January 30, 2009

NYC mayor plans to tax plastic bag

I just received a press release from the American Chemistry Council (ACC) berating Mayor Bloomberg's proposal to tax New York city residents on their use of grocery plastic bags.

City Hall proposed that stores charge customers a 5 cent fee for each plastic carryout bag, which would raise $84m/year for the city. New York City would be the only major U.S. city to charge its residents a tax on grocery bags, says ACC.

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January 29, 2009

Wal-Mart to reduce detergent phosphates

Phosphates doomed fate in detergent cleaners will probably be sealed this week as big box retailer Wal-Mart announced its plans to reduce phosphates in laundry and dish detergents sold in the Americas by 70% by 2011.

Wal-Mart said phosphates from detergents are a significant contributor to water pollution. Wal-Mart pointed out Procter & Gamble's Ariel Ecomax which is said to be Brazil's first phosphate-free detergent as an example of a successful phosphate reduction process by the cleaning products manufacturers.

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Chemicals: The backbone of green cleaning

As the blog mentioned in the past, there's no doubt that the green trend is very much prevalent within the cleaning chemicals market although they prefer to call it more as sustainability. Within my first day at the Soap and Detergent Association (SDA) meeting held in Florida, a sustainability wall postered with consumer product goods and chemical companies profiling their sustainability agenda for the cleaning market, greeted my arrival when I registered for the event.

Based on several interviews this week, one theme is always remarked upon: sustainability within the cleaning market is here to stay for the long run with the chemical industry as it's backbone.

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January 26, 2009

Weekly news roundup

The green blogger is attending the Soap and Detergent Association meeting in Florida and so posts for this week will be erratic (gotta do her daytime job diligently!). For now here is this week's news roundup which seem to be centered mostly on renewable energy.

Trash to Energy system
IST Energy launched its new GEM waste-to-energy conversion system, which affordably converts everyday trash into small pellets that are, in turn, converted into electricity and gas heat.The GEM is the first compact and mobile waste-to-energy system.

GM's $30m battery plant
General Motors Corp will invest $30 million in its planned U.S. lithium-ion battery pack manufacturing facility for its all-electric Chevrolet Volt. Preparation for the new Michigan plant will begin in early 2009, with production tooling to be installed mid-year and output starting in 2010.

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January 23, 2009

DuPont's PFOA progress

I have not realized how vital the use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is in many products. Which is why it is probably taking DuPont and probably other PFOA producers and consumers years to develop an alternative chemical. The company's goal is to no longer produce, buy or use PFOA by 2015 or earlier if possible.

Unfortunately, trace levels of PFOA emissions have been found as an unintended byproducts in fluorotelomer products, such as those used in repellants and firefighting foams. For many years PFOA has been used as a processing aid in the manufacture of fluoropolymers that went to a lot of products because of its versatile and durable and possess unique properties such as non-stick characteristics and heat and chemical-resistance.

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Green chem JVs

Two interesting green chem joint ventures were announced this week.

Dow Chemical and German specialty chemicals company Sud-Chemie agreed to research alternative routes in producing chemicals. Converting synthesis gas from coal or biomass to chemicals is one such route, according to the companies. They aim to make this process more efficient and economically viable using innovative syngas catalysts.

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Booming green jobs

Apologies for not being able to post yesterday as I had to line up for registration to my next class which will start on January 26. I will not regale you with the horrors of my College enrollment and instead will hopefully cheer you up (and maybe myself) with the good news of expanding green recruitment.

According to this article from BusinessWeek, sustainability is said to be one of the few potential bright spots amidst the dismal recruiting environment. Which is mostly why schools in the US are ramping up their efforts to involve green curricula in their programs. Some business schools say enrollment for sustainability electives in their MBA programs have increased over the last four years.

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January 21, 2009

Showing green muscles at trade shows

Another year starts for chemical companies to strut their green stuff at numerous trade shows.

At this month alone, Rohm and Haas is gearing up for the incoming Sustainable Package Design Expo in Florida. The company says its focus is to educate users on the sustainability aspects of advanced adhesive technologies and newer laminating products in packaging. The company will also showcase adhesive solutions and additives for bioplastic packaging.

