Vol. 6, No. 3 - October 1997

Index this issue . . .

Return to Index

Packaging Waste Reduction

North Carolinians dispose approximately 2.3 million tons of packaging waste annually; and nationwide, companies and consumers dispose twice as much packaging today as just three decades ago, from 27 million tons in 1960 to over 60 million tons in 1995. This article explores the dimensions of the packaging issue, including the reasons businesses should be concerned about packaging and steps they can take to reduce the amount of packaging they generate.

Packaging: Facts and Perceptions

Paper and paperboard, the most widely used packaging materials, represent about 40 percent of all packaging used in the country. Next are glass, wood, plastics, and metals, which comprise 19, 16, 14, and 7 percent, respectively, of the packaging used. Most of these materials can be recycled, but recycling is only a partial solution. Research has shown that the major environmental impact of packaging is not in disposal but in the production of the packaging itself. In the long run, packaging systems that use less material and recycle their components will likely provide the greatest environmental and economic benefits.

Consumers Prefer Less Packaging

Compelling reasons to use less packaging come from consumers. According to a 1995 survey by Packaging Digest, more than a third of consumers would like to see simpler packaging of less material, and 19 percent want packaging made from recycled materials. The survey also indicated that "to reduce packaging waste, 7 out of 10 households buy packages that recycle easily, half buy concentrated products in smaller packages, and 3 out of 10 buy products in larger sizes. Twenty percent say they are willing to buy unpackaged products from bulk bins, and nearly 40 percent will reject products that appear to be overpackaged." A 1994 survey conducted by Packaging magazine stated this last finding even more strongly: about one-third of survey respondents said that regardless of other factors, they would "reject products that appear to be overpackaged."

Principles of Packaging Reduction

The four principles arranged below in order of priority have helped many companies achieve substantial cost savings and effective waste reduction. If all four principles cannot be applied, companies should start at the top for the greatest impact/waste reduction.

1. Eliminate unnecessary packaging

If product integrity is not jeopardized, eliminate packaging altogether, or consider eliminating one or more layers of packaging.

Target Stores eliminated about 1.5 million pounds of waste and saved $4.5 million by eliminating unnecessary layers such as individual polybags, tissue paper, cardboard inserts, pins, collar inserts, tape, and clips in its "soft lines" merchandise. All these are now banned from Target's "soft lines" shipments.

2. Reduce packaging materials

Reduce the number and amount of materials used in packaging through the following methods:

Several years ago, Home Depot substituted lighter weight slipsheets for wooden pallets in its internal shipping operations and requested vendors to use slipsheets also. The company eliminated 36,000 tons of waste annually and saved $2 million. Its vendors have also benefited from reduced shipping costs as slipsheets cost about one-fifth and weigh 50 pounds less than pallets.

3. Reuse packaging components.

Choose reusable or refillable packaging materials wherever possible. Reuse shipping and transport packaging when distribution distances are short, deliveries are frequent, parties/customers are few, and vehicles are company owned. These features typically occur in closed-loop distribution systems. Ensure that there is adequate indoor storage or protection from weather exposure or other adverse conditions, and consider reusing raw material packaging for shipping.

Alpine Windows worked with its glass supplier to design a system of reusable straps and tarps for shipping window glass. Previously, the glass was shipped in wood crates. With the new system which attaches to trucks specially outfitted, Alpine has eliminated 4,500 crates annually and saved $250,000.

4. Use recyclable packaging.

In packaging design, consider basic issues of recyclability. For example, make packaging components easy to separate for recycling, and do not unnecessarily combine or bind distinct materials. In addition, purchase the highest levels possible of post-consumer, recycled-content packaging materials. This choice helps sustain the markets for these recycled materials and, ultimately, lowers the price of recycled-content products.

McDonald's Corporation has directed its nearly 600 suppliers to use corrugated boxes that contain at least 35 percent recycled materials and include high levels of post-consumer content; the restaurant chain's carry-out bags contain over 50-percent post-consumer content.

Packaging Waste Reduction Checklist

  • Can the packaging be eliminated?
  • Can the packaging be reduced by product modification, decreased weight/size/volume, elimination of secondary packaging, or standardization?
  • Can the packaging be composed of a single material? If not, can the different materials be easily separated?
  • Are there toxic materials in the packaging? If so, can these toxic materials be eliminated or replaced with non-toxic substitutes?
  • Can the package be returned from consumers and redistributed?
  • Can the package be refilled from bulk or larger containers?
  • Is the package recyclable in most communities? Does the package contain the maximum feasible amount of post-consumer materials?
  • Does the package contain inks, dyes, or tints that could be removed to enhance recyclability?

