3M Command Strips — Design Life-Cycle (2024)

Valerie, Rojas

DES 40A

Professor Cogdell

Raw Materials

Discarded command strips fill dumpsters as leases end and summer begins. They are the top

renter-friendly product with thousands being discarded every year in the United States and

throughout the world. This product allows users the ability to hang items without the use or need

of hardware. Many see command strips as the renter-friendly solution and do not realize how this

product impacts the environment. This product is almost entirely made of some form of plastic

that releases toxins in almost every stage of its production. As we take a deeper look into the

overall raw materials acquisition in each phase of the life cycle from manufacturing to waste

management, we will be able to see the negative impact this product has on the environment.

Command strips are made from polyethylene and rubber adhesive. Polyethylene is made from

ethylene derived from crude oil. Crude oil is made from fossil fuels drilled from the earth's depths.

Each stage of making polyethylene impacts the earth from the plants that acquire the crude oil, and

ethylene processing plants to the overall polyethylene production. Not to mention the packaging

that is also made from plastic. The company had an estimated yearly 43.5 metric tons of plastic

production. Statistics show that for every three million tons of plastic, only 8.7 percent of it will

be recycled meaning that roughly 79 percent of polyethylene waste will be sent to landfills. Though

the company has made strides to reduce its plastic usage by switching to recycled plastic and now

more recently paperboard cartons made from 100% recycled fibers, their impact on pollution is

still seen. Rubber is similar in its manufacturing steps due to its synthetic properties.Rojas 1

The impact of plastic pollution is being felt in every part of the world through climate

change. This also includes the impact of distributing the product with fuel usage from trucks to

planes to boats. Fuel or gas in other words comes from crude oil that is extracted and then stored

in large tanks to then be transported to refineries via pipelines, ships, etc. It is then taken to a

refinery where it will undergo a process called fractional distillation. It is heated to a boiling

point that separates it into a mixed raw material. It will continue to undergo refining processes

that purify them to create regular and premium grades of gasoline. As we can see every step of

distributing this product leaves an impact. The process of making polyethylene includes the

creation of plants for the processing of the crude oil to the ethylene and then finally the final

process of polyethylene. To build these plants in most cases are built near or around water

disrupting the already existing ecosystem in the area. This results in a domino effect of the

negative results of spewing toxins in the air, disrupting animal homes of course considering that

these plants become the workplace for hundreds of employees some accommodations need to be

made to ensure a safe work environment. This includes plumbing, electricity, infrastructure, etc.

All these accommodations include several hundred different types of materials it would be

difficult to determine all the sources and methods these materials are acquired. Taking this into

consideration it would be difficult to determine the overall impact of these processing plants

regarding raw materials.

Rubber adhesives are made through the process of dissolving rubber solvents and adding

specific ingredients along with heat to create a chemical catalyst to produce a specific polymer.

No matter if the rubber comes from a natural or synthetic form it still goes through the same

process of compounding, mixing, shaping, and vulcanization. All these steps occur in a lab withRojas 1

different values of ingredients to create specific results. Their manufacturing is similar to

polyethylene regarding how the plants operate and the impact they have on the environment.

Like all products, not all products are meant to last forever. This product has a relatively long-

life span depending on the weight of the item they can last years or only a few months.

The final disposal process of this product is not as simple as people would like to think. The

properties of this product make it difficult to dispose of. Polyethylene is a plastic and like most

plastics, it will either be recycled or placed in a landfill where it will go through the process of

incineration. The issue with this is that it does not destroy or degenerate polyethylene but instead

converts it into a microplastic (MP). The article by Gonçalo A.O. Tiago states, “In the aquatic

environment, the presence of MP is increasingly recognized as a serious, worldwide public health

concern (Stock et al., 2020). Dissemination of plastic materials or their debris results in their

ingestion by the habitat organisms, increasing the risk of bio-magnification and bio-amplification

of several toxic compounds from plastic”. Microplastics are a real cause for concern as they can

infiltrate almost every ecosystem. Though the company has taken steps to reduce its overall plastic

usage from changing its packaging to incorporating recycled plastic there is still a need for proper

waste management when it comes to this product as well as others like it. Rubber is similar in

many ways, however, if used in the more natural form then it is much easier to dispose of, unlike

plastic. However, the life cycle of a synthetic is much the same as of polyethylene.

