The Politics of Bag Bans

– by Ed Weisberg

In February, GXT Green participated in a full day seminar in Massachusetts organized by MassGreen.org.  The purpose of the session was to bring together members of communities that have, or are interested in, instituting plastic bag bans or plastic food packaging bans.  The goal was to educate them on the issues and help them address plastic litter in a productive way.

talk at massgreen summitConsideration of Bag Bans is a great rallying point to bring together concerned citizens who want to do something constructive to improve our environment.  Without clear, unbiased information on the true issues, however, sometimes a movement such as this can be driven more by emotions than facts, and create more confusion than solutions. Fortunately, as we have seen in many discussions around the issue of plastic bag pollution and bag bans, once people are educated, they move beyond regulations that may create a problem for consumers and retailers, and begin to focus on solutions to the true issue, plastic bag pollution.  Ideally, people move towards truly solving the plastic bag issue in a meaningful way, leaving behind those who just want to stop progress by creating a universal ban.

We were pleased to see that  there were a good number of people at this event who are actually trying to solve the plastic bag pollution issue.

towns at massgreen summit

Towns Represented

Speakers included Regan Milani, of the Boston Aquarium, who talked about how entanglement from pollution and derelict fishing gear is major concerns for fish, and Bob Cappadona VP of Recycling from Casella Waste, who explained that their largest challenge is that recycled plastic bags need to be separated from other plastics, or they gum up their machines.  Christine Beling from the EPA spoke about the WRAP program (http://www.plasticfilmrecycling.org) which is a nationwide initiative to make it easier to recycle plastic bags and film, and Mark Myles, from the Toxic Use Reduction Institute spoke on their efforts to reduce toxins in our environment, (www.Turi.org).

One of the fundamental problems with simply banning all carry bags is that people still need a way to get their groceries home. There is a push for reusable bags, but unfortunately many of those are made from non-woven plastics or other materials that have a large carbon footprint, may not be recyclable because they are a mixture of materials, and can harbor bacteria if not washed frequently.  Thus, reusable bags often create more problems than they solve. Citizens, civic leaders, and retailers are recognizing that offering photodegradable bags, such as ECOgrade, are a viable solution for progressive communities.  ECOgrade materials can be used to make single use bags or heavier reusable bags.  In either case, they have a smaller carbon footprint than plastic, can be recycled, and will degrade to a non-toxic residue if littered or lost.

At GXT Green we do not take a stand on whether a community should institute legislation to force people to stop using plastic bags.  Rather, we simple want to educate communities on the ECOgrade photodegradable alternative to plastic bags.  We relish the opportunity to attend events like the one put on by MassGreen.org to answer questions and help reach our mutual goal:  To eliminate plastic litter.  Please let us know if you hear of other opportunities such as this for GXT Green to provide information and offer a viable alternative to plastic carry bags.

For more information, the various presentations are available here:

Edward Weisberg is Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, GXT Green, Inc.

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Paris COP21- Reducing Global Warming One Step at a Time

– by Ed Weisberg

Last month in Paris, despite the terrorist attacks and dangerous conditions, people of the world came together at COP21 to forge an cop21 imageimportant pledge regarding climate change.  At this conference, representatives from hundreds of  countries, including the largest industrial
nations in the world agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the goal of limiting global warming.  In a historic agreement 195 countries agreed to reduce their carbon output “as soon as possible” and to do their best to keep global warming “to well below 2 degrees C”.  This agreement marks a historic turning point in our goals to reduce greenhouse gas and pollution.
Reaching this agreement was difficult.  However, developing programs and implementing changes to achieve certified gxt greenthe goals of the agreement will be even more challenging.  As with any major change the best way to “eat an elephant” is one small piece at a time.

One of the most painless first steps which can be taken is to reduce the GHG produced, energy used, and amount of fossil fuels used in making plastic products.   According to the Worldwatch Institute, over 299 million tons of plastic were produced in 2013, up 4% from the previous year. New technology provides an easy way to immediately reduce the climate impact of this production, without any compromise in functionality, cost increase, or loss of jobs.

