Proximity is a Business Advantage

Amcor-Method Chicago

Amcor-Method Chicago

I am highly impressed with the new manufacturing plant in Chicago going for Platinum LEED that will include manufacturing facilities for two separate but inter-related companies. Amcor Rigid Plastics will make the bottles that Method Products will fill with their naturally derived and biodegradable cleaning products. Method Products is an example of conscious capitalism, using business to do social and environmental good, involved in the Cradle-to-Cradle program, animal friendly, climate conscious and responsible sourcing. Method is putting their money into action with the design of their new manufacturing facility.

Method is headquartered in San Francisco and will incorporate an array of green building elements into its first US manufacturing plant. The building is on 5 acres of a 22 acre site on the south side of Chicago. The plans include what would be currently the world’s biggest green roof at 75,000 SqFt. This green roof is expected to take urban farming to new heights with greenhouses that can grow up to 1 million pounds of fresh produce a year for local grocers and restaurants.

There will be much more making this building very environmentally friendly including solar panels on the building and in the parking lot. A refurbished 230 Ft tall wind turbine will generate a significant amount of the new plant’s energy needs. The combined production of wind and solar on site are expected to provide half of the factory’s annual electrical consumption.

Method Ocean Plastic

This is how things get my attention in a big way. Not all that long ago before this week’s blog was a glimmer in my own imagination, I was talking with a business associate that I am quite fond of – Tamsin Ettefagh of Envision Plastics. We share a love of recycling and especially recycling related to plastics. It came up coincidentally during our conversation that they are involved in Method’s ocean plastic project.

Method teamed up with local beach clean-up groups and volunteers to collect plastic debris from the beaches of Hawai’i and they have this plastic processed into a form that they can use to make this bottle. This is just one way that Method walks its talk – using design innovation to not only solve a problem but to also bring awareness to that problem inspiring real change.

What was “the problem” ? According to Method’s website it is this – “several million tons of plastic makes its way into our oceans every year, polluting the environment and hurting our marine populations. And the problem isn’t going away anytime soon as more plastic washes up on beaches everyday.” Getting real about what can be done, they realized that as “a small soap company, we know we can’t clean up the world’s oceans. But we can raise awareness about the issue and use our business to demonstrate smart ways of using and reusing the plastics that are already on the planet.” Method believes that they can prove that solutions exist, even if it is only at a small scale.

The creative and innovative folks at Envision Plastics were willing to take a chance on making the impossible possible, taking plastic from the beaches of Hawai’i and turning it into resin for Method’s bottles. Method believes that their initiative works to show how design can be used to tackle environmental problems. They don’t believe that their making bottles out of trash will completely solve the ocean’s plastic problem. But they do believe that there are alternatives to using virgin materials, Post-consumer Recycled plastic for example, and they are committed to using these alternatives in all of their bottles.

Yemm & Hart is ALSO committed to using Post-consumer Recycled plastic in our Origins material. We are proud to partner with a genuinely caring company like Envision Plastics to bring our materials to your architectural and interior design projects.

So, back to the title of this blog and the new manufacturing facility in Chicago, the proximity part is that Amcor Rigid Plastics will have a bottle production operation right there within Method’s new facility. Amcor is one of the world’s largest packaging manufacturers with 60 facilities in 13 countries employing 27,000 people. Amcor has 23 on-site bottling operations with 8 in the United States. The other on-site operations are in Latin America.

Clearly one of the primary benefits of utilizing shared space this way is reducing transportation (ie the carbon footprint in manufacturing products). Using 100% Post-consumer Recycled (PCR) resin lowers cradle-to-gate energy consumption by 52% and the packaging carbon footprint by 57%. The on-site production will take 600 trucks off the road each year and eliminate an estimated 200 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Wind Turbine Detail

Amor’s presence also presented challenges for achieving the highest LEED certification. According to Amcor’s account manager, Dan Gehling, “Blow-molding operations are more energy intensive than filling operations.” The addition of the bottle manufacturing on site required thoughtful solutions to off-set that reality. The use of renewable energy from wind power, skylights and certain building materials allowed them to meet cradle-to-cradle requirements.