Overall, the purity of this product means it does not combine with any other property. This

brings the question of why this product is used if it is so difficult to dispose of. Plastic was made

to simplify the process of producing/manufacturing products at a mass skill. Many argue that it is

not plastic that is the issue but human behavior that is at fault. However, what many don’t realizeRojas 1

as we go through each phase is that the production itself also has negative impacts and plays an

impactful role in polluting the planet but so does the production.

I. Full Bibliography

A. Bain, Erich D., et al. “Failure processes governing high-rate impact resistance of

epoxy resins filled with core-shell rubber nanoparticles.” Journal of Materials

Science, vol. 51, no. 5, 9 Nov. 2015, pp. 2347–2370,

https://doi.org/10.1007/s10853-015-9544-5.

B. Command Strips Product Information Sheet March 2011, docs.rs-

online.com/8d0d/0900766b813690ff.pdf. Accessed 2 May 2024.

C. Gonçalo A.O. Tiago, et al. “The Problem of Polyethylene Waste – Recent Attempts

for Its Mitigation.” Science of The Total Environment, Elsevier, 5 June 2023,

www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969723032527.

D. Mika, Thomas F. “The use of epoxy resins in synthetic rubber compositions.”

Journal of Applied Chemistry, vol. 6, no. 9, Sept. 1956, pp. 365–375,

https://doi.org/10.1002/jctb.5010060901.

E. “Synthetic Rubber.” Synthetic Rubber - an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics,

www.sciencedirect.com/topics/chemical-engineering/synthetic-rubber. Accessed 2

May 2024.

F. Tiwari, A., et al. “Rubber Adhesion and Friction: Role of Surface Energy and

Contamination Films.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 29 Dec. 2020,

www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmech.2020.620233.Rojas 1

G. “United States.” 3M in the United States, www.3m.com/3M/en_US/design-and-

specialty-materials-us/. Accessed 2 May 2024.

H. “United States.” 3M in the United States, www.3m.com/3M/en_US/sustainability-

us/environmental/. Accessed 2 May 2024.

I. “US5516581A - Removable Adhesive Tape.” Google Patents, Google,

patents.google.com/patent/US5516581A/en. Accessed 2 May 2024.

J. Zhuang Yao, et al. “Environmental Toxicity and Decomposition of Polyethylene.”

Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, Academic Press, 3 Aug. 2022,

www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0147651322007734.

Jezus Alarcon

Professor Cogdell

DES 40A – Energy, Materials, & Design

June 5, 2024

Embodied Energy – 3M Command Strips

From its humble beginnings as a small-scale mining company in Northern Minnesota in 1902, 3M, originally called the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, has risen into a significant global powerhouse. Its journey, marked by inventiveness and commitment, is reflected in their household product, the Command Strip. These adhesive strips, which often appear as straightforward products, are the outcome of a protracted process that calls for a significant amount of ingenuity and energy.

Examining 3M's Command Strips reveals that the embodied energy of this seemingly simple household item is a consequence of energy consumption at numerous stages. Synthetic rubber synthesis for the adhesive, polyethylene foam extrusion, release coating application on the backing paper, and acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene polymerization to make the ABS plastic hook are some of these steps. Each of these operations, together with transportation and recycling, contribute to the final shape of Command Strips. Knowing how much energy is required to make Command Strips sheds light onto the intricate production process of a product that is regularly overlooked.

Every component that makes up the Command Strip has a different manufacturing process, and the amount of energy used in each process varies greatly. The goal of this research is to examine the complex processes that go into making each component, emphasizing how much energy is used at each step. The synthesis of acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene for ABS plastic, and the refinement of coal, oil, and hydrocarbons for the synthetic rubber are just a few examples of these energy dynamics at play.

There is no standard procedure for producing synthetic rubber adhesive as each procedure results in a different type of rubber. Since 3M does not disclose their manufacturing operations, we will use the most general form of processing in order to gather a grasp on the total energy consumed. The process begins with refining coal, oil, and hydrocarbons into a flammable liquid called Naphtha, then it is combined with natural gases to produce monomers (Ref. 1). These monomers are then subjected into an emulsion polymerization process to turn the monomers into a polymer chain, forming a rubber substance (Ref. 1). The rubber substance is then treated via vulcanization, using high heats and sulfur to convert the polymers into a more durable material. At this point, additives are used to make the synthetic rubber into an adhesive, for 3M, pinene is typically added (Ref. 1 and 2).

