Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment
Fisherville, Ontario, Canada
Tel. 416 410-0432, Fax: 416 362-5231
Vol. 18, No. 4, March 17, 2014
Honoured Reader Edition


From time to time we ask our Honoured Readers, those receiving the no-fee edition of Gallon Environment Letter to resubscribe. This serves two purposes: to help us manage our subscriber lists, and to confirm that all who receive Gallon Environment Letter actually want it. Now is the time for resubscription. Please click on or copy and paste the following link into your browser and answer our very simple three question survey - a 30 second task. The link for the GallonLetter Honoured Reader resubscription is

Please respond by March 31st 2014. If you do not respond your Gallon Environment Letter Honoured Reader subscription will terminate. You may not be able to resubscribe because new registrations to our free subscription will end on May 1st 2014, after which date only our paid subscriptions will be available. However, free subscriptions will continue for the foreseeable future for those who have them as of 1st May.
This is the honoured reader edition of the Gallon Environment Letter and is distributed at no charge: send a note with Add GL or Delete GL in the subject line to Subscribers receive a more complete edition without subscription reminders and with extensive links to further information following almost every article. Organizational subscriptions are $184 plus HST/GST and provide additional benefits detailed on the web site. Individual subscriptions are only $30 (personal emails/funds only please) including HST. If you would like to subscribe please visit If you feel you should be receiving the paid subscriber edition or have other subscriber questions please contact us also at This current free edition is posted on the web site about a week or so after its issue at  Back free editions from January 2009 are also available there.
Our theme for this issue is plastics, possibly one of the more controversial environmental topics these days. However, plastics are not all bad and many of the environmental risks associated with use of plastics could be reduced if all members of global society became more environmentally responsible. We have numerous articles about the use of plastics in society, products and packaging. 

This issue also includes a guest editorial from a retired Energuide home energy auditor. He makes some excellent points. We follow up with an article on how Energuide currently works.

Next week the biennial GLOBE business and sustainability conference opens in Vancouver with a number of bioeconomy sessions. GLOBE 2014 coverage will be included in the theme of Bioeconomy in our next issue. We will also include a review of a new book from William McDonough and Michael Baumgart on Upcycling. Meanwhile, we hope you find this issue both entertaining and informative. We welcome your comments on items from this issue or on any other environment and sustainability for business topic. Send comments to We will publish a selection of comments received.



Although plastics are often put into the ‟bad for the environment" category, we conjectured in thinking about the theme of this GallonLetter that it is quite unlikely that there is a home in Canada that doesn't have plastic in it, on it, under it, and around it somewhere. This is not to mention products/equipment received that have been processed, stored in, bulk packaged or otherwise associated with plastic somewhere in their lifecycle. A lot of products, including textiles, have plastic ingredients e.g. nylon and polyester fibres commonly used in clothing, cushions, carpets and other textiles Although plastic water bottles and retail grocery bags have been the focus of much of the attention, there are a multitude of other plastic packaging and product types, much of which is not collected for recycling, that is used in the consumer, commercial and industrial sectors.

One estimate is that global plastic resin production uses about 4% of global consumption oil and gas with another 3-4% of global oil and gas used for product manufacture. Packaging is about a third of global plastic resin use. Only a relatively smaller portion of packaging resin is used for bottled water and plastic shopping bags although one-time use of packaging in general contributes to unsustainability. Increased uses are being made of plastic in applications such as automobiles, airplanes, home appliances, electronics, medical devices, and buildings.

Plastic packaging can be used to provide social benefits and reduce environmental impacts. For example, shelf stable packaging can avoid the use of refrigeration for such products as juices, yoghurt, milk, even meat and other high spoilage items. One of our articles on trends in packaging states that packaging's role in food waste prevention isn't appreciated enough. Food safety issues are often also addressed through plastic barriers. A plastic liner, such as in winter coats, provides wind and rain protection reducing the amount of material needed to provide the same function. As the population ages, the plastic protection in hygiene products provides social benefit for people who otherwise might be confined by incontinence. Plastic is used to assist in recycling and composting. For example, blue, grey and green bins as well as kitchen organics bins are commonly plastic and when our blue bin was cracked, we used another plastic product, one type of many available as duct tape, to give the bin (so far) another six years of life.

Plastic kitchen catcher bags are often allowed for green bin collection because it encourages residents who might otherwise balk at cleaning of smelly green bins and kitchen collectors. Toronto is one of the few to allow conventional plastic while others specify certified compostable plastic bags. Toronto also collects diapers and sanitary products in the green bin. The City, in response to critics who say that this process results in less diversion and lower quality of compost than the city claims, is "The disposal of plastic residue is the responsibility of our contractors. Our contracts specify that our residue must go to our own Green Lane landfill. It is only residue, however, that goes to landfill. There is no evidence anywhere that Toronto's Green Bin organic material goes directly to landfill or incineration." and "It is an excellent soil amendment (mixed with soil at a ratio of one part compost to four parts soil), a sustainable resource, and meets stringent Ministry of the Environment standards."

As illustrated by one of our articles, plastic can reduce weight for fuel reduction in transportation of packaged products. More plastics are being used for their reduced fuel use benefits in vehicles. Plastic products sometimes can be more durable than equivalent products of other materials. Polyvinyl plastic is often problematic because of toxic emissions during production and in indoor settings, off-gassing but its long life makes its life cycle impacts less negative than many people think for applications such as house siding.

Concern about plastics is high in relation to marine debris but also includes other issues such the use of non-renewable fossil fuels. Plant-based plastics are trending upwards even though still a very small fraction of all resins. The plastic bottles used for water may be as much an issue about water than of plastic although a holistic approach to reducing one time use of packaging of all kinds may be needed. Recycling challenges relate to the wide range of plastic resins and are further complicated by different recycling equipment and techniques as well as the different chemicals such as clarifiers, light stabilizers, plasticizers, and other agents used in plastics production depending on the purpose, type of plastic, and other features of the plastic and product. Recycling is further complicated by mixtures of plastic and laminates, difficulties with forms of plastic such as film, and poor collection systems resulting in justified criticisms about poor recycling rates for some plastics.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Franklin Associates, one of the pioneers of the science of lifecycle analysis related to packaging, has released a report that it prepared for the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA).

