Wood – One Response to Carbon Sequestration

Infographic: Putting Forests to Work

Infographic: Putting Forests to Work

One has to watch assertions. Even though well-intentioned, they can sometimes be misleading. So, it was that I questioned one such assertion regarding a particular detail in what was overall a good presentation. The assertion was “Products made of wood currently capture 70 million metric tons of CO2 from the air annually.” I wanted to know how that was possible and said via email “An assertion in your graphic seems not entirely ‘possible’ to me, could you please explain, elaborate or clarify ?” I noted that we are “forest-friendly” saying – “We steward a 500 acre forest in Missouri.” and that “I understand that using wood would keep the tree from potentially decaying and thereby releasing the carbon it has sequestered.”

I won’t say that the response was entirely informative but I was referred to a couple of links –

You can find more details about forests and climate on our website: https://www.forestfoundation.org/forests-and-climate-change

And specifically read about the statistic you mention here (recommendation #2): https://www.forestfoundation.org/read-our-recommendations. The calculations have been verified by several different folks, including U.S. Forest Service researchers.

Thanks so much for your interest.

So, I thought I would explore around this for my blog today. What was confusing to me was that it seemed to be saying “dead” wood in the form of “products” could actually pull CO2 from the air. I do question that. So, let us take a look at the link that she suggested would explain that. Here is what Recommendation # 2 says specifically –

“2) Promote Forest Products:

Forest products, such as lumber, store carbon throughout their lifecycle. Nationwide, forest products already store 71 million metric tons of CO2 annually. There are many opportunities to strengthen markets for forest products. Measures such as these could reduce emissions by an additional 21.1 million metric tons of CO2, or 0.3% of annual U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to emissions from 5.5 coal plants in one year.”

So, when they say “capture”, they actually mean “store”. Not that it continues to pull carbon from the air after it becomes a product. Now, I do not intend what I have said to be interpreted to mean that I think the American Forest Foundation had any intention of misleading anyone. Still “capture” “from the air annually” could easily be interpreted by the casual reader as meaning that their purchase of a wood product – that the house, table, bowl and chair are actively removing CO2 from the air.

Damage in Missouri from 2009 Derecho

Damage in Missouri form 2009 Derecho

Still, I do know that we once thought that we would never cut a tree. Then, along came the extreme storms where our big trees were taken down 3 or 4 years in a 5 year period. A tree decaying naturally, while adding to the soil which is not in itself a bad thing, is also releasing it’s carbon. So, selectively logging our forest, in a careful un-even aged management by a state forester’s selections, does provide wood for products and prevents some trees that might be lost in storms from releasing their carbon (removed as CO2 from the air). And we have also performed some salvage logging after a storm for the very same reason.

Recommendation # 1 suggested “Provide Sound Data and Science: Accurate, up-to-date information is needed to manage forests for the greatest carbon benefit, understand the conditions and trends of forest carbon stocks, and to address climate-driven stressors on forests. Supporting existing inventory efforts, research and applied science partnerships to understand and address threats …”

About a decade ago, we discovered “mystery trees” at the edge of our property. To be honest, at first the only explanation we could come up with was a bit disturbing. Someone was going deep into our forest to perform disturbing rituals or to hide evidence from some criminal activity. Nothing much happened there for a decade but periodically, we would go back to see if there had been any change. This year, we saw that the odd marks that had been put on the trees had been “refreshed” and felt invaded and threatened all over again.

FIA Tree Marking

To rescue our sense of security, came an answer from our Missouri Dept of Conservation state forester. She said – “Your mystery is actually a forestry thing.

There is a program (and has been since around the 1960’s) called the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) project, where random plots were chosen throughout Missouri’s forests (regardless of landowner) to be surveyed. Permanent plots were established and are re-measured every 5-7 years. If the trees are cut, then that is recorded also. This program is a way of establishing the growth or decline of Missouri’s forests.

I worked on this crew when I was just out of college. They are supposed to contact the landowners before accessing the property, but sometimes if they cannot get hold of them, they have been known to slip in and re-measure old plots. This project is run by the US Forest Service (research branch), and I believe they are still based out of the Salem office.