The raw materials used include coal, which is produced in the United States by surface mining driven by excavators’ mechanical energy (Ref. 3); Oil, extracted from drilling in U.S. costal waters and then processed in nearby refineries (per barrel of crude oil, about 6 gallons are typically used in products other than fuels/distillates) (Ref. 4); Hydrocarbons, which are produced as byproducts of the previously mentioned crude oil processing (per the same barrel of crude oil, about 1.6 gallons are typically hydrocarbon gas liquids) (Ref. 4); Natural gas, acquired by drilling beside oil wells follow the same form of mechanical energy as the coal and oil extractions (Ref. 5). Additionally, as a byproduct of crude oil refining process, another important raw material used in the synthetic rubber adhesive is sulfur (Ref. 6). Lastly, to make the synthetic rubber into the adhesive used, pinene is required and is extracted from pine sap, then distilled for application (Ref. 7).

The processes involved in these methods of gathering raw materials and then the operation in producing the final product all use various types of mechanical energy. These types include electricity, gasoline (which provides thermal energy that is converted), and human power (which delivers kinetic energy). After delving into the complex process of making synthetic rubber adhesive, we will now shift our focus onto another important component of the Command Strip, polyethylene (PE) foam. Like synthetic rubber adhesive, PE foam is made through a number of energy intensive steps that all individually contribute to its distinctive characteristics.

Prior to understanding the embodied energy of producing polyethylene foam, it is essential to break down the raw materials used in such a process. This resilient, semi-rigid, lightweight material is primarily made of ethylene polymers. Although made with a few materials, the high energy consumption lies in its manufacturing process.

In the manufacturing process of PE foam, ethylene is the primary raw material. It is initially heated until it reaches a state of “foaming” (Ref. 10). This molten substance is then cooled with water and shaped into beads. These beads are then extruded, which involves high heat and high pressure, to make precise molds. Depending on the foam mold, a “CNC Routing and Machining” process is utilized to form the foam into the small slabs used in Command Strips (Ref. 10).

The majority of ethylene consumed in this process comes from natural gas and petrochemical cracker facilities found throughout the United States (Ref. 11). The production of PE foam and the acquisition of ethylene require the consumption of electricity and gasoline. These resources are critical for producing the electrical and thermal energy necessary to drive the mechanical, and thermal, manufacturing process.

Examining the detailed procedure involved in creating PE foam reveals that energy usage is high, especially during the heating and extrusion processes of production. With another core component down, we can now move onto the manufacturing of release paper.

A pivotal component of the Command Strip, the production of release paper requires a very simple manufacturing process and gathering of raw materials. Essential to maintaining the adhesive’s integrity until the strip is ready for use, the release paper is only made of two components: paper and a resin coating. Knowing the embodied energy in this process helps us understand how command strips affect the environment, from the extraction of raw materials to the finished product that is ready to be mounted onto the wall.

This component is made of recycled paper and then covered with an epoxy coating that contains monomeric resin, a hardener, an accelerator, and a plasticizer (Ref. 12 and 13). The recycled paper is made in North American pulp and papermills that generate their own energy using combined heat/power (CHP) systems, utilizing renewable, carbon neutral biomass (Ref. 14). Notably, when compared to other industrial sectors, the paper manufacturing sector uses and creates the most renewable energy (Ref. 14).

While it is unknown where 3M receives its epoxy coating, plausible producers are all situation in the U.S. (Ref. 15), decreasing the energy consumption associated with transportation. Lastly, the release paper is created simply by spraying the epoxy coating over the recycled paper (Ref. 12). All of the operations used in the creation of the release paper are automated and rely solely on mechanical energy, which can come from either electricity or gasoline.

After breaking down the simple and reasonably green procedure of producing release paper, we can now focus on 3M’s manufacturing of ABS plastic, the final component to Command Strips. Raw materials like acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene are synthesized to create ABS plastic, which is the final, and crucial, part that makes up the Command Strip. This procedure uses a substantial amount of energy, highlighting the importance of this sturdy plastic’s role as the hook.

