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Dick Staite: former PPEC director and “interim” chair

Dick Staite: former PPEC director and “interim” chairIt is with great sadness that we report the passing of Dick Staite, a former chairman of PPEC and a long-time employee of Atlantic Packaging in Toronto.

In the early 1990s, Dick’s boss, Harry Shelson, came to him and said: “I want you to join PPEC.” Dick had no idea what PPEC was. Told that it was “some environmental thing” and that he should find out about it as soon as possible, Dick said: OK boss, and away he went.

He would end up as one of the longest-serving directors of the council, and as a somewhat reluctant interim chair. “I was at home one evening and the phone rang,” he said recently. “It was the executive director of PPEC, and eventually I learned that PPEC was looking for a chairman. I was racking my brain thinking who that might be, and then it came out that the council was thinking of me. I also happened to be the only guy living in Toronto at the time, so it was much more convenient for the council to get cheques signed and everything.

“So I sort of reluctantly said OK on condition that I would relinquish my post as soon as we found a chairman. So we called me “interim.”  Interim lasted over five years! So if you ever get asked to be interim anything, be careful!’’

In a memory that obviously stuck with him, Dick recently recounted the story of an Ontario provincial government official wondering why Atlantic didn’t simply go straight to the local dumps to pick out old corrugated boxes for recycling. The official seemed amazed to learn that while Atlantic sourced most of its used fibre for recycling from within Canada, that there were occasions when it had to bring in used paper from the US.

“Why would you do that?” asked the official.

“Well for one thing,” replied Dick, “It gets to be less expensive.”

“Do you mean to tell me that you bought used paper from the States because it was cheaper?

Dick said he had a hard time figuring out the answer to that one, other than “Yes, we did,” all the time thinking that it must be great to have government money and not to have to worry about making profits.

Dick Staite was a fun guy and contributed much to the early successes of PPEC back in the 1990s and early 2000s. Thanks for the memories.

 

Click here for visitation and funeral details.

Did you know that more adult diapers are now sold in Nova Scotia than baby diapers?

This is not a knock on Nova Scotia, simply pointing out that aging baby boomers are beginning to impact both the products and the packaging that Canadians will use in the future. The diaper info comes courtesy of John Wright, Senior Fellow at the Angus Reid Institute, who just happens to be a keynote speaker at PPEC’s upcoming seminar November 1.John Wright

Wright will talk about the silver wave (goodbye?) as aging baby boomers give way to new immigrants, and how this will impact the packaging of the future, both physically and culturally.  He will be assisted by a panel discussion on sustainability, what retailers and brandowners and material suppliers see as the key issues moving forward. Speakers include Scott Tudor of Sobeys, John Coyne of Unilever, and Dave Boles of Atlantic Packaging.

Rounding out the morning event will be an update on the key environmental issues impacting the packaging industry across North America by Dennis Colley of the US Fibre Box Association and yours truly (PPEC).

If you would like more information or to register for the event, please click here. If you would like adult diapers, you are on your own!

Paper recycling represents 40% of Canada’s waste diversion

A recent Statistics Canada report on household e-waste reveals some interesting diversion data on other materials.

Paper, for example, represented 40% of what was diverted in Canada from both residential and non-residential sources in 2012. Paper recycling has increased by about 8% since 2002. The diversion of organics has really jumped, however, and now represents 29% of total diversion, with construction and demolition materials following at close to 8 percent.

Here’s the diversion line-up, expressed as a percentage of total tonnes diverted:

StatsCan Recycling report

Source: Statcan EnviroStats, Trash talking: dealing with Canadian household e-waste. Table 1: Materials diverted from residential and non-residential sources, by type, Canada, 2002-2012.

 

 

Something really fishy about plastic crate study

The battle between the corrugated box and the plastic crate industries for share of the fresh produce market is getting stranger by the minute. The latest twist is the release by leading crate supplier, IFCO, of a comparative life cycle analysis (LCA) that, guess what, favours the crate.

