Keep the change

Thursday at Labelexpo in Rosemont, Illinois was a bit slower than Tuesday and Wednesday. It gave me a chance to walk the show and look for change, change that would affect our industry and make an impact. (Of course, I’m assuming – never assume! – that you erudite readers of this publication were either at the show or know someone who attended). While Tuesday and Wednesday were exhilarating, it was a grueling forty-eight hours of non-stop talk, meetings, renewing old friendships, and, naturally, sharing a beer or two. To be honest, Thursday, for me, was a welcome respite. Interestingly, I only saw one major change of importance. To be sure, I was looking for change that would affect environmental issues, not product or machine developments that could translate into bottom line improvement. I want to briefly mention the one item at Labelexpo that caught my eye and finish with two other changes, one in California which will affect that state and its residents, and another that will affect all of us.

Appvion, formerly Appleton Papers, recently launched its Alpha free – 2.1 Receipt Paper. The receipt paper, while not pressure sensitive, is phenol free and is used at grocery stores, quick service gas stations, Seven-Elevens, etc. This new paper has a yellow cast on one side rather than the typical white, two sided receipt paper. Most important it is phenol free. Over the years Appvion’s customers have asked for phenol free paper because the traditional receipt paper contained the chemicals bisphenol S (BPS) and BPA. BPS is related to and a substitute for BPA, and is used in the coating of thermal uncoated base paper. America and Europe have investigated BPA for quite a while as a potential carcinogen. Authorities can’t prove a direct cause of cancer but obviously suspicion causes concern. I know that at least one country in Europe has banned BPA for several years. There are probably more. Point: BPA isn’t good.

Interestingly, Appvion eliminated BPA from its thermal point of sale (POS) paper almost ten years ago. Receipt paper made by them continued to contain bisphenol S so this change completes their focus on more sustainable products. Congratulations to Appvion.

The replacement chemistry for BPA is fascinating. The development work started two years ago. About forty Appvion employees considered over one hundred different formulations before settling on Vitamin C as an appropriate alternative. Yes, Vitamin C! Bill Van Den Brandt of Appvion said, “Our scientists found a way to use Vitamin C without sacrificing product performance in our thermal paper.” Marketing Manager, Dave Pauly, continued, “The use of a weak acid in thermal coating chemistry plays an important role in forming an image on the paper when heat is applied. Phenols are a class of organic compounds that function as a weak acid. However, there are other organic acids, like Vitamin C, that can serve the same role in thermal paper chemistry, but have a different chemical structure.” Did any of you ever experiment with huge doses of Vitamin C to prevent colds? I did. It didn’t seem to reduce colds during the winter for me. All I did was to turn a shade of yellow! Hah! Now I know; it’s put to better use in receipt paper!

Changes like this one are incredibly positive. Good for Appvion!

Change number two is about the bill passed in California to ban plastic bags. This would be the first statewide ban on plastic grocery bags in the United States if signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. He must do this by September 30th or the legislative enactment will be void. Obviously, there has been great controversy. It was supported by environmentalists and grocery retailers, and opposed by most plastic and, interestingly, paper bag manufacturers. Indeed, it is a big change if Governor Brown signs it. It will eliminate about 20 billion single use plastic bags.

The law eliminates single use plastic bags in grocery stores and pharmacies, effective July 1st, 2015, and in convenience and liquor stores one year later. It allows reusable plastic and textile bags to be sold as well as paper bags with recycled content at ten cents per bag. The recycled paper bag must contain at least 40% post-consumer fiber.

The reason the paper bag manufacturers have opposed the bill is explained by a recent comment from the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA): “Similar legislation in cities have shown that plastic bag bans that also tax paper bags (obviously without any post-consumer fiber) have not benefited the (paper) industry.” AF&PA’s contention is that “paper bags are made from a renewable resource, are 100% recyclable, and have a high recovery rate compared to competing materials.” (Like plastic). “Taxing them implies that they are part of the environmental problem that plastic bag bans are attempting to solve.” I think this position is hogwash. AF&PA gets improvement in volume over plastic, regardless if their bag has to have a percentage of secondary or not. They just want it both ways. What else is new!

There are two interesting caveats to this bill which says to me that the issues have been studied extensively: one, the grocery retailers will make a profit from selling bags instead of giving them away for free. And, two, the plastic bag manufacturers that originally opposed the bill now support it because the legislation includes financial incentives to retrain workers to make reusable plastic bags out of plastic waste. The change, in my view, is a win/win. Frankly, it supports my view that we just don’t need dirty, used plastic bags blowing in the wind! Change.

