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FSC sucks up and apologises (sort of)

The Forest Stewardship Council of Canada recently had some rare words of praise for the Canadian paper packaging industry! “Here in Canada,’’ wrote President and CEO Francois Dufresne in a blog, “our packaging industry uses the largest portion of recycled fibres of any forestry sector – an important element of responsible forest management, and an incredible achievement for which we commend the Canadian packaging industry.”

Well thank you, we’ll take it. And we recognise that FSC has every right to inform Canadian consumers about how packaging materials are sourced within Canada and about forestry practices around the world. The problem is how that message is conveyed to the public.

Unfortunately, FSC’s most recent attempt just serves to smear the industry. A promotional video on its website claims a link between packaging and deforestation. No credible evidence of such a link is offered. In fact, the Canadian industry is not responsible for any deforestation in Canada. Will FSC advise Canadian millennials of this fact? I think we’ll be waiting a while.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)- Deforestation Facts Chart

FSC uses a visual image of an ugly clear-cut in its video to symbolise ‘nasty’ deforestation. But somehow the fact that it receives money from companies that use clear-cutting to harvest the forest doesn’t get mentioned. Oops! A little conflict there, no?

Poor Forestry Practices

And as for the ‘’poor forestry practices’ it alleges, the video somehow neglects to acknowledge that Canada leads the world in forest certified as sustainably managed, and that most Canadian packaging mills already have responsible sourcing (chain-of-custody) certification by independent third parties.

We live in a world of social media and instant impressions where nobody likes to be unfairly smeared. If FSC wants to be a credible source of information to its packaging customers, and to the public in general, it needs to clean up its act and be far more precise in its public offerings and claims. Facts and credibility do matter.

John Mullinder

John Mullinder, Executive Director, PPEC - Regular posts on environmental and sustainability issues impacting the Canadian paper packaging industry

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Blue Box Recycling: who’s performing and who’s not

Report card time! We’ve graded the 22 different material categories used by Ontario’s Blue Box system according to their most recent (2018) “sent for recycling” numbers.

We’ve also looked back to see how much printed paper and packaging was sent for recycling in 2003 to discern any improvements or otherwise. It was in 2003 that industry stewards (brand owners and retailers) first became legally obligated to fund 50% of Ontario Blue Box net costs and began collecting this data.

Here are the rankings with some historical perspective thrown in:

A

Corrugated Boxes                                          98%

 Magazines, Catalogues                               89%

Recovery for these materials was estimated at 72% back in 2003 so they have done very well. This is the fourth year in a row that corrugated box recovery has reached 98%.   

B

Old Newspapers                                             80%

Old Telephone Books                                    75%

Clear Glass                                                      72%

Steel Food & Beverage Cans                        70%

Old Boxboard Cartons                                   62%

The largest improvement in recovery percentage since 2003 has been for old boxboard cartons (up from 42%) followed by steel food and beverage cans (up from 53%) and clear glass (up from 57%).

C

Coloured Glass                                               57%

Gable Top Cartons                                        56%

PET Plastic Bottles                                       55%

HDPE Plastic Bottles                                    54%

Aluminium Food & Beverage Cans            47%

Gable-top cartons have jumped from 10% back in 2003 to 56% but the others in this group have only made marginal improvements (between four and six points). The percentage of coloured glass sent for recycling has fallen four points over the period.

D

Other Printed Paper                                      38%

Other Plastics                                                 34%

Steel Aerosols                                                31%

Aseptic Cartons                                             30%

The biggest improvements in this group were Other Plastics (up from 6%) and Aseptic Cartons (up from 10%) in 2003. There is clearly an opportunity to promote greater recovery of printing and writing paper. It should not be scoring a D here!

E

Plastic Film                                                     10%

Paper Laminants                                            9%

Steel Paint Cans                                             7%

Polystyrene                                                     4%

Plastic Laminants                                          3%

There has not been much progress in this group over the last 16 years of data. Paper laminants have gone from an estimated 1% to 9%; plastic film from 6% to 10%; plastic laminants from 1% to 3% and polystyrene from 3% to 4%. The recovery of steel paint cans has fallen significantly, down from 23%.