I have not been a consumer of Method products but I am definitely going to look at replacing my Seventh Generation products (nothing to be ashamed of) with some of Method’s products for my next purchases. I walk the talk too !!

~ Information Resources

New Amcor, Method project taking sustainability to a platinum level by Catherine Kavanaugh posted Oct 16, 2014 in PlasticsNews – http://www.plasticsnews.com/article/20141016/NEWS/141019951/new-amcor-method-project-taking-sustainability-to-a-platinum-level

Method – Beyond The Bottle – http://methodhome.com/beyond-the-bottle/business-for-good/

Method – Ocean Plastic – http://methodhome.com/beyond-the-bottle/ocean-plastic/

Recycled HDPE Resins – Pure as Prime – http://envisionplastics.com/

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

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Fortunate Mistakes

“A discovery is said to be an accident meeting a prepared mind.”
~ Albert Szent-Györgyi, Nobel Prize-Winning Biochemist

Post-Its at Occupy Zurich 2011

Post-Its at
Occupy Zurich 2011

Throughout the decades, many of the items of usefulness that we are fondly attached to have been created accidentally. I am absolutely dependent on Post-Its for my weekly grocery reminders. They fit nicely in my checkbook and at the store stick to the cart or the objects I put in the child carrier, since I don’t tote young children around with me anymore (my boys are both too big for that now). During the Occupy movement, Post-Its came in handy for sticking up quick notes.

In 1968, a scientist at 3M in the United States, Dr. Spencer Silver, was attempting to develop a super-strong adhesive. Instead he accidentally created a “low-tack”, reusable, pressure-sensitive adhesive. For five years, Silver promoted his “solution without a problem” within 3M both informally and through seminars but failed to gain acceptance. In 1974 a colleague who had attended one of his seminars, Art Fry, came up with the idea of using the adhesive to anchor his bookmark in his hymnbook. Fry then utilized 3M’s officially sanctioned “permitted bootlegging” policy to develop the idea. The original notes’ yellow color was chosen by accident, as the lab next-door to the Post-it team had only yellow scrap paper to use.

You’ve no doubt already heard the stories about how penicillin was developed by the thoughtless handling of a bacterial culture or that Velcro was inspired by those pesky burrs we pick out of our socks in Autumn. Velcro has even made the lives of space dwelling astronauts easier. Astronauts have used Velcro to keep track of personal items and even to play board games. One astronaut working at the International Space Station brought a chessboard with pieces lined with Velcro that could be anchored and removed from the board with ease. His main chess opponents: mission control correspondents on Earth. Cellophane was a failed attempt to develop a film coating to make cloth waterproof.

Chess in Space made possible by Velcro

Chess in Space
made possible by Velcro

Recently, one such “accidental” discovery caught my eye in Science News (June 14, 2014 issue). Since our business is made possible by recycling efforts, stories about recycling are always of interest to me. According to a polymer chemist, Jeannette Garcia at IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose CA, previously difficult if not impossible to recycle plastics have been revolutionized by a little tweak in a classic chemical reaction. It will now be possible to break down these engineered plastics into their original components, making them ready to reassemble all over again. Truly a cradle-to-cradle dream come true.

In our business, we have had to consider the alterations that each additional “heat history” produces. The standard method of recycling HDPE #2 and LDPE #4, even PP #5, is by melting the polymers at very high temperatures. While they don’t go into detail about how this breaking down process will be accomplished in the article that I read, they do say that it is completely different than the methods we are familiar with and therefore will not damage the material but allow it to remain pristine. The new thinking was made possible merely because Ms Garcia missed a step in following her chemical recipe. The result was a nearly unbreakable rock of thermoset plastic that remains stable up to temperatures as high as 350 degrees C. The material is accomplished by combining a superstrong plastic with a self-healing gel and is based upon combining nitrogen-containing molecules.

From dynamite to corn flakes to LSD, our world is different because of abundant mistakes. Recently, various Nobel Prizes have been announced, as they are every year. Alfred Nobel, who found a way by the accidental leakage of nitroglycerin to stabilize the highly explosive liquid form by creating a solid form that retained its power revolutionized the construction industry but also was used in war for destructive purposes. So saddened was Nobel by this, he left instructions to create the Nobel Peace Prize in his will. This year recognized its youngest recipient yet – Malala Yousafzai.

