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KW Plastics: Caps off to Aveda's PCR use and material collection program

 
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FILED IN:  Sustainability  > Strategy
     

“Moving the bar in the sustainability direction,” according to Greener Package Awards judge John Bernardo, president of Sustainable Innovations, the Aveda Vintage Clove Shampoo container is eco-friendly from head to foot. Launched in September 2008 to celebrate the lifestyle brand’s 30th anniversary, the Vintage Clove bottle is made from 96% post-consumer recycled (PCR) high-density polyethylene and employs a 100% PCR polypropylene closure that represents the first fruit of The Estée Lauder Companies’ effort at establishing a nationwide cap collection program.

Decorated with retro-70s graphics, the 8-oz Aveda shampoo container is made from recycled milk jugs and offers “the highest percentage of HDPE recycled content so far attained for a colored beauty product bottle,” according to Karen Bopp, administrator of corporate packaging innovation for Estée Lauder. Resin is sourced from closed-loop recycler KW Plastics (www.kwplastics.com), while bottles are manufactured by TricorBraun (www.tricorbraun.com).

Says Bopp of the container-manufacturing process, “There was a lot of engineering that went into blowing this bottle to ensure that we still maintained proper dimension and tolerance.” At 96% PCR, the bottle represents a notable increase in recycled material from Aveda’s existing bottles, which contain an average of 80% PCR. Curbside recycling is recommended for the empty Vintage Clove containers—another environmental advantage of the package.

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But a greater challenge presented by the project was finding recycled PP for the twist-on closures, reveals Bopp. “When Aveda decided to create new caps from the old ones, it had to start its own recycling program,” she explains. Today, more than 600 schools and youth organizations nationwide, along with a number of Aveda salons and Experience Center retail stores, are enrolled in the company’s Cap Collection Program.

Since 2008, the program has collected more than 150,000 lb of plastic, or roughly 17 million closures, which have been cleaned, ground, and processed into new resin by KW Plastics. “The challenge is maintaining a clean stream of recycled material that can be injection-molded into new parts,” relates Bopp.

Caps for the Aveda Vintage Clove bottle are produced by Seaquist Closures (www.seaquistclosures.us) using a mold that Bopp says has fewer cavities, so the “PCR material can be controlled through the gates,” she explains. “The 100 percent PCR PP closure ran better than expected and came out of the molds rather smoothly,” she adds.

One of the goals of the Cap Collection Program, notes Bopp, is to save marine life by reducing the amount of caps littering the earth’s beaches and oceans. “Conscious consumers want to purchase high-integrity products that are healthy for people and good for the environment,” she says.

Greener Package Awards judges praise Estée Lauder’s proactive material-collection efforts. Says Adam Pawlick, corporate engineering manager for Palermo’s Pizza and Greener Package Awards chairperson, “This is a great example of pushing the boundaries on multiple fronts. The high level of recycled content (96 percent) used to be thought impossible, and the ability to utilize alternate recycled materials (in this case polypropylene) was not possible due to a lack of collection. Aveda conquered both of these through creative thinking (collecting PP caps at their salons, creating a closed-loop system) and science (how best to leverage and maximize recycled content without impacting performance or quality).

See other Greener Package Award winners

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