eco ramblings

a dialogue with an Eco Patriot

Archive for January, 2010

Compostable Sun Chip Bags

Posted by Luke on January 26, 2010

Direct from the US Compousting Council Conference in Orlando…

If you haven’t seen Frito Lays’ advertising for their new renewable and compostable Sun Chips bags, here it is…

 

These bags are a nice step towards more sustainable food packaging, and it’s nice to see such a large brand owner leading the charge which will surely drive more companies this direction.

Posted in biodegradable, compostable, composting, foodservice | Leave a Comment »

Which is more environmentally sound: recycled content or compostable?

Posted by Luke on January 23, 2010

There was a great article in a recent Resource Recycling issue that evaluates the pros and cons of recycled content vs renewable/compostable.  This is a growing debate with foodservice operators and one that will surely continue for some time.  With the growth of both products made from recycled content and products made from renewable resources, restaurant owners now have a couple of great alternatives to petroleum-based products based on their waste management systems. 

Benefits of renewable-resource based compostable products:

When looking at the life cycle analyses of bioplastic resin such as NatureWorks Ingeo PLA, there’s no question that PLA releases fewer greenhouse gases during production than its petrochemical counterparts like PET.  There’s also the key benefits of being produced from plants instead of oil and its ability to be turned back into dirt if disposed of properly in a commercial composting facility.  Some argue that PLA takes away from our food source, but I have never been able to agree them.  The corn used to produce PLA is grain corn, not the type of corn we eat on the table.  And if the NatureWorks factory was at full capacity, which it isn’t, it would only consume .1% of the nation’s grain corn.  Another argument anti-PLA people use is that PLA is made from GMO corn, which it is.  Although I’m not a fan of GMO myself, I’d much rather use a GMO plant to produce a plastic cup than use oil imported from who knows where.

Benefits of recycled content:

Recycled content creates an interesting alternative and one that I believe is a 2nd best option to renewable resource-based products.  Making cups from recycled content supports the recycling market which, ideally, in turn will build demand for more recycled products and more recycling.  Building the demand for recycled products is important because if recyclers can’t find a channel to sell their recovered materials, they’ll be less likely to collect certain types of materials and will ultimately drive up the price for recycled content.

So between the two – recycled content and renewable/compostable – we now have two great options outside of virgin petrochemical-based products.  What’s great about these options is that people can choose what works best for them.  If they have access to a composting facility, renewable/compostable products are the most environmental choice.  If they don’t have access to such a facility, recycled content products are a good alternative.

Posted in biodegradable, compostable, compostable products, foodservice, packaging, recycled products, renewable resources, RPET | Leave a Comment »

Recycling foam cups. Does it make foam green?

Posted by Luke on January 12, 2010

Foam has been viewed as the evil material for years in the eyes of consumers.  Legislators in 30+ municipalities across the country have banned foam (expanded polystyrene) for use in foodservice products like cups, containers, etc.  I can never help but heckle restaurant employees when they bring me a foam takeout container. 

With all of the growing negative sentiment about foam, the industry is trying to make changes to the end-of-life story to try to give it a green, shall I say, “tint?”  At restaurant industry tradeshows, I’ve noticed manufacturers of foam products have found a way to put a green spin on foam by boasting that it’s recyclable.  Technically, they’re right, foam is recyclable.  In fact, a lot of products are technically considered recyclable.  The problem is that not all “recyclable” products are accepted by recycling facilities.  For example, clear plastic PET cups are technically recyclable.  They are made from the same material as water bottles.  However, cups aren’t recyclable in virtually 98% of the recycling facilities across the country, mainly due to their shape.  

Despite this borderline, or maybe flat-out greenwashing by the majority of foam manufacturers, I commend one company – Dart Container Corp. – for taking some pretty big steps to attempt to close the loop on foam recycling.  Dart has been opening up foam recycling facilities across the country.  These facilities collect used foam cups and containers, compact them, regrind them, and attempt to turn them back into usable foam material again.  The material isn’t processed in a manner that will allow for FDA approval, and there are still some questions as to the real benefits.  But I say good job for at least trying to cultivate a recycling program.

Posted in foodservice, manufacturing, recycling | Leave a Comment »

A Match Made in… Recycling?

Posted by Luke on January 12, 2010

I came across an interesting new business today – RecycleMatch.  This innovative new company is trying to become the ebay of recycling by matching suppliers of hard to recycle materials with buyers.  Suppliers could be any business looking to get rid of hard to recycle stuff.  Buyers can search through listings and then apparently bid on the materials.  It seems like RecycleMatch makes a profit when it matches a company, but it’s still a little unclear.  If anyone has had success using RecycleMatch, please let me know.  I ‘d love to learn how the service worked for you.

Posted in recycled products | Leave a Comment »

 
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