ECOgrade® COG resin is an alternative to plastic that helps the world’s producers reduce their climate impact.  ECOgrade resin is a versatile material bag manufacturingthat can replace virtually any plastic materials.  Depending on the desired product, it can be modified to be photodegradable in sunlight (such as for making carryout bags), or not (for items such as car bumpers).   Depending on the requirement, ECOgrade resin can stand on its own or be complexed with polymers in specific percentages to meet performance requirements.  Regardless of what is made with the ECOgrade, however, one thing is for certain: It will reduce our use of fossil fuels, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and cut down on energy use in manufacturing.  In the case of disposable items, it is designed to photodegrade if littered or lost, eliminating the plastic pollution issue that is damaging our oceans and landscapes, but even when modified for non-degradable applications, it will reduce our impact on the planet.

There are many small steps that we can all take to reduce our impact on the environment. At GXT Green, we look forward to continued product development for the long haul!

Edward Weisberg is Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, GXT Green, Inc.

 

Posted in 2 degrees celcius, biodegradable, carbon footprint, climate change, Cop21, cop21 paris, degradable bags, ECOgrade, environment, global warming, green business, green marketing, GXT Greem, GXT Green, photodegradable, plastic, sustainability, sustainability news, sustainable business, sustainable resin, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not All Laws Should Last Forever

by Ed Weisberg

Often, laws are written with all the best intentions, but over time, they lose their way as technology is improved.  A classic example dates back to1967.  At that time, Citroën, the French Automaker, introduced a potential important safety advancement to the US auto market.  Based on their success incitroen Europe, they perfected the design of headlights that steered with the wheels on the Citroën DS.  The high-beam headlamp swiveled by up to 80° as the driver steered, pointing the beam along the driver’s intended path. The low-beam headlamps were self-leveling to react to pitching caused by acceleration and braking.  However, US laws, which had been written to insure that headlights met certain minimum standards, precluded the import of this advancement, and thus the steerable headlights were banned.   Even today these laws are still standing, and BMW and Audi, who have innovative adaptive lighting systems, are wrestling to reduce their effectiveness to fit into the US laws, while still providing safety benefits to their customers.  According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety  an analysis of the potential for Adaptive Headlights (as they are now called)  to provide a safety benefit estimated that they are theoretically relevant to 90% of the crashes that occur on curves at night Lives could have been saved if these laws had been forward looking, rather than restrictive.  However, lawmakers remained focused on overcoming shortfalls of poor lighting, rather than the opportunities of better lighting.

Why is this relevant?   We see the same pattern of action in certain cities and states that are banning or taxing carry-out bags.  In an effort to control plastic pollution, lawmakers in these communities have banned all single-use bags.  They did not consider alternatives that could solve the pollution problem using technology which also counteracts the economic, environmental, and health impact which these bans and taxes have imposed.  Certain other countries and cities also initially jumped to ban bags to stop pollution.  However, as they became aware of better solutions to stop pollution, they embraced them, rather than sticking with restrictions.  They quickly recognized that products such as ECOgrade Photodegradable bags, made with Calcium Olefinic Glucosate (COG) are a viable alternative to plastic, and can solve the pollution issue.   India, Australia, UK, France, Mauritius, Somaliland, and others have reached out to GXT Green and are evaluating, or have accepted, COG as an alternative to plastic that solves the pollution issues.

Slowly, in the US, the momentum  to make the bag laws more relevant is growing.  In Iowa City, based on information that GXT Green provided in regard to COG, a proposed ban was not passed.  In Huntington Beach CA, a bag ban was repealed in June of this year. The same thing happened in Dallas, where carry-bags were being taxed.  California recently added a referendum to rescind the statewide ban to the 2016 ballot.   There is a movement in Hawaii to bring some sense to their ban as well.  In Santa Fe, people recognize that the net result of a ban, people using more paper bags or non-woven reusables, is worse for the environment than plastic, and are considering changes accordingly.  An entire website is dedicated to the movement to “Bag the Ban” and documents these activities.

truth about plastic bags

BagtheBan.com

Reusable bags, which are deemed an alternative to single use carry-bags, are beginning to have an effect on health and healthcare costs. The Department of Public Health has issued warnings about the growth of bacteria in these bags, They can be washed, but washing bags would consume as much as 40 times more water than manufacturing of lightweight plastic bags, which is a major issue in drought-ridden California.  Additionally, according to Lance Christiansen, writing in Reason, if California’s 12.4 million households spend five minutes each week cleaning their shopping bags to get rid of germs and bacteria, the annual opportunity cost would be more than $1.5 billion.

