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Sustainable Minds and Spartech Join Forces To Reduce Plastic Footprint

RP Siegel | Tuesday September 27th, 2011 | 1 Comment

I thought I would run this piece as a follow-on to last week’s story about Method and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Sustainable Minds (SM) is a widely recognized company that makes software tools to help engineers evaluate design options from a sustainability perspective. Spartech is a leading producer of plastic products with a commitment to sustainability that has led to a number of environmental awards. So, it should come as no surprise that when the two of them came together to form a strategic alliance, it would likely be a good thing for the planet.

I spoke with Terry Swack, the CEO of Sustainable Minds about the announcement. She referred to Spartech as a “strategic customer,” that uses Sustainable Minds software in every product and who has operationalized eco-performance in every aspect of the business. In return, through their interactions, Spartech has helped Sustainable Minds increase their dataset for plastics with the addition of 80 new impact factors for thermoplastic materials, additives and processing operations, giving them the largest dataset in the industry.

Sustainable Minds software is used for eco-concept modeling. It facilitates quantitative benchmarking information for proposed designs through Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) thereby enabling designers to choose the greenest option. “Information,” says Swack, “is data put into context.” The quantification was originally derived from the Okala Impact Factors but the company has recently updated their methodology.

The software is “on-demand” which means that the application and its datasets reside in the cloud, where they can be continuously updated, thereby providing users with an evergreen view of the latest understanding regarding the relative impact of the various materials and processes that are commonly used to make products. They call it “Software as a Service.”

Spartech is now standardizing on SM software. According to Jeffrey Best, Director of Marketing at Spartech, “all of our product development and commercialization teams will routinely calculate environmental impacts associated with our products and will discuss the data with our customers. One of our goals is to improve the sustainability of our products without compromising container integrity and performance. We also want to use a set of data that is widely adopted across all industries and academia to ensure transparency and impartiality in how the data is calculated.”

As an outcome of their collaboration, Sustainable Minds not only collected a number of existing impact factors, but created a number of new custom impact factors that are specific to a given industry or product type, something that Sustainable Minds sees as a key part of their offering.

Some of the companies that have used SM software in their product designs include: Yakima, who has used it in their back racks, Celestica, a large contract electronics manufacturer, as part of their Green Chain Solutions,  a toolset that helps customers “to create new, differentiated products, comply with environmental legislation, reduce cost and their environmental footprints, and protect their brands.” The product is also used by consultants and educational institutions.

Spartech, which just opened a new Technology & Innovation Center this summer, appears to be a company that dispenses knowledge as much as it does plastic.

In closing, I will say what I said last week about plastic packaging.

In order to satisfy the nine planetary boundaries, the goal should be to ultimately do away entirely with the very concept of disposable packaging. To be truly sustainable, any approach that depends on recycling, unless 100% participation can be guaranteed, should be based on renewable materials that are designed to break down completely into non-toxic components, preferably as food for somebody, when released to the environment, be it on land or in the ocean.

Hopefully, with the work that Sustainable Minds and Spartech are doing, we can achieve that goal sooner, rather than later.

RP Siegel is the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water.  Like airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.

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  • http://www.fishwise.org FishWise.org

    Cool idea and technology. Looking forward to its implementation in the seafood industry.