Return to Index

Packaging Exempted From Tax

In the 1997 session, the NC General Assembly passed Senate Bill 847, which exempts reusable industrial packaging containers from the state sales and use tax. For more information, contact Scott Mouw of the NC Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance at 919-715-6512

Return to Index

Environmental Packaging - A Manufacturer's Perspective

By Doug Smith, Packaging Engineer, IBM Corporation, Research Triangle Park, NC

IBM Corporation develops and manufactures networking and personal computer products. Since 1989, IBM has significantly reduced its solid waste stream, largely through packaging redesign.

Packaging design is a good starting point for facilities that are committed to developing proactive environmental design processes. By concentrating on efficient use of minimum amounts of the right materials, a company can optimize packaging design. Once the design is fine tuned, reuse and recycling features can then be incorporated into the package.

But environmental packaging doesn't end with packaging engineers; it incorporates ideas from employees involved in the manufacturing process as well. Once manufactured cartons and cushion assemblies are moving through the production lines, many environmental improvement opportunities can still be identified. Here are a few basic guidelines that helped IBM reduce its waste stream and cut costs:

Once these guidelines are incorporated into manufacturing, the results will speak for themselves: solid waste generation and disposal costs will decrease. As an added bonus, customers will have less material to dispose, and much of it can be readily recycled. To accomplish these results, packaging design must be attacked with creativity, innovation, and a cohesive team representing diverse areas of the facility.

Return to Index

Packaging Contacts

Organization Address Telephone/Internet Link
American Plastics Council 1801 K St. NW, Ste. 701L
Washington, DC 20006
Corrugated Packaging Council 2850 Golf Rd.
Rolling Meadows, IL 60008
Council on Packaging in the Environment (COPE) 1255 23rd St. NW Ste. 850
Washington, DC 20037
Flexible Packaging Association 1090 Vermont Ave. NW Ste. 500
Washington, DC 20005
Glass Packaging Institute 1801 K St.
Washington, DC 20006
INFORM, Inc. 120 Wall St.
New York, NY 10005
Institute of Packaging Professionals 481 Carlisle Dr.
Herndon, VA 22070
National Institute of Packaging, Handling, and Logistics Engineers 6902 Lyle St.
Lanham, MD 20806
National Wood Pallet and Container Association 1800 N. Kent St. Ste. 911
Arlington, VA 22209
Paper and Paperboard Packaging and Environmental Council 701 Evans St. Ste 400
Etobicoke, Ontario
Canada M9C 1A3
Polystyrene Packaging Council 1801 K St. NW Ste. 600K
Washington, DC 20006

Minnesota Directory of Reusable Transport Packaging

The Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance has developed a directory of vendors of reusable transportation products such as reusable plastic totes. The directory can be read on the NC Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance (DPPEA) web site. The Adobe Acrobat Reader is free from Adobe.

Packaging Information on the Internet
Packaging Online Packaging Technology Food and Drug Packaging

Return to Index

Case Study - Corning, Inc. - Telecommunications Products Division, Wilmington, NC

Corning, Inc.'s Telecommunications Products Division, in partnership with Re-Source America, Inc. (Re-Source), has developed a patented system to recover all packaging material used in the transport and distribution of Corning Optical Fiber from the Wilmington, NC, facility.

The company designed a reusable package that met the same quality requirements as new packaging material. Corning redesigned its shipping spool and added a plastic spool cover to give added protection to the fiber and the spool during shipping. The spool is then shipped in a reusable plastic container.

As each container leaves the facility, a prepaid return address label is applied, which also provides information on the return system. Customers send all Corning packaging material to Re-Source in Southampton, PA, for quality inspection. Re-Source cleans all spools and covers and inspects and returns qualified material to Corning. Material deemed not reusable is recycled.

Corning has a customer return rate of over 95 percent and a similar reuse rate. The company estimates that it has eliminated over one million tons of packaging waste with this system.

Return to Index

Did You Know You Can Replace ...

Traex, a company that makes plastic injection molded products for the food service industry, replaced stretch wrap with reusable rubber bands on pallets used internally. This change eliminated over 1.3 million square feet of stretch wrap, saved over $50,000 in just one year, and achieved payback on the rubber bands in four shifts.