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Green Chemistry in ICIS

ICIS Chemical Business (the magazine I work for) published on Monday several interesting articles on the fields of green and chemistry.

I already mentioned in my previous post about the growth of carbon capture technology and its potential for chemical companies. An article titled "Green is in the air" interviewed Air Products' head of the Sustainability Council, Norma Curby who said that industrial gases are a vital component to enable the development of energy-efficient products and sustainable energy sources.

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Re-fashioned Plastic Bag

Speaking about the Green Inaugural Ball last night and as everybody was talking about Michelle Obama's making a fashion statement in her "Jason Wu" gown, this press release about re-fashioned plastic bag into couture dresses caught my eye. I was thinking this type of recycled clothing should be mandatory in any green-type events.

Boutique store EM& Co opened its first art exhibit in 2009 featuring wearable one-of-a kind dress pieces made from recycled plastic shopping bags.

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Green shopping still strong

Consumers are still becoming green-conscious despite the global financial crisis according to this recent report from Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

In a survey of 9,000 consumers in North America, Europe, China, and Japan, BCG says 34% of Europeans (up 2 percent from 2007) said they would continue to systematically look for and purchase green products. In the US, 16% of consumers were reportedly systematic shoppers for green products in 2008.

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January 20, 2009

Don't rain on their green parade!

Non-profit advocate Institute for Liberty (IFL) released an announcement last week about how hypocritical green groups, celebrities and political advocates for climate change are as they celebrate today's presidential inauguration.

IFL reported that the inauguration will generate more than half-billion pounds of CO2 from the following:

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New hybrids for 2009

The recent auto show in Detroit promises continued development for hybrids and electric cars. Despite looming bankruptcy and funding problems, the auto makers promised that they will still launched these cars as previously projected.

Honda Motors said they will even start selling their next-generation low-cost hybrid cars Insight next month in Japan, followed by Europe and the US in succeeding months. Honda said it would price the Insight below 2 million yen ($22,140) in Japan, or about $5,000 cheaper than the Civic hybrid. It did not disclose the pricing for the North American market, where it wants to sell half of the new Insights and said the pricing will depend on currency exchange rate.

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Troubles in soy land

With soy-based products and chemicals conquering the biobased market, troubles over money seem to be infesting the US soybean industry. and the US Department of Agriculture is rooting out the problem.

Last month, the American Soybean Association (ASA) asked the US Department of Agriculture to investigate possible mismanaged funding and wasteful spending at the United Soybean Board (USB), which operates the national soybean checkoff and the U.S. Soybean Export Council.

The ASA is the policy-making arm for soybean growers, while the USB focuses on industry relations and market access, among other things. The Export Council is funded with checkoff and taxpayer dollars. The USB's checkoff program, which is credited for finding more uses and buyers for US soybeans, is said to have collected about $140 million in 2008 from farmers, who contribute 0.5 percent of market price from each bushel of soybeans.

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January 19, 2009

Weekly News Roundup

Excitement is in the air as the US prepares for President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration tomorrow. The renewable energy industry has high hopes that the next administration will soom implement several federal policies and mandates of clean technology use especially for electric utilities nationwide as well as aggressive reduction of oil and other types of energy imports.

Tomorrow's inauguration speech will be widely anticipated if Obama will again highlight any green agenda type.

For now, here are this week's news roundup:

Vital bio-packaging
Industrial packaging company Vital Products has started production of its bio-based foam, which will start shipping by the end of the month. The company expects sales from the foam to exceed $ 20 million by year-end.

Energy-saving contract
Honeywell received an Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC) from the Department of Energy. The contract allows Honeywell to implement up to $5 billion of energy-efficiency, renewable-energy and water-conservation projects at federally owned buildings and facilities, nationally and internationally, over the next 10 years.

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Wind power slightly out of wind

The US economic recession will slightly put the wind out of the wind energy sector this year according to several studies.

