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Keurig Switches to PP But Has Long Recycling Journey Ahead

By: Heather Caliendo 20. April 2016

After a decade of listening to complaints about the lack of recyclability of its K-Cups, Keurig, Reading Mass., recently announced changes to its packaging but will they be enough for critics?

 

The company will introduce initial coffee varieties in a new recyclable K-Cup pod later this year. Keurig stated it has a goal for 100% of K-Cup pods to be recyclable by 2020.

 

The material of choice for Keurig is now polypropylene. However, just simply switching to PP isn’t going to automatically solve recycling woes. For one, there’s still some work required of the consumers as the lid and filter of this PP pod have to be peeled away after use before the pod can be recycled. Also, consumers will also have to find out if PP recycling is available in their area. And beyond that, with regards to the facilities that can accept it, reportedly the pods’ small size can impact the automatic sorting and screening equipment at single-stream processing plants.

 

Keurig says that it is working to solve the challenges of sorting and capturing the K-Cup pods. In a statement, the company noted:

 

So for some time now we have been working to better understand the current state and trends in the recycling industry and are collaborating with plastics experts and the recycling community to ensure our new recyclable pods can successfully make the journey from home recycling bin to a plastics reclaimer where they can have a second life. This work is critical since the 600+ materials recovery facilities (MRFs) in the U.S. and Canada do not use standardized equipment, resulting in variation in what materials are accepted and how they are sorted.  

 

Keurig is working with Resource Recycling Systems, Ann Arbor, Mich., to run tests in three different U.S. communities. The tests started with thousands of recyclable K-Cup pods in various configurations – white and dark cups, single and stacked cups, and intact and separated cups. The company mixed the cups with about 70 tons of incoming recyclable material at each of the three MRFs, and ran the equipment for about two hours in order to process all 70 tons. 

Keurig says that the tests confirmed that the majority of the test pods made it past initial material screens and were available to be properly sorted and processed.

 

Keurig will conduct more tests to gather additional data. With a goal of optimizing the capture of small PP items, Keurig is using RFID chips affixed to each pod to track exactly where each and every pod goes after entering the MRF.

 

The company has also joined other consumer goods companies and retailers in the Closed Loop Fund (CLF, New York, NY), a social impact fund investing $100 million to increase the recycling of products and packaging in the U.S. Keurig is investing $5 million over five years to the fund and participating on the Fund’s Advisory Board as an initial investor. Recently, CLF announced the funding and development of a plastics recovery facility in Baltimore, Maryland that will increase #3-7 plastic recovery rates and divert an anticipated 650,000-plus tons from landfills over the next 10 years.  

 

The company also announced it has joined The Recycling Partnership, Arlington, Virginia. To date, The Recycling Partnership’s efforts have directly touched 72 communities representing more than 1.2 million households and counting. The group has leveraged the distribution of 165,000 curbside recycling carts, which are projected to increase the amount of material collected by 251,500 tons – with an economic value of $18 million – over the next decade.

 

Given that it sold more than 9 billion non-recyclable K-Cups in 2015 alone, it was imperative that Keurig find a recycling solution. But making the switch to PP is just the first step in its long recycling journey.

 

 

Connected: The Factory of the Future Is Closer Than We Think

By: Tony Deligio 20. April 2016

“Enabling humans to collaborate with machines, in a real-time, two-way exchange.”

 

That would be the result of implementing a “Connected Industrial Workforce”, according to a new study released by Accenture Consulting. Despite a somewhat whimsical title—Machine Dreams: Making the Most of the Connected Industrial Workforce—the report points to some very down-to-earth benefits to such worker/machine connectivity, including significant gains to productivity, improved operational efficiency and enhanced safety and risk management.

 

Taking a step back, what exactly does a Connected Industrial Workforce look like? According to Accenture, in a factory this would include technologies like collaborative robots (or cobots, an issue we tackled here), augmented reality devices (“smart” glasses and helmets relaying data to workers and sending it back to a central hub), smarter machines (think equipment that talks to workers and other machines), and the souped-up IT infrastructure needed to run all this.

 

Smart glasses on the shopfloor might be some ways off (but not for Lockheed, according to Popular Mechanics), but one area that has already seen adoption would be autonomous guided vehicles, or mobile robots that move materials and products around a warehouse. According a survey of 500 executives in the U.S., Europe, and Asia conducted by Accenture, such vehicles already account for half of Connected Industrial spending by companies today with an even greater share anticipated in the future. Fully 39% of companies in the survey already assign injection molding machine output to collaborative robots.

 

The survey also found that the same organizations plan to increase investments in cobots and the aforementioned augmented reality devices, over the next five years. Where’s all this headed? According to 85% of respondents:

 

They expect the focus of technology in manufacturing to evolve from human to human-machine-centric, where collaborative machines, humans augmenting machines and autonomous machines are combined to create a more effective workforce.

 

Fully 85% of those polled expect the concept of a Connected Industrial Workforce to be commonplace in plants by 2020, but that’s not to say some challenges aren’t anticipated, with 85% describing their companies as digital followers. What’s the hold up? Security concerns and the shallow skills pool, with 76% worried about data vulnerability, 72% concerned over system vulnerability and 70% fretting about a shortage of skilled workers.

 

That’s not to say the field will not continue to progress, despites these and other challenges. Respondents estimated up to 25% of their R&D expenditure over the next five years would go toward connected industrial workforce technologies, at a value of €181 billion ($205 billion) for automotive companies and €39 billion ($44 billion) for industrial equipment companies.