As with all lifecycle analysis, the conclusions depend on use of lifecycle inventory databases and key assumptions which should be read along with the conclusions. The study has the goal of trying to assess what would happen to greenhouse gas emissions and energy demand if plastic were substituted with alternatives (tinplate/steel, aluminium, glass, paper, cork, rubber, textiles and wood).

A list of key assumptions is provided. Other factors which might enter into decision-making about packaging choices such as water consumption and non-renewable resource depletion are not addressed.

Because of the large scope, data for broad categories of packaging, rather than details of individual packaging for products, was used. The categories are:
  • Beverage packaging
  • Carrier bags
  • Shrink and stretch film
  • Caps and closures
  • Other rigid packaging (includes the subcategories non-bulk rigid packaging, rigid protective packaging, and rigid bulk packaging)
  •  Other flexible packaging (includes the subcategories converted flexible packaging, flexible protective packaging, and flexible bulk packaging)
Further details are provided for what is included in these categories and what is not.

For the US and Canada substituting non-plastic alternatives for plastics is shown to produce 2.3 to 2.5 times the greenhouse gas emissions than does plastic. Canadian plastic packaging use was approximately 1.6 million metric tonnes in the time frame studied which would require more than 7.1 million metric tonnes of alternative material..

Energy savings for using plastics in Canadian packaging compared to substitutes are reported as 210 billion MJ, equivalent to the ‟energy saved by taking 3 million passenger vehicles off the road for a year, or the energy content of 35 million barrels of oil, 190,000 tanker trucks of gasoline, 80,000 railcars of coal, or 18 supertankers of oil."

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


At the top of the stairs to the Urban Eatery, opened in 2011 at the downtown shopping mall in Toronto, the Eaton Centre, is a sign which states "Real cutlery, real plates, Really good". Aside from the fact that even plastic is real, presumably the marketing appeal is that food is served on ceramic/glass and the cutlery is metal.

Some of the vendors seemed to be more diligent about serving in reusable glasses, bowels and plates which were sorted from waste by employees clearing the tables for washing in a "state-of-the-art dishwasher with dual rinse and energy recovery system". Making some indent into waste, but the reality seems to be a large number of food items still served in one-time use containers: lots of beverages were sold in plastic bottles and cups, meals in polystyrene foam plates and containers, and paper coffee cups. The proportion of reusable dishes and glasses didn't seem that high given that the eatery is supposed to have 100,000 dishes and 20,000 glasses in circulation. The large volume of waste should have made recycling feasible and the website says, "Millions of pieces of packaging containers, cups and plastic cutlery diverted from landfill" although it wasn't clear what percentage of the total waste produced these represent.

GallonLetter notes that, while effort is laudable, lack of follow-through is not uncommon and this significantly reduces the potential benefit. For example, we regularly see drinkware labelled as compostable for which the only provided end-of-life option is a garbage bin. Compostable material such as drink cups is potentially beneficial if it is sent for composting, otherwise except if it escapes as litter not much.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Among the most interesting presentations at the Growing Sustainable Bioeconomies, the title of the annual Growing the Margins conference which seeks to expand the role of agriculture in the economy, was Dr. Gord Surgeoner's from Ontario Agri-Food Technologies. OAFT has created a series of videos on innovative companies using agricultural products for non-food purposes. The presentation listed 15 of these called "Game Changers in Agriculture." Included are biofuel companies, plants used for drugs and for the purpose of this GallonLetter, bio-based plastics.

Examples included
  • Competitive Green Technologies (Leamington): using technology developed at the University of Guelph has commercialized producing bioresin from the grass miscanthus to mix with recycled plastic in order to produce eco flower pots.
  • GreenCore Composites (manufacturing facility in Sarnia): use of cellulose and wood fibre to replace glass fibre and other compounds such as plastic in formed products as well as packaging and building products for both consumers and industry.
  • Polymer Specialities International (Newmarket): biodegradable plastics e.g. mulch film as well as laboratory services and ecotoxocity testing.
  • Woodbridge Foam (Woodbridge): plastic resin made from agricultural crops e.g. soybeans for automotive products such as roof liners and seat cushions.
  • Advanced Micro Polymers Inc. (Milton) (see separate article)
Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Normally when body shops paint vehicles, they use plastic tape and sometimes paper to mask areas that they don't want to paint e.g. windshields, tires, mouldings. This generally takes a lot of time and labour, plastic film makes dust control more difficult and when the tape is removed, adhesive may not be easy to remove. AMP sells a Liquid Spray Mask which is applied by paint spray equipment or brush to serve the masking purpose fixing any dust without stirring it up. According to the company, after painting, the mask can be washed off with no residue. Made of natural sources such as wheat, potato, corn and soy, it is said to be made with no solvents so there are no hazardous air emissions common to body shops such as volatile organic compounds.