Malala Yousafzai co-Recipient 2014 Nobel Peace Prize

Malala Yousafzai
co-Recipient
2014 Nobel Peace Prize

~ Information Resources

“Post-it note” from Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-it_note

“Accidental discoveries” posted at Xperimania.net – http://www.xperimania.net/ww/en/pub/xperimania/news/world_of_materials/accidental_discoveries.htm

“Recyclable superplastics made with old chemistry” by Beth Mole posted May 15, 2014 at Science News – https://www.sciencenews.org/article/recyclable-superplastics-made-old-chemistry

“10 Accidental Inventions You Won’t Believe” by Marianne English posted Oct 22, 2013 – http://www.geniusstuff.com/blog/list/10-accidental-inventions/

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

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Rebirthing Oil

Drops of Oil

One of the most exciting developments to me, is the idea that a natural resource can be extracted, a product created from the processes of refining that resource and then, at some point later on, be transmuted again back into the basic natural resource. Talk about cradle to cradle – this is certainly that.

It isn’t all that different in concept from what we do when we take feedstocks of sorted and purified post-consumer recycled materials and create new products from those that can function as restroom partitions, countertops, cashwraps, flooring and other surfacing treatments. However, we are in that middle point and not taking product back to basic natural resource. In fact, our products do not actually begin at the basic natural resource stage but further along that processing line.

2014 RisingStars  cartoon by Rich Williams

2014 RisingStars
cartoon by Rich Williams

The Aug 11, 2014 issue of Plastics News featured a list of talented young entrepreneurs and environmentalists. One in particular caught my attention. Twenty-nine year old, Joe Shamatta of 3R Recycling Inc (founded in 2012) in Avon, MA. When asked “What emerging technology or market most interests you ?”, he replied in part – “The most fascinating emerging tech, to me, is being done by a company in New York and it involves turning plastic into oil. I think this technology is one of the most amazing in the past decade. I am looking forward to the progress made in this field.”

JBI Inc of Niagra Falls NY CEO John Bordynuik claims to have “invented a process that converts plastic into oil by rearranging its hydrocarbon chains”, in an interview conducted by Daniel Robison for NPR posted on March 19, 2012. According to tests by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, JBI’s patented Plastic2Oil (P2O) technology is efficient, with close to 90 percent of plastics coming out as fuel. “When there have been attempts in the past to make fuel from plastic, it’s been low-quality, low-flashpoint, kind of sludgy,” he says. “In this case here, we’re making a very highly refined, consistent product that’s within specifications of any standardized fuel.” If JBI has its way, plastics will become a significant source of domestic fuel that reduces the U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

JBI Crayola ColorCycle

JBI is also a partner with Crayola to produce diesel and other liquid fuels using JBI’s Plastic2Oil® (“P2O”) process. This will be accomplished by utilizing participating K-12 schools and will encourage students to responsibly dispose of used Crayola markers through an in-school collection process. Markers will be sent to JBI, where they will be used as feedstock.

Agilyx

In that same issue of Plastics News, I found this article as well – “Oregon plant that converts waste-plastics-to-oil shuts down” by Jim Johnson. Agilyx Corp created the technology that operated in Portland OR, but Waste Management Inc actually owns that operation. Though Waste Management’s decision to idle the facility will have local impacts, Agilyx issued a statement that – “it’s moving forward with the sixth and next generation of its plastics-to-oil technology and plans to own and operate the new operation in Portland”.

Waste Management’s decision does not impact its continuing investment in Agilyx and it “is evaluating whether it wants to retrofit the shuttered site with the new generation of technology”. Waste Management’s spokeswoman Jackie Lang also issued a statement saying – “We know the technology works”. Another high profile investor in the process is forward thinking Richard Branson. The new facility is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2015 and Agilyx issued a statement that “this will also mark the first Agilyx owned and operated facility, which will be open to commercial plastic generators and aggregators”.