 

Back to those “machine dreams”; the classic sci-fi movie Blade Runner, which turns 35 next year and features some “cobots” that are not in a very collaborative mood, was based off Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”. Nearly 50 years after its publication, maybe we’ll find out what cobots or fully connected processing machines dream about when their shift has ended in the near future.

Accenture Connected Industrial Workforce

Where’s Your Production Going; Where Has It Been?

By: Tony Deligio 20. April 2016

“How do you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been?”

 

That quote courtesy of Craig Porter, president and owner of custom injection molder PlastiCert Inc., Lewiston, Minn. PlastiCert was among Plastics Technology’s inaugural group of 25 World-Class Processors based on their responses to the 2015 World-Class Processor survey.

 

I interviewed Porter following his company’s selection and the above quote was in response to my asking him why his company tracks all the different production metrics covered in our survey. As he elaborated, the ultimate goal for PlastiCert was to “establish a baseline of how you perform to standard.”

 

We’re once again seeking participants in that survey, click here to take it today, with the goal of helping individual companies, and the industry at large, establish that baseline and track performance.

 

Approximately 50 questions, with segments devoted to profile info, operational metrics, human resources, and business/processing strategies, the anonymous survey’s complete results will only be shared with companies that participate. Take some time today and figure out where you’ve been and where you’re headed

 

2016 Plastics Technology World-Class Processor survey

Slideshow: Largest Ever Molding Conference Completed in New Orleans

19. April 2016

Check out images from the largest ever Molding Conference in terms of attendance, presentations, exhibitors and sponsors.

 

Held from March 29-31 at the Westin Canal Place in New Orleans, Molding 2016, the 26th edition of the venerable event and second since it was acquired by Plastics Technology parent Gardner Business Media, was by nearly all measurements an unqualified success. There were 237 attendees ranging from machinery, material and services suppliers, as well as molders, moldmakers and OEMs. They had their choice of 53 different presentations and the chance to speak with the event’s 14 exhibitors and seven sponsors about the latest in injection molding.

 

Over two and a half days, attendees could sit on presentations covering a variety of topics, including emerging technologies, robotics/automation, tooling, materials, process monitoring/control, mold qualification, simulation, materials drying/blending/conveying, and medical and automotive molding.

 

The breadth and depth of topics covered is of a kind with Plastics Technology’s editorial mission, according to Rick Kline, Jr., Group Publisher.

 

“Gardner views the Molding Conference as an extension of Plastics Technology magazine, connecting and informing molders to help them improve their operations. The line-up of speakers and sponsors reflects Plastics Technology’s core mission to provide insights into the latest technologies as well as practical advice to improve day-to-day manufacturing.”

 

Please enjoy this slideshow of the event and watch this space for details on Molding 2017, currently planned to Charlotte, N.C. next spring. 

Start Slideshow

GM Recycles Water Bottles to Produce Chevy Equinox Part

By: Heather Caliendo 13. April 2016

The Detroit auto giant is recycling employees’ water bottles into noise-reducing fabric insulation that covers the Chevrolet Equinox engine.

 

I came across this interesting recycling story from General Motors: the company is taking recycled water bottles and turning them into the noise-reducing fabric insulation that covers the Chevrolet Equinox engine.

 

GM says that while all its global facilities recycle their water bottles, for this project, the bottles collected at five locations are now funneled into its “Do Your Part” project, where 11 businesses collaborate to give them a second life. The air-filtration components are used in GM facilities to protect air quality; and the insulation goes into Empowerment Plan coats that transform into sleeping bags.

 

“Recycling is good, but viewing waste as a valuable resource that can be plugged into your operations or products is even better,” said John Bradburn, GM global manager of waste reduction. “It’s about rethinking the process and finding more sustainable ways to manufacture products and contribute to our communities.”

 

GM says that sourcing recycled material provides the same costs while also saving energy and reducing waste.

 

Each partner engaged in this initiative brings specific capabilities. Hamtramck Recycling bails the plastic bottles collected from GM’s world headquarters at the Renaissance Center, as well as at the Warren Technical Center, Orion Assembly, Flint Tool and Die, and Flint Engine plants. Clean Tech Inc. washes the bottles and converts them to flake. Unifi Inc. recycles the bottle flake into resin. Palmetto Synthetics processes the resin to create fibers and William T. Burnett & Co. processes the fibers into various forms of fleece, serving all three applications.

 

Rogers Foam Corp. die cuts the fleece and EXO-s attaches it into the nylon cover for the Chevrolet Equinox V6 engine. The part helps further dampen engine noise to deliver a quiet ride.

 

•Filtration Services Group works with New Life Center, a nonprofit jobs development and training mission in Flint, to make the panels for the air filtration fleece, which is then sent to 10 GM facilities.

 

•The coat insulation is sent to Carhartt, a workwear company established in Detroit in 1889, who cuts it to size for The Empowerment Plan.

 

GM also is working with various organizations such as Schupan Recycling in Flint to collect additional water bottles to plug into the project.

 

GM uses recycled content in many of its vehicles. Cardboard from various GM plants is recycled into a sound-dampening material in the Buick Verano headliner; plastic caps and shipping aids from its Fort Wayne facility are mixed with other materials to make radiator shrouds for the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra; and test tires from Milford Proving Ground are shredded and used in the manufacturing of air and water baffles for a variety of GM cars.

 

GM PET bottle recycling




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