Research firm Emerging Growth Research LLP expects capacity expansion this year will contract for the US wind energy market although it will still be robust despite significant price reductions for oil and natural gas.

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January 16, 2009

Dow goes back to castor project

I remember reporting in 2001 about Dow Chemical's project initiatives in developing chemicals and plastics from castor oil. That time Dow was working with the US Department of Agriculture and Texas-based Castor Oil Inc. with funding coming from the US Department of Energy. I have not heard any related news on Dow and castor oil after that and so hopefully this latest announcement from the company will be more, shall we say, "fruitful."

Dow Chemical International Pvt. Ltd. and Gujarat-based Royal Castor Products (RCP) Ltd. said they will join hands in developing new solutions and products made from castor oil derivatives.

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January 15, 2009

CCS article from ICIS Chemical Business

Despite its complexities, the market for carbon capture and storage technology is indeed fascinating to follow. I tried my best to capture (pun intended) an overview of this market mostly on the capture part and ICIS Chemical Business just released online today my article on how the chemical industry could potentially benefit from this high-growth area.

Participants in this article include Jeff Chapman of the UK-based Carbon and Capture Storage Association; Shell's Graeme Sweeney; BASF's Andreas Northemann, Praxair's Chuck McConnell; Air Products' Steve Carney; Linde; GE Energy's Keith White; and reports from Citigroup, BCC Research, IEA and IPCC.

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January 14, 2009

Eco-lectronics at CES trade show

Several major manufacturers showed their green strategies at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Toshiba showcased several of its eco-conscious laptop computers, energy-efficient lamps and LCD TVs, and battery-assisted bicycle; LG Electronics showcased its energy-efficient home appliances and eco-designed mobile phones; Samsung displayed its new line of energy-efficient TVs and front-loading washers; and other new green products, among others, include green rechargeable batteries by UltraLast Batteries and Motorola's world's first celphone made from recycled water bottle plastics.

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Coke recycling: Bad news for plastics?

This news could be another blow to virgin polyethylene (PET) plastic producer.

The Coca-Cola company opened today the world's largest plastic bottle-to-bottle recycling plant in Spartanburg, S.C., which when fully operational, will produce around 100 million pounds/year of food-grade recycled PET plastic - the equivalent of nearly 2 billion 20-ounce Coke bottles.

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January 13, 2009

Renewable Energy in 401(k)

Would you like your company to add Renewable Energy Mutual Funds to your 401(K)?

I would. My 401K is probably so depleted by now that renewable energy funds might just be the thing to enable me to retire to Aruba. Just make sure that Madoff-type investors will be hands-off on this one.

The South Denver Chamber of Commerce is proposing to President-elect Obama to include in the upcoming economic stimulus package a federal tax credit ranging from $40 to $400 per employee to businesses that add a renewable energy fund to their employee 401(k) plans.

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Clorox launches green wipes

Speaking of green cleaning, Clorox said the natural cleaning category has grown more than 100% within the past year and its Green Works brand (which was introduced early last year) now occupies 42% of the US market to date.

The company added to the line this week its new Green Works™ Natural Biodegradable Cleaning Wipes made from 100% cellulose fibers and derived from renewable farm grown trees, according to Clorox. The wipes are said to be biodegradable in typical compost conditions.

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January 12, 2009

What's up with glycerine?

My article on oils and fats-based chemicals (also called oleochemicals) is now out on ICIS Chemical Business (ICB). According to consultants and industry players, the global oleochemicals market has been very turbulent in 2008 as the first half of the year saw high feedstock costs and high demand, while during the second part of the year, prices tumbled down and there was oversupply especially for glycerine and fatty acids.

Industry players in the US, however, are cautiously optimistic that the glycerine and fatty acids markets could see a revival in 2009, according to ICIS Pricing.

One major producer noted continuous efforts in finding long term solutions for the oversupply of glycerine. Maybe these South Korean scientists can help as they said they were able to successfully develop glycerol carbonate (GC) and 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3-HP) from glycerol.