The layout of the plot is a central circle usually marked at the center with re-bar. Then there are three other circles around the main circle ( I forget how far away). There are witness trees marked to help locate the main plot center.

Nothing sinister, but they definitely should have talked to the landowner at some point.”

Living Forest Components

Living Forest Components

We did some additional research and while never definitely confirming our plot was part of that, we were told by a USDA Forest Service employee that “From your description of the marking this does sound like a Forest Inventory Research plot.” That did reassure us and we don’t mind being a “research” subject. They even have a Forest Carbon Estimation based upon their work. They indicate there that “US forests and associated industries currently provide the largest annual reduction of CO2 emissions of any land use in our Nation. Reliable estimates of this ecosystem service is essential to our society.”

EPA Forest Wood Sequestration

EPA Forest Wood Sequestration

Regarding the chart above, TreeHugger author John Laumer shared a few thoughts – “The total US forest-carbon pie can not increase significantly, inside a decade, based on organic growth. Some uses of one or more slices can reduce the total carbon stored in a few years, however. Individual slices can be increased to make up for decreases elsewhere.I begin with above-ground biomass in the USA, and brainstorm from the graphic, clockwise, discussing the millions of metric tons carbon in storage and possible tradeoffs.”

It is nice to know that “Once you put wood in any form into a landfill (64 MMT/7%), the carbon stays there for decades, maybe centuries. Recycling and re-use keeps the carbon roughly the same: stored. Conversely, diverting wood from the landfill to a biomass burner, whether for building heat of electricity generation or both, pulls that carbon out of the storage pie.”

Laumer also suggests – “You can make wood a more common building material – LEED buildings often do – diverting carbon from the above ground slice and into the wood products slice, keeping the carbon locked up (37 MMT/4%). If wood is imported, above ground slice stays as it is. If harvested locally it goes down. Only way to keep the pie size constant in global terms is to require replanting regardless of source.”

I really like the point he makes, “Dead wood is 37 MMT/4% and likely rising rapidly in the USA due to the pine bark beetle and other invasive Asian insects. Given our metaphorical habit of ‘getting rid of the dead wood’ I suspect there will always proposals afoot to log dead wood, either for product manufacture or for burning. Arguably, manufacturing is the better option as it keeps carbon in storage longer; but, to the extent that living disease-resistant trees are planted to replace the dead wood, use of dead wood as biofuel or as ethanol feedstock displaces fossil fuels and is thus a second place ‘good’.”

And I especially appreciate “balance”, which the author brings in at the end of his piece – “If a politician favors logging to bring jobs and expand the tax base, he’ll cite a study that only measures above ground living biomass. If an environmental interest favors wilderness preservation, they’ll add up all the slices they can, which is objectively sensible, but which leads observers wondering if anyone is ‘right’.”

Forest Light

I do love trees, no doubt about it. However, I also believe that humans are part of what is “natural” to this planet and that we are here to be thinking entities. We can be those thinking entities in ways that benefit the planet. We once believed in a hands-off forest. We changed our minds and decided to be stewards participating in a considered forest management process. That isn’t always the easiest path, when one loves trees. Yet, it is my hope, that a healthy vital forest is another way of expressing my love for the trees. And yep, I hug a tree fairly often. It feels awesome.

~ Information Resources

American Forest Foundation – “Infographic: Putting Forests to Work” – https://www.forestfoundation.org/infographic-putting-forests-to-work#.U7CAdrdOXL8

American Forest Foundation – Recommendation # 2 – https://www.forestfoundation.org/read-our-recommendations

USDA Forest Service – “Forest Inventory and Analysis National Program” – http://www.fia.fs.fed.us/

USDA Forest Service – “Forest Carbon Estimation” – http://www.fia.fs.fed.us/Forest%20Carbon/default.asp

“Forest Carbon Management: Let’s Brainstorm The Trade-offs” by John Laumer posted at TreeHugger.com on Dec 15, 2009 – http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/forest-carbon-management-lets-brainstorm-the-trade-offs.html

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Carbon Can Be Beautiful But Often is Not

Diamond in Coal

Diamond in Coal

The slogan is “Diamonds are Forever”. Yes, when coal becomes a diamond, it is beautiful but the extraction of diamonds mostly is not. Diamonds can be beautiful or useful industrially.