And, finally, a change that will affect everyone, every individual and every business, is the banning of the incandescent light bulb, effective January 1st. Did you know this? This is a dramatic change.

Around 2000 or 2002 compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) were introduced. This was to be the answer to reducing energy but at the same time providing equal light. I personally changed all our lights at home. I was totally committed to CFLs. But the light was pale, even sickly, and after six months I went back to incandescent bulbs. Now we have better options with the introduction of the light-emitting diodes (LEDs). This new bulb gives immediate light, a warmer light, and is pretty similar to the incandescent bulb. Further, they are more efficient and last longer. But, be careful, they are more expensive.

Seth Stevenson wrote a great piece recently in the Chicago Tribune where he explained how artificial light is evaluated. First he explained that most bulb developments try to replicate the “classic 60 watt/800 lumen incandescent bulb.” That’s the benchmark. Then he explained:

Watts measure energy use; lumens measure brightness. A typical incandescent needs 60 watts to produce 800 lumens, for a lumens-to-watt ratio of 13.3. By contrast, most CFLs use only 14-15 watts to get to 800 lumens for a much better lumens-to-watt ratio in the 50s. Even better are the LED bulbs I sampled: They emit 800 lumens but require just 9 or 10 watts to do it, for a lumens-to-watt ratio that’s way up around 80. Less juice, same brightness.

Prices on LED bulbs can vary widely from state to state, since there are different rebates available for meeting Energy Star efficiency guidelines. Most LED bulbs coming to market these days attempt to nail a basic price point around 410 for a single bulb, give or take a couple of dollars. That sounds expensive (incandescent bulbs were selling for 25 cents apiece before the ban), but LEDs make up the difference through energy cost savings and longevity. Most LEDs are rated to last about 23 years if you use them three hours per day. When you amortize 10 bucks over 23 years, the steeper price doesn’t seem like a huge deal.

But now we come to the elephant in the lamp socket: The quality of light, which ultimately comes down to personal preference. Maybe some reddish warmth in your bedroom, while a colder, harsher light in your kitchen. Your best bet is to visit a lighting store where you can observe how light bulbs differ side by side.

Stevenson evaluated five different LEDs. He rationally concluded that the TCP Elite and the Philips SlimStyle were the best based on functionality and yield. He also was intrigued with the Finally Bulb which may be the very best. It hasn’t been introduced yet but Stevenson suggests consideration before we make a final decision. It is neither a CFL nor LED but a completely radical approach to light.

The Finally Bulb is very energy efficient compared to the incandescent. However, it is a bit less efficient than an LED. At 14.5 watts and a lumens-to-watt ratio of 55, it’s more like a CFL. But, it’s light quality is superb. When compared to the incandescent it won hands down over both the CFL and LED.

At the end of the day, I have preached that change is necessary, particularly if we want improvement in all aspects of our lives and businesses. I didn’t like the CFL bulb but I do like the LED. And now we don’t have any choice because the incandescent will be banned. My friend Lester Brown preaches change. My friend Amory Levins preaches change. Our industry must move forward to change or we will be relegated to the dinosaur age. Vitamin C, paper bags with recycled fiber, and the Finally Bulb are the wave of the future in an ever changing environment. I believe we have the same ingenuity and creativity that will help us into the next millennium. Change or lose!

Another Letter from the Earth

Second chances

I was reading Dr. Seuss before I went to visit my friend Jack in the hospital. He had a terrible strain of pneumonia and nearly died. The staff at the hospital induced a coma for about two weeks. He lived with a respirator and a feeding tube during that time. In total he was in ICU for four weeks and I couldn’t see him. Finally, they moved him into a rehabilitation facility and I was allowed to visit. His first words to me were, “I have a second chance.” I understood immediately what he was saying. I reflected on that as I drove home. Not to wax maudlin on Jack’s second chance, I was reminded of what I’d been reading by Dr. Seuss:

Everyone is just waiting; waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite,
Or a pot to boil, or a better break, or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants, or a wig with curls
Or another chance.

I especially like the notion of another chance. It seems to me we all have another chance. The key is our response. What do we do? How do we behave? How important is that second or third or fourth chance?