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Solar activities still going strong

Investments in solar might be down and expected to decline according to market analysts but activities seem to be still strong as seen in several recent news. Here are some of them just the past week alone:
  • Solar in winery - Perpetual Energy Systems, a financier and developer of solar powered renewable energy systems, and Foster’s Wine Estates Americas, a subsidiary of Foster’s Group in Australia, today announces the activation of four solar installations including the largest solar energy system hosted by a United States winery.

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Weekly News Roundup

Some interesting news that came out from the past week are the further greening of electronic products and IT as reported from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas; further confirmation from the incoming US president Barack Obama on his intention to boost jobs coming from the green industry; and more planned hybrids and electric cars coming out as reported from the Auto Show in Detroit.

Hopefully, the green blogger, who was not able to go Las Vegas, will be able to get some new green product rollouts from the CES show. For now, here are this week's news roundup.

Bioplastic supply to France
Bioplastic manufacturer Cereplast has signed a distribution agreement with resin supplier A. Schulman to distribute Cereplast's Compostables® and Hybrids Resins® to converters and manufacturers in France, Benelux and Spain.

Paradigm acquired
American Green Group with its wholly owned subsidiary Eco-Built Systems, LLC will acquire the business operations of Georgia-based Paradigm Polymers, Inc., which developed products such as bio-foam insulated thermal shipping containers and the first soy based foam insulation board.

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January 9, 2009

Clean tech investments to slow in 2009

Venture investments within clean technology is expected to decline this year compared to the all-time peak experienced in 2008, according to two recent reports.

Market research and financial service Cleantech Group said some of the challenges predicted this year include twice the amount of failure rate of cleantech startups; delays in global climate change and US carbon cap and trade legislation; and shakeout in thin film photovoltaic solar because of previous over-investments and inflated valuations.

The Cleantech Group also predicts this year will be full of acquisitions of green growth assets as government and large corporation research and development (R&D) spending on energy and other clean technologies expected to be largely flat.

The group however is still optimistic about the energy efficiency market as well as investments in the wind energy sector. Other growth sectors include integrated energy management systems, smart grid, carbon content reduction in supply chains, and next generation solar materials and systems.

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January 8, 2009

More recycling woes

The green blog mentioned in November how the economic recession is driving down the demand for recycled materials. ABC News recently reported how prices for all kinds of recycled goods - cardboard, tin cans, glass, plastic, etc. - crashed in just the past two months.

The report cited for example the price of cardboard falling from $160/ton to $25/ton, and tin from cans is now priced at $5 from $200 just a couple of months ago.

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Con Edison's Transformed Oil

New York power company Con Edison says its transfomer oil has more to it than meets the eye.

No, it is not imported from Cybertron, but instead their transformer oil is going to be re-refined by the company Hydrodec into a Superfine oil, which Hydrodec says will be the world's first commercially recycled transformer oil. In the past, Con Ed says its used oil is typically burned as a fuel.

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Coconut and rice polymers

Here are two several interesting developments in the world of natural plastics.

In Texas, researchers from Baylor University have found a way to use coconut husks as a replacement for synthetic polyester fibers in compression molded composites, specifically, to make trunk liners, floorboards and interior door covers on cars out of coconut fibers.

Back when I was a kid living in the Philippines, I remember my older folks burning coconut husks as fuel for outdoor cooking and grilling (instead of the more expensive charcoal) since they are just thrown away after getting the fruit and coconut water out of it. They're also useful in polishing wooden floors.

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January 7, 2009

Green Building is still recession-proof

The consulting firm Yudelson Associates predicts that green building will continue to grow in spite of the global credit crisis and the ongoing economic recession in most countries.
"What we're seeing is that more people are going green each year, and there is nothing on the horizon that will stop this trend," explains Jerry Yudelson, the principal of Tucson-based Yudelson Associates.

Some of the drivers and trends for this forecast include cumulative growth (80% in 2008) for new LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) projects; incoming benefits from the new Obama administration; the switch from new buildings to greening existing buildings; water conservation in buildings; use of alternative energy in buildings (e.g. solar); zero net energy designs for new buildings; large number of new green housing developments in the U.S. and Canada; and European green building technologies becoming more widely adopted in the U.S. and Canada.

