase, produced by SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, later this month. This week the NPE and SPI teams happily offered a sneak preview of just one of the designs (see photo) that will be modeled on the runway during the Fashion Show, which will take place at 8:30 a.m. in West Hall C on Monday, March 23 at the start of the five-day NPE2015 exposition at the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) in Orlando, Fla.

Students of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) designed and created the garments (and their accessories) using recycled, reused or repurposed plastics as part of a partnership program with SPI. After they make their debut at the Fashion Show, the students’ creations will be on display in the Zero Waste Zone, a special sector of the NPE exhibit floor in the South Hall of the OCCC devoted to the plastics industry’s mandate to reduce, reuse or recycle its materials.

In addition to the garments created from previously-used plastics, the fashion show will also include a design created with 3D-printing technology by a SCAD student using bioplastics from Green Dot (located on NPE show floor, booth S19200 in the Sustainability Pavilion, part of the Zero Waste Zone). It will be one of 13 outfits shown, as well as a number of dazzling accessories also created with recycled, reused or repurposed plastics.

“We found the students at SCAD to be not only talented and creative but also very involved with environmental issues,” said Brad Williams, director of marketing and sales for SPI. “Their designs are vivid demonstrations that recycled plastics can gain new lives in many forms—both as purely utilitarian goods and as objects of beauty. The Pursuing Zero Waste Fashion Show at NPE2015 will add a new dimension to our industry mandate to reduce, reuse, and recycle the valuable materials that make up our products.”

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

A Different Kind of Conversation: SPI Member Kenrich to Introduce New Compatibilizer at NPE2015 that Gets Mixed Resin Streams “Talking to Each Other”

NPE_logoCompatibilizers: hard to say three times fast, but a remarkably simple concept. These items make two or more typically incompatible substances compatible.

Long used in the prime resin industry to create special blends that give plastic materials desirable properties that any individual polymer would lack on its own, compatibilizers get resins that would not neatly blend together to “talk to each other,” as it were. Companies continue to explore new applications for compatibilizers in the recycling industry, where at least one SPI member is trying to start a similar sort of conversation between mixed recycled resin streams.

At NPE2015, SPI member, and member of the SPI Recycling Committee’s Technology and Equipment Subcommittee, Kenrich Petrochemicals (Booth #S20027) will introduce a new additive that can be used to recycle the mixed resin streams that are increasingly posing challenges to the world’s recyclers. The long name for the compatibilizer is Ken-React® CAPS ® KPR ® 12/LV Pellets, and KPR for short; it regenerates post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic mixtures in the extruder melt and gives them virgin resin-like properties, all while getting dissimilar polymers to talk to one another.

Here’s some more technical information from Kenrich President Salvatore Monte, who invented KPR, about how the additive can be put to good use: “Normally—although polypropylene (PP) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) are both considered olefins—HDPE cannot accept more than 5 percent PP without creating incompatibility issues. Add a third polymer and it really gets complicated.” The KPR® additive pellet can help make these issues disappear, which could provide a huge benefit to recyclers who, in an age of widening “single stream” recycling procedures, frequently have to handle various types of plastic materials that may be present in a recycling feedstream, or even in a single product. KPR® aims to change that.

“Conventional discussions on recycled plastic center around equipment that sorts, cleans, demagnetizes, washes, granulates, bales or melt processes recycling—or polymer compatibilizers based on maleic anhydride chemistry or bipolar thermoplastics that have affinity for two select recycle polymer streams,” Monte continued, referring to other additives with fewer potential applications than KPR. “Our new KPR® catalyst causes multiple polymers of divergent chemistry to repolymerize in the melt to form not alloys, but new complex co-polymers having much higher mechanical properties.”

SPI and its Recycling Committee have repeatedly urged plastics manufacturers and brand owners to consider PCR when making their materials decisions, for its sustainability bona fides and contributions to SPI’s goal of helping the industry achieve zero waste in manufacturing, among other things to recommend it. But part of what makes some companies reluctant to use PCR for all their plastic needs is that, in the process of being ZWZlogoWeb2used and recycled, the plastic materials themselves lose some of the properties that make them desirable for use in consumer plastic products. However, compatibilizer manufacturers, like Kenrich, are attempting to offer a unique solution to the problem, by making it easier for recyclers to produce higher-quality materials from lower-quality bales.

“It’s a new way to look at PCR and achieve high loadings of PCR in virgin polymers to meet sustainability mandates in consumer plastic packaging products such as blow-molded soap bottles,” Monte said.

Learn more about Kenrich at NPE2015 and more about new recycling technologies and SPI and its Recycling Committee’s efforts to achieve zero waste at the Zero Waste Zone.