By broader material grouping, paper (72%), glass (68%) and steel (62%) scored a B; aluminum (41%) a C; and plastics (30%) a D.

These material rankings and the progress (or lack of progress) shown since 2003 should form the basis of current discussions over the future of Ontario’s Blue Box system. It is doing well in some respects but poorly in others. Why this is so, and how to address the “under-performers” (let alone set targets!), are key issues as we move ahead

Source: PPEC    Analysis of Stewardship Ontario Blue Box data between 2003 and 2018

John Mullinder

John Mullinder, Executive Director, PPEC - Regular posts on environmental and sustainability issues impacting the Canadian paper packaging industry

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The ‘worst performers’ in waste management in Canada: Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta

Canada's worst performing provinces - waste managementThree provinces lag significantly behind the others in solid waste management in Canada: Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. And what’s worse, their low diversion rates (ranging from between 16 and 18%) have not changed much over the last eight years, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada.

The data measures the disposal and diversion of industrial, commercial and residential streams of used paper, plastics, glass, metals, textiles, organics, electronics, white goods (such as fridges and appliances) and construction, renovation and demolition (CRD) materials like wood, drywall, doors, windows and wiring.

Albertans dumped over a tonne of waste per person in 2016, two and a half times more than the average Nova Scotian and 320 kilograms more than the average Canadian. The three provinces were also among the least effective in waste diversion: Manitobans and Saskatchewanians being the lowest ranked of the eight reporting provinces.

As is the case throughout Canada, the major streams of materials diverted here in 2016 were paper and organics, but Manitobans, Saskatchewanians, and Albertans were middle to bottom performers in both. They performed better in recovering used tires: Saskatchewan was tops with Alberta third and Manitoba fourth-ranked per person. Albertans were also number three in the diversion of construction, renovation and demolition waste. But overall, these three provinces have a long way to go to catch up with what’s going on elsewhere in Canada.

The pie charts show the major material streams they diverted in 2016. In my next blog in this series I will try and draw all the strands of data together to present a national picture of what the data tells us and outline where the major opportunities for greater diversion seem to lie.

The links to the previous blogs can be found here: Canada’s ‘middle performers’ in waste management: Quebec, New Brunswick, and Ontario (March 27, 2019); British Columbians and Nova Scotians are Canada’s best recyclers (March 14, 2019)    Canada’s waste diversion rate slowly inches higher (February 28, 2019); Where’s the garbage coming from? More and more from homes (February 19, 2019); Good news and bad news in dumping of waste (October 11, 2018).

John Mullinder

John Mullinder, Executive Director, PPEC – Regular posts on environmental and sustainability issues impacting the Canadian paper packaging industry

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Canadians are dumping more, and less, at the same time!

Call us multi-taskers. According to the latest waste disposal data from Statistics Canada, Canadians dumped 25.1 million tonnes of waste in 2014, a million tonnes more than we did 12 years ago. So on that score, Canada’s waste pile is growing. Not good news.

But because there are 13% more of us now than there were back in 2002, we get to spread that extra million tonnes among more people. What this means is that as individual Canadians, we actually sent 8% less to the dump today than we did before. Only statistics can make you look good and bad at the same time!

Waste Disposal by Province - 2014

It gets more interesting when you dive into provincial performance over the same period. In tonnage terms, Nova Scotia and Ontario have performed the best (down 6% and 5% respectively) with Alberta and New Brunswick standing out as the bad guys. Alberta’s waste heap has increased by 42% since 2002 and New Brunswick’s by 23 per cent, with Saskatchewan and Manitoba not far behind (up 18% and 15% respectively).

On a per capita basis, Nova Scotia is by far the best performer at 386 kilograms of waste per person. From there you jump to 586 kilograms (British Columbia), 670 kilograms (Ontario), 673 kilograms (New Brunswick), 696 kilograms (Quebec), 786 kilograms (Newfoundland and Labrador), 801 kilograms (Manitoba) and 839 kilograms (Saskatchewan). Alberta heads the pack at almost a tonne (997 kilograms) per person.