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The race for car lithium battery is on

While car manufacturers worldwide are planning their green makeovers (shifting production to more sustainable cars), battery producers and developers are racing to get investment loans from both private and public funding to answer the expected surge in demand for lithium ion batteries.

Experts contend that battery production problems could limit the growth of the electric car industry with lithium ion batteries currently expensive and supply still limited. According to this Dec. 15 Wall Street Journal article (thanks to Rockwood Holdings for supplying some of the articles!), current lithium ion batteries cost about $1,000 per kilowatt hour of capacity, adding $4,000 to $16,000 to the cost of a plug-in car capable of using both gasoline and electricity. The article says the car industry will need 10x-100x the manufacturing capacity that laptops need for electric cars to become a reality.

Several firms have already recently announced joint ventures and investments in lithium ion battery production. In Germany, chemical company Evonik and Daimler establish strategic alliance for the development and production of lithium-ion batteries. Battery-manufacturer Johnson Controls Inc., Milwaukee, is partnering with French-based Saft Groupe SA to build a lithium ion battery plant in France.

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January 6, 2009

Eco Recruiting now opens

I'm working on an article this week about the new breed of corporate sustainability management and out of the blue (or maybe green in my case), I received this email about Eco Recruiting and the need for qualified experienced executives especially within the alternative energy sector.

The recruitment firm Charet and Associates, who formed its new Eco Recruiting Unit, says there will be a shortage of executives dealing in alternative energy. I guess those in the financial and manufacturing sectors should start dusting off their suits and prepare their resumes. For more information, pls. check out Charet and Associates' press release below:

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Fuel cell in line for stimulus package

The fuel cell industry is among those waiting in a "growing" line for Obama's incoming stimulus package. The US fuel cell council says it will ask for a total of $1.2bn to invest in research, infrastructure, and manufacturing for fuel cell and hydrogen.

Specifically, the industry program calls for lease and purchases of fuel cells by federal civilian and military agencies for power generation and as battery alternatives, investment in supporting fueling infrastructure, improving federal investment tax credits for fuel cells and extending a credit to fuels.

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Innovation to the rescue

ICIS Chemical Business (the magazine I work for) recently featured an article on how innovation and product development enabled the chemical industry to withstood the Great Depression of the 1930s. According to historians in the article, while consolidation helped streamline the industry, creation of new value-added products helped create profitable markets as well as cut costs.

Sounds familiar doesn't it? Petroleum-based chemicals were the main focus during the 1930s and maybe this time, innovative nature-based chemicals will help lift the industry out of a slump. You can read more about the "Lessons from the Great Depression" and other interesting chemical industry predictions for 2009 at icis.com.

Here are other interesting green innovations that the green blog came across last year:

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January 5, 2009

Teijin expands bioplastic output

This summer, Japan chemical company Teijin plans to fully commercialize its BIOFRONT plastic, a stereo-complex polylactic acid (PLA) made with high-purity L-lactate and D-lactate which was introduced in 2007. Teijin says one of BIOFRONT’s noteworthy characteristics is its melting point of 210°C, a significant improvement over the 170°C melting point of conventional PLAs. At 210°C, BIOFRONT could rival that of polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), a commonly heat-resistant plastic made from oil.

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January 4, 2009

New green chemicals

The green blog is starting this year's post with a recap of environment-friendly chemicals launched last month. Hopefully this year will bring in more...

1. Rohm and Haas resin - Rohm and Haas launched a new binder, Rhoplex™ VSR-2015 Versatile Sheen Resin, to the North American paint and coatings market. The resin is low-solvent capable, contains no alkylphenol ethoxylate surfactants, and is low in ammonia odor.

2. Merquinsa Bio TPU - Spain-based Merquinsa developed the world's first ether-based Bio thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) grades marketed under the Pearlthane® ECO brand. The TPU has renewable content of up to 60%.

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