Ecoproducts saving firms some green

Comments Email Print

Whether they're downsizing plastic laundry jugs or switching from glass to plastic mayonnaise jars, consumer-products manufacturers and retailers are moving toward sustainability goals with varying degrees of fanfare.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced May 29 it had achieved its goal to offer only concentrated liquid laundry detergent in all of its U.S. and Canadian stores. Lee Scott, the company's president and chief executive officer, made that pledge in September 2007.

``The innovative thinking and strategic collaborations with our suppliers was key to making this project and commitment a success for our customers, our suppliers and our business,'' said Matt Kistler, Wal-Mart's senior vice president of sustainability, in the news release announcing the milestone.

Over three years, the move to concentrated detergent will save more than 95 million pounds of plastic resin in the United States alone, said the Bentonville, Ark.-based retail monolith.

Wal-Mart expects to sell more than 800 million units of concentrated laundry detergent by 2011.

While Wal-Mart and other retailers are touting the greenness of their sustainability efforts, some manufacturers, including Kraft Foods Inc., are acknowledging the role $100-a-barrel crude oil has played in advancing sustainability projects.

Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft Foods recently redesigned its salad dressing bottles, reducing each container's weight from 37 to 30 grams. In a June 18 e-mail, Roger Zellner, Kraft's research, development and quality director of sustainability, said the redesign benefits the environment by reducing PET usage by 19 percent, or more than 3 million pounds annually.

``Our optimized bottle design also has delivered additional sustainability benefits, including improved inbound transportation efficiency of 18 percent by allowing a greater number of bottles per truckload and implementation of reusable totes for inbound closures, eliminating the need for nearly 4,000 corrugated totes annually,'' he said.

In the U.S. market, Kraft switched its classic Miracle Whip jar from glass to plastic, which the company said has decreased its fuel consumption by 87,000 gallons annually.

``The switch to plastic means fewer trucks on the road since six more pallets of product fit on each truckload,'' Zellner said.

Method Products Inc. recently announced it has converted three of its biodegradable household cleaning product lines from virgin PET to 100 percent post-consumer recycled containers. The San Francisco-based company started conversion after U.S. trials involving its supplier, Manchester, Mich.-based Amcor PET Packaging. The bottles are stretch blow molded at Amcor's Nicholasville, Ky., plant and in February began making their way to shelves.

``When Method came to us [in 2007] on this project, we were hoping to get 50 percent [recycled] content,'' said Greg Rosati, Amcor's business director of personal care, in a June 11 news release.

More sustainability goals are on the way from processed food manufacturer H.J. Heinz Co. The Pittsburgh-based purveyor of ketchup and pickles recently announced it plans to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 percent by 2015. To do that, Heinz has an eight-point strategy that includes a 15 percent reduction in packaging and a 10 percent improvement in transportation efficiency through fuller truckloads, shifts to rail and more direct routes.

In a June 11 e-mail Heinz spokesman Michael Mullen said the company is working with its suppliers to define ``material and structural design opportunities,'' including glass-to-plastic packaging conversions.

``The potential for bioresins is very exciting from a supply through end-of-life perspective,'' he said. ``We are looking for the right opportunities to align bio-based materials against the specific functional requirements of our packaging systems.''