The carbon family consists of the five elements that make up Group 14 of the periodic table: carbon, silicon, germanium, tin, and lead. The family is particularly interesting because it consists of one nonmetal (carbon), two metals (tin and lead), and two metalloids (silicon and germanium). (A metalloid is an element that has some of the properties of both metals and nonmetals.)

Carbon is one of the most remarkable of all chemical elements. It occurs in all living organisms. In fact, the field of organic chemistry, which began as the study of the chemistry of plants and animals, can also be called the chemistry of carbon compounds. In addition, carbon and its compounds are of critical importance to the world as sources of energy. Coal, oil, and natural gas—the so-called fossil fuels—all consist of pure carbon or carbon compounds. Finally, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, along with gem-quality diamonds in Kimberlite.

Carbon occurs both as an element and in combined forms. As an element, it exists in at least three different allotropic forms. (Allotropes are forms of an element that differ from each other in physical and, sometimes, chemical properties.) The two best known allotropes of carbon are graphite and diamond.

The second common allotrope of carbon is diamond. In striking contrast with graphite, diamond is the world’s hardest natural material. Its ability to bend and spread light produces the spectacular rainbow “fire” that is often associated with diamond jewelry. Skillful gem cutters are able to cut and polish diamonds in a way that maximizes the effect of this natural property.

In 1985, a third allotropic form of carbon was discovered. It is a 60-atom structure called buckminsterfullerene that looks like a soccer ball when viewed under a microscope. A geodesic dome, like the new molecule, is a sphere made of many plane (flat) figures like the hexagon. Because of this similarity, the new molecule was given the name buckminsterfullerene or, more briefly, fullerene. Less formally, the molecules are also known as bucky-balls.

Coal Miner in China

Coal Miner in China

Then, there are the “black diamonds”, Coal (from the Old English term col, which has meant “mineral of fossilized carbon” since the 13th century) is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock usually occurring in rock strata in layers or veins called coal beds or coal seams. The harder forms, such as anthracite coal, can be regarded as metamorphic rock because of later exposure to elevated temperature and pressure. Coal is composed primarily of carbon along with variable quantities of other elements, chiefly hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and nitrogen.

Throughout history, coal has been used as an energy resource, primarily burned for the production of electricity and/or heat, and is also used for industrial purposes, such as refining metals. A fossil fuel, coal forms when dead plant matter is converted into peat, which in turn is converted into lignite, then sub-bituminous coal, after that bituminous coal, and lastly anthracite. This involves biological and geological processes that take place over a long period.

Coal-Fired Power Plant

Coal-Fired Power Plant

Coal is the largest source of energy for the generation of electricity worldwide, as well as one of the largest worldwide anthropogenic sources of carbon dioxide releases. In 1999, world gross carbon dioxide emissions from coal usage were 8,666 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. In 2011, world gross emissions from coal usage were 14,416 million tonnes. Coal-fired electric power generation emits around 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide for every megawatt-hour generated, which is almost double the approximately 1100 pounds of carbon dioxide released by a natural gas-fired electric plant per megawatt-hour generated. Because of this higher carbon efficiency of natural gas generation, as the market in the United States has changed to reduce coal and increase natural gas generation, carbon dioxide emissions have fallen. Those measured in the first quarter of 2012 were the lowest of any recorded for the first quarter of any year since 1992. In 2013, the head of the UN climate agency advised that most of the world’s coal reserves should be left in the ground to avoid catastrophic global warming.

Coal is extracted from the ground by coal mining, either underground by shaft mining, or at ground level by open pit mining extraction. Since 1983 the world top coal producer has been China. In 2011 China produced 3,520 millions of tonnes of coal – 49.5% of 7,695 millions tonnes world coal production. In 2011 other large producers were United States (993 millions tonnes), India (589), European Union (576) and Australia (416). In 2010 the largest exporters were Australia with 328 million tonnes (27.1% of world coal export) and Indonesia with 316 millions tonnes (26.1%), while the largest importers were Japan with 207 million tonnes (17.5% of world coal import), China with 195 million tonnes (16.6%) and South Korea with 126 million tonnes (10.7%).