In addition to the Dr. Seuss, I just finished a very technical article by Edward Moretti of Baker Environmental, Inc. about VOC Control titled Reduce VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) and HAP (Hazardous Air Pollutant) Emissions. I think Bruce Riddell of Spectrum Label sent it to me. At any rate, Moretti wrote about the need to abate VOC and HAP emissions because of the new provisions of the Clean Air Act, specifically the reduction of emissions in order to meet the new Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standards (I know this is a mouthful but nothing compared to the challenge of reading Moretti’s article). I pondered all of this and Jack’s first words to me, and suddenly realized we humans caused all of this – we created the problem as the world industrialized without regard for by-product diversion, and/or liquid and gas emissions. To solve our environmental issues we now spend our time creating incredibly complex and costly organizations like our EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). The EPA then creates the MACT standard. To be MACT compliant will cost industry billions. The way I look at it, out of all this chaos, this mad mess, comes opportunity. Out of this chaos comes a second chance.

In my last column I talked about lignum and IBM’s new Titan and Hydro, the development of an ultra-strong polymer. In this column I’d like to introduce bioplastics and in the next I’ll write about bioplastics and biorefinery. I view these as a chance to affect some of the issues we’ve created by fossil energy. Bioplastics are an alternative. Indeed they are a second chance. Let’s hope we get this chance right.

It is interesting that we often need problems to get our creative juices flowing. A good example of this is the development work going on at Coca-Cola. Para-xylene or p-xylene (PX) is used to make polyethylene terephthalate (PET). It is not a friendly chemical and in the last several years PX production has become increasingly controversial. In China, for example, where PET production is massive, there have been demonstrations against new production facilities. Protesters have clashed with police about additional factories that make precursor chemicals like PX. In fact, there are 13 huge p-xylene manufacturing facilities in China, most of which are subsidiaries of Sinopec, China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) and China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), the three major state-owned oil companies making polyester fibers used in soda bottles, food packaging, synthetic fibers for clothing, automotive parts, etc. PX is used in every pound of polyester and at present the Chinese can’t make enough polyester to meet demand because they don’t have enough p-xylene. Hence they want to add PX capacity. It looks like the protests and demonstrations have worked, at least for the time being. (It’s funny how money talks, so we’ll continue to follow this).

In the meantime, the major users of PET are working hard to replace the current petro based para-xylene with renewable para-xylene. This para-xylene will be made from plant based isobutanol and Coca-Cola, for one, will be making what it calls a PlantBottle. Let me tell you the story.

Coca-Cola, Danone, and a few other major consumer goods companies are pushing the development of a resin called PEF. So far the investors have spent over $50 million to help a Dutch research and technology company called Avantium develop a process that will make plastic bottles from 100% plant based feedstocks. PEF, polyethelene furanoate, looks and feels like PET but is actually a material with a different molecular structure. Just like PET, the first ingredient is ethylene glycol, but instead of being combined with terephthalic acid, it is joined with a furanic, creating PEF. Scott Vitters, General Manager of Coke’s PlantBottle project says, “It’s still a polyester but using this process, the material offers some potential advantages in terms of barrier, thermal and mechanical properties.” Also, “it is very compelling from both the environmental and economic perspective.”

At present, and remember this is first generation, ethylene glycol makes up only 30 percent of the molecular weight of the bottle. The remaining 70 percent of the PlantBottle is still made using petroleum based resin. Coke has publicly stated that eventually they will produce and market a PlantBottle made entirely from renewable sources. PEF could help them achieve their goal because Avantium uses carbohydrates from sugar cane, sugar beets, and corn as their primary feedstocks. Avantium in their second generation is even looking at agricultural waste or waste paper as feedstocks. Hmmmm!!

With the investment from the big guys and the success of their first generation technology, Avantium is taking a quantum leap and has announced a commercial scale plant that will be operational by 2017. Vitters of Coke notes that while the development phase of their PlantBottle is moving rapidly, they can’t move away from PET too quickly. They have a huge investment in PET infrastructure. “We have a recycling business, and we’ve been a leader in advancing recycled content technologies. We have a shared interest in ensuring the PET market is protected, given the investments we’ve made.”

What is really gratifying to me is the focus in this development project on end of life (second chance, right!). Initial recycling tests have focused on whether PEF can be recycled back into PEF bottles or whether PEF bottles can be used in clothing, carpet, or other polyester markets. Early results have shown good performance in all applications. Remember, this is with 30% PEF.