At first IFCO released only the executive summary of the study, garnering the “corrugated is worse” headlines that it sought in the trade press, and effectively delaying public scrutiny of any backup for its claims. LCAs and especially comparative ones, are supposed to be transparent so that everyone can assess the veracity or otherwise of the claims and assumptions made. PPEC requested a copy of the full report and finally received one. In the meantime, of course, IFCO has been touting the results of its study to growers and retailers alike, encouraging them to accept its conclusions as gospel.

Now hang on a minute! We had questions before, but the full study raises even more! In particular, we were looking for substantiation of the claim that more recycling of corrugated leads only to more global warming potential (GWP); and for back-up for the claim that the average recycled content of a US produce box is only 15 percent.

The full report is disappointing on both counts. There is no credible substantiation for the 15% claim, for example, only a deliberately vague reference to discussions with unnamed “industry Plastic Crate studyconsultants and fiber produce container manufacturers” (page 134). With some assistance, because the footnote reference in the study no longer works, we managed to track down one corrugated manufacturer who acknowledged that in 2012 he used 85% virgin board (from Australia) to make some produce boxes for a very specific application involving wet conditions.

That’s it! One guy, and some unnamed consultants! This is the flimsy evidence for surmising that the whole industry works this way. It gets worse. From Appendix F it seems that the Peer Review Panel didn’t even question the validity of the 15% assumption, which is really odd given how the results of the study depend so much on it being correct.

We can understand why the US corrugated box industry is upset. Their average recycled content has been publicly stated and verified to be close to 50 percent. In Canada, ours is even higher, at 80 percent. IFCO and its consultants really need to produce a lot more backup for their 15% claim if they want to be taken seriously.

 

Something fishy about crate supplier’s recycled content assumptions

Corrugated Packaging Alliance

 

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Rachel Kenyon (847) 364-9600, rkenyon@fibrebox.org
Cheryl Reynhout (401) 932-8126, creynhout@corrugated.org
Katharine Eaton (202) 463-2434, katharine_eaton@afandpa.org

IFCO REPORT USES INACCURATE DATA FOR CORRUGATED CONTAINERS

ITASCA, IL (May 10, 2016) – The Corrugated Packaging Alliance (CPA) reviewed IFCO’s recently-published Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Reusable Plastic Containers and Display- and Non-Display Ready Corrugated Containers Used for Fresh Produce Applications, which was conducted by Franklin Associates and compares the environmental impact of reusable plastic containers to corrugated containers.

“We have been reluctant to comment on IFCO’s latest LCA without having access to the actual report that identifies the boundaries, key assumptions and methodologies used in the study. Transparency is a key LCA requirement and publishing the full facts allows them to be fairly and accurately understood”, said CPA Executive Director Dennis Colley. “We are disappointed in the approach used by IFCO to announce the report’s findings.”

“For the LCA’s most popular environmental impact indicator, Global Warming Potential (GWP), IFCO uses a baseline assumption of 15 percent recycled content for corrugated. Life Cycle Assessment of U.S. Industry-Average Corrugated Product (PE Americas and Five Winds International, December 2009), Life Cycle Assessment of U.S. Average Corrugated Product (NCASI, April 2014), and many other publications note corrugated containers’ average recycled content of approximately 50 percent, which advantages corrugated containers by almost 40 percent over RPCs for CO2 emissions or GWP.”

The recycled content of corrugated boxes is tied to total system fiber usage and therefore is linked to many variables in an LCA. The amount of new virgin fiber required in the system is offset by the recycled content which affects energy consumption and emissions at the mills. The demand for recycled fiber also drives the high recovery rate of Old Corrugated Containers (OCC), currently 92.9 percent in 2015 and reduces waste to landfills and subsequent methane generation.

IFCO acknowledges that a higher recycled content (such as 52.7 percent) for corrugated packaging generates superior GWP results for corrugated, as compared to RPCs. However, this analysis is buried in the last section of the report’s Executive Summary.