Both the mining for “white” Diamonds and the mining for Coal are replete with horror stories. Our family, the Yemms come from a long-line of coal miners, beginning in the Gloucestershire area of England, and arriving in the United States to work the coal mines in Pennsylvania and Illinois primarily, later migrating into Indiana doing the same work. Thankfully, our ancestors found better and healthier ways to make a living. We live and work in rural Missouri. Our energy is provided by a Rural Electric Cooperative. While the blessings of electricity helped to improve the quality of life for all rural peoples in the state of Missouri, we are not proud of our rural electric cooperative’s stance regarding the pressing issue of climate change. For a very long time now, the rural electric cooperative’s management has encouraged us to resist efforts to reform the usage of coal to generate our electricity mostly depending on the fear of higher electric rates and the dislike of “big” government telling local folks what to do.

Stop EPA

Our cooperative maintains a grassroots effort via Action.Coop (the Cooperative Action Network) to send a message to our elected officials via their website “NRECA” (National Rural Electric Cooperative Association) – saying “MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD TODAY – America Needs a Common Sense Solution – Americans count on affordable and reliable energy to power our communities, promote job and economic growth, and keep costs in line for the basic necessities in our family budgets. The recently proposed EPA regulations that target existing power plants could add to the price of electricity, and have serious consequences for our communities. Join the more than half a million supporters of electric cooperatives who have asked the EPA to stop implementing costly new regulations. Speak out now and make your voice heard.” I’ve been reading Elizabeth Warren’s new book “A Fighting Chance” and it is an eye-opener about how government functions and about how hard it is for concerned citizens to actually win against the well-funded lobbyists in Washington DC.

Just like with the effort to reform health care, President Obama can only get his foot into heavily barred doors, in order to make any future progress possible. Michael Grunwald writes about “New Energy” for Time magazine and in the June 30, 2014 issue he says that he believes that our current president has done MORE to address climate change than any other president to date. His stimulus bill launched a clean-energy boom, his fuel-efficiency rules have racheted down greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks and his new regulations on soot, mercury and other stuff coming out of power plants has helped to accelerate the shift away from carbon. Coal continues to produce 3/4s of our emissions from electricity but it generates just 1/3 of our electricity. One could easily believe that President Obama has been conducting a tiny but plausibly denied “war on coal” and our rural electric cooperative has certainly responded as though they are under attack !! Just the week before, Grunwald noted that Americans trail 5 other countries in our belief in climate change and our willingness to do anything about it. (See “The (Slow) Greening of America” in the Information Resources below.)

Jo Ann Emerson’s replacement, Rep Jason Smith, is in lock-step saying – “The EPA is once again declaring war on rural American with these new regulations. The carbon capture technology the EPA wants to mandate is not even commercially viable. If these proposed regulations go into effect, utility rates will sky rocket for families in Missouri’s Eighth Congressional District. These regulations would halt all construction on new coal-fired power plants. Over 80 percent of families in my district rely on coal to power their homes, businesses, schools and farms. Bureaucrats at the EPA do not understand or appreciate our rural way of life here in Missouri. I plan to fight these regulations that would raise utility rates on folks who are struggling to makes ends meet.” Let us hope that the regulations DO halt new construction of coal-fired power plants !!

It is embarrassing to be dependent upon such mindsets as we encounter among our rural electric cooperative administrators and local politicians. The Yemms do hope to eventually go off the grid, if or when we ever are able to afford to build a new place in which to live. We have a site and when the local rural electric cooperative representatives visited us there, they wanted to take their lines straight up the most environmentally sensitive aspect of our landscape, the perennial stream with rocky shut-ins to provide us with their electricity. We said, “no thanks”, and will find another way – most likely a mix of solar, wind and water generation. But that remains as yet unreachable and in the future.

