Procter & Gamble's commitment to renewable materials includes finding sustainable alternative materials for both products and their packaging, such as renewable forest products and palm oil. It plans to use sustainably-sourced, sugar cane-derived plastic in a new process that transforms sugar cane into high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic, commonly used in product packaging.
The HDPE material is aimed at the company's Pantene, Covergirl, and Max Factor products, and it is 100-percent recyclable in existing municipal recycling facilities. Last year, a version of this material appeared in Pantene Pro-V Nature Fusion products. This material was produced by first converting some of the sugar cane to ethanol and then into plastic using a sugar cane byproduct from other parts of the plant that creates some of the energy needed to fuel that part of the process.
Procter & Gamble also is focused on R&D with suppliers and partners to identify new renewable materials and methods for sourcing existing materials from renewable feedstocks. In particular, the company has committed to the elimination of PVC in its packaging, and it began avoiding that material in the early 1990s. PVC currently represents less than 1.5 percent of the company's total plastic packaging materials, and Procter & Gamble has said it expects to eliminate all remaining PVC in packaging within the next few years.
More power to you, P&G. It's the big guys with the R&D dollars who can help get some of the initial and ongoing research done in the search for sustainable materials, and who can serve as leaders in their industry.
I'm cynical, too, about some things. But I think it's important to keep in mind that, like the old metaphor, a few bad apples don't make all the apples bad. I've been surprised at some readers who seem to think that any "green" announcement must be a greenwashing stunt. Healthy skepticism is a long way from a closed mind. Meanwhile, the willingness of consumers to pay a bit more for at least some green alternatives is increasing, while the price differentials come down.
9 of 10 may be green. But until the 9 of the top 10 new cars purchased are green and more expensive, I think we are still seeing the world through green colored glasses. The all mighty dollar which is spent by the American consumer will determine if green goes. I hope it does. And I will do my part to pay a little extra when given the chance. But as the economy struggles and people are having trouble just getting food on the table do to unemployment it will be difficult for people to pay more for green.
Good thing this is not greenwash. Unfortunately, the amount of greenwashing out there has apparently made a lot of people so cynical about green anything that they find it difficult to grasp the reality of actual improvements like this one.
I agree, Chuck, there is tons of greenwash. I receive scores of press releases from PRNewswire for Green Scene. The majority of "green" releases are items like a compnay that has reduced the energy consumption of its call center by 5% due to a green initiative.
Major corporations like P&G, Ford and DuPont make technology decisions about how to fulfill sustainability goals based on both economic and technical feasibility. This became clear to me during an interview with DuPont's head of renewable materials, some of which appears in my upcoming bioplastics feature in the March issue of Design News. It's also become clear with nearly every new materials technology I've reported on. So the replacement materials must have the same features, be about the same cost, and most likely (and practically a necessity in automotive manufacturing), their process should ideally be either a drop-in replacement during manufacturing, or easily appended to the existing manufacturing process.
But none of those factors tells us why these companies have sustainability goals in the first place. The main reason for those goals is customers, specifically consumers. The Freedonia Group analyst I interviewed for the same feature made it clear that, at least for bioplastics, consumer demand for sustainable solutions is what's driving innovation. It's consumers who are willing to pay a price premium for ecological plastic bag replacements or EVs, for instance, not aerospace engineers who care if their aircraft components are made of green materials.
Rob: Good point about it not being greenwash. Although there is admittedly still a lot of greenwash out there, I'm seeing more and more efforts at real "greenness." In the auto industry, hybrids are becoming the norm for new vehicle introductions. I recently finished a slideshow on concept cars, an nine of the ten mentioned are either hybrids or pure electrics.
I can understand your view that P&G's change in materials was likely economically motivated. I agree, but the economic equation may go beyond material cost and include competitive considerations. If the use of green materials is tested and found to help persuade the customer to choose the P&G product, the company may choose those materials even if they're more expensive than plastic.
The saying is usually ascribed to the Iroquois. However, the Constitution of the Iroquois Nations (aka the Great Binding Law), codified for the original five nations and a very interesting document indeed:
doesn't actually say "seven." In fact, seven is a "magic" or symbolic number more often associated with continental Europe and the Near East than with native peoples of the western hemisphere. The relevant passages in the Constitution say:
"Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground – the unborn of the future Nation."
"the Five Nations...shall labor, legislate and council together for the interest of future generations."
But the oft-misquoted line, "In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation" reads shorter and sweeter to modern ears.
A tiny humanoid robot has safely piloted a small plane all the way from cold start to takeoff, landing and coming to a full stop on the plane's designated runway. Yes, it happened in a pilot training simulation -- but the research team isn't far away from doing it in the real world.
Some in the US have welcomed 3D printing for boosting local economies and bringing some offshored manufacturing back onshore. Meanwhile, China is wielding its power of numbers, and its very different relationships between government, education, and industry, to kickstart a homegrown industry.
You can find out practically everything you need to know about engineering plastics as alternatives to other materials at the 2014 IAPD Plastics Expo. Admission is free for engineers, designers, specifiers, and OEMs, as well as students and faculty.
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