The CPA will publish the corrugated industry’s third LCA – including baseline assumptions and documented statistics – in October and expects continued improvements for several environmental impact indicators. The 2014 study revealed a 32 percent reduction in the GWP from the first-ever corrugated industry LCA published in 2009, along with double-digit reductions in eutrophication, respiratory, and fossil fuel depletion indicators.

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The Corrugated Packaging Alliance (CPA) is a corrugated industry initiative jointly sponsored by the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), AICC – the Independent Packaging Association, Fibre Box Association (FBA) and TAPPI. Its mission is to foster growth and profitability of corrugated in applications where it can be demonstrated, based on credible and persuasive evidence, that corrugated should be the packaging material of choice; and to provide a coordinated industry focus that effectively acts on industry matters that cannot be accomplished by individual members. CPA members include corrugated manufacturers and converters throughout North America.

Plastics industry quietly removes false bag claims

The Canadian plastics industry has quietly deleted a couple of the false claims it was making on its bags website. PPEC highlighted the claims in a blog last month.

Gone is the claim that the ULS Report was completed according to ISO 14040-14043 standards and peer reviewed by North Carolina State University. Not true. Also absent now is the false claim that paper bags have to be made from virgin pulp. In fact, they can be made from virgin or recycled pulp, or a blend of the two.

And instead of saying that “post-consumer recycled paper cannot be used to carry heavy items” (a ludicrous claim considering that much of the paper packaging made in Canada incorporates post-consumer recyPlasticsMay04cled paper, and performs well), the site now says that post-consumer recycled paper used to carry heavy items is “problematic.” About as “problematic,” we would assume, as carrying heavy items with post-consumer plastic. But then who are we to quibble?

All the plastic folks have to do now is remove those irrelevant summaries of old European “life cycle” studies that they love to quote on bags. Yes, the ones that have absolutely no Canadian data on how bags are actually made in this country. Canadians are not stupid, eh.

 

 

Plastics industry makes false claims for bag study

The Canadian plastics industry is embellishing the credentials of a study it says proves that plastic bags are more “environmentally friendly” than paper bags.

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The industry’s website claims that the ULS Report (2007) “was completed according to ISO standards 14040-14043, and was peer reviewed by North Carolina State University.”  In fact, the ULS study (or more correctly, its updated version of March 2008) was never an original life cycle assessment; never claimed to meet ISO standards; nor does it claim to have been peer reviewed by independent life cycle experts.

While they are correcting that sloppy and embarrassing error, perhaps the plastic folks will address some of the other false and misleading claims on their website. Here’s two for starters:

False Claim 1: “That kraft paper grocery bags have to be made from virgin pulp, not recycled pulp, to be suitably durable for market use.”

FACT: Paper grocery bags can be made from both virgin pulp and recycled pulp or a blend of the two. It all depends on the bag specifications of the customer (for strength, durability, printability and so on). A lot of the retail paper bags used in Canada today are 100% recycled content.

False Claim 2: “That post-consumer recycled paper cannot be used to carry heavy items. It is too weak. This often results in double bagging groceries, which doubles waste.”

FACT: As noted above, a lot of paper retail bags today are made from 100% recycled content material (mostly from old corrugated boxes collected from the back of supermarkets and factories, office buildings or from curbside). Most paper packaging in Canada, in fact, is 100% recycled content and all of it performs to customers’ specifications. As for double bagging, we suggest the plastic folks visit their local store to see firsthand what’s going on with plastic bags. And then maybe check out the local trees, rivers and lakes where some of their products end up.

The reports of paper’s death are greatly exaggerated

We frequently hear and see comments about paper “dying” or being supplanted by other materials. It’s not happening, or at least not happening in the way many people think.