Cereal giant General Mills redesigned its packaging to reduce the amount of corrugated by 30 percent, or approximately 3 million pounds per year. Instead of being packaged in corrugated boxes, cereal boxes are now held tightly between two corrugated sheets by plastic straps.

After working with its supplier to identify and test possible pallet replacements, Pepsi-Cola Bottling of Phoenix replaced wood pallets with reusable plastic pallets. The results: raw material losses have fallen dramatically, labor to repair pallets has been reduced, and wood waste has been reduced by over 50 percent.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City switched to cornstarch-based peanuts to protect the exclusive gifts it ships around the country and the world. As these peanuts are water-soluble, they can be dissolved in water or added to the compost pile. Unlike polystyrene, the starch peanuts are made from renewable resources and do not exhibit static cling.

Return to Index

Multimedia Update

Solid Waste News

IDP Grant Awarded

With a grant funded by EPA Region IV, the NC Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance is pursuing industrial solid waste reduction through an Industrial Discards Project (IDP). For North Carolina to reach its 40-percent solid waste reduction goal by 2001, it is essential that this waste stream is targeted.

The IDP will work with 50 industries within 10 industrial-based, medium-population counties to identify solid waste materials and costs and to assist with marketing solid waste materials. Two workshops will be conducted on industrial solid waste reduction, and a database of supply-side solid waste will be created to help match generators with recycling markets or users of raw material feedstock. It is estimated that over 15,000 tons of solid waste will be diverted from the waste stream over the 18-month project.

For more information, call Scott Mouw 919-715-6512 or 800-763-0136.

Water Quality News

Reducing/Removing Color in Effluent

Although the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources does not have a statewide or basin-wide effluent color limit for National Pollutant Discharge System permit holders, a number of companies and municipalities in North Carolina are subject to compliance with locally established or voluntarily imposed color limits. Local limits have typically been established as a result of citizen complaints.

To increase knowledge about existing color reduction/removal technologies, the North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance (DPPEA) is working with companies and municipalities that are currently reducing or removing color in their effluent. The DPPEA intends to promote the activities of these facilities by developing a publication of individual case studies that will discuss the type of industry, the type of effluent being treated, the reasons for implementing the color reduction/removal technology, any source reduction techniques used to reduce color in the effluent, a description of the technology itself, and the economics of purchasing and operating the color reduction/removal technology.

DPPEA intends to compile these case studies by the end of 1997 and, in association with the Division of Water Quality, conduct a color reduction/removal seminar in which these companies and others discuss existing and new techniques for reducing color in the effluent. Any facility that is significantly reducing color in its effluent through source reduction and/or non-conventional treatment techniques and is interested in participating in the case study development should call John Burke at 910-249-1480.

Air Quality News

EPA Adopts New Ambient Air Quality Standards

On July 16, 1997, EPA adopted new ambient air quality standards for ozone and fine particulate matter. The Division of Air Quality (DAQ) has determined that according to 1994-96 data analyses, monitors in 13 North Carolina counties would violate the new ozone standard. The DAQ is currently not certain which areas will be affected by the new fine particulate standard because the Division has not monitored for the fine particulates in the past. However, all counties in the state have been in compliance with the existing ozone standard since 1990, and no areas in North Carolina have ever been designated nonattainment under the former particulate standards.

The EPA plans to determine ozone attainment in the year 2000 using monitoring data from 1997 through 1999. Control strategies in the form of State Implementation Plans for areas in violation would be due from the State in 2003, with the implementation measures in place by 2005. The EPA does not plan to designate areas in violation of the new particulate standard until 2002 or later.

Facilities that are considering additional air pollution control devices should first assess the source of pollutants and then determine potential methods for reducing the associated releases through pollution prevention. For specific information on cost-cutting pollution prevention techniques for air pollution reductions, call the NC Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance at 919-715-6500.

Hazardous Waste News

DENR Enters Second Year of Partnership with EPA

In May 1995, the Environmental Council of States and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) initiated the National Environmental Performance Partnership System (NEPPS). In short, NEPPS is a set of principles mutually agreed between States and EPA to enhance environmental protection nationwide. Some of the advantages of NEPPS include increased recognition of state environmental priorities; reduced EPA oversight for strong state programs; stronger bases for combining or shifting federal funds across media; improved measures to track and communicate environmental results; elimination of duplicative realtime project reviews; and measures to reduce reporting of activities.