Clearly, Nova Scotia is the model to follow if Canada’s bulging waste line is to be reduced. How much of Nova Scotia’s success can be attributed to its longstanding disposal bans on organics and paper is unknown. No other provinces have yet followed its lead in this respect. As for laggard Alberta, it’s got a long way to catch up.

Waste Dumped by Canadians 2002-2014 More Canadians 2002-2014 Canaidans Per Capita Disposal 2002-2012

John Mullinder

John Mullinder, Executive Director, PPEC – Regular posts on environmental and sustainability issues impacting the Canadian paper packaging industry

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The good, the bad, and the ugly about Ontario’s Blue Box

The good news is that the reported recovery rates for almost every single material category in Ontario’s Blue Box have improved over the last 13 years, some by as much as 20 The Uglier Truthpercentage points. The bad news is that several categories have made very little progress and lag way behind the others, and that the real recovery rates are much lower than those reported.

Here is our Report Card by material group, based on the latest recovery numbers from Stewardship Ontario. Please note that this is not a judgement on the merits of individual materials but rather an assessment of how well they are being recovered in Ontario’s Blue Box system. There is clearly room for improvement.


PRINTED PAPER                                                            A 

Printed paper has been a consistent good performer, rising from 67% reported recovery back in 2003 to 82% today (2015). The recovery rate for old newspapers and old telephone books is in the 90s. Somewhat further back, and dragging the printed paper category down, is the recovery rate for printing and writing paper (Other Printed). This has ranged from 39% up to 59% and is currently at 55 per cent.

 GLASS PACKAGING                                                    B+

The reported recovery rate for clear and coloured glass is an impressive 80 per cent. Years ago, all we heard about was glass going to landfill or being used as road fill. Beyond talk of glass breaking in the collection process and contaminating loads of other materials, however, glass recovery is apparently in good shape. A lot of recovered glass these days goes into blast and filter media rather than higher end uses such as fibreglass and cullet which have more demanding quality requirements.

PAPER PACKAGING                                                       B 

Old corrugated containers (OCC) or boxes have the highest reported recovery rate of all Blue Box materials (98%). From there it’s a drop back to paper-based gable top cartons which have surged from a 10% to a 61% recovery rate; boxboard at 43%; followed by aseptic cartons (made of paper, plastic and aluminum), and laminants. The relatively low recovery rate for old boxboard is a concern. It reached as high as 65% recovery in 2008 but has dropped back to 43% since. Stewardship Ontario did target boxboard toothpaste cartons, toilet paper roll tubes, tissue boxes and other toiletry packaging in an advertising campaign in 2015.

 STEEL PACKAGING                                                      B 

The latest reported recovery rate for steel food and beverage cans is a respectable 71 per cent. Other steel packaging such as aerosols and paint cans drag the overall steel category down 10 per cent. In fact, paint cans are the only category in the Blue Box whose recovery rate has declined over the last 13 years.

ALUMINUM PACKAGING                                          D 

The low reported recovery rate for aluminum food and beverage cans in Ontario (42%) has always been a bit of a puzzler and is frequently compared unfavourably with its far higher recovery rates in Canada’s many deposit provinces where recovery ranges between 61% and 97 per cent. One reason offered for the difference is that the recovery rate for cans in Ontario is only for those that end up in the home. It doesn’t include those used at public events, in offices, or factories. The aluminum stewards also reported residential sales some 13% lower in 2015 than what various waste audits used to provide a provincial total suggested was in the home. But even if you allow for this difference, the reported recovery rate only rises to 48 per cent. We doubt that Blue Box scavengers are grabbing the other 52 per cent.

 PLASTICS PACKAGING                                                D 

The reported recovery rate for plastics packaging reached 32% in 2015. The highest rate was for PET bottles (66%) and the biggest increase over the years was turned in by the “Other Plastics” category with one-third now being reported as recovered. Apart from PET and HDPE bottles, however, the plastic recovery rates are poor.


