The Upcoming Revised FTC Guidelines on Greenwashing Need to Differentiate Between Post-Industrial and Post-Consumer Plastics

New Greenwash guidelines are being reviewed and updated by the FTC. Comments are due by 12/10/2010. We’re looking to you as a consumer to look at some of our issues on how some of the guidelines are being revised or created. As a sample, did you know a FTC study on Unqualified Claims has determined that:

      59% of public thinks “green” means recyclable

      61% of public thinks “green’ means recycled content

      53% think “green” means biodegradable

      “Eco-Friendly”

  • o    57% think recyclable
  • o    56% think recycled content
  • o    55% biodegradable
  • o    51% renewable materials

Please visit the site before 12/10/2010 to make any comments, additions or clarifications. The complete document with rules for making comments can be found at https://ftcpublic.commentworks.com/FTC/InitiativeDocFiles/157/FTC_FRDOC_0001-0410_revisedgreenguides.pdf. For a summary of the revision proposals, please see http://www.ftc.gov/os/2010/10/101006greenguidesproposal.pdf. These guidelines provide an opportunity to make sure that beyond just making product claims, we can steer behavior to a more sustainable culture of reducing, reusing and recycling our produced materials.

 One key area to address is defining the difference between post-industrial plastics and post-consumer plastics and why the differentiation needs to be made for these updates.

 Right now, in the summary, the new guideline is stated as follows:

Made with Renewable Materials

• Marketers should qualify claims with specific information about the renewable material (what it is; how it is sourced; why it is renewable).

 Let’s define the difference:

  • ·         Post-consumer plastic has been used for its intended use at least once. Another key distinction is having left the manufacturing facility.
  • ·         Post-industrial plastics are scrap in the manufacturing process that has been looped back into the same manufacturing stream, not having left the manufacturing facility. While it is laudable that materials are not going to waste, the manufacturer would have done this anyway, unless they were irrational. From our perspective, calling post-industrial plastics as renewable or as post-consumer would be a mockery of green efforts.

 

Therefore, we want to make sure the guideline language reflects this distinction.

The new guideline is needed, but they still require context by the affected marketers to make sure the right message is conveyed. The maker of the post-industrial plastics can make a positive claim on the green value of their product, but be misleading to its buyers with savings that already occur, possibly diluting the positive benefits of recycling and green messaging.

 Don’t forget to provide your comments on the updates and additions by 12/10/2010 at https://ftcpublic.commentworks.com/FTC/InitiativeDocFiles/157/FTC_FRDOC_0001-0410_revisedgreenguides.pdf

 FTC is not addressing bio-based polymers, but we will put our thoughts out on this topic and others in a future blog for your consideration before 12/10/2010.

 We welcome any other topics you wish to see or your comments on our posts.

 

Need more information? Envision Plastics Vice President, Tamsin Ettefagh will be happy to discuss your comments or concerns in greater depth. Contact her at 336/342-4749 Ext 225.

 

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Recycling – A Job Creator, Even in This Economy

In the waste management industry of choosing where to create jobs is critical. Let’s look at a simple table on the ratio of jobs created by 10,000 tons of waste: 

Waste Industry Number of Jobs Created/10,000 tons of waste
Incineration 1
Landfill 6
Recycling 36

What kind of jobs are these and what are the details?

Incineration – Quite a bit of this type of job is automated and requires a high level of capital investment to meet pollution guidelines and storage of slag. All exhaust from this method has to be filtered and disposed of. The company still has to deal with the toxic slag left at the bottom of the chamber. In addition, the materials incinerated are lost forever, never to be used in producing new products for creation of more jobs.

Landfill – This method of waste management has some capacity problems in the long run. The resource wasted here is land. Landfills also have their own pollution control problems related to containment of leakage into ground water supplies. Just like incinerators, the materials buried are lost forever, never to be used in producing new products for creation of more jobs.

Recycling – Recycling enjoys many channels to create jobs and stimulate economic growth. The cost to produce the product is cheaper, because recycled materials use less energy and are transported shorter distances. The energy savings are detailed in a previous blog post, https://envisionplastics.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/what-takes-less-energy-to-produce-the-more-times-you-reuse-it/. The shorter distances comes from the recycling centers being closer to manufacturing facilities than where the virgin materials are mined or created. The recycling centers tend to be near large metropolitan areas where the recycled materials are collected. The production jobs can then be closer to the cities, where most of the job seekers live.

To stimulate economic growth, as the products become cheaper, the demand will grow, requiring more jobs to produce more products. A very nice self-perpetuating cycle.

We welcome any other topics you wish to see or your comments on our posts.

Need more information? Envision Plastics Vice President, Tamsin Ettefagh will be happy to discuss your comments or concerns in greater depth. Contact her at 336/342-4749 Ext 225.

What Takes Less Energy to Produce the More Times You Reuse it?

Nope, we haven’t discovered a perpetual motion machine that reuses its own energy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetual_motion). Each time you recycle HDPE, it takes less energy to produce into resin than the original virgin plastic raw materials it comes from. As we increase or maximize the content of recycled plastic in the resin used to produce containers and packaging, we reduce the production energy needed.

 In a previous blog post http://tinyurl.com/272j829, we mentioned how bottle-to-bottle strategies reduced the energy needed to produce subsequent bottles. Here is a table that details that aspect from the Franklin LCI report. A complete copy of the report may be found at http://www.americanchemistry.com/s_plastics/sec_pfpg.asp?CID=1439&DID=10907

 

 Little note on what things stand for:

–      Mm Btu is Million BTUs needed to produce a thousand pounds of resin

 So, let’s look at line 2. If the produced resin is made from 100% virgin materials, it takes 35.8 mm Btu to produce a thousand lbs. What the Franklin LCI report looked at was if you went through 1 cycle of recycling, (Line 4) with 50% virgin HDPE source and 50% recycled HDPE source. The energy savings are 45% of what it would be if it had been 100% virgin (last column).