The manufacturing method of the ABS plastic employs utilizes emulsion polymerization, in which three separate polymers are mixed with a polymerization initiator. The mixture is then heated and stirred to commence the polymerization reaction (Ref. 16). When the reaction is finished, the subsequent material is formed into little beads for easy transportation. These beads are then melted and molded into the appropriate product form, in this case a wall hook (Ref. 16). CHIMEI, a well-known materials business located in Taiwan, supplies the raw components for this procedure (Ref. 17). Furthermore, this supply chain now necessitates extra transportation requirements, which may include air or sea travel. Overall, these manufacturing processes rely on mechanical energy, which, as mentioned multiples times throughout each core component, is derived from either electricity or gasoline. The frequency of this form of energy is high since automation plays an important role in the 21st century consumerism.

Now that the ABS plastic has been created and molded into the required hook shape, we can now move onto the assembly phase of the Command Strip. Although very straightforward in terms of factory line assembly of the 4 main components, the final product still requires a substantial amount of energy.

The 3M Hutchingson facility located in Minnesota, which serves as the main Command Strip production site, has significantly improved its energy efficiency by implementing strategies like cogeneration and heat recovery. These developments, which are based on the fundamentals of electricity generation, are a part of 3M’s larger sustainability commitments. In addition to lessening the plant’s environmental impact, this emphasis on energy efficiency is in line with the increasing global focus on green manufacturing practices.

Although the all the components to the Command Strip are made on-site (Ref. 20), the raw materials needed must be transported through various means. The Command Strip consists of four basic components: synthetic rubber adhesive, PE foam, release paper, and ABS plastic. However, the specific mechanism of combining these components to make the final product is unknown. It is worth mentioning that the finished product is supplied disassembled, with the adhesive strip and plastic hook packaged separately for the consumer to put together.

Prior to packaging the Command Strip, the release paper, PE foam, and synthetic rubber adhesive are combined to form the tape-like foam insert that secures the plastic hook onto the wall. The assembly of these materials is most likely done on a traditional manufacturing line within the factory, which runs on electricity provided by the facility itself via renewable sources (turbines, solar panels, or hydroelectric power) (Ref. 21).

After learning about the 3M Hutchingson plant’s energy-efficient production methods, it is important to think about the Command Strip’s next stage of life. This step consists of moving the finished product from the production facility to different retail locations across the United States, a procedure that has its own set of energy consuming challenges.

Found within the embodied energy life cycle of the Command Strips is the transportation of the final product to retail locations, in addition to the procurement of raw materials and its delivery to the Hutchingson Plant. The different transportation modes involved in this process, each with a noteworthy source of energy consumption, together have a significant effect on Command Strips’ overall energy footprint.

Command Strips require raw ingredients from many sources in the United States and Taiwan. This requisite requires a combination of land, sea, and maybe air transportation. Once manufactured, the Command Strips are transported to various retail locations by a network of trucks, trains, and airplanes. Each method of transportation has a unique energy consumption profile, with trucks and planes typically consuming more energy per ton-mile than ships and railroads. These modes of transportation use a variety of fuels, including gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, as well as renewable energy sources such as electricity and hydrogen fuel cells.

As of 2023, transportation commodities accounted for 27% of the total U.S. energy consumption (Ref. 24). In terms of fuel consumption, in 2022, gasoline (petroleum) accounted for 52% of all fuel consumed, jet fuel accounted for 12%, and biofuels, natural gas, and electricity accounted for just 14% (Ref. 24). Furthermore, the U.S. transportation energy usage by mode and type in 2022 was as follows: 32% for light trucks, 10% for aircrafts, 5% for ships, and 3% for trains (Ref. 24).

After looking at the energy consumption of the Command Strip life cycle’s transportation phase, it is integral to consider the energy dynamics in the usage, recycling, and waste of the product. This subsequent stage includes not only the energy used while the product is being used, but also any sort of energy consumption, and savings from recycling and disposing of the product after its complete use.

Thanks to its adhesive-backed construction, Command Strips allow customers to hang goods without the need of nails or screws. These strips use less energy since they do not require external power sources. The only energy involved is gravitational potential energy, which results from gravity’s downward force acting on the hook as it passes through the object being suspended.