The company also produces other products from polysaccharide based natural polymers such as
  • liquid mulch e.g. for nursery pots, city parks, railways which allows the existing plants and seeds to grow but reduces water loss and any weed seeds landing on the mulch won't grow because the mulch is dry. The mulch is said to degrade in 3 to 8 months.
  • binders for use in water based adhesives and glue formulations
  • resin for water based inks for cartons, polycoated paper, polyfilms, metallic inks. Can be the sole resin or mixed with acrylics for better water resistance.
Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Little bricks of plastic called Lego have become a feature of modern life since their introduction over 50 years ago. The recently released The Lego Movie is said to have been made using 3,863,484 different bricks. The main character Emmett, a lowly conforming-to-the-rules construction worker, (a nobody who saves everybody in the Lego Universe from Lord Business/President Business/The Man Upstairs who is plotting to destroy the world with Crazy Glue) is a Lego Minifigure. And of course the movie is a promotion for Lego products as enthusiasts are asked to help Emmett "build a Getaway Glider and escape from the robots with a Piece of Resistance." When we asked a little boy who had seen the movie, what he thought about it, his father answered, "Awesome." Spoiler alert: Lord Business comes round to not destroying the world which is a good thing given that Lego is big business (see separate article). At Legoland theme parks, the movie is further promoted with some events targetted specifically at girls.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Double digit sales growth primarily in France, Spain, Russia and China is due to expansion of the "product portfolio", according to Lego's 2013 annual report with new products making up 60% of the sales each year. Innovation is driven by "trend spotting and anthropological studies." The company is building new factories in Asia to serve that market even though sales in Asia are still relatively small. According to the company’s annual report,"LEGO Group was the first toy company to sign on the United Nations Global Compact to support human rights, labour standards, anti-corruption and environment issuing a Responsibility Report 2013 (COP report) which is compliant with the statutory statement of corporate social responsibility required by the Danish Financial Statements Act. "

Lego's Responsibility Report

 According to the 2013 Responsibility Report, when the Massey Ferguson tractors became popular with Danish farmers in the 1950s, the plastic toy tractor toy became more popular than wooden toy tractors. The company says LEGO bricks made of polyethylene plastic have strength, durability, clutch power and colour fastness for the unique LEGO play experience. Using 68,000 tonnes of raw materials, about 30% of greenhouse gas emissions are from extraction and manufacture of raw materials. The company says it has a goal of moving into more sustainable materials by 2030 to reduce the total impact without trading off between different environmental impacts.

Some of the considerations include:
  • how the material is found e.g. crude oil sourcing
  • whether materials are plant or oil based
  • how material is processed.
  • cooperation with material suppliers to develop more sustainable materials
As well as material, changes in the design of elements is also under consideration: since 10% of the environmental impacts are due to packaging, reducing environmental impact includes reducing the size of packaging which also reduces cardboard, sourcing raw materials responsibly and innovation to reduce impacts. This improves the ability of consumers to handle product and retailers need reduced shelf space. In 2013, 100% of new products were offered in reduced size packaging. More than 90% of paper materials for core line products is Forest Stewardship Council FSC certified. Goal is that by 2015, all paper used for printed material, packaging, building instructions, brochures and in-store material will be FSC certified.

Zero Waste in Manufacturing

Working towards a goal of zero waste, the total waste generated was 14,590 tonnes of which 90% was recycled. The company grew but the total waste only increased slightly. Recycling of other material not used in LEGO brick making has improved by 11% since 2012.

Every tonne of plastic recycled saves two tonnes of CO2 emissions
Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Chaired by Malcolm Brodie, Chair of Metro Vancouver Zero Waste Committee, the 2013 conference held in October 2013 had keynote speakers such as Dame Ellen MacArthur, a UK foundation promoting a circular economy, Michael Baumgart, known for Cradle to Cradle, and Dr. Richard Swannel Director of Design and Waste Prevention WRAP UK on food waste. GallonLetter's editor moderated the session called The Art and Science of Zero Waste which included Laurel Miller, partner in a.m. associates and co-author of "Why Shrink Wrap a Cucumber." Other sessions included supply chain innovations chaired by Alan Blake, Executive Director PAC Next.

The National Zero Waste Council was launched to advance the national waste prevention and reduction agenda. A panel consisting of founding members included
  • Alan Blake, Executive Director PAC Next
  • David Lawes, Manager, Waste Prevention, BC Ministry of Environment, and Co-Chair CCME Waste Task Group
  • Shelley Carroll, City Councillor, Ward 33, City of Toronto
  • Michael Buda, Director of Policy and Research, Federation of Canadian Municipalities
The session's moderator and introduction to the Council: Malcolm Brodie , NZWC Chair aa well as being Chair, Metro Vancouver Zero Waste Committee. Membership is available for free at this point in time to "local, provincial, federal or territorial government entities; for-profit businesses or business organizations; not-for-profit organizations; or other public or academic entities." Potential members must submit documentation including among other involvement, a statement of intent regarding a commitment to waste prevention and reduction, significant acceptance of the goals and policies of NZWC. and not using membership to promote commercial interests.

Metro Vancouver’s 4th Annual Zero Waste Conference, and the National Zero Waste Council AGM (Vancouver) will be held September 16, 2014.

Metro Vancouver. Zero Waste Conference 2013. October 16, 2013.

National Zero Waste Council. Ottawa, Ontario.


Better packaging, not less packaging, should be the focus of the packaging sector and stakeholders, according to a report by a Swedish research firm Innventia. The reason for optimizing packaging rather than minimizing it is because of the need to prevent food and product waste. In developing countries, food waste such as damage and hygienic problems due to poor packaging performance amounts to as much as 50% in the developing world compared to only 3% in the industrial world. In most cases, the amount of energy and material used is much higher for the contents compared to the packaging so waste of the contents is a bigger concern leading to the report concluding, "Too little packaging is often more harmful to the environment, than having too much. The solution should be right weighting and not light weighting."

Commonly-held assumptions about the sustainability of materials do not take into account the complexity involved. For example, those emails that say "Consider the environment before printing this email" assume that printing on paper is more environmentally demanding than reading the document online but the reports says, "Whether or not this is true for any given case naturally depends on a host of factors, such as how the electricity that powers the computer was generated and how often the document was read." Packaging perceived as excess may not actually be so. For example, a recyclable cardboard box around a plastic toothpaste tube may be seen as excess but if the box were eliminated the tube might have to be made thicker for the same level of protection, making it heavier.

