e-cigarette in use

New Liquid Nicotine Packaging Regulation Enacted in 2016

According to a statement released by The White House on January 28, 2016, President Obama signed into law “the ‘Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act of 2015,’ which requires the packaging of liquid nicotine containers to be subject to existing child poisoning prevention packaging standards.” The new bill necessitates that any liquid nicotine sold or imported into The United States adheres to standards and testing procedures determined by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (the CPSC in part sets measures that make it more difficult for children to ingest harmful materials).

liquid nicotine

Liquid nicotine is used in the increasingly popular e-cigarette. Also commonly known as vaporizers, these devices work by heating a mixture of liquid nicotine, flavoring, water, and a liquid base (such as propylene glycol or glycerin). The liquid is heated to its boiling point, after which it becomes a vapor that can be inhaled. 

Packaging standards like this are nothing new–the Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970 (of which the Nicotine Poisoning act is now a part) is responsible for the requirement of child safety features on myriad hazardous products, including prescription drugs and over the counter medication, and chemicals such as turpentine, methanol, or acid. It was only a matter of time before liquid nicotine products became included in this act–in 2015, there were over 1,500 reported exposures to e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine in children under the age of 6. Liquid nicotine is especially problematic with children, as it can be dangerous through skin contact alone.

International Organization for Standardization logo

Child-resistant packaging standards are tested and determined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)–specifically, child-resistant packaging falls under ISO 8317:2015, which outlines “…performance requirements and test methods for reclosable packages designated as resistant to opening by children.” Testing also covers how accessible the packaging is to able-bodied adults. Liquid nicotine packaging will likely now include a child-resistant cap.

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Waste and Opportunity 2015: As You Sow

As You Sow, a sizable organization that works “to promote environmental and social corporate responsibility…” recently ran a report on the packaging industry’s overall performance in regards to sustainability and packaging. Their Waste and Opportunity 2015 analyzed the practices of several large companies and found that to varying degrees, they all “…are wasting valuable materials through poor packaging sustainability policies – to the tune of $11.4 billion a year.” Many of these companies do not take responsibility for their actions, either, as they are not only wasting valuable materials, but are also greatly contributing to pollution.

As You Sow’s report analyzed 47 major companies based on four core practices of sustainability, ranking them on their overall performance:

  1. Source Reduction: using less materials and switching to those which are reusable if the option is available.
  2. Recycled Content: using recycled content when creating new products, which they point out “…helps create a market for recycled materials and requires far fewer resources.
  3. Recyclability and Materials Use: avoidance of materials that cannot be recycled easily.
  4. Boosting Materials Recycling: when possible, make it easier for consumers to recycle products after use (this more so applies to brands which have established storefronts, where they can have designated recycling bins).

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States from 2012, some types of packaging materials are better than others. Recovery rates for plastics are extremely low–only 13.8% of these materials are recycled. Glass and aluminum are also moderately poor, at 34.1% and 38%, respectively. Paper and paperboard products ranked the highest, at 76.1%, though they note that these rates are skewed “…primarily due to high recycling rates for corrugated cardboard; only 25 percent of all other types of paper packaging is recycled.” Steel packaging does moderately well: 72.2% of these materials are able to be recovered.

As You Sow highlights how their core practices of sustainability can be put into use in both the fast food restaurant and consumer packaged goods markets, and gives examples for each:

For fast food restaurants, reusable cups and dining-ware should be available (like at Panera and Starbucks). Use of recycled content should be maximized (Starbucks and McDonald’s), and companies should entirely avoid materials that are difficult to recycle (like the foam cups from Chick-fil-A).

As for consumer packaged goods, more reusable and bulk options should be made available, and goals should be set to increase the use of recycled content (PepsiCo is off to a good start, while Coca-Cola is lagging behind). Companies should also be designing packaging that is easy to recycle: Capri Sun is a very common bad example in this department.

In their 5 key actions brands must take to drive packaging sustainability, As You Sow points out that brands should be disclosing their production information on the creation of packaging that we don’t have very much information on (like plastic pouches), stating simply that “what gets measured can get managed.” They also note that “some companies generate millions in revenue recycling corrugated cardboard,” and brands who do not already should be capitalizing on this. Lastly, if companies do feel the need to be using materials that are hard to recycle, they should be working with processors “…to develop new, cost-effective recycling processes to ensure they are recycled. All brands need to fund new investments in materials market development…”

As You Sow says it best: “It’s time for companies to step up and take the lead on recycling.”

What is Direct Trade?