GXT Green does not take a stand on the banning of plastic bags.  ECOgrade bags are manufactured with COG, and, as verified by third-party test labs and FTIR analysis, are not plastic.  Plain and simple, ECOgrade COG bags are a solution to plastic pollution that addresses environmentalist needs with degradability, recyclability, and reduced GHG emissions, are priced competitively with plastic bags, do not pose a health-risk, and perform as well as plastic bags for carrying home groceries and other items.   It’s time to clarify laws that ban carryout bags to specifically focus on plastic, without precluding better alternatives.  More importantly, it’s time for US retailers to begin to transition from plastic to products such as Calcium Olefinic Glucosate, and solve the plastic pollution issue in a meaningful way.

Edward Weisberg is Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, GXT Green, Inc.

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Compostable Plastic Bags in Hawaii: An Illusory Solution?

by Otto Fisher and Ed Weisberg

 In the city of Oahu, Hawaii, a recently implemented ban on plastic bags has come under fire from both retailers and environmentalists for its inefficacy. The retailers initially hawaii headlinefought the ban based on the sizable bite it took out of their margins: the paper bags that they were initially required to use cost roughly seven times as much as the standard plastic bags they replace. In response, the city council permitted the use of compostable (ASTM-D6400) plastic bags, which cost ten cents per bag, still much more expensive than plastic (around two cents) but a significant reduction from paper (fourteen cents). Two weeks after introducing this new measure, the city has come to an unfortunate realization: there are no composting facilities in the entire state of Hawaii. The compostable bags are doing nothing to alleviate the environmental problems posed by standard plastic bags, and are harming local businesses economically by driving up costs.

This issue is not unique to Hawaii: there are many states that do not have industrial composting facilities, meaning that replacing standard polyethylene bags with biodegradable/compostable ones simply raises costs for retailers, while eliminating the ability to recycle, as these compostable/biodegradable bags are not acceptable in the plastic recycling chain.

hawaii sceneFortunately, there is a functional solution that addresses concerns over cost and environmental concerns simultaneously: GXT Green’s ECOgrade photodegradable bag (ASTM-D5272). Unlike compostable bags, ECOgrade bags can be recycled along with plastics. They also resolve the issue of littering, which has been raised by activists in Hawaii as a concern with biodegradables: Unlike biodegradable bags, ECOgrade bags will degrade in the environment naturally if littered, without releasing any toxic chemicals, while most biodegradables will stay in the environment just as long as normal plastic bags if they are not processed in a commercial composting facility. Production of ECOgrade bags also requires less energy and produces less greenhouse gas emissions than the production process for either paper or plastic bags. Finally, ECOgrade bags are priced competitively with the everyday plastic bags they replace, and therefore have no negative economic impact on retailers.

At present, many municipalities and states that are contemplating banning plastics are only considering a limited number of options. Some are favorable to businesses at the expense of the environment, and others unsuccessfully attempt to protect the environment at great costs to businesses. GXT Green’s ECOgrade bags offer an answer that addresses both needs, providing a low-cost, viable solution to the question of how to mitigate plastic bag pollution. Yes Hawaii, there is a solution!

Otto Fisher is a business and sustainability intern at GXT Green, Inc. He is currently a student at Colby College in Maine.

Edward Weisberg is Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, GXT Green, Inc.

 

Posted in ASTM 5272, bag ban, biodegradable, degradable bags, environment, grocery bags, GXT Greem, GXT Green, Hawaii bag ban, Hawaii bag tax, Oahu bag ban, plastic, plastic bags, sustainability, sustainability news, sustainable business, Sustainable grocery, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finally! The End of the Bubble Wrap Era

by Otto Fisher

Sealed Air Corp. is rolling out what is, in effect, a replacement of Bubble Wrap, the company’s top-selling product for decades since its inception in 1957. While bubble wrap is light-weight, it scores low for sustainability and cost factors. It is very bulky, expensive to ship and store, and not easily disposed of. The replacement, dubbed iBububblewrap for blogbble Wrap, takes up far less space in storage and significantly reduces shipping cost as a result. However, these improvements come at a price to users both in cost and nostalgia; the signature bubble-popping sound that could be heard when squeezing the original Bubble Wrap is no longer part of the package, to the disappointment of children everywhere. But more significantly, iBubble Wrap needs to be inflated by the shipper, resulting in extra labor and extra cost. The current price of the custom pump required to inflate the wrap is $5500, and requires an extra step for the packer.