Today, we are proud of our President Obama for trying to do something – anything – about the emissions from coal-fired electric plants because we know that without being forced into it, our rural electric cooperative will continue to do nothing. Just this month of June 2014, in the Rural Missouri Magazine the guest editorial by Jo Ann Emerson states (formerly our US 8th District Congresswomen, who dumped us one month after re-election to take the position of CEO for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association) “The EPA regulations to curb carbon dioxide emissions from power plants only stand to increase those energy bills. Even though not-for-profit electric cooperatives work each day to provide affordable and reliable electricity to the more than 42 million Americans we serve, the latest red tape out of Washington could present a serious challenge.” She states that “Electric co-ops already have reduced emissions rates from power plants by 10% and carbon dioxide emissions specifically over the past seven years.” She adds that “Any additional emissions reductions we achieve would be offset rapidly by emissions increases in China, India and other developing economies.” Is that any reason to continue to insist on using Coal to generate electricity ?

XPRIZE logo

I can certainly appreciate the initiative known as the Tri-State Carbon XPRIZE, which seeks to turn carbon dioxide from a liability into an asset by finding ways to convert it from a waste into useful fuels, chemicals and other products that will have market value. But I also agree with Michael Grunwald – “If we’re still getting over 30% of our power from coal in 2030, the EPA’s plan will be a huge disappointment. It will represent defeat in the Obama Administration’s crucial (though undeclared) war on coal. So it’s encouraging that the plan’s architect (EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy – a certified climate hawk) doesn’t seem to think it adds up either.” Actually, enacting any carbon rules will send a powerful signal to the market about dirty power (amplified by the Administration continuing to crack down on coal ash, ozone and other pollutants). McCarthy believes that “This will set expectations and things will just take off” from there. The Administration had to craft a plan that could withstand the certain legal and political challenges that any effort would face.

It’s a start and a start is better than not trying at all. Currently, my own optimism lies in the new High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal System (HCPVT) under development capable of concentrating solar radiation 2,000 times and converting 80 percent of the incoming radiation into useful energy. The system can also provide desalinated water and cool air in sunny, remote locations where they are often in short supply. There is always HOPE !!

High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal System (HCPVT)

High Concentration PhotoVoltaic Thermal System (HCPVT)

~ Information Resources

Carbon Family – http://www.scienceclarified.com/Ca-Ch/Carbon-Family.html

Coal – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal

Guest Editoral “Time to turn the lights on in Washington” by Jo Ann Emerson – http://www.ruralmissouri.org/harttoheart.php

“Make Your Voice Heard Today” – http://www.nreca.coop/political-action/cooperative-action-network/epa/

“Carbon Rules Show Bad Arithmetic” by Michael Grunwald posted June 19, 2014 at Time.com – http://time.com/topic/new-energy-reality/

“The (Slow) Greening of America” by Michael Grunwalk posted June 12, 2014 at Time.com – http://time.com/2863213/the-slow-greening-of-america/

“Congressman Jason Smith: New EPA Regulations Will Raise Utility Rates” posted May 12, 2014 at News & Events from the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives – http://www.amec.org/content/new-epa-regulations-will-raise-utility-rates

XPRIZE “Making The Impossible Possible” Energy & Environment Prize Group – http://www.xprize.org/prize-development/energy-and-environment

“Made in IBM Labs: Collaboration Aims to Harness the Energy of 2,000 Suns” – http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/40912.wss

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Earn Cash for Your Wine Corks

Small Change

Back in 2004, we had a long-range vision of people being able to sell their wine corks to us. Of course, we did expect them to drink the wine first and recycle the heavy glass bottle (glass is HIGHLY recyclable – shame on you if you throw it into the trash !!). We envisioned women’s clubs, church groups, even girl or boy scouts and school organizations (enlisting the assistance of their legally aged parents, who would be the consumers of the alcoholic beverages, of course !!) collecting corks and getting paid for them.

Trying to do something useful with wine corks has proven more difficult and complicated than we at first expected. After all, we had experience in building such an enterprise from the ground up, grassroots style. Ten long years later, which included a major global economic collapse and unexpected production difficulties, both slowing our progress in realizing our vision – our whole wine cork recycling program continues to adapt, to fit the ever-changing realities. And certainly, creating something of quality and easy to use in construction projects, such as our Origins material (made from milk jugs and other HDPE #2 containers) has been – had it’s own fits and starts, bumps and setbacks – that is simply the nature of any entrepreneurial enterprise.