It does remain unclear how much PEF we can put into the PET recycle stream. Some industry specialists are suggesting 5% limits, but the development and evaluation work continues. In other words, the jury is out. Maybe second chance becomes third chance.

I think these folks have the right approach. Replacing fossil based technology is tricky. Technology and cost evaluations are critical. And, I’m sure, there will be second and third and maybe even fourth generation changes. But this second chance is being developed with the right approach: design for end of life.

Most of you are aware of the situation in Canada, where distributors are being charged a “stewardship tax” for any kind of package that goes to the landfill. The distributors are companies like WalMart, Safeway, Loblaws, etc. Not small players. In 2012, the Canadian government collected over $300 million in stewardship taxes. The tax covered, among other non-recyclables, packages, PET thermoform containers with pressure sensitive labels. PSA labels on PET thermoforms are incompatible with PET recycling and demonstrate the pitfalls of trying to solve problems after the fact. It makes no difference, in my view, whether the incompatibility is caused by adhesive or ink or density difference between substrates. Work is ongoing in this regard and eventually we’ll solve the problem. My point is we need to design for end of life. You see, that’s what a second chance is all about. Getting it right the second time. Jack figured it out. Can we?

Another Letter from the Earth

Channeled Resources Partners with PaperTyger

Chicago, IL (October 29, 2014) – Channeled Resources Group is pleased to announce its recent partnership with PaperTyger a division of Chase Corporation.
Channeled Resources and the PaperTyger division of Chase Corporation are pleased to announce the creation of a strategic channel partnership within the durable paper products segment of the tag and label industry. PaperTyger is a tear and water resistant, laminated paper product that provides the ease and economics of printing on paper, with the durability and strength of films. Channeled will hold master rolls at their facility in Wisconsin for JIT shipments of slit to size stock.

PaperTyger manufactures specialized, high quality, technologically-advanced laminated papers for a wide variety of applications. The tear and water resistant laminated papers are manufactured using a patented process to provide an innovative alternative to synthetic papers and other tear resistant products. It is suitable for digital, laser, and conventional printing processes.

Channeled Resources Group sells a variety of products, both supported and unsupported, into the tag and label industry providing JIT and custom slit materials.

Channeled Resources Acquires Atlas Adhesive Tape

Channeled Resources Group is pleased to announce the recent acquisition of Atlas Adhesive Tape Corporation.

Atlas will join Channeled Resources Group’s other specialty and niche divisions. Channeled has been a global leader in processing coated, treated, and laminated papers and films, and along with their silicone coated release liner business, Atlas’ specialty tapes brings another dimension to their already diverse business.

The tape division will be led by founder Steven Atlas, at their Marathon City, Wisconsin, 200,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility. Channeled President and CEO, Cynthia White said, “We know Steve’s expertise in the pressure sensitive tape applications will broaden and further complement our overall product offerings”. She added, “At Channeled we realize that innovation and diversification is the key to remaining viable in an ever changing world”.

Channeled Resources Group will unveil their new line of tape products at Labelexpo America’s 2014, booth #1211, in Rosemont, IL this September.

Channeled Resources Group Applauds Unilever

Channeled Resources Group is pleased to see Unilever presented the first ever End User Recycling Award by FINAT, Europe’s leading label association.

This honor for release liner recycling was announced at the recent FINAT Congress in Monte Carlo. As Mark Macare’, Recycling Manager at FINAT, noted: “The end-user category saw a number of impressive entries, but in the end Unilever edged out the others based on the company’s clear dedication to a zero waste to landfill policy. Not only is this clearly communicated on the company’s website and in its sustainability report, but it is also being reflected in Unilever’s long history in liner recycling and its impressive liner recycling figures.”

During the award ceremony Unilever recognized the role Channeled Resources played, facilitating liner recycling activities at several of its facilities throughout the U.K. Tony Loia, Senior European Executive for Channeled Resources remarked: “We are, of course, delighted with the success of our partner, Unilever. Even more importantly, their action demonstrates that large corporations can create solutions for complex problems. We are proud to be a part of their success and award as well as proud of Unilever’s commitment to become 100% landfill free by creating internal solutions for liner recycling. We believe the award will be an incentive to other end users to create similar success stories.”

Channeled Resources supplies material and provides solutions to the coated, treated, and laminated paper and film industry globally.