Command Strips have an extended shelf life unless put to extreme stress. While the adhesive element is not recyclable and must be discarded after use, the plastic hook may be reused several times with the addition of Command Refill Strip Packs (Ref. 26). When it comes to disposal, waste management recycles paper and plastics, while the foam insert is burnt (using thermal energy) to produce renewable energy that is used to light homes and heat buildings (Ref. 27). This green energy is generated by boilers that the waste as fuel. The heat from combustion turns water into steam, which is then channeled to a turbine generator to produce electricity (Ref. 27).

By considering every stage in the life cycle analysis for Command Strips, we can grasp onto its energy impact. From gathering raw materials, to production, then to usage and disposal, we emphasize how crucial energy-efficient decisions and sustainable manufacturing process are for the creation of Command Strips.

In conclusion, a closer look at the embodied energy of 3M’s Command Strip reveals a number of intricate and energy-intensive steps that go into making this seemingly simple household product. Every stage of its life cycle requires a substantial amount of energy, from the synthesis of polyethylene foam and synthetic rubber adhesive to the production of ABS plastic and release paper. The product’s total embodied energy is further increased by the assembly and shipping of the final product.

This thorough analysis emphasizes how crucial it is to take consumer goods’ entire life cycle into account when evaluating their environmental impact. Comprehending the energy necessary for a single product makes us appreciate the complex production processes that result in such daily conveniences. This awareness also highlights the wider effects that production and consumption have on the world’s energy utilization. The trends uncovered from this study of Command Strips can influence efforts to optimize production processes, lower energy consumption, and mitigate environmental impacts as consumers, and industries, begin to prioritize sustainability ever-so-more. In the end, this life cycle analysis promotes a change towards more sustainable production and consumption methods while uncovering the hidden energy costs of well-known products.

Full Bibliography.

[1] Lechner, L. (2022, November 30). Synthetic rubber: How it’s made and Fun Facts. Echo Engineering. https://www.echosupply.com/blog/synthetic-rubber-material-basics-history-and-fun-facts/

[2] “Common Chemistry of PSA Tapes.” 3M in the United States, www.3m.com/3M/en_US/bonding-and-assembly-us/resources/science-of- adhesion/common-chemistry-psa-tapes/

[3] “U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis.” Coal Mining and Transportation - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), www.eia.gov/energyexplained/coal/mining-and-transportation.php.

[4] “U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis.” Refining Crude Oil - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), www.eia.gov/energyexplained/oil-and-petroleum-products/refining-crude-oil.php.

[5] “U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis.” Where Our Natural Gas Comes from - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), www.eia.gov/energyexplained/natural-gas/where-our-natural-gas-comes-from.php#:~:text=Natural%20gas%20is%20produced%20from%20onshore%20and%20offshore,some%20natural%20gas%20to%20help%20supply%20domestic%20demand.

[6] Wagenfeld, Jan-Georg, et al. “Sustainable applications utilizing sulfur, a by-product from oil and gas industry: A state-of-the-art review.” Waste Management, vol. 95, July 2019, pp. 78–89, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2019.06.002.

[7] Haughney, Kathleen. “FSU Researchers Discover Pine Sap-Based Plastic, a Potential Change for Future of Sustainable Materials.” Florida State University News, 7 Mar. 2022, news.fsu.edu/news/science-technology/2021/07/27/fsu-researchers-discover-pine-sap-based-plastic-a-potential-change-for-future-of-sustainable-materials/.

[8] “Synthetic Rubber Applications & Environmental Impact.” A good Company, www.agood.com/blogs/our-materials/synthetic-rubber.

[9] “Rubber – Processing, Vulcanization, Synthetic.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica, inc., www.britannica.com/science/rubber-chemical-compound/Processing.

[10] Polyformes. “How Is Foam Manufactured?” How Is Foam Manufactured? | Polyformes Ltd, www.polyformes.co.uk/knowledge-centre/how-is-foam-manufactured.

[11] “U.S. Energy Information Administration – EIA” U.S. Ethane Production to Grow, along with Expanding Domestic Consumption and Exports www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=48056.

[12] Writer, Staff. “Epoxy Coating: Uses, Types, and Process.” Thomasnet® - Product Sourcing and Supplier Discovery Platform - Find North American Manufacturers, Suppliers and Industrial Companies, 8 Feb. 2024, www.thomasnet.com/articles/chemicals/what-is-epoxy-coating/.