So, we are VERY HAPPY to announce –

BRITAIN-ROYALS-MARRIAGE-CAVALRY

You could now earn 1/2¢ for EVERY CORK you collect and send in to us.

Because we have wanted to do this for a very long time, it is like the fulfillment of a cherished desire to take this step with our Wine Cork effort. For the last decade, many people and organizations have sent us their “used” wine corks – at their expense – so that they could be recycled and in the process supporting us with enough raw material to develop the Wine Cork Tile product that we had identified as a usable end-product.

More details are available at our website under this Wine Cork category – Wine Cork Recycling & Purchasing – but I will share highlights with you in this blog and tell you where you can send these.

Mixed Wine Corks

You need to collect at least 15 lbs of cork before submitting these for payment. We ask you to be diligent in what you submit to us because only full cylinder, real corks will be paid for. You may include whole cork, twin cap and agglomerated wine cork stoppers. If you need help identifying these types, you can google them or visit a website like Cork Link for descriptions of the different kinds of cork stoppers.

We can not pay you for broken corks, gnawed corks (yes, over the years we have actually received a few with the obvious marks !!), Champagne corks, tapered corks, cork coasters, cork sheet, synthetic stoppers, corks attached to or containing wood, metal, plastic, ceramic, glass, plastic, wax, string, paint, glue, wire or any other non-cork material. We have received blobs of corks that had been glued together (? someone’s failed craft project ?) and we have not minded all of these things coming to us, which we have had to find appropriate homes for because we simply were not going to landfill any of this !! We were simply thrilled that ALL of you were willing to make this effort and even incur a small cost to do so.

You can send your packages of collected “real” corks (as described above) to this address –

Yemm & Hart
Wine Cork Purchasing
425 N Chamber Dr
Fredericktown MO 63645

You need to put on top of your corks, before sealing your package, this information in this format, if you wish to be paid for it (cork donations will always be accepted in the manner that we have accepted them for the last 10 years). Your name and mailing address clearly printed on an 8-1/2″ x 11″ letter size paper. Please attach to this paper, a copy of the printed receipt showing the amount you paid (to the post office, at a UPS store, whatever carrier you choose) to send the package. We can only reimburse you for the UPS business rate or a lower amount (your actual) to ship your package to us. We suggest you chose the lowest cost provider conveniently available to you.

We will process your corks for payment as quickly as we can but you should allow us up to 45 days to do this (this is not a get money quick scheme but a serious effort to repay you for your effort involved). We will have to inspect the contents of each package and weigh the submitted corks, as well as carefully check these for any non-payable additions. Those packages that contain any of the non-acceptable items will be penalized by the weighed amount of those items, and a percentage of the total contents calculated and applied, as a charge against the maximum payment for cork and shipping.

Obviously, we can’t be responsible for packages said to be lost in transit. Also, those packages without an identifying letter (as described above) along with the shipping cost receipt will simply have their contents recycled and no payment will be tendered.

Wine Glass and Bottles w Corks

Thank you for your donations and participation in our wine cork recycling effort. We look forward to helping organizations raise funds by having cork collection drives and paying anyone who wants to be paid for their corks, as long as these meet the criteria described in this blog or at our website.

Cheers !! CORK – it’s the REAL thing.

~ Information Resources

Wine Cork Recycling & Purchasing -http://www.yemmhart.com/materials/winecork/wine_cork_recycling.html

Different kinds of cork stoppers/closures and their uses at CorkLink.com – http://www.corklink.com/index.php/different-kinds-of-cork-stoppersclosures-and-their-uses/

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Recycled Content is NOT Enough

In the earliest days of our recycled materials business, just wanting to do something about a problem was cause for celebration and we received lots of media attention because “recycled materials” were all the rage back in the 1990s. It’s nice to have such advantages as current “buzz” at the beginning of a new venture.

It was not very long, however, until wanting to be known for the quality of our materials was acknowledged by us as being more important than the simple fact that we were doing something useful regarding the quality of our planetary environment. Thus began a continuous effort at improving the processes used to make our materials. Thankfully, most of that effort progressed rather quickly.

