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PLASTIC RECYCLING IS “A SOLUTION” BUT INDISPUTABLY NOT “THE SOLUTION”

SHOW ME DONT TELL ME

As usual, plastic waste is front and center in the news. “It’s polluting oceans, filling up landfills, not degrading or going away, and as quickly as we make new plastic products and package things in single use plastic packaging … all this plastic waste compounds and gets worse.”

Who’s Listening?

Finally.. big companies and big brands are definitely listening. To who? To consumers that care and make purchasing decisions with sustainability and social purpose in mind. Big companies and big brands have been announcing big plastic-related sustainability commitments. Examples.
  1. PepsiCo North America’s achievement of 95% recyclable plastic packaging
  2. Nestle’s commitment to phasing out non-recyclable plastics by 2025
  3. KFC’s goal of 100% recoverable or reusable plastic-based packaging by 2025.

Clearly, Corporate America is (all in) committing themselves to tackling the plastic waste problem. The question is..

IS RECYCLING “THE” SOLUTION?

We along with many Consumers are big advocates of plastic recycling. The good news is 55% of consumers claim to recycle everything that can be recycled? The not-so good news is when you drill into the actual (data), what consumers really mean is they recycle the stuff that’s (conveniently) located near their recycling bin in the kitchen, yet in reality everything else hits the trash.

The Take Away.

What we’ve learned is consumers care about our environment, they are proud of their efforts to protect our environment, they make purchasing decisions in part based on our environment, but … we also learned that consumers are actually a tad lazy about recycling.

What Does That Mean to Businesses and Brands?

It means Opportunity & Responsibility. Big business and big brands are making it easier for consumers to “feel good” about their sustainability efforts by taking charge, by making products and packaging that are more sustainable and socially purposeful, by implementing a variety of plastic recycling and sustainability initiatives, in essence doing the hard work on behalf of the consumer.

Challenges are abound …

As a result of consumer recycling “inaction” and multiple challenges including (1) lack of government or financial incentive to invest in recycling & sustainability, (2) limited supply chain collaboration, (3) challenging economic and market conditions, (4) heavy risk investing in recycling infrastructure, and (5) China refusing to accept the 30-40% of plastic recyclables we used to ship overseas, the vast majority of recyclable thermo plastic materials, like 90%, still get trashed (Landfilled)!! That’s the reality we are living in. 90%.

THAT MEANS ONLY AROUND 10% OF THE THERMO PLASTIC MATERIALS WE USE THAT COULD BE RECYCLED, ACTUALLY GET RECYCLED.

So if you are a big company, or a big brand, and you generate “branded trash including branded plastic waste … just know that 90% of your branded plastic trash is winding up in our landfills or natural ecosystem with your hand prints all over it! Apologies for being harsh.

As circular economy plastics sustainability advisors, we spend our waking business hours helping companies, brands, manufacturers, distributors, recycling firms solve their plastic waste issues, including recycling, redesign, reuse, recollection, technology, innovation, circular economy, and so on.

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED 

After 30 years involved in plastics recycling sustainability and circular economy solutions, and 900m pounds of hands-on experience, we’ve learned there’s no cookie cutter approach to plastics sustainability and there’s no “one single solution” to solving the plastic waste issue.

One new plastic sustainability concept that launched recently represents a new option to deal with “branded plastic trash”. It’s known as reusable rather than single-use recyclable products. Nestle, P&G, PepsiCo, Unilever and other major brands and companies are joining to participate in a new reusable home goods subscription service known as Loop.

Loop was created by TerraCycle, who’s been an innovator in sustainability for years. We applaud them! Similar to the old school “milk delivery” practice from long ago, products come delivered to your doorstep in a reusable shipping container and all in reusable packaging: simply return and reuse. It’s way too early to tell how Loop will fare (and there is still the question of carbon impact associated with the service) but it’s another exciting innovative example of rethinking solutions to the plastic waste crisis. Whether Loop works or not, or any of the many other sustainability initiatives under way, the bigger point is, we (all) need to rethink how we interact with plastics.

TIME TO RETHINK

  • How we buy and use plastic raw materials to make plastic products and packaging and how manufacturers can increase their use of recycled plastic resins and additives that support plastic sustainability. Increasing use of recycled plastic raw materials including Bulk Sustainable Raw Material Purchasing, can help make plastic-products more sustainable and build the “demand” for recycling infrastructure long term. GearedforGreen’s eco supply chain not only supplies more than 1B Pounds of Sustainable Plastic Resins annually, we provide total support every step of the way from lab to your production floor, to help manufacturers use recycled and sustainable plastic raw materials most effectively.
  • How we recycle plastic waste generated in manufacturing, distribution and after consumer use, including toll reuse, certified destruction brand protection, closed loop and open loop, connecting circular economies, creating end of use consumer incentives, building “social purpose” into recycling, and so on. The Plastics manufacturing and Packaging industries must remember that a substantial amount of industrial and commercial plastic waste gets generated well before it ever reaches the intended consumer. GearedforGreen helps manufacturers to recycle post-industrial and post-consumer plastic waste, clean or even  contaminated, in many forms including rigid, flexible, and film, including HDPE, LDPE, HMWPE, PP, PS, PET, PVC, as well as many engineered grades such as ABS, POLYCARBONATE, ACRYLIC, NYLON, etc. Industries have the opportunity to rethink their own plastic waste management practices, rethink of plastic waste not as trash but instead as a circular economy raw material, and connect together to implement supply chain solutions to eliminate plastic waste.
  • How businesses buy plastic products they use themselves in their own everyday corporate operations and what could influence them to make more sustainable purchasing decisions themselves. If businesses purchased more sustainably made plastic products themselves, they can help build recycling “demand”. Big companies, brands and retailers use quite a bit of plastic products themselves in their own every day operations. Just look around. Plastic can liners, trash bags, check out plastic bags, eCommerce shipping bags, stretch wrap, plastic poly bags & wraps, plastic shipping hangers, trash cans, recycling bins, plastic shipping pallets, dunnage and conveyance trays, storage containers, corporate branded uniforms and promotional products, and so on. You get the idea?  These plastic products are all made from the same kinds of thermo plastic materials generated as plastic waste. Gearedforgreen helps turn all that plastic waste back into brand new sustainable plastic products. Buying GREEN not only raises awareness and educates stakeholders, it represents billions of pounds of plastic products purchased & used in everyday corporate operations that could be and should be made entirely in America and from 100% recycled plastics.
  • How we connect collaboratively and transparently with our supply chains to create efficiencies, share resources, reuse plastic waste more effectively, design-out plastic waste in our products, re-design products for end-of-use recycling, use alternative packaging materials, and integrate innovations that support plastics recycling and sustainability. GearedforGreen helps industry connect all the dots within the supply chain… creating Connected, Collaborative, Transparent Circular Economies that collect plastic waste, turn it into clean high quality custom formulated sustainable plastic raw materials, and back into all kinds of consumer and industrial plastic products.

To implement plastics sustainability initiatives for your business or organization, contact GearedforGreen – Daniel Schrager, President, GearedforGreen 888-398 (GEAR) 4327, plasticsustainability@gearedforgreen.com or visit www.gearedforgreen.com  

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