While this new product seems to offer an innovative solution to the issue of warehouse space for the packaging industry, it does little to resolve questions about waste and sustainability. It’s unclear whether the new Bubble Wrap is reusable, but realistically, it’s much more likely to be thrown out after a single use than reused, and the useful life of a product dependent on remaining inflated is most likely limited.

Conversely, suspensioeco rsp for blogn packaging, such GXT Green’s ECO R3SP™ packaging, already offers a more sustainable and easy to use innovative solution on both fronts. Instead of large, bulky sheets of plastic that are likely to be thrown out after a single use, ECO R3SP packaging uses a simple box which suspends the shipped item between sheets of proprietary film.

It’s commendable that Sealed Air has found an innovative solution to a significant industry problem, and it will undoubtedly have a positive environmental impact in that they will be able to ship more product in fewer trucks. Still, it seems clear that a better and more sustainable packaging product on the market is ECO R3SP packaging, both for its minimized environmental impact and the user’s convenience.  It pops Sealed Air’s bubble, leaving even modified bubble wrap technology in the past.

Otto Fisher is a business and sustainability intern at GXT Green, Inc. He is currently a student at Colby College in Maine.

 

Posted in bubble wrap, consumer packaging, ECO-R3SP, ECO-RSP packaging, ECOgrade, green business, green marketing, GXT Greem, GXT Green, sustainability, sustainability news, sustainable business | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Youth will save our planet!

by Ed Weisberg

This May the United Nations commemorated the 20th anniversary of the World Programme of Action for Youth. In his speech to the UN Delegation, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon acknowledged that young people have been “disproportionately” affected by sustainable youthmany global challenges but “are ready and willing to be actively involved in shaping their future.” Mr. Ban commented to the young participants “You are the first generation that can end poverty – and the last generation that can act to avoid the worst effects of climate change.”

At GXT Green, nothing pleases us more than to see young people engaging in efforts to protect our environment and minimize any future damaging human footprint on our planet. There are over 100 colleges and universities in the US that now offer degrees in Sustainability or Environmental topics, attracting some of the best young thinkers. Not only do colleges offer undergraduate degrees, but according to www.sustainabilitydegrees.com, they offer specialized studies in areas such as Applied Science in Sustainable Development, and Masters and PhDs in Sustainability.

Students and young people across the globe are taking the initiative to raise awareness of sustainable approaches to our everyday activities. Their interests include finding new ways to use photodegradable plastics, such as ECOgrade bags manufactured with Calcium Olefinic Glucosate. We are honored to have the opportunity to work with them. Here are a few examples:

  • In Delhi, India, where plastic bags are banned, but photodegradable bags are embraced, students are eager to get involved educating their parents and older shoppers in the markets. This summer, we will be sponsoring a program that youngsters have implemented to hand out information in the markets, helping people understand the advantages of ECOgrade compared to plastic bags that used to litter the landscape.
  • In New Hampshire, volunteer youth are using ECOgrade bbeach cleanupags to pick up trash and littered plastic bags on the beach. We are pleased to be supporting this effort through our sponsorship of the Blue Ocean Society For Marine Conservation.
  • Colleges, such as the University of Lowell, are enthusiastically working with GXT Green to look at new uses and enhancements to COG products.
  • One of the most exciting engagements that we were recently asked to help with is at the Wamogo School in Connecticut. Students at this high-school asked to use ECOgrade wamogo kidsbags in an experiment and project to design a new type of recycling bins which would enable bags to photodegrade while waiting to be recycled.   They recently gave a TED-type talk on the subject, and have been accepted as part of the Connecticut Independent Science Challenge to move on and present their findings at the Connecticut Innovation Exposition later this spring. We are pleased to be supporting them as they develop new ways to live more sustainably. Their progress is discussed on their blog at http://solaccelerator.webs.com/

We at GXT Green look forward to continued engagements with the youth of the world to find and develop economically viable sustainable products and solutions. As pointed out by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, This is, after all, their future.