The far uglier truth about all reported Ontario Blue Box recovery rates, however, is that they don’t tell the real story. They are basically “sent for recycling numbers,” in most cases, what was sent to an end-market from a material recycling facility or MRF. These reported “recovery” rates don’t deduct the various yield losses that occur in remanufacturing that curbside material back into new products, or the contamination that must be removed (and is normally landfilled) before remanufacturing can actually take place.

For example, all reported paper numbers need to be shaved by at least 10% because paper fibres shrink in the re-pulping process. When a municipality sends 100 tonnes of paper to a paper recycling mill, only 90% of it will come out the other end. And with single-stream collection there is a lot more plastic, glass and metal contamination in the paper bales. This is usually sent to landfill. And you can chop maybe 30% off the reported PET bottle “recovery” rate since PET yields at the end-market range, at best, between 60 and 70 per cent.

A recent attempt by the Canadian Standards Association to grapple  with this issue and come up with a definition of recycling, falls short in our view, and is one of the reasons why PPEC is developing a more accurate and real measurement of what paper materials are actually being recycled in this province.

 

P.S. In our last blog on the Blue Box, we claimed that “over 75%” of what the Ontario Blue Box collected in 2015 was paper of one kind or another.  The “alternative fact” is 74.55%. Close but not correct. Sorry!

 

Reported Recovery Rates

 

Source: PPEC    Analysis of Stewardship Ontario Blue Box data between 2003 and 2015

John Mullinder

John Mullinder, Executive Director, PPEC – Regular posts on environmental and sustainability issues impacting the Canadian paper packaging industry

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Over 75% of what the Blue Box collects is paper, and it has the highest recovery rates

When you crunch the numbers on Canada’s various provincial Blue Box systems, one fact stands out more than any other. The Blue Box is basically a Paper Box, part of a larger feeder supply network for Canadian and other paper recycling mills.

Paper’s overwhelming dominance is more obvious, of course, in the many “deposit” provinces where beverage containers are returned outside of the Blue Box system. But even in “non-deposit” Ontario, paper is king. Over 75% of all the material collected in Ontario’s Blue Box is paper of some kind, whether printed paper like newspapers or packaging boxes and cartons. This has not changed over the last 13 years of data compiled by the province’s Blue Box industry-funding organisation, Stewardship Ontario.

A huge chunk of that recovered paper goes to Ontario recycling mills to be turned into new newspapers, new corrugated boxes, or new boxboard cartons. A local and active circular economy. The mills, and the converters who turn that recycled fibre into new paper products, provide employment to many local communities and pay taxes to municipal governments.

Paper categories also have the highest individual recovery rates of all materials in Ontario’s Blue Box. Used corrugated boxes top the bill at an amazing 98% recovery rate followed by old telephone books (96%) and old newspapers (92%). The paper or fibre stream overall has a very respectable 74% recovery rate. The recovery rate for the container stream (plastic, glass and metal packaging), on the other hand, is only 46%, dragged down by plastics’ lowly 32 percent.

Select Recovery Rates

Source: Stewardship Ontario (2015 data)

John Mullinder

John Mullinder, Executive Director, PPEC – Regular posts on environmental and sustainability issues impacting the Canadian paper packaging industry

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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.

John Mullinder

John Mullinder, Executive Director, PPEC – Regular posts on environmental and sustainability issues impacting the Canadian paper packaging industry

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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.

 

John Mullinder

John Mullinder, Executive Director, PPEC – Regular posts on environmental and sustainability issues impacting the Canadian paper packaging industry

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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.

###

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.

John Mullinder

John Mullinder, Executive Director, PPEC – Regular posts on environmental and sustainability issues impacting the Canadian paper packaging industry

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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.

 

 

John Mullinder

John Mullinder, Executive Director, PPEC – Regular posts on environmental and sustainability issues impacting the Canadian paper packaging industry

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