Mining Dump Truck

Mining Dump Truck

Coincidentally, the same week that I was learning about these exciting new processes, a mass-mailing of “Tyre and Rubber Recycling”, a publication originating at Delmar Press in Nantwich Cheshire UK arrived in our mailbox. I might not have been all that interested in most of what is there (though one of our products Tire Veneer is recycled rubber buffings from used vehicle tires) but there was an article titled “Titan International Steps Up Interest in Titan Tire Reclamation”. I have been up close to these enormous dump trucks in Minnesota that the various mines there utilize. Those are some VERY BIG TIRES !!! And like all tires, they do wear out and must be disposed of.

The article describes a partnership with Suncor Energy of Ft McMurray Canada for the next 10 years, to operate a pyrolysis system developed by Green Carbon (a company related to Titan by familial bonds). The system uses 75% of gas from the tires in a special reactor that produces approx 500 gallons of oil, 4,000 lbs of carbon black and 2,000 lbs of steel. Oil companies will be buying the oil to process further into bio kerosene. This system is expected to be up and running by the summer of 2015.

~ Information Resources

“The next generation of leaders” by Jeannie Reall, posted Aug 12, 2014 at Plastics News – http://www.plasticsnews.com/article/20140812/NEWS/140819983/the-next-generation-of-leaders

JBI Inc P20 – http://www.plastic2oil.com/site/home

“JBI Inc. and Crayola Partner to Launch ‘COLORCYCLE’ Program” posted Aug 1st, 2013 – http://www.plastic2oil.com/site/news-releases-master/2013/08/01/jbi-inc-and-crayola-partner-to-launch-colorcycle-program

“Startup Converts Plastic To Oil, And Finds A Niche” by Daniel Robison for NPR posted March 19, 2012 – http://www.npr.org/2012/03/19/147506525/startup-converts-plastic-to-oil-and-finds-a-niche

“Oregon plant that converts waste plastic to oil shuts down” by Jim Johnson, posted Aug 6, 2014 at Plastics News – http://www.plasticsnews.com/article/20140806/NEWS/140809959/oregon-plant-that-converts-waste-plastic-to-oil-shuts-down

Agilyx Corp – http://www.agilyx.com/

“Tyre and Rubber Recycling” – http://www.tyreandrubberrecycling.com/

Titan International – http://www.titan-intl.com/

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

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Cradle to Cradle

I’m not really a big fan of “certification”. I understand the reasons for it and I know that many who offer it are morally ethical with only the highest intentions but it is also based on distrust and buying integrity with dollars. Still, I really like the Cradle to Cradle Products Institute video I’ve shared above. Certainly, I do believe that product designers, architects and ordinary consumers should take such considerations into account, when creating a new product, conceptualizing a new structure or purchasing a product. And I believe it is both important for NOW and for our future generations, already alive and growing up on this planet.

The thing is that “certification” has been recognized as a definite revenue generator, so that now there are so many possible systems to validate one’s self with, that it would cost a small fortune to sign on with all of them. This is not an expensive or difficult thing to do, if one is a multi-national, global corporation flush with cash that they have been squirreling away, while keep monies off shore to avoid taxes, sending production into cheaper countries with lax regulations and needing to reassure an awakening populace that they have their best interests at heart, and not the bottom line profit that their stockholders insist upon. And it cuts the small, innovative companies that are often eeking along, cash starved from participation.

Cradle to Cradle concepts

The cradle to cradle concept requires a shift of perspective, when thinking about how a product is designed, what it will contain, how it is to be made, and where it will go after it is no longer wanted. Some important considerations are whether the materials are safe for human beings and the environment, whether the product ingredients can be reused safely by nature or another industry, will they be assembled and/or manufactured using a renewable, non-polluting energy source, are water supplies protected or even enriched by the processes and does the existence and production of the product contribute to social and/or environmental justice.

Cradle to Cradle bookcover

The concept of such a considered product design approach was promoted in a 2002 book by the German chemist, Michael Braungart, and the U.S. architect, William McDonough, in their book – Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. The book discourages downcycling (a cradle-to-grave strategy), but rather encourages the manufacture of products with the goal of upcycling in mind. This vision of upcycling is based on a system of “lifecycle development” initiated by Braungart and colleagues at the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency in the 1990s: after products have reached the end of their useful life, they become either “biological nutrients” or “technical nutrients”. Biological nutrients are materials that can re-enter the environment. Technical nutrients are materials that remain within closed-loop industrial cycles.