The report suggests that the use of nanotechnology is promising, for example nanocellulose would make paper packaging protect food better but public opinion and regulations regarding nanotechnology may hinder this development. Nano-enhanced paper is seen as reducing the need for multi-material packaging and the various plastic materials increasing recyclability by reducing need for separating materials or down-cycling them due to contamination. Also mixed materials tend to increase the carbon footprint of the package e.g. in a carton package aluminium is only a small percentage of the total package but can represent as much as 50% of the carbon footprint.

More recyclability and more use of renewable materials are also needed although consideration of the lifecycle of the packaging have to be taken into account. For example, glass is often identified as "sustainable" because it is highly recyclable but glass is much heavier than plastic and requires more energy from transportation.

Economic incentives to reduce the carbon and ecological footprint of packaging are being led by countries such as the Netherlands which is levying CO2 taxes on packages and setting targets for recycling.
Sustainability of Plastics

One of the advantages of paper in terms of sustainability is that paper is made from renewable resources which gives paper an edge. Paper generally doesn't provide much protection against liquid and gases which is why products such as cookies which used to be wrapped in paper are now wrapped in plastic. Development of plastics from plant-based sources may change this advantage in GallonLetter's opinion. GallonLetter's parent company is working with a company making compostable plastic from plant-based sources; plant-based plastic may also be sourced from plants but be non-biodegradable e.g. the bottles used at the London Olympics provided by Coca Cola. So far these latter types of plastics are more acceptable in the marketplace because they tend to have similar features to conventional plastics for production and are recyclable in the same systems as conventional plastics.

Green Consumer Trends and Lifestyle Changes

In an online survey of 1500 respondents in the US, Sweden and India, Indians had more green concerns than Swedish or American respondents. For example, 69% of Indians said they wouldn't buy products for environmental reasons rather often or very often while 33% of Americans and 34% of Swedes replied in those categories. When asked whether they would reject buying a product based on what was perceived to be bad packaging, 60% of Indians responded compared to 21% of Americans and 20% of Swedes. Emerging economies may be the driving force for environmental change complicated by changing trends in lifestyle and consumption.

Although lifestyle changes are difficult to predict some trends identified by the report include:
  • simple and easy to use packaging for older people. Wrap rage and injury to people trying to open difficult to open packages are increasing flustration with packaging. Only 6% of American respondents had children needing child-proof containers while 30% of Indian household did.
  • health concerns about packaging additives and desire to avoid use of preservatives
  • more convenience foods, snacks and ready-meals. This is identified as a megatrend. One aspect of this trend is ready composed grocery bags and boxes containing complete dinner menus for the week and the necessary ingredients.
  • on-line delivery. Packaging robust enough for the consumer to pick up from the store shelf and carry home may require additional secondary packaging for protection in order to be delivered by mail or courier.
  • demand for "fresh" food may drive modified atmosphere packaging to prolong shelf life of fresh produce and packaging to reduce the risk of foodborne diseases which have been the subject of food recalls such as packaged leafy greens
  • exploration of the potential for edible packaging, e.g. coating of fruits and vegetables which preserves them eliminating the need for plastic packaging.
  • smart packaging e.g. temperature indicators on packaging which show that the cold chain remains unbroken and packaging-based measures against counterfeiting including food and pharmaceuticals.
  • more sophisticated optical scanning and sorting technology to improve recycling of plastic. GallonLetter notes we have already seen such technologies for sale at a number of European exhibitions but adoption here is Canada seems low.
Innventia. Global Trends in Packaging 2020. Stockholm, Sweden.


According to a recent report (for sale by research marketing company Research and Markets), returnable transport packaging systems are used in supply chains by almost every sector, mostly due to savings accrued from such use although actions on corporate responsibility may also be drivers as reusable packaging reduces waste. Examples of reusable packaging in use include plastic totes, containers (plastic and metal), pallets (plastic, wood and steel), and drums and barrels.

GallonLetter notes that a floral greenhouse operator here in Haldimand County, RosaFlora, ships flowers in tall plastic buckets partially filled with water, Air shipped flowers don't use the returnable buckets but most other applications do. The buckets filled with flowers can be seen used as is in local grocery stores and are also transported in trucks to supply longer distance and returned for reuse the next time. If more products were produced locally, there is also a potential for environmental benefits from reusable packaging for consumers. For example, a local dairy Hewitt’s packages organic milk for Harmony in both cartons and glass; we have been buying organic milk in glass bottles for years, returning them when we buy new bottles of milk. In some ways, it develops store loyalty because there is no other place around here to get our favourite milk and when we return the bottles we usually buy other food products along with the milk.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Recommendations of PVC use for LEED certified buildings illustrate some of the problems of making decisions about plastic. The technical committee reviewing polyvinyl use for LEED certified buildings concluded that avoiding PVC for resilient flooring would be better for human health, but switching from PVC to aluminium window frames, aluminum siding or cast iron pipe would be worse than PVC. Ensuring that PVC materials are not burnt in backyards or landfills would improve the profile of PVC for piping, windows and siding. The committee report stated that it is too blunt an instrument just to eliminate one problem material as the replacement could be as bad or worse.

Low to no maintenance helps to gain PVC siding and windows some of its benefits despite toxic emissions during its manufacture. GallonLetter's editor in his youth bought what may once have been a cottage overlooking Lake Ontario with what was called Insulbrick siding. Now being more environmentally aware perhaps we wouldn’t but then we put on vinyl siding which included some insulation as well as PVC trim for windows and never picked up a paint brush or maintenance tool for the cladding or trim of the house for over 20 years and we suspect the next owners didn't either. Critics of LEED use of PVC say PVC siding does get painted or isn't as no maintenance as claimed but we certainly didn't find the need to do anything at all.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


While the industrial, commercial and institutional sector may also dispose of waste in private landfill, ICI waste also is sent to city landfills. The City of Calgary has targeted a waste diversion strategy to divert 80% of waste from city landfills by the year 2020. Waste disposed to the City's landfills in 2010 by weight was from:
  • single family: 29% or 199,000 tonnes
  • multi-family: 12% or 86,000 tonnes
  • construction and demolition: 20% or 137,000 tonnes
  • ICI: 39% or 265,000 tonnes
Four categories within the ICI sector contribute 51% of the ICI waste:
  • manufacturing: 8%
  • health and social assistance: 11%
  • retail trade: 15%
  • accommodation and food services: 17%
These four contributors to ICI waste along with two categories of other waste, organics (food and yard waste) and fibre (paper and cardboard) are to be targeted to achieve the strategy. Staff recommendations are expected for April 2014.