[13] “Recycling Release Papers in Artificial Leather Manufacturing.” Technical Textiles & Smart Textiles News, www.innovationintextiles.com/recycling-release-papers-in-artificial-leather-manufacturing/#:~:text=Release%20paper%20used%20in%20manufacturing%20artificial%20leather%20is,and%20geometric%20designs%20to%20the%20artificial%20leather%20surface.

[14] Print and Paper the Facts - Two Sides North America, twosidesna.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2018/06/Much-of-the-energy-used-for-papermaking-is-renewable-and-the-carbon-footprint-is-surprisingly-low-21-10-1.pdf.

[15] “Top Epoxy Resin Manufacturers and Suppliers in the USA.” Thomasnet® - Product Sourcing and Supplier Discovery Platform - Find North American Manufacturers, Suppliers and Industrial Companies, 1 Nov. 2022, www.thomasnet.com/articles/top-suppliers/epoxy-manufacturers-suppliers/.

[16] “ABS Plastic: Definition, Composition, Properties and Uses.” Ruitai Mould, 15 Dec. 2023, www.rtprototype.com/what-is-abs-plastic/.

[17] “Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) Market - Trends & Growth.” Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) Market - Trends & Growth, www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene-abs-resin-market.

[18] Khripko, Diana, B. Alexander Schlüter, et al. “Energy demand and efficiency measures in polymer processing: Comparison between temperate and Mediterranean operating plants.” International Journal of Energy and Environmental Engineering, vol. 7, no. 2, 29 Jan. 2016, pp. 225–233, https://doi.org/10.1007/s40095-015-0200-2.

[19] Bandwidth Study on Energy Use and Potential Energy Savings Opportunities in U.S. Plastics and Rubber Manufacturing, www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2017/12/f46/Plastics_and_rubber_bandwidth_study_2017.pdf.

[20] “3M Hutchingson Plant.” 3M in the United States, www.3m.com/3M/en_US/plant-locations- us/hutchinson/.

[21] “U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis.” How Electricity Is Generated - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), www.eia.gov/energyexplained/electricity/how-electricity-is-generated.php.

[22] 3M 2023 Global Impact Report, multimedia.3m.com/mws/media/2292786O/3m-2023-global- impact-report.pdf.

[23] Rule , Joseph D., et al. Debondable Adhesive Article and Methods of Making and Using the Same. 21 Nov. 2017.

[24] “U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis.” Use of Energy for Transportation - U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), www.eia.gov/energyexplained/use-of-energy/transportation.php.

[25] “Freight Transportation Energy Use & Environmental Impacts.” Bureau of Transportation Statistics, data.bts.gov/stories/s/Freight-Transportation-Energy-Use-Environmental-Im/f7sr-d4s8.

[26] “United States.” 3M in the United States, www.3m.com/3M/en_US/p/c/home/storage-organization/clips-hooks-adhesive-strips/b/command/i/consumer/.

[27] “What Does Waste Management Do with Trash, Anyway?” WM, www0.wm.com/wm/press/mediakit/follow_the_waste_stream.p

Jazzleen Amador

Professor Cogdell

DES 40A

5 June 2024

Waste and Emissions

3M Command Strips have reached popularity for their durability in helping homeowners style and organize their homes. As 3M command strips have become more popular by consumers, they contain non-biodegradable materials which raises concern towards their environmental impact and their sustainability. Consumers remain unaware of the impact of how Command Strips are made. This includes obtaining the material, its manufacturing process, its distribution, and its waste emissions. Greater education and understanding of the life cycle process will emerge the implications of each stage of the cycle, specifically in regards to the production and waste of 3M Command Strips. In every step of the life cycle, there is an immense amount of waste that is trailing through our waters, our bodies, and in our atmosphere. Such investigation aims to influence consumers to be aware of their impact and direct them to sustainable opportunities.

