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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging

The latest developments in safe and sustainable chemicals, new materials, fuels, and more.

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Closing the Loop on Recycling: Unilever, P&G Aim to Give Communities Greater Access to Recycling Programs

Regardless of where we live, we’re neighbors — sharing this grand global space, and thus all of its sustainability challenges and opportunities.Therefore, we believe we also share in the responsibility to develop solutions, and to work together when our combined resources can have a positive impact that none of us could achieve on our own.

Plastic Permanence: Our Litter Is Now Part of the Geologic Record

From a human perspective, the earth’s geography changes pretty slowly — it takes thousands of years for a glacier to carve out a valley, for plate tectonics to form mountains and for volcanic eruptions to layer new land masses. But a recent discovery by scientists shows a new addition to the rock record, and it’s partly man-made.The new hybrid rock type is called a plastiglomerate, and the colorful stones are cropping up on shorelines in Hawaii. They’re multicolored and multitextured, a mosaic of stone and polymer. Plastiglomerates are formed when plastic is melted and hardens into pores of existing rocks. They’re usually between 2 and 8 inches, and rounded from erosion on the shore.

Report Highlights CPG, Food Companies Leading and Lagging on Better Packaging

Shareholder advocacy group As You Sow and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have issued a new report examining packaging used by 47 fast food/quick service restaurant (QSR) chains, beverage companies, and consumer good/grocery companies and highlights the leaders and laggards in terms of its recyclability.

Carlsberg Working to Develop Biodegradable Wood Fiber Bottle

Beer giant Carlsberg last week announced its plans to develop the world’s first fully biodegradable wood-fiber bottle.After its participation on a panel on “Wasteless Supply” at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Carlsberg launched its three-year project with development partners to design a bio-based, biodegradable bottle made from sustainably sourced wood fiber, which it is calling the “Green Fiber Bottle.” The company will work alongside packaging company ecoXpac, and in collaboration with Innovation Fund Denmark and the Technical University of Denmark.

Millennials Up Pressure on Brands for Sustainable Packaging

Millennials have higher expectations for sustainable product packaging than their older counterparts, according to a new study by Finnish packaging solutions company Stora Enso.Millennials, defined as those born between 1980 and 2000, are the focus of the Stora Enso Packaging divisions’ fourth Viewpoint report, which looks at their preferences and decisions when it comes to product packaging. Since this age group will comprise almost half of the European workforce (and therefore dominant consumers) by 2025, it is a key target for retailers and a prime category for brands to win over.

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Why Durable Bioplastics, Not Biodegradable, May Be the Answer

To conclude this series about bioplastics and the biodegradability (or lack thereof) of plastic products and packaging, I want to discuss the future of what I consider to be one of the only viable alternatives to plastics derived from non-renewable resources: durable bioplastics.

L’Oréal, Avery Dennison Collaborating to Reduce Environmental Impact of Labels

L’Oréal Americas and Avery Dennison have joined forces to identify and reduce the environmental impacts of packaging labels throughout the entire label lifecycle.The collaboration has already produced a comprehensive Avery Dennison Greenprint™ assessment showing how thinner label materials can reduce environmental impacts. Avery Dennison Greenprint, a screening lifecycle tool launched in 2010, is the first of its kind in the label industry.

Pesticide Industry Resists Calls to Reveal Inert Ingredients

Pesticide manufacturers are pushing back against increasing consumer and environmental advocacy group demands for disclosure of the chemicals in pesticide formulations—claiming the information is proprietary.Of particular interest are the so-called inert ingredients such as chemicals in pesticides that perform functions other than controlling pests. Examples include emulsifiers, solvents, aerosols, fragrances, dyes and other chemicals that are not necessarily benign, according to those calling for mandatory labeling of inert ingredients in pesticides.

Honeywell Scales Up Production of Low-GHG Propellant, Insulating Agent and Refrigerant

Honeywell has announced that it has started full-scale commercial production of a low-global-warming-potential (GWP) material used as an aerosol propellant, insulating agent and refrigerant.The diversified technology and manufacturing company says the material, known by the industry designation HFO-1234ze and marketed by Honeywell under its Solstice® line of low-global-warming materials, is being produced at the Honeywell Fluorine Products facility in Baton Rouge, La.