Edward Weisberg is Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, GXT Green, Inc.

 

Posted in Blue Ocean, Business of the Year, carbon footprint, global warming, green business, green marketing, GXT Greem, GXT Green, Innovation Award, Responsible Business Awards, sustainability, sustainability news, sustainable business, sustainable youth, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Wamogo, youth sustainability | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Earth Day! GXT Green Announces Fifth Annual 2015 Green Honor Roll Finalists

Every year, to celebrate Earth Day, GXT Green recognizes earth dayleaders in sustainability. These include companies, organizations, individuals, and educational institutions. This year, we had a strong list of 11 nominees contending. We are excited to announce the following 5 finalists for the 5th annual GXT Green Honor Roll.

And the winners are…

Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation:

The blue oceanBlue Ocean Society, located in Portsmouth NH, offers boundless efforts to protect marine mammals in the Gulf of Maine through education, research and conservation. Marine Naturalists Jen Kennedy and Dianna Schulte formed the Blue Ocean Society in 2000 with a mission to inspire activism to improve our environment, and protect marine mammals. They run an educational facility in Hampton Beach NH which helps children learn about sea animals including a “touch tank” museum. In addition, their actions include regular volunteer beach cleanups along the NH coast. Since 1993, Blue Ocean Society has collected over 62 tons of debris from beaches! And just to be sure that they don’t make matters worse if some of their cleanup bags blow away, they use ECOgrade photodegradable bags for all of their cleanup sessions. http://blueoceansociety.org/

The Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences:

manometManomet is a nonprofit organization with more than 30 scientists and staff working from the north slope of Alaska to the southern tip of Argentina. Manomet’s mission is to conserve natural resources for the benefit of wildlife and human populations. Through research and collaboration, Manomet builds science-based, cooperative solutions to environmental problems. Among their prominent programs is their Grocery Stewardship Certification (GSC), a practical, proven environmental certification program to help grocery store leadership reduce their environmental footprint through continuous improvement and employee engagement. This group is actively educating grocers on how to become more sustainable in all of their practices. https://www.manomet.org/

MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative:

mitThe Sustainabilitymit Initiative at MIT Sloan is built on the promise of a new future. They believe that environmental, societal, economic, business, and personal wellbeing are parts of an interconnected whole. They are committed to creating a new vision for progress and prosperity and a world that will flourish and thrive for generations.  They empower students, faculty, researchers, and business leaders to join together in this endeavor. http://mitsloan.mit.edu/sustainability/

Tops Markets:

topsTops Markets’ home base is in Buffalo, NY. According to ECOwatch, Buffalo is #6 and nearby Rochester is the #4 greenest city in the US. Tops is well integrated into this environment. In 2014, Tops converted all of their distribution center lighting to LEDs. This $1.1 million investment has reduced energy usage by 2/3.   In addition, they converted their tractor fleet of 55 vehicles to run on CNG (compressed natural gas), reducing carbon emissions by 50%. To further their commitment in 2015 , they are initiating an even more visible “green program”, considering replacement of their paper and plastic bags with ECOgrade degradable bags. http://www.topsmarkets.com/

University of Massachusetts, Lowell:

umassAccording to the Boston Globe “UMass Lowell is among the nation’s leading centers for plastics technology, and its Plastics Engineering program…is helping to push new boundaries of how these versatile materials are used, produced and processed.” This includes experimentation on ways to improve the sustainability of plastics and development/enhancement of sustainable plastic replacements. We applaud their continued investment in developing sustainable solutions to plastic pollution and oil dependency. UMass Lowell is dedicated to making the world a better place. http://www.uml.edu/Engineering/Plastics/default.aspx

Please join GXT Green in congratulating these organizations for their efforts.

To see the full list of nominees, as well as winners for previous years, please click on the links below:honor roll ribbon

Posted in bestinbiz award, Blue Ocean, Earth Day, Earth Day 2015, Earth Day Honor Roll, environment, green business, green marketing, GXT Greem, GXT Green, Manomet Center, MIT Sustainability, photodegradable, sustainability, sustainability news, sustainable business, Sustainable grocery, Tops Markets, University of Massachusetts Lowell | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment