EPS Newsline

Volume 1 | Summer 2013

Issue link: http://cp.revolio.com/i/143144

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Newsline 4 Perspectives on EPS Packaging Packaging engineers all agree the most critical, and sustainable, component of any packaging system is its ability to protect the product. With so many materials on the market it can be challenging to determine the best packaging choice for a particular product. To help address packaging engineer's questions about EPS sustainability, EPS-IA engaged in an open Q&A with Bob Sanders, a senior packaging engineer with IBM Environmental Compliance Corporate Packaging. Bob weighs in on a number of key issues posed by OEMs, including environmental stewardship and consumer education. IBM IBM designs packaging for global distribution so as a result we use Arcel, PP, PE, PU and others in both foam and extruded forms. Why is EPS-IA solely focused on EPS? Are you aware of any broader efforts in the US or globally which cover all foam resins? Seemingly, the producers of these beads are the same chemical companies that make EPS and they should have stewardship programs for all of them — not just EPS. IBM I have repeatedly heard from foam producers that the recycled content of EPS is generally limited to something less than 5%. I don't see how a product in which 95+% of its content must be virgin and not derived from renewable natural resources could be viewed as sustainable in the way most people imagine that to mean. I fully understand the bigger picture regarding product damage prevention, energy use and water use. I must use those arguments every day to skeptical consumers to justify why we use foams at all. IBM In our experience, Mail Back Programs don't work: I know this because we have [as required by laws in some states] mail back programs for our old PC's and practically no one uses them, even when all the costs are borne by us including transportation. Is transportation cost covered by the EPS-IA recycler? I doubt it. Of all the foam recycled, how much of it came from mail back? Do your sustainability metrics include the emissions/energy associated with that return trip? I can imagine that to be high. For example, we have one customer in Peoria, IL required us to come get our foam because they wanted to be a zero waste facility. It was a very small amount and it had to be transported nearly 200 miles only to be incinerated. Clearly, that was not a good environmental outcome but we were essentially forced into it to keep the client happy. EPS-IA This presents a great opportunity for us to challenge the status quo and we will put your suggestion regarding broader material representation forward to our Board of Directors. Although it may not be a feasible business model to expand the scope of our industry association to include other manufacturers, we could explore collaborative platforms that better meet the marketplace needs. EPS-IA EPS manufacturers rely on post-consumer drop-off and/or their customer's return material as recycled content feedstock. Ultimately, they do not control the amount of material received as it fluctuates dramatically from month-to-month. As a result, EPS manufactures can safely guarantee at least 5% recycled content although a higher 15-25% range is easily achievable from a technological standpoint (not recommended for all applications). In addition, our industry has recently achieved significant advancements in developing recycled content EPS resin. For example, RAPAC recently introduced EcoSIX™ , a 60% recycled content resin which is third-party certified and already being used by leading EPS molders. EPS-IA In truth, the EPS-IA Mail Back Program is not intended to generate large volume sources. EPS-IA advocates economically viable and high volume sources that promote long-term recycling growth. The average household waste stream does not render large amounts of EPS; consequently post-consumer volumes are not as reliable or significant as commercial waste streams. The Mail Back Program serves as an additional solution for consumer EPS recycling, especially for those that do wish to recycle and do not have access to a drop-off location.

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