While the weight of paper entering Ontario homes, for example, fell by 8% between 2003 and 2014,(1) PPEC analysis of Stewardship Ontario Blue Box data for 2003 and 2014. PPEC analyses on the generation, recycling, net costs, and EPR fees for all materials across Canada are available to members upon request.  at least part of the reason is the continuous light-weighting of paper products that’s gone on over the years: newspapers and magazines with narrower pages, fewer flaps and layers of packaging, and a tighter fit between packaging and product. The introduction of lighter, high-performance board or micro-flutes has also displaced what some boxboard or paperboard used to do. Who could have predicted, for example, that a fast-food hamburger would one day be delivered in a lightweight corrugated box! Check out that distinctive corrugated ripple in the packaging next time you visit one of the chains.

Measuring generation by weight, of course, doesn’t give a complete picture of what’s going on in the marketplace, where volume and sales units rule. But it can be a useful indicator of changing market forces. Printed paper (especially newspapers), for example, has taken a severe hit from its electronic competitors. The weight of newspapers ending up in Ontario homes fell by 21% over the period, magazines and catalogs by 25%, telephone directories by a whopping 47% and “Other Printed Paper” by seven percent. This is the demise part of the paper story we mostly hear about.

But at the same time as printed paper generation declined by 20%, the use of paper packaging increased by 16%, basically offsetting any major changes to paper’s overall share. In fact, for the first time in Ontario, more paper packaging (corrugated and boxboard) ended up in the home than newsprint. So paper products, whether printed or packaging, still represent two-thirds of the dry recyclables in Ontario households by weight.

The two main household packaging types (boxboard/paperboard and corrugated) are up 27% and 9% respectively, with the small market gable top and aseptic containers also making significant gains (up 24% and 118 percent).

When you put these two changes together (newsprint down and paper packaging up), we pretty much have the status quo, although the trend line within the paper group seems to be clear. And as e-commerce distribution ramps up in Canada, more and more paper packaging (mostly corrugated) is expected to end up in the home. The good news is that most of it is 100% recycled content already, with almost all of it (98%) being collected for further recycling.

 

 

References   [ + ]

1.  PPEC analysis of Stewardship Ontario Blue Box data for 2003 and 2014. PPEC analyses on the generation, recycling, net costs, and EPR fees for all materials across Canada are available to members upon request.

Old European “life cycle’’ studies are of little use in Canadian bag wars

When the plastics industry promotes and widely circulates false and misleading claims about the environmental impact of paper bags in Canada we have an obligation to defend ourselves, and to Old Studiesensure that Canadians get all the facts, not just some of them.

What we find particularly offensive is the public parade of various European “life cycle” studies in support of the claim that paper bags are bad or worse for the environment than plastic ones. None of these studies, in fact, reflect the realities of Canadian paper bag production. They are old, of varying quality and relevance, and not one of them includes Canadian data on how bags are actually made in this country.

  1. The data is old

Accurate data is critical to life cycle conclusions. The respected not-for-profit Institute for Environmental Research and Education (IERE) says that all primary data (data gathered directly from actual bag-making operations, for example) “shall be no more than three years old.” Secondary data (gathered from publications in the peer reviewed literature or grey literature such as government publications) “must be no more than 10 years old, unless it can be verified by an industry expert to be unchanged.”

When we look at the European studies that the Canadian plastics industry loves to quote, however, and which it splashes all over its bag-specific website, we see that every single one of them includes data that is over 10 years old.  The UK Environment Agency Report  (Data requirements and data quality 3.5, and Annex C Description of Inventory Data)  was published in 2011 for the data year 2006 but in fact uses life cycle inventory data that stretches back to 1999 (17 years); and the Scottish Report adjusts data from an earlier French study (Carrefour) whose data was “taken largely from the mid to late 1990s.

That’s over 20 years ago! Around the time of the Million Man March in Washington DC or the murder trial of OJ Simpson; Jack Nicklaus winning the British Open or former US Vice President Al Gore helping push the internet from academia into schools for the first time!

  1. The studies vary in quality and relevance

If you are going to quote life cycle assessments (LCAs) then at least quote the ones that are current (not old, as noted above) and ones that meet internationally acceptable standards for comparative analysis (ISO 14020, ISO 14021, ISO 14025, ISO 14040, ISO 14044, and ISO 14050).