In terms of ICI waste composition (City of Calgary 2011) materials disposed at City landfill are:
  • paper: 36%
  • food and yard: 26%
  • other: 11%
  • plastic: 9%
  • metal: 8%
  • wood pallets: 7%
  • glass: 3%
Key stakeholders were chosen based on their roles with ICI waste including:
  • Associations and agencies: e.g. Alberta Beverage Container Recycling Corporation, Calgary Hotel Association, Calgary Board of Education
  • Haulers which collect ICI waste: e.g. The Garbage Company, BluPlanet Recycling and Super Save Disposal
  • Generators: e.g. London Drugs, Alberta Health Services, Telus Convention Centre and Safeway
  • Processors: BFI Canada Inc., Cascades Recovery and Waste Management
  • The City's W & RS which is generator, hauler and processor
The stakeholders groups discussed economic, regulatory and voluntary program options with particular focus on cost of diversion, incentives, waste diversion progress, education and communication. Input was grouped into a modified Federation of Canadian Municipalities planning model.
Type of programs discussed included:
  • differential tipping fees: a list of specified materials would generate fees for loads of that type of material different from general Municipal Solid Waste tipping fees. One suggestion was that because of the high amount of paper waste, that recyclable material such as cardboard be on the specified material list.
  • landfill levy. All material to be disposed of (rather than recycled) at the landfill would be subject to a disposal levy.
  • mandated recycling and source separation by business e.g. separate collection containers or proof of material diversion
  • franchising to allow the City to control the ICI waste collection streams including targets and diversion mechanisms
  • landfill bans with loads containing the banned material rejected from disposal at the landfill
  • regulation of private sector waste services: requirement that waste haulers must provide recycling services as part of their contract for disposal of waste.
  • Mandatory waste audits and waste diversion plans: business would be required to have plans and waste diversion targets.
Voluntary ICI Waste Diversion Programs:
  • technical and information assistance to companies which lack capacity or technical knowledge in waste diversion
  • online waste exchange
  • promotion and education within the ICI sector including recognizing businesses with good initiatives and certification of businesses which achieve diversion standards
  • expansion of food redirection to food banks and shelters.
  • extend residential recycling and organics collection to businesses.
  • zero waste special events. In order for event organizers to get a permit, they must include waste diversion plans to achieve a certain target.
  • working group on waste diversion of the ICI members to achieve common goals for waste diversion.
As usual, there were also barriers and challenges listed and a preference by the stakeholders for incentives rather than disincentives.

For this issue's theme, GallonLetter notes that plastics weren't a focus for the higher priority. One of the criticism of plastics is that it can last a very long time but in landfill everything, even food waste and wood, can last a very long time.
Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


A factsheet on the news page of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, with members worldwide, discusses why some plastics are currently not recycled. The information was supplied by Sam Haig, Axion Consulting, who was one of the speakers at the 12th European Gasification Conference in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 10–13 March 2014 which is run by IChemE. Haig predicts that new technologies are being developed which will improve the recycling of some plastics while allowing use of lower grade plastic to be converted to fuel resulting in an end to landfilling or incineration of plastic.

Among the issues affecting plastic recycling are:
  • rigid plastics are easier to transport and handle in recycling compared to plastic films which get mixed up in other materials such as paper, retain moisture and get more contaminated than rigid plastics. Plastic films are also more difficult to identify.
  • many films are multi-layer which makes them more difficult to reuse to meet specific standards for products.
  • consumer demand is encouraging beverage manufacturers to move towards closed loop for their bottles.
  • market value of recycled clear PET and HDPE is much higher than for other plastics such as PP, PS and PVC or coloured PET/HDPE. Clear PET and HDPE are mostly used for drinks making those plastics the most easily sorted for polymer type to produce food grade plastic for remanufacture into a food bottle. Because PP is often used for non-food packaging, it cannot be reused for food grade plastics and its value is lower.
  • sorting is key to keeping contamination low so that different plastic types can be used for recycled products. Some plastics such as PP are not often collected curbside because it is less easily sorted and even if it is, is often used for fatty foods or cosmetics which means it must be washed more thoroughly than other plastics.
Note: Polyethylene Terephthalate PET
Low Density Polyethylene LDPE
High Density Polyethylene HDPE.
Polypropylene PP
Polystyrene PS 
Polyvinyl Chloride PVC

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


A report by Rexam PLC based in London, UK, a company which makes beverage cans and plastic packaging gives statistics on global packaging trends from 2011-2012.

The global US$395 billion consumer packaging market is detailed as end use:
food 51%; beverage 18%; healthcare 6%; cosmetics 5% and other consumer 20%.

Detailed in materials:
paper & board 34%; rigid plastic 27%; glass 11%; flexible plastic 10%; beverage cans 6%; other metal 9% and other 3%.
Plastic including both flexible and rigid plastic accounted for 37% of global consumer packaging. Rigid plastic is expected to grow at a faster rate 4% (2010-2015) than consumer packaging as a whole 3% because of such features as lightweight, convenience, safety, transparency and microwaveability.

Changes in age, increase in single person households, longer shelf life, smaller portions, and convenient and time-saving products affect packaging as do some sustainability concerns such as ethical sourcing, recycling, concerns about excess packaging. Health and well-being as well as a combination of indulgences vs value for money are also factors affecting packaging.