The actual agreement that documents State and EPA understanding of NEPPS implementation is a Performance Partnership Agreement (PPA). The 1997 PPA is the second negotiated Agreement for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). DENR's first PPA in 1996 was developed with three regulatory programs (air, water, and hazardous waste) and one non-regulatory program (pollution prevention). This year's PPA includes the state's groundwater program.

DENR realizes that North Carolina citizens have a real interest in the way environmental protection is implemented and the results measured. This year, we will be looking for ways to have meaningful public participation on implementation and to provide meaningful reports of results. For more information on this topic, contact Jimmy Carter, Chief, Hazardous Waste Section, PO Box 29603, Raleigh, NC 27611.

Return to Index

DOE Seeks NICE3 Grant Applications

The US Department of Energy is currently soliciting applications for the National Industrial Competitiveness Through Energy, Environment, and Economics (NICE3) grant. Companies can receive up to $400,000 matching grant money for the commercialization of new technologies that reduce energy consumption and waste and improve industrial competitiveness. Over the last three years, three North Carolina companies have received NICE3 grants. Applications are due December 1, 1997. Contact John Burke at 910-249-1480 for more information.

Return to Index

Calendar of Events



Date (1997)


Wastecon 1997 - Solid Waste Exposition St. Louis, MO Oct. 27-30 SWANA - 301-585-2898
The Emission Inventory: Planning for the Future Research Triangle Park, NC Oct. 28-30 AWMA - 412-232-3445
Carolina Air Pollution Control Association Myrtle Beach, SC Oct. 29-31 CAPCA - 919-859-3926
National Pollution Prevention Roundtable Lake Tahoe, NV Nov. 12-14 NPPR - 202-466-7272
WEA/AWWA Conference Winston-Salem, NC Nov. 16-19 Cindy Finan - 919-387-0646
Environmental Cost Accounting Washington, DC Nov. 17-19 IBC Conferences - 508-481-6400
EPA Region IV Pollution Prevention/Green Manufacturing Conference for Business and Industry Atlanta, GA Nov. 17-19 404-562-9362



Date (1998)


Emerging Solutions to VOCs and Air Toxics Control TBA, Florida TBA - Feb. AWMA - 412-232-3445
High Technology Safety, Industrial Hygiene, and Environmental Conference and Exhibition San Antonio, TX Apr. 14-17 Semiconductor Safety Association - 703-790-1745

Return to Index

1996 Governor's Award for Excellence in Waste Reduction

On August 19, 1997, eight North Carolina facilities were presented the Governor's Award for Excellence in Waste Reduction. This awards program continues to recognize North Carolina facilities for their outstanding commitment to protecting the environment and public health through waste reduction and sound management strategies. Below are summaries of the Outstanding and Significant Achievement Award winners.

Outstanding Achievement for Large Business

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Winston-Salem, was recognized for recycling, hazardous waste recovery, nonhazardous parts washing, ash reuse, and waste-to-energy waste reduction programs. Waste reduction activities include an enclosed automated washing system that uses a nonhazardous solvent; solvent recovery; diversion of ash from cogeneration plants; pelletization of nonrecyclable waste paper for use as a fuel supplement; and an extensive recycling program. RJR waste reductions in 1996 included 300,000 gallons of solvent recycled and another 650,000 gallons recovered for reuse or sale. The company has realized approximately $950,000 in annual cost savings and $2.7 million in annual revenues.

Thomson Crown Wood Products (TCWP), Mocksville, manufactures wood and wood-finished cabinets and storage units for audio and video equipment. TCWP's waste reduction initiatives involved substitution of a toluene glaze, implementation of a standardized set-up procedure with checklists and log books in the Banding Department, and grinding of wood waste for burning in the cogeneration facility. The company's grinding program diverted 4,689,000 pounds of wood waste from the Davie County landfill in 1996. Annual savings amount to over $850,000.

Outstanding Achievement for Small Business

The Ocracoke Island Hammock Company (OIHC), Ocracoke Island, manufactures hammocks and confectioneries. To reduce the large quantities of packaging materials generated primarily by its mail order program, OIHC implemented a cardboard reuse program. Incoming boxes are broken down and stored while other packaging materials such as Styrofoam peanuts, and shredded paper are stored in 50-gallon receptacles. The shipping department then uses these materials to package the outgoing product. The company encloses a note to customers explaining the unusual mixture of packaging materials. Since all solid waste generated on Ocracoke Island must be ferried to the mainland, the company's reuse program helps to reduce the island's uniquely expensive disposal costs.