It is important to first investigate the sustainability of the materials that are used to make command strips. Command strips are composed of synthetic rubber, polyethylene foam, release liner, and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). Synthetic rubber is used for the adhesive on the back alongside polyethylene foam which provides easy removable as it stretches off surfaces (CommandTMBrand). Additionally, ABS is used to make the plastic hook portion. All these materials are gathered from many raw materials that are combined and altered to reach such specific qualities and durability. Unfortunately the process of obtaining the raw materials is harmful to the environment. For example synthetic rubber is mostly made of “...petroleum, oil, natural gas, and acetylene” (Infoplease). In order to obtain these materials, they are extracted from the earth which, in turn, can severely damage ecosystems (Elsevier, 2024). For instance, one of these materials, the release liner, is made from majority paper. Paper, as most of us know, is made from the extraction of wood. This in turn leads to deforestation, leaving animals astray as their habitat is destroyed. In regards to waste from extracting raw materials, “Fossil fuel use is the primary source of CO2. CO2 can also be emitted from the landscape through deforestation, land clearance for agriculture or development, and degradation of soils” (EPA). The energy and practice of deforestation to make paper is one of many examples on how the extraction of raw material alone contributes to environmental health. One can only imagine how much production in factories impacts gas emissions.

Manufacturing causes immense damage to the environment. Some companies are able to restrict their use of chemicals. For those who have dangerous chemicals, they create reports explaining how their chemicals are handled and disposed of. 3M company sent out a 2023 impact report stating how they are practicing safe uses of material in benefit of the environment. They provided numerous reports about their impact on the environment. In regards to chemical uses and handling, it was very vague (3M Global Impact Report). However, research was conducted by scientists on the animals nearby as well as waterways. An article describing the toxicology reports explain, “The per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) had spread — through groundwater and products like Scotchgard stain repellent, Teflon cookware, food wrapping and fire retardant — and were showing up in the blood of people and animals in every corner of the world” (Winter, Deena). Despite 3M’s company hiding their impact on the environment, they are still using chemicals that are going into our environment because they have numerous settlements throughout the years to date. Production at the 3M facility contributes significantly to dangerous waste such as making synthetic rubber that “....involves the use of various hazardous chemicals and byproducts, such as volatile organic compounds and toxic gases” (AGood Company). Inevitably, these hazardous chemicals end up entering our environment and bodies whether we like it or not.

The 3M facility is located in Hutchinson, Minnesota. This is where all their raw materials arrive and are altered in order to produce their command strips. From here they travel to many stores and businesses around the world. Such transportation includes: by water on ships, by air on planes, and on roads by trucks. In 2022, “...transportation accounted for the largest portion (28%) of total U.S. GHG emissions…” (EPA, Environmental Protection Agency). The constant transportation of materials and final product heavily contributes to pollutants. One can fear how much waste has accumulated over the years for not just this company but countless others throughout the world. When you dig deeper, you realize that you are not just paying for it to be made, burn to also be shipped to stores and or your front porch. Consumers need to be aware of their contributions to the environment and how much we are paying for more waste to spread across the world.

Unfortunately, consumers also contribute to waste in the sense of paying for items that are not reusable. 3M command strips fall under this. In brief, command strips are made for home decor and organizing by providing a plastic hook that is easily adhered to surfaces. Its popularity comes from its ability to be easily removed without causing any damage to walls. In this economy, there are numerous renters who try to find alternatives like these since they can’t damage property; to them, 3M command strips are an easy to use alternative. Though they last a long time, they are made for one - time use only. 3M themselves states, “Command™ Picture Hanging Strips are for one-time use only” (CommandTMBrand). The less reusable they are, the more they contribute to waste. Not only does the product itself go into landfill but the plastic packaging that it comes in every time you buy it goes into landfill. On a lighter note, the plastic that is in command strips can be recycled, but in some way, this is also harmful to the environment.

To reiterate, command strips are composed of synthetic rubber resin, polyethylene foam, release liner, and plastic (ABS). Of these materials, synthetic rubber resin and polyethylene foam are able to be recycled in certain recycling programs. This takes up a lot of energy in order to break them down. In the process of recycling plastic, “Recycled plastics, the report says, often contain higher levels of chemicals such as toxic flame retardants, benzene and other carcinogens, environmental pollutants including brominated and chlorinated dioxins, and numerous endocrine disruptors” and “separate research has found breaking down plastics for recycling scatters microplastic pollution into the environment” (The Guardian, 2023). As seen here, though recycling on the surfaces may sound like a solution to reducing landfill by reusing materials like plastic, it may be causing other environmental problems.