One interesting comment in the 2011-2012 report said that for beverages, "In developed markets of North America, Australasia and Western Europe, consumption is sluggish and at worst shrinking. More and more people are assessing their liquid intake in an overall nutritional context." It appears consumers want their beverages to do something besides quench thirst such as boost the immune system, improve skin and hair and otherwise provide more perceived benefits. But as consumers in developing countries gain income, they spend more money on what the report calls "commercial refreshment." Not only the BRIC market (Brazil, Russia, India and China) but the MAVINS (Mexico, Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Nigeria and South Africa) are 'picking up the baton" in the recovery of the beverage marketplace.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Annex V of the international convention known as MARPOL (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) seeks to reduce the amount of garbage dumped from ships, including food, domestic and operational waste except for fresh fish. The Annex prohibits disposal of any plastic anywhere at sea and limits other types of garbage disposal in special areas such as the Mediterranean, North Sea, Wider Caribbean Regions and other areas. Different rules apply depending on the type of operation or size of the ships e.g. ships of 400 gross tonnage or certified to carry 15 persons or more and every fixed or floating platform used for exploration or exploitation of the seabed must record disposal and incineration. The convention rules apply only to the extent to which the signing countries write them into national legislation. Canada is a signatory to the mandatory sections Annex I and II and additionally Annex III. Canada has not signed on to Annex V but has garbage rules under the Canada Shipping Act and regulations.

Historically, people regarded the ocean as so vast that the marine environment wasn't affected by human garbage. However, according to the UN agency The International Maritime Organization IMO overseeing the agreement "Garbage from ships can be just as deadly to marine life as oil or chemicals. The greatest danger comes from plastic, which can float for years. Fish and marine mammals can in some cases mistake plastics for food and they can also become trapped in plastic ropes, nets, bags and other items - even such innocuous items as the plastic rings used to hold cans of beer and drinks together."

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


A framework called the Honolulu Strategy under the auspices of the UN Environment Programme and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program around which civil societies, governments and the private sector can work towards achieving goals by 2030 to deal with the problem of marine debris was developed after a series of international technical conferences, the fifth one held March 2011. The framework seeks to address marine debris as a "complex cultural and multi-sectoral problem that exacts tremendous ecological, economic, and social costs around the globe."
As well as including any human-sourced, manufactured or processed solid material such as plastics, metals, glass, concrete, paper, polystyrene, rubber, wood, rope, textiles, hazardous materials such as munitions, asbestos, and medical waste, marine debris often includes the vessels  whichmay become derelict or be abandoned. Vessels contain many types of materials including hazardous materials and may lose their cargo.

Reliable data on amounts, distribution and impacts of marine debris as well as how to prevent it and reduce impacts at the global, regional, national and local scales has big gaps.

Some of the research specifically mentioning plastic include:
  • chemical exposure and bioaccumulation from plastics to living organisms
  • identification and quantification of microplastics. Note: microplastics are very small plastic pieces e.g. from personal care products where they are added as part of the product or from the breakdown of larger pieces into smaller and smaller pieces
  • development of new technologies such as truly biodegradable polymers meeting ASTM standards for biodegradation in the marine environment.
  • evaluation of biodegradable materials to reduce impacts of pots, traps, and gill nets
  • evaluation of biodegradable plastic processes and how they related to microplastics
Among the causes of marine debris are "inadequate solid waste management practices, product designs that do not consider life-cycle impacts, consumer choices, accidental loss or intentional dumping of fishing gear or ship-generated waste, lack of waste management infrastructure, littering, and the public’s poor understanding of the potential consequences of their actions." The strategy approves of bans and other initiatives and regulations restricting materials such as plastic.

As well as land-based sources of marine debris, at sea issues include
  • cruise and cargo ships, ferries, recreational boats, fishing vessels, military vessels, aquaculture operations and offshore oil and gas platforms.
  • catastrophes, major mechanical failure e.g. explosion, rough seas, legal and illegal dumping
  • lack of enforcement in coastal waters and on the high seas increases volume of illegal dumping. One of the goals is enforcing monitoring and enforcing compliance with requirements of MARPOL.
Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Canadian company based in Montreal, Fednav won the Environment Award jointly with The North American Marine Environment Protection Association (NAMEPA) at the inaugural Lloyd’s List North American Awards held in Houston on February 20, 2014. It was one of 17 awards handed out by the news service, Lloyd's List, which just converted to entirely electronic at the end of 2013 after being what it describes as the worlds oldest print publication for the shipping sector. Sponsored by Svitzer, an international marine services company provides towing and salvage, the Environment award is given to an individual or company who contributes to improving the environment through offshore & on-shore projects; technology advancements in shipping and shipbuilding; training and education; or public awareness campaigns.

Fednav is an owner-operator company of dry-bulk carriers worldwide. The company recently ordered twelve new ships for delivery 2015 and 2016 with 28% lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to ships built for the company a decade ago. Fednav has an environmental policy and third party verification of annual targets and the actual results. The company helped to fiound Green Marine, a voluntary environmental initiative in Canada and the US with a goal to improve environmental performance.


In regard to the theme of this issue about plastic, Fednav's environmental policy says that:
  • owned vessels have a Garbage Management Plan consistent with Annex V of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL)(see separate article); employees are trained on proper garbage management including minimizing garbage generation and garbage segregation at source.
  • Vessels are instructed to ask suppliers to reduce use of plastic packing material and to dispose of lining and packing material at port reception when possible.
  • on board incinerators are not recommended to be used for waste which could be recycled. Enough financial support is provided to support waste disposal onshore.
Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


The agrochemical company MANA Canada asks farmers to choose "crop protection" products based on whether the chemical makers supports environmental stewardship like CleanFARMS, an industry organization to collect empty commercial plastic pesticide and fertilizer containers and bags as well as unwanted pesticides. "Not all crop protection companies support CleanFARMS initiatives, so if you're buying products off the boat or from out of the country, make sure that the manufacturer supports CleanFARMS or your purchase may undermine agriculture's environmental credibility, or even do damage to the future of your own livelihood." Whether retailer or grower, the promotional flyer continues, "The cost of recycling and helping to keep our industry green is large. But the cost of the environment and our future if we do not commit to environmental sustainability is even larger" and "We are all part of the same industry, and we need to show the world that Canadian farmers take environmental stewardship seriously."