Only two of the European studies cited were original LCAs. And both have problem areas which the authors and/or other life cycle practitioners have acknowledged. The Carrefour study was specific to France and how that country made and imported bags using data back in the 1990s; its relative treatment of greenhouse gas emissions at end-of-life has been questioned; and it used a different functional (measuring) unit than the other, later studies.

The UK study acknowledged that most plastic carrier bags were imported from Asia, but because no Chinese data-sets were identified, it modified average numbers supplied by the European plastics industry instead. Its Final Review statement also agreed that no clear comparison had been established based on the functional unit (thus not meeting a key ISO requirement).

And the Scottish Report, which the plastics industry says has “some of the most credible data,” was neither an original LCA nor peer reviewed, and acknowledged that its findings “cannot be used for a precise quantification of environmental impacts. This would require a full life cycle analysis based on the Scottish situation, which is outside the scope of this study.”

And here’s the clincher!

  1. There is no Canadian data in these studies!

We learn something about French, Spanish, Italian, Turkish, Malaysian and Chinese bags but nothing about Canadian bags from these studies. We learn about France’s energy grid (highly nuclear) and China’s energy grid (78% coal-burning at the time of one of the studies), but nothing about Canada’s energy grid (which is quite different). And this is crucial, because energy consumption is the major environmental impact category for every type of bag.

Life cycle experts like IERE say that “wherever possible, the electric grid data should represent the electricity purchased or generated by the local entity.” If that data is not available then you move to aggregated regional or national data.

So until Canadian energy data is used, as just one example, these studies have little relevance to Canada. The Canadian plastics industry tacitly acknowledges this when it rushes to point out that most Canadian plastic bags are not made from dirty coal or crude oil from China but rather from fossil fuel extraction in Alberta. But for some reason it doesn’t extend the same Canadian-specific rights to the Canadian paper bag industry for its high use of leftover sawmill residues and renewable, carbon-neutral biomass.

It’s not as if we haven’t told them this before,  numerous times. We have. Maybe, just maybe, incorporating this science and these facts into their public messaging to Canadians would seriously impact their preferred story line of paper bags being worse than plastic.

Hopefully, for its own credibility if nothing else, the plastics industry will do the honourable thing and delete these old and irrelevant-to-Canada studies from its website. And while it’s at it, maybe, just maybe, it will cover off one key factor that these studies and its bags website don’t address, the impact of bag litter on marine life, a growing environmental concern.

Packaging changes in Ontario households (2003-2014)

The following is PPEC’s summary of how the generation of printed paper and packaging has changed in Ontario households between 2003 and 2014, based on weight.

  • The weight of what are called dry recyclables or Blue Box materials in Ontario households (before recycling) dropped almost 8% between 2003 and 2014 data years. The major reason for this was a 21% drop in newspaper generation and a 46% fall in glass generation. More, lighter weight plastics is probably a factor as well.
  • The all-paper category (printed paper and paper packaging combined) still represented two-thirds of household generation by weight in 2014. But the printed paper contribution is now 20% lower with newspapers dropping 21%, magazines and catalogs (25%) and telephone directories (47%). This has been balanced by a 16% increase in paper packaging generated (plus 27% for boxboard and plus 9% for corrugated).
  • Plastics packaging generation (by weight) increased 31% over the period, with a 201% increase in the catch-all category of Other Plastics and a 53% increase for PET bottles.

The raw data has been analysed from Stewardship Ontario reports for the individual years 2003 and 2014. Selected audits were undertaken on what households generated (as garbage) and what they put out for recycling with the numbers added together to get a generation total. So this is what was in the Ontario residential marketplace and available to be recycled before any recycling took place in 2003 and 2014.

 

PackagingChanges2003

PackagingChanges2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ChartPackagingChanges2003ChartPackagingChanges2014