Caring human beings worry that our consumption driven world is out-stripping the natural resources of the planet and at the same time leaving too much toxicity in its wake. Yet, most of us are dependent on a growth model of economics for a good quality of life. William McDonough in a blog at McDonough Innovation’s website envisions this – “Imagine a world in which all the things we make, use, and consume provide nutrition for nature and industry—a world in which growth is good and human activity generates a delightful, restorative ecological footprint.” Few of us would find fault with such a reality.

Mr McDonough believes that “the destructive qualities of today’s cradle-to-grave industrial system can be seen as the result of a fundamental design problem, not the inevitable outcome of consumption and economic activity. Indeed, good design—principled design based on the laws of nature—can transform the making and consumption of things into a regenerative force.” There is something in my own nature-loving, environmentalist’s heart that says “Right On !” to such thinking.

McDonough describes Cradle-to-Cradle as offering “a framework in which the effective, regenerative cycles of nature provide models for wholly positive human designs. Within this framework we can create economies that purify air, land, and water, that rely on current solar income and generate no toxic waste, that use safe, healthful materials that replenish the earth or can be perpetually recycled, and that yield benefits that enhance all life.” He goes on further to say – “Just as in the natural world, in which one organism’s ‘waste’ cycles through an ecosystem to provide nourishment for other living things, cradle-to-cradle materials circulate in closed-loop cycles, providing nutrients for nature or industry. This model recognizes two metabolisms within which materials flow as healthy nutrients.”

In a cradle-to-cradle system even “valuable, high-tech synthetics and mineral resources—technical nutrients—circulate in a perpetual cycle of production, recovery, and remanufacture.” And of course, “all the human systems that make up the technical metabolism are powered by the renewable energy of the sun.”

Shaw EcoWorx Carpet cycle

Shaw EcoWorx Carpet cycle

An example of a common, everyday product that most people could identify with, is provided by McDonough – “In the commercial carpet industry, material recovery systems are providing a model for the development of technical metabolisms. Shaw Industries, for example, has developed a technical nutrient carpet tile for its commercial customers. The company guarantees that all of its nylon 6 carpet fiber will be taken back and returned to nylon 6 carpet fiber, and its safe polyolefin backing returned to safe polyolefin backing. Raw material to raw material. A cradle-to-cradle cycle. Shaw’s technical nutrient carpet tile is conceived to be a product of service, a key element of the cradle-to-cradle strategy. Products of service are durable goods, such as carpets and washing machines, designed by their manufacturer to be taken back and used again. The product provides a service to the customer while the manufacturer maintains ownership of the product’s material assets.”

McDonough even applies his thinking both our cities and the rural countryside, as well as to the economic necessities that support us all. “In a cradle-to-cradle economy, cities are the principal home and source of technical nutrition—the place where metals are forged, polymers synthesized, and tractors, computers, and windmills designed and manufactured. Cities send these materials forth into the world and receive them back as they move through closed-loop cycles. The countryside, meanwhile, can be seen as the home of the biological metabolism. Materials generated there—food, wood, fibers—are created through interactions of solar energy, soil, and water and are the source of biological nutrition for rural communities and nearby cities. One of the city’s fundamental roles in this metabolism is to return biological nutrition in a safe, healthy form, say as clean fertilizer, back to the rural soil. These flows of nutrients and energy are the twin metabolisms of the living city, the engines of the vibrant economies of the future.”

Below is a chart illustrating Cradle to Cradle for Forest Wood Products (courtesy of the Ellen Macarthur Foundation) –

Forest Wood Cradle to Cradle

Coming FULL CYCLE back to where I started, I do note that on William McDonough’s Innovation website, he does list the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute as a nonprofit steward of the Cradle to Cradle Certified Program. That is a highly trusted recommendation in my opinion.

~ Information Resources

Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute – http://www.c2ccertified.org/

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by Michael Braungart and William McDonough – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cradle_to_Cradle:_Remaking_the_Way_We_Make_Things

The Cradle-to-Cradle Alternative – http://www.mcdonough.com/speaking-writing/the-cradle-to-cradle-alternative/#.U7l7-bdOXL8

The Circular Economy – http://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/

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

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