MANAwhich produces such chemicals as herbicides, fungicides and insecticides is a subsidiary of Makhteshim Agan Industries, Ltd. (MAI) Israel which is said on its web site to have global sales (2011) of over US $2.69 billion, making it the sixth largest global agrochemical company.

GallonLetter agrees that dealing with pesticide contaminated agricultural plastic is a good step but the widespread use and misuse of the pesticides is more likely to be the bigger concern regarding environmental sustainability.

MANA Canada Crop Protection. MANA Canada committed to environment. in promotional flyer called The Dirt on Crop Protection. 2014. [printed]
[GallonLetter didn't find the publication on the company's web site which arrived as an insert to Ontario Farmer, a weekly newspaper.] The company web site is

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


In November 2013, India's Drug Technical Advisory Board recommended "that in the first phase, the use of plastic / PET containers in liquid oral formulations for primary packaging of paediatric formulations as well as formulations meant for geriatrics, women in reproductive age group and pregnant women should be phased out and banned. However, the pharmaceutical industry may be given an adequate time of six months for smooth switch over."

The discussion which led to the recommendation related to leaching said to occur faster under the warm and hot conditions which India is prone to and the aging of the packaging. Chemical additives leaching from the plastic were said to cause environmental and human health effects due to:
  • "direct toxicity, as in the case of lead, cadmium and mercury;
  • Carcinogens, as in the case of diethyl hexyl phthalate (DEHP); and
  • Endocrine disruption, which can lead to cancers, birth defects, immune system suppression and developmental problems in children."
Other leaching was said to include other phthalates and antimony. The pharmaceutical industry used to use glass bottles.

Pharmaceutical Industry: PET Is Safely Used Globally

The Indian Pharmaceutical industry writing to India's Minister of Health and Family Welfare regarding the recommended ban on PET bottles for oral liquids and tablets said the "these recommendations are unjust as they seem to be based on neither robust scientific facts nor on established global practices." India like other countries has standards relating to use of food materials in contact with foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals and drinking water. PET is not on the list of 10,000 substances the US Environment Protection Agency is testing for endocrine disruption, common phthalates used as
plasticizers are not used for PET bottles, studies indicate that PET has low migration propensity, risk of antimony migration from PET bottles is negligible according to the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Recommendations on the City of Orillia's Waste Minimization Plan in December related to diapers based on research by Lakehead University students under the guidance of Dr. Christopher Murray. Some of the findings were:
  • in large regional municipalities, diapers can be collected in the Green Bin program for food organics and processed in anaerobic digester or high temperature compost tunnel.
  • contamination from fecal matter results in contamination of groundwater from landfilling.
  • in Orillia, diapers make up 7.5% by weight of residential garbage collected at the curb or about 300 tonnes a year.
  • Orillia's windrow composting is unsuitable for diapers and the City's Wastewater Treatment Centre isn't designed for treating diapers.
  • no known facilities currently recycle or compost disposable diapers locally
The recommendation was for the city not to pursue recycling diapers until there is a market and there is support by the product manufacturers.

The City had previusly endorsed a resolution to ask the Ontario Minister of the Environment to include "disposable diapers, adult incontinence and feminine hygiene products as a designated waste under section 23 of the Ontario Waste Diversion Act. Such a measure would require that an industry funding organization be set up to financially support the recycling of these materials. The Minister of the Environment responded to the City in a letter dated June 10, 2010 by indicating that “Branded organics, which could include items such as diapers and other absorbent hygiene products, have been identified as a priority category for consideration in the long-term waste diversion schedule”.

GallonLetter notes that both lifestyle and aging population are pushing up the production of adult diapers. One story from Japan estimates that adult diaper sales mostly related to elder care have doubled in ten years. Some people also use diapers for convenience to avoid lining up for washrooms in a society that is highly crowded..

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.


Municipalities and agencies such as the Waste Diversion Ontario are uncertain about planning, as Bill 91 (Waste Reduction Act, 2013) would change waste and recycling in Ontario if approved by the Ontario legislature before an election call.

A report updating the City of London's Civic Works Committee on the Ontario proposed Waste Reduction Act and related matters for financing the Blue Box Program was presented by Jay Stanford, Director, Environment, Fleet and Solid Waste on February 3, 2014.

Bill 91 (Waste Reduction Act) and the related Waste Reduction Strategy, introduced June 6, 2013 and in second reading would affect recycling, organics and residential garbage handling in Ontario depending on whether a provincial election is called. Key provisions of the legislation include:
  • shifting costs of the Blue Box to producers.
  • requiring producers to leave generic industry funding to funding their own waste diversion Industry Stewardship Plans. Examples of proposed ISPs are for:
  • consumer batteries - Call2Recycle
  • beverage containers - Canadian Beverage Container Recycling Association
  • pesticides, solvents and fertilizers - Product Care Association
  • paint and coatings - also Product Care Association
The Canadian Stewardship Services Alliance Inc CSSA was formed by manufacturers and retailers to support stewardship initiatives across Canada to avoid costs of multiple programs in each province. Stewardship Ontario which deals with Blue Box and special waste in Ontario is part of CSSA.

Stanford wrote that while product manufacturers known as stewards are supposed to pay 50% of the Blue Box Program, the rates are based on best practices and the stewards pay less than the actual 50% with a possible growing gap in the future between the theoretical calculation and the actual costs. Negotiations about what stewards will pay in 2014 have stalled and may be subject to arbitration in April or May.

Risks and Benefits

If producers continue to use the city waste collection system, the new act could benefit taxpayers by increasing the amount of funding. However it is possible that producers could find other options for recycling which could bypass the city system.