 Now, extrapolate that by continuing to include 50% more recycled content vs. 50% less virgin content. After 4 times of recycling, line 7 shows us that the energy used to produce that 1000 lbs. is 16% of the original virgin resin.

 The LCI report does not elaborate on this, but on Line 3, if we started the recycling process right away with 100% recycled content and no virgin content the first time we reused it, it would take only 10% of the energy to produce the resin than the original virgin resin.

 Clearly, we need to recycle our HDPE back into the production process to realize significant energy savings and to reduce need to produce virgin resin. 

We welcome any other topics you wish to see or your comments on our posts.

Need more information? Envision Plastics Vice President, Tamsin Ettefagh will be happy to discuss your comments or concerns in greater depth. Contact her at 336/342-4749 Ext 225.

Is Just Recovering Plastic Before It Goes to the Landfill Good Enough?

It depends. The top goal is to make sure HDPE plastic materials are used more than once, the more times the better and to avoid, as much as possible, going to a landfill to never be used again. Or worse than going to a landfill, is the potential to contaminate the area around the landfill. With that said, let’s outline the benefits of recovery AND bottle-to-bottle recycling.

Recovery
Let’s say we have made the commitment to recover plastic materials from going to the landfill. This could have been done by the diligence of the consumer sorting it out and dropping off at the recycling center or the waste management company collecting all recyclables at the curbside and then sorting into bales for delivery to the appropriate processing centers.

At the processing center, the plastic is usually broken down into flakes or pellets, depending on how the end-producer will convert the plastics. The processor, like Envision Plastics, can even sort by color to save on adding colorant in the next stage of plastics production.

For the purpose of this article, we will not include any discussion on any bio-plastics included in the mix, because those affect the durability and quality of the use for the plastic. Bio-plastics represent an insignificant portion of the recycling stream at this point.

Recycling For Durable Goods Uses
There are lots of durable goods uses for HDPE plastics, such as furniture, toys, “lumber”, etc. All great uses and promote re-using materials and saving energy from producing them from virgin materials. Energy savings can range from a little to a lot, depending on the percentage of recycled material used. These pieces will last a long time, if not forever, since HDPE plastics will not deteriorate. But, there is an even better path, one that makes sure the plastic does several loops before ever being “retired”.

Recycling Back to Being a Bottle
So, the first question, why is making it a bottle again better than using recovered HDPE plastic as a durable good?

As a bottle, there will typically be only one use of the container and then it needs to be “disposed” (despite a few people using them as flower vases and such). Each time a bottle is created from virgin plastic, it takes at least 70% more energy to produce it, then if recycled plastic was used. Each time it gets recycled, it uses less and less energy to produce the material, so that maybe we get to the point where all HDPE plastic bottles need no virgin plastic, because we keep using the existing supply.

The second reason is that with advanced technology available in production at our company (Envision Plastics), the next time it is used as a bottle, no new colorant is needed. We can sort the flakes into specific colors and the bottle producer now doesn’t have to add color (and spend that money on the colorant) to keep the same branded color they have always used.

Depending on whether any additives were used to change the properties of the end plastic, you could recycle the plastic several cycles and reduce the amount of virgin plastic produced, yet still have sufficient plastic to meet our needs, if the bottle-to-bottle method were followed.

We welcome any other topics you wish to see or your comments on our posts.

Need more information? Envision Plastics Vice President, Tamsin Ettefagh will be happy to discuss your comments or concerns in greater depth. Contact her at 336/342-4749 Ext 225.

7 Environmental Problems Associated With Waste Gasification

According to the Technical Report published by The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League in February 2009, on “WASTE GASIFICATION – IMPACTS ON THE ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC HEALTH”, despite the appeal of gasification of landfill waste, it still has the following environmental problems associated with it, just as incineration does:

  • Diversion of waste from composting and recycling
  • Air pollution
  • Water pollution
  • Disposal of ash and other by-products
  • Large amounts of water for cooling purposes
  • Health, safety, and odor impacts
  • Disincentives for waste reduction

We will focus on the diversion of waste from composting and recycling. Because of the relative simplicity of the gasification system, most waste processors will not be inclined to separate the compostable and recyclable materials from the stream.

In fact, for the gasification process to be most effective, it requires organic material, the materials best suited for composting. Paper, cardboard, wood, yard waste and food scraps comprise 60% of the solid waste fed into these systems.

In addition, the paper is also valuable as a recyclable material. Other materials, such as aluminum, steel, glass and plastics are easily recyclable if taken out of the waste stream before feeding into the gasification process.

This gas provides only 25% of the heat content of natural gas, so the benefits are less than desired as an alternative fuel source. If the recyclables are not removed, the original energy used to make the virgin materials is lost in the gasification process for a 25% payback and these materials end up in the gasification process slag, where they are unrecoverable.

Gasification of solid waste materials from landfills does not justify the return of energy provided, unless a strong program is in place for recycling with penalties for disposing of recyclables into the landfill.

We welcome any other topics you wish to see or your comments on our posts.

Need more information? Envision Plastics Vice President, Tamsin Ettefagh will be happy to discuss your comments or concerns in greater depth. Contact her at 336/342-4749 Ext 225.