Outstanding Achievement for Federal Facility

The Second Marine Aircraft Wing, Cherry Point, operates and maintains 151 aircraft and over 1,000 pieces of mobile equipment. In response to increasing costs, environmental concerns, and Federal Executive Order 12856, MCAS implemented the following waste reduction activities: a Hazardous Materials Control Center, an extensive recycling program including a mandatory curbside household recycling program, and use of nonhazardous solvents in all parts washers. Annual savings are approximately $4.6 million through revenues and avoided costs.

Significant Achievement for Large Business

Springs Industries, Inc., Aileen, produces wide sheeting for sheets, comforters, and other accessory lines. Waste reduction activities included implementation of reusable totes and reusable plastic pallets, employee team suggestions for process waste reduction, sizing agent reuse, and an extensive recycling program. Between 1990 and 1996, Springs reduced the amount of solid waste landfilled by 90 percent and achieved annual savings of more than $200,000.

Zimmer Patient Care Division, Statesville, produces over 2000 orthopedic and surgical products at its Statesville facility. An interdepartmental life cycle analysis of packaging materials that eliminated 4.5 million linear feet of polyolefin film and 175,000 cubic feet of polystyrene peanuts from shipping containers saved the company over $230,000. By diverting 30,000 pounds of foam offcuts to a local carpet manufacturer, the company reduces landfill costs and generates over $7,500 in income annually.

Significant Achievement for Small Business

Furst-McNess Company, Statesville, manufactures vitamin and mineral premixes for livestock feeds. Instead of landfilling excess materials at the end of a production run, the company now stores these materials and recycles them back into the same product the next time it is manufactured or provides them free of charge to the customer. With over 20,000 pounds of material reused annually, Furst-McNess realizes savings of over $8,000 as well as improved customer relations.

Significant Achievement for Government Facility

In 1993, Coastal Carolina Community College (CCCC), Jacksonville, became one of a few institutions nationally and the first in North Carolina to recycle polystyrene. The college collects the polystyrene from eating areas, and the recycling vendor supplies the baler for the material. Also, by purchasing outdoor furniture made from its recycled plastic material, the college effectively "closes the recycling loop." CCCC's more than 22 recycling programs, which divert over 70 percent (60 tons) of its solid waste stream from the landfill, have saved the college over $150,000 since 1993.

Case Studies: Achievements in Waste Reduction

The following entrants were selected as facility case studies in the 1996 awards program in special recognition of their significant contributions to North Carolina's waste reduction efforts: North Carolina Correction Enterprises - Paint Plant, Smithfield; Moen, Inc., Sanford; Outboard Marine Corp., Andrews; and Tin Originals, Inc., Fayetteville.

Return to Index

1997 Challenge Grants Announced

North Carolina businesses and industries that develop and use innovative waste reduction projects can receive up to $20,000 in matching funds under the NC Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance Challenge Grant Program. Projects selected for grant awards demonstrate ways to reduce or eliminate air emissions, wastewater discharges, and solid and hazardous waste through source reduction and recycling. Below are the recipients of the 1997 Challenge Grants.

Company County Project Grant
Alcatel Telecommunications Cable Catawba Conversion of fiber coloring process from solvent-based inks to UV acrylate pigments. $10,000
Cherokee Sanford Group Chatham Installation of wetland system to treat domestic sewage for reuse in brick manufacturing. $10,000
Georgia Pacific Randolph Water conservation by reusing corrugator singlefacer cooling jacket water and reusing treated plant washup water for making starch adhesive. $10,000
Goulston Technologies Union Installation of a thermal process to separate water from contaminents and allow reuse of the water. $10,000
Grass America, Inc. Forsyth Installation of an induction heating system to remove powder paint from paint hooks without removing the hooks from the paint conveyor. $10,000
Sara Lee Underwear Randolph Using dissolved air flotation, treat and reuse waste bleach washwater. $10,000
The Vollmer Farm Franklin Evaluate compost as a replacement for methyl bromide and commercial fertilizer in plasticulture strawberry production. $20,000
Water Ink Technologies, Inc. Lincoln Water conservation by prevention of workoff (ink that cannot be sold as is) and recycling of waste products #10,000

Return to Index

The North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance provides free, non-regulatory technical assistance and training to eliminate, reduce, or recycle wastes before they become pollutants or require disposal. For additional information about any of your waste reduction concerns, contact DPPEA at (919) 715-6500 or 800-763-0136.

DPPEA-97-52. October 1997