If designated materials enter the waste stream or are littered, there is no compensation paid to the city. It may be that City may have to implement disposal bans on designated materials but these are often controversial and difficult to enforce.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.

Guest Comment by P.K. Thompson BSc, Retired Energy Auditor with forty years experience based in Halifax Nova Scotia. 

Programmes on energy efficiency such as Efficiency Nova Scotia need legislative and other measures to help low income citizens and tenants and there are no signs of moving in this direction. For example, someone might need a couple of thousand dollars to install a heat pump and even then would not achieve significant cuts in the power bill if the basement remains uninsulated. Many low income people don't have "a couple of thousand dollars."

Since starting the first private home energy audit service in Canada in 1977, I have done more than three thousand home energy audits. Just a few years ago I did 500 Energuide audits and helped train new energy auditors. In many cases our clients were very well off….and simply using the Energuide Audit to access expertise after hearing my many Maritime Noon phone-in discussions concerning energy conservation.

It was a great struggle to get senior citizens on low income to part with the $150 fee, and in many cases I tucked the cash in a flowerpot on the way out the door. They had no money to pay for much of anything, so those who could use a caulking gun I taught to reduce their air change rate by 50% and they got credit for that work under the program. Ottawa complained because they wanted to generate greater economic activity from retrofits. Sales of products and services generates tax revenue. Savings from do-it-yourself energy conservation reduces government revenue.

Many tenants have been badly hurt financially by landlords who shut off boilers in uninsulated old houses, and then install electric baseboard heating and separate meters so each tenant pays their own heat. While user pay is a very good idea, it should be illegal to do this unless the building is fully insulated to Energy Code standards, at the landlord’s expense.

Furthermore, some energy auditors have existing conflicts of interest, for example I have seen many suggest blowing cellulose in walls as a solution, when the basement was completely uninsulated, and then set an appointment to come by on the weekend, with their personal business van, and blow the walls “for a good price”.

Citizens should never pay for professional expertise, in energy or any other field, when it is given to generate sales to the advisor. This practice, although not applicable to all Energuide auditors, must be eliminated to improve the accuracy of recommendations to clients.

Finally, the greatest weakness in the Energuide program is the lack of professional ranking of auditors based on experience and training.

I achieved a Red Seal level of expertise after more than 10,000 hours in people’s home solving quite complex energy problems. But the Energuide program pays people with two weeks experience, at the same level. This is ridiculous.

The program designers claim that it’s really the computer software that does the analysis. After helping to create all the residential energy software in Canada, I can tell you nothing could be further from the truth.

Edited slightly by GallonLetter


According to Natural Resources Canada, "An EnerGuide home evaluation is a service offered under the EnerGuide Rating System initiative and is the first step in smart home renovations that will improve the energy efficiency of your home. Join over one million homeowners in Canada who have already obtained an EnerGuide evaluation." An Energuide for New Homes was introduced in 2006. Both scales run from 0 to 100 with 0 being an old home with little upgrades with a rate of 0 to 50, a new home built to building code with little to no energy standards at a rating of 70 to 76, a high efficiency new home 81 to 85 and a net zero house is 100.

An Energy advisors evaluates the house at all levels including a test to measure air leakage. The advisor provides a report of the rating of energy efficiency along with advice on how to retrofit or upgrade for energy efficiency. A label indicating the Energuide label can be put on the home's electrical panel. If the rating is high, it could mean annual savings in energy costs, increased comfort and the rating could be a selling feature when the current owner sells the house.

The Conservative government has been criticized for its dropping and underfunding of key energy conservation incentive programs related to Energuide compared to the previous government, for erratic stops and starts in programs which set the companies involved in energy auditing and energy efficiency upgrades on their ears as well as discouraging home owners whose energy conservation measures would help themselves and the environment. A view of some of the effects on this economic sector and the effects on climate change is given by both rants, comments and considered opinion supported with statistics on the blog Clean Break when an energy retrofit incentive program scheduled to run to March 2011 was cancelled a year early. This blog is said to be a personal project written by Tyler Hamilton but obviously it is connected also to his role at Corporate Knights. He is associate publisher and editor-in-chief of Corporate Knights magazine and former business columnist for the Toronto Star, adjunct professor of ecostudies at York University; author of Mad Like Tesla:: Underdog Inventors and Their Relentless Pursuit of Clean Energy, published by ECW Press.

Paid subscribers see links to original documents and references here.

If you enjoy Gallon Environment Letter or find it useful for your work or interests, may we recommend the GallonDaily report. Found at , GallonDaily provides short articles and reports on topics of particular interest to green businesses. One article appears almost every day Monday to Friday - we recommend visiting at least once a week. Our real enthusiasts can also sign up for email notification as new articles are posted.
Recent topics include:
  • Environment and the Canada Korea free trade agreement
  • Useful renewable energy work proceeds even without Canada
  • Car sharing could be a good GHG emission reduction strategy for business
  • US Secretary of State Kerry issues order for strong action on climate change
  • How well do we understand water use?
  • Sustainability in Packaging conference highlights key waste issues
  • Portable power from fuel cells
  • Wind turbines are more widespread in the US than many have recognized
  • Conference promotes move to bioproducts
  • GHG emissions trading providing environmental and economic returns in 9 states
Copyright © Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment
119 Concession 6 Rd Fisherville ON N0A 1G0 Canada. Fisherville & Toronto
Send Letters to the Editor, for possible publication, to

All rights reserved. The Gallon Environment Letter (GallonLetter for short and GL for shorter) presents information for general interest and does not endorse products, companies or practices. Information including articles, letters and guest columns may be from sources expressing opinions not shared by the Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment. Readers must verify all information for themselves before acting on it. Advertising or sponsorship of one or more issues consistent with sustainable development goals is welcome and identified as separate from editorial content. Subscriptions for organizations $184 + HST = $207.92. For individuals (non-organizational emails and paid with non-org funds please) $30 includes HST. Subscription includes 12 issues about a year or more.