The Myth of Biodegradability in Plastic Consumer Products and Packaging

In my last post regarding the long-term viability of bio-based polymers, I touched on some of the primary concerns we face regarding the rise of plastics labeled as “biodegradable.” It’s an important component of this broad discussion, and one that has become increasingly relevant in an increasingly sustainability-driven product market.

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The Push for Bioplastics and the Myth of Biodegradability

This is the first of a three-part series by TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky that examines the benefits, risks, misconceptions and long-term viability of bioplastics.

BASF, Haier, Astronautics Corp Unveil Next-Gen Refrigeration Technology at CES 2015

Among the dizzying array of potentially game-changing innovations on display this week at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, BASF — along with Haier, a global manufacturer of household appliances, and Astronautics Corporation of America — are presenting a proof‑of‑concept wine cooler refrigerated by a magnetocaloric heat pump.

Cashew Nut Byproduct Could Help Trap Tsetse Fly, Create New Value for African Farmers

Researchers have developed a new chemical method applied to a byproduct of cashew nuts that could make it easier to trap tsetse flies and open new revenue streams for nut producers in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new report.

Revlon Agrees to Remove Some Dangerous Chemicals From Its Products

Late last month, global cosmetics giant Revlon announced it will remove some long-chain parabens and formaldehyde-releasing chemicals from its products, in response to a petition circulated last year by the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) that to date has rallied support from over 109,000 consumers.Long-chain parabens can act as estrogens and have been linked to endocrine disruption. Formaldehyde is a potent allergen that has been classified as a carcinogen.EWG executive director Heather White called the move a step in the right direction.

Year in Review: One Company’s Waste Becomes Another’s Bioplastic

As data continues to emerge on the damage being caused by discarded plastic persisting in the environment, it’s clear the millions of tons of the ubiquitous material we’ve already produced isn’t going away anytime soon.Luckily, a host of scientists and researchers hard at work developing bio-based alternatives to plastic are making surprising discoveries — not only are they revolutionizing the material itself, they’re creating a whole new set of unexpected symbiotic relationships, wherein one industry’s manufacturing waste becomes feedstock for another.Here are some of our favorite waste-to-plastic innovations from this year:

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AkzoNobel Develops Reflective Paint That Keeps You Cool

AkzoNobel, the paint, coatings and specialty chemical company, has developed exterior wall paints that reflect more infrared light to reduce heat absorption and reduce energy consumption.With this technology, an average house can save up to 15 percent on energy, while offices and apartment buildings can save up to 10 percent. Conveniently, architects and designers do not need to compromise the color palette to suit engineering needs.

Survey: Packaging Pros Have Limited Understanding of Biz Impacts of Resource Scarcity

Packaging professionals within consumer packaged goods companies report growing awareness around the business impacts connected to natural resource scarcity, but robust knowledge and understanding is still absent, according to a recent survey by Tetra Pak.Last month, Tetra Pak surveyed 120 sales, marketing, R&D, purchasing and other packaging professionals within the consumer packaged goods industry to explore industry perceptions around company resource management practices, especially in light of diminishing finite natural resources combined with population growth and increased consumer demand for packaged goods.

The Evidence Is Clear: Consumers Want More Sustainable Packaging Options

With the holiday season upon us, millions of shoppers are in the midst of purchasing wrapping paper and packaging for their gifts this year. What might surprise many is how much consumer commitment towards environmentally sustainable packaging has increased.

Purdue Researchers Turn Biomass Waste into Valuable Chemical Products

A team of researchers from Purdue University's Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels (C3Bio) has developed a new catalytic process that converts biomass waste into chemical products that can be used in fragrances, flavorings or to create high-octane fuel for racecars and jets, Phys.org reports.The process uses a chemical catalyst and heat to spur reactions that convert lignin—a durable and complex molecule that gives the plant cell wall its rigid structure—into valuable chemical commodities.

Study Finds Toxic Chemicals in Many Seasonal Holiday Decor Products

A research study released today finds that top retailers of holiday decor continue to sell seasonal products containing hazardous chemicals. The research found that two-thirds of tested products had one or more hazardous chemicals that have been linked to serious health effects. The study is an update to and expansion of research done in 2010 and 2013 by HealthyStuff.org (a project of the Ann Arbor-based nonprofit organization, the Ecology Center), which found high levels of chemical hazards in string lights, garlands and other decorative products.

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