Unfortunately, most of the material used to make 3M command strips is not biodegradable and is sent to landfills. Despite recycling seeming like a good alternative, it is forewarned about their contribution to microplastics. Breaking down plastic leads to microplastics spreading throughout the environment. They are in everything we own, and are now appearing in the food we eat. For example, any residue left from recycling programs gets washed away and ends up in our oceans. Once in the ocean they are consumed by fish and then consumed by us once they are caught from the ocean. Cellular and animal experiments have shown that, “...microplastics can affect various systems in the human body, including the digestive, respiratory, endocrine, reproductive, and immune systems”. If we continue to purchase these unsustainable products, we are contributing to the potential illnesses our bodies and ecosystems could face. Acknowledging the damage that materials like plastic can cause could potentially steer companies like 3M to produce more sustainable command strips that require less energy, less material, and less waste.

Although 3M command strips are efficient for home decorating and organizing, extensive research on their materials, manufacturing, and their waste production concluded that this product does not appear to be sustainable to the environment. Some good alternatives to 3M command strips may include materials that can decompose like wood instead of plastic. Another good alternative is finding products like suction cups or even magnets that can be used over and over again not just for hanging items but for other projects as well. Anything DIY (Do it yourself) with already existing materials is just as beneficial as you are reusing items that more or less would be put in landfill. As consumers we need to take our part in pinpointing which products are more sustainable than others. With this we can make sustainable choices, bettering our environment.

Essentially, the significance lies in understanding the life cycle of a product such as 3M command strips, tracking where the material comes from, how it is obtained, how it is chemically and physically altered, how it is manufactured, how it is transported, how it is used or reused, and how it is disposed of. Once we start assessing products like these, we can be more aware of how much we contribute to the waste management process in every stage of a product's life cycle.

Bibliography

Command Strips Product Information Sheet March 2011, docs.rs-online.com/8d0d/0900766b813690ff.pdf. Accessed 6 June 2024.

“Rubber: Synthetic Rubber.” Infoplease, Infoplease, www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/science/chemistry/organic/rubber/synthetic-rubber#:~:text=The%20more%20than%20one%20dozen,%2C%20natural%20gas%2C%20and%20acetylene. Accessed 6 June 2024.

Author links open overlay panelDavid A. Wood, and Brief summaryDrilling involves complex and diverse sustainability issues that require careful attention to avoid adverse impacts on human health. “Natural Gas Drilling: An Overview of Sustainability Challenges.” Sustainable Natural Gas Drilling, Elsevier, 15 Mar. 2024, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/B9780443134227000209.

Author links open overlay panelPahola Thathiana Benavides a, et al. “Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Energy Use of Polylactic Acid, Bio-Derived Polyethylene, and Fossil-Derived Polyethylene.” Journal of Cleaner Production, Elsevier, 3 Sept. 2020, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0959652620340555.

“Everything to Know about Polyethylene (PE) Foam.” Trocellen, 29 July 2022, trocellen.com/materials-technologies/the-foam/.

“Synthetic Rubber Applications & Environmental Impact.” Agood Company, www.agood.com/blogs/our-materials/synthetic-rubber. Accessed 6 June 2024.

EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-overview. Accessed 6 June 2024.

Flesher, John. “3M Reaches $10.3 Billion Settlement over Contamination of Water Systems with ‘Forever Chemicals.’” AP News, AP News, 23 June 2023, apnews.com/article/pfas-forever-chemicals-3m-drinking-water-81775af23d6aeae63533796b1a1d2cdb.

3M 2023 Global Impact Report, 2023, multimedia.3m.com/mws/media/2292786O/3m-2023-global-impact-report.pdf.

Winter, Deena. “There Must Be Something in the Water • Minnesota Reformer.” Minnesota Reformer, 20 Dec. 2022, minnesotareformer.com/2022/12/14/there-must-be-something-in-the-water/.

EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/fast-facts-transportation-greenhouse-gas-emissions. Accessed 6 June 2024.

“Frequently Asked Questions About CommandTM Products.” Command, www.commandbrand.com.au/3M/en_AU/command-au/contact-us/faqs/#:~:text=Can%20I%20reuse%20Command%E2%84%A2,see%20instructions%20for%20more%20information. Accessed 6 June 2024.

“Recycled Plastic Can Be More Toxic and Is No Fix for Pollution, Greenpeace Warns.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 24 May 2023, www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/may/24/recycled-plastic-more-toxic-no-fix-pollution-greenpeace-warns.

3M Command Strips — Design Life-Cycle (2024)
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