It’s not a bed of roses by any measure. It’s a lot of hard work. But there are plenty of benefits to going green. Just ask the four TLMI member companies who offered their first-hand experiences with sustainability on Wednesday in the TLMI technical conference session, “Show Me the Green ($$$) in Being Green.” Participating were Brian Gale, president of ID Images; Dan Muenzer, vp-marketing for Spear; Wayne Richter, chief manufacturing officer at WS Packaging Group; and Laura Cummings, environmental & sustainability mgr. with UPM Raflatac. All have at least one plant that is L.I.F.E.-certified (Label Initiative for the Environment). Each covered how their companies learned to prioritize projects to not only “be green” but make money at it, too.
Gale: “We wanted to be proactive, so we did a lot of little things. Nothing was codified at first, but in the end there has to be a bottom line…we wanted to save money.” Gale says their efforts were accepted by customers, which helped to keep the process organized. Examples: Electricity use was reduced 13%; recycling cut trash by 75 tons a year, leading to a $25,000 savings; all corrugated is now recycled, and stretch film for pallet loads on internal shipments has been replaced by rubber banding.
Muenzer: “Our SpearEARTH program started back in 2006 to differentiate us from competitors. We wanted to assume a leadership role on this issue for the industry. L.I.F.E. is so that we’re all talking the same language on environmental issues; it’s great for networking with suppliers and customers, and it drives change with metrics to compare ourselves with others.” Examples: Liner recycling saved >10,000 tons of CO2 a year; matrix recycling helped stop >18 million lbs of waste going to landfills. By reducing the net weight of its pressure-sensitive film constructions to minimize material use, Spear maximized shipping efficienc. It converted a majority of p-s labelstocks to 1.6-mil BOPP on 0.92-mil PET liner and reduced adhesive coatings to <10 gsm.
Richter: “L.I.F.E. is comparable or patterned after the ISO-14000 process. Customers refer to this standard.” Examples: A complete lighting-changeover project saw a 1.4-year payback; an annual energy audit exposed multiple areas for improvement; a 38.5% monthly reduction in matrix-waste disposal costs through recycling and conversion to fuel pellets; an average of 1,000 tons a month of waste diverted from landfills toward recycling.
Cummings: “A comprehensive regulatory review helped us avoid $100,000 in US EPA fines. No company can afford to have a supplier who’s a ‘bad actor’ in the environmental realm. We have 28 L.I.F.E.-certified facilities around the world. The program is well established and well-known outside the label industry.” Examples: Improved waste reduction and recycling saves $8,000 a year in landfill costs at just one plant; developed Proliner PP30 release liner, which reportedly puts 30% more labels on each roll compared to 2.5-mil white kraft liner, and now offers Rafcycle™ service to collect and recycle used PP liner.
My Thoughts: These labeling converters are really only four examples of the hundreds of companies across the converting and package-printing field that have taken the sustainability trend to heart. They all learned lessons along the way and were able to combine the social responsibility of environmental concern with the benefits of real, corporate financial gain in the long run.