So, it is easy for me to understand, why one of our country’s largest users of materials in general, the automotive industry, would be reluctant to use recycled or bio-based plastics. In fact, I’ve come up against competitors using such fears or concerns, to try and talk potential customers for our recycled plastics (in restroom partition applications) out of using “trash”. Well, no one who cares about quality is selling anyone else garbage. The recycling industry is justifiably proud of the efforts it goes to, in order to provide CLEAN, quality products to its customers.

Quality DOES Matter

Quality DOES Matter

Sometimes, such fears and concerns are simply an excuse or a ploy (as described above). Certainly, one needs to make sure of the quality of the material they plan to use. That could be said of any product or material, not applying such reasoning purely on the basis of something having been recycled.

So, okay, I can agree with Eric Connell, a senior engineer at Toyota in Ann Arbor, MI when he says “Using these recycled and bio-based materials is only going to make sense where it is the best option”. In fact, as a supplier of recycled materials, one of our constant challenges comes from that need to do extra processing, to reuse materials that have had previous usage in our world. There is a cost to that. Realistically, however, there is a cost to extracting materials.

We do not price our product to be below other suppliers. To be honest, we never consider that. In order to keep on doing what we do, we must cover ALL of our costs and have something left over to ride out cycles of economic activity, when they collapse as has been the recent experience financially worldwide. That said, we are not greedy. We do not simply charge however much the market will bear but only a modest amount as prudence indicates.

So, when a project is budget-driven, as Mr Connell himself admits is part of the equation for the automotive industry (defining “best” as “And that could be cost.” among other concerns), we may not get the job. However, we try to temper the budget-driven mentality of profit-driven decisions by offering “uniquely” appealing products, such as some of the color offerings in our Origins line of materials.

One of the motivators that CAN make a difference is increased “awareness” of environmental factors and costs on the part of the customer and consumer. When a manufacturer knows that YOU are paying attention, they get more serious about trying to satisfy you. After all, you speak with your wallet, with your purchasing power, and they all know that.

Toyota Lexus CT Hybrid

Toyota Lexus CT Hybrid

It is a happy thing to know that Toyota’s 2014 CT 200h hybrid Lexus uses 30% plant-based PET materials for the floor mats and trim. It is nice to know that the car has been so designed that 90% of it will be easy to dismantle and recycle (if there are places for those parts to go). The automotive industry is not only a high volume user of materials, they are the source of a huge volume of “discarded” material as well. Cars are not soda pop bottles !!

2014 Ford Fusion Energi

2014 Ford Fusion Energi

The Ford Fusion Energi, a hybrid vehicle currently in development by the car company, uses the same material to line the car’s insides as Coke uses to make its plastic bottles. The plant-based PET (polyethylene terephthalate) can be found in the seat cushions and in the door panel inserts. “PET is made by having two chemicals react together – terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol. Terephthalic acid isn’t produced by plants but ethylene glycol is. That is the sustainable part to making PET,” said Anil Netravali, Professor, Fibre Science Programme, Cornell University.

Yemm & Hart repeatedly gets inquiries and interest from entities like the automotive industry, though we’ve yet to hit the right material for the right application to win big with the car companies. As Mr Connell advises – “The message is that you shouldn’t give up.” Certainly, we continue to do what we do in the smartest ways possible. As a customer and consumer you shouldn’t give up either – continue to demand the re-use of extracted natural resources, rather than accepting the “throw away”, easy way out, mentality as the “best” option. For in the long run, it is NOT.

~ Information Resources

“Carmakers want to be green, but need consistent material performance” by Jim Johnson posted Apr 30, 2014 – http://www.plasticsnews.com/article/20140430/NEWS/140439994/carmakers-want-to-be-green-but-need-consistent-material-performance

“Ford lines cars with Coke’s plastic bottle material” at World of Chemicals posted Nov 20, 2013 – http://www.worldofchemicals.com/media/ford-lines-cars-with-cokes-plastic-bottle-material/6601.html

For quality recycled materials, visit Yemm & Hart – http:www.yemmhart.com

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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