CCC_DTCseal_CCCThis week, we’ll be taking a look at the idea behind direct trade. A few weeks prior, we discussed the practice of fair trade: it’s an agreement that allows producers in developing countries to sell their products at a fair price, helps to keep their products sustainable, and makes sure their workers are being treated fairly. Fair trade acts as a sort of partnership which aims to make sure that no one is being taken advantage of.

Some consumers take issue with fair trade for a multitude of reasons, the most prevalent of which involves a lack of substantial evidence proving that fair trade practices positively impact the very countries which it claims to benefit, and that much of the money does not even go to the farmers who produce these goods (or their economy). Some critics claim that while fair trade is a good idea in theory, in practice, fair trade has “…evolved from an economic and social justice movement to largely a marketing model for ethical consumerism.”

Regardless of your opinion on fair trade, direct trade is worth taking a look at. It’s seen by many as an alternative, better, and more personalized version of fair trade. One of the biggest names in direct trade certification belongs to the co-owner of Counter Culture Coffee, Peter Giuliano, who self-identifies as a student of coffee (despite being in the industry for decades). He is also the director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

Direct_trade_1

Counter Culture Coffee boasts its own direct trade certification. According to their site,


“Counter Culture Direct Trade Certification is based on the principles guiding our coffee purchases and our relationships with coffee growers and grower groups. We engage an external auditor on an annual basis to verify Counter Culture’s compliance with four quantifiable measures, and coffees that meet the following standards qualify for Direct Trade Certification:

  1. Personal & direct communication: Counter Culture has visited all growers of certified coffees on a biennial basis, at minimum.
  2. Fair & sustainable prices paid to farmers: Counter Culture has paid at least $1.60/lb F.O.B. for green coffee.
  3. Exceptional cup quality: Coffees have scored at least 85 on a 100-pt. cup quality scale.
  4. Supply chain transparency: Counter Culture maintains direct communication between buyers, sellers, and any intermediaries (like importers). All relevant financial information is available to all parties, always.”

If you’ve read our fair trade post, you’ll probably recognize many of those practices. The difference is that with direct trade, a lasting relationship is built with the growers. Additionally, rather than meeting an extensive list of requirements (many of which may not apply to some growers, and may completely exclude those who are poor), requirements are personalized. In this way, direct trade is built to directly benefit the growers.

What is Fair Trade?

Fairtrade

In your time spent as a consumer, you’ve probably seen items labeled ‘fair trade,’ or ‘fair trade certified.’ You likely have a general idea of what this means; that one thing is being traded for another, and the terms of doing so are fair for everyone involved. What is it specifically, though, that makes something fair trade?

At its core, fair trade is an idea. It allows producers in developing countries to sell their products at a fair price, helps to keep their products sustainable, and makes sure their workers are being treated fairly. It’s a sort of partnership which aims to make sure that no one is being taken advantage of.

One of the main groups supporting this idea is the World Fair Trade Organization. Here are their 10 Principles of Fair Trade:

  • Create opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers, which helps to increase quality of life and reduce poverty in their region
  • Transparency and accountability with management, commercial dealings, employees, and producers.
  • Fair trading practices, always keeping in mind the well-being of the producers (socially, economically, and environmentally).
  • Payment of a fair price, which has been agreed upon mutually.
  • Ensuring no child and/or forced labor.
  • Non discrimination in regards to things such as race, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.
  • Good working conditions; the producer must maintain a healthy and safe environment for its workers.
  • Providing capacity building (helping employees, management, etc. to develop their skills).
  • Promoting fair trade.
  • Respect for the environment, maximizing the use of sustainable materials, buying locally, reducing energy consumption, and more.

In addition to fair trade being an idea, products can also be fair trade certified by groups such as Fairtrade International (a non-profit organization). There are different sorts of standards which vary depending upon your role in the process (if you are a producer, you are subject to different standards than the buyer).

In order to obtain certification, there is a list of mandatory criteria that needs to be met and upheld, such as purchasing at a minimum price and keeping their dealings transparent. If the company meets all of the necessary standards, they may apply for a license. This allows them to put the fairtrade certification mark on their product. Companies using this mark will be audited annually, making sure they are still in compliance with all fair trade standards.

Products that can be fair trade certified include: bananas, cocoa, coffee, cotton, flowers, fresh fruit, honey, gold, juices, rice, spices and herbs, sports balls, sugar, tea, wine, and certain composite products (products that contain more than one ingredient).

*Some people take issue with fairtrade in practice; this topic will be covered at a later date.