Why China Plastics Ban can lead to greater innovation, investment, and sustainable manufacturing in the USAby gearedforgreen October 23, 2017 ACC cardboard box reuse cardboard boxes Dow eco apparel eco supply chain gearedforgreen packaging plastic raw materials plastic recycling plastic resins Proctor & Gamble recycling social partnerships sustainableshopping
Some see the China plastics ban as a huge problem, others see it more as a long term opportunity. We see the proverbial pet bottle as 1/2 full.
1st came the Green Fence… a warning shot. Now the National Sword. Both cool names btw… kudos to China. The China policies (limiting) imports of plastic scrap materials is having a profound change to the plastics recycling eco system here in the USA and around the world. The question is equally WHY and WHAT NOW?
WHY? – We’ve all heard lots of complaints, confusion, and disagreement to the new China National Sword policy, some related to short notice of these new scrap import restrictions, others related to lack of clarity about what recyclables are banned or allowed and for how long. Truth be told, we all saw it coming or should have because it was kind of … “Wild West”.
Irrespective of the impacts the “Sword” is having on our scrap and recycling markets here in the USA, it seems clear the Chinese government is concerned that (garbage) is being willfully sent to their country disguised as recyclables. An official of the Ministry of Environmental Protection told the press in July that “the problem of foreign garbage is loathed by everyone in China.” And the press reports also indicate that a recent documentary, PLASTIC CHINA, alleging the health and environmental harms of imported plastics for recycling, spurred Chinese officials to take action.
SO WHAT NOW ?- The world is very much a connected marketplace and still represents enormous opportunity to trade recyclables and sustainables on a global basis, but what we trade .. where we trade.. how we trade .. are changing along with population growth and environmental issues. More people = more consumption = more products = more waste.
America for the most part has maintained status quo continuing to make products with poor end of use options and exporting much of our plastic waste around the world thinking cheaper labor is a solution. It isn’t. Today 90% + of all plastic products used in the USA find their way to landfills or worse, oceans, beaches, etc. Obviously we haven’t yet implemented a strong solution.
It’s important (we) see the forest through the trees, and adapt. When we say (we) we mean product and packaging manufacturers, and consumer brands, retailers, and consumers, along with solid waste, recycling, and raw material professionals.
Everyone in the USA supply chain involved in making, selling, using, and recycling plastic products have good reason to be concerned. China imports about 30 percent of the plastic waste collected for recycling in America. When China stops buying plastic scrap from America and across the world, it creates a glut here in the USA and as supply-demand dictates, commodity prices drop, leading to reduced recycling rates, increased landfill disposal, and more companies leaving the industry because they can’t make money.
The China National Sword policy is no doubt a problem today… but the important discussion we need to have is … what effect will it have long term and will it ultimately drive innovation, investment, and sustainable manufacturing here in the USA ?
THE PROBLEM ISN’T JUST A USA PLASTICS RECYCLING PROBLEM… IT’S A USA INDUSTRY SUPPLY CHAIN PROBLEM!
It impacts us all up & down the supply chain, including plastic products and packaging manufacturers that create all the plastic products that are causing all this waste, major brands using plastics to make & package their products, retailers selling all this stuff, and consumers buying all this stuff. It also includes the solid waste management, recycling, and raw material companies that collect and recycle plastic waste after it is all used and that supply sustainable or non sustainable raw material to make plastic products.
We are all part of the circular economy (the eco supply chain) and we are all part of the circular solution! We ourselves have the ability to solve the problem of plastic waste … if we work together!
For those interested in going circular to collaborate to find better ways to make plastic products & packaging more sustainably and to take better responsibility together for these products at end of use, we’d ❤ to talk and find ways to collaborate together.
By Daniel Schrager, President at GearedforGreen 888-398 (GEAR) 4327, email@example.com, www.gearedforgreen.com
WE ALL KNOW DOING GOOD MAKES US FEELS GOOD. WE NEED TO “SHARE OUR SUSTAINABILITY” SO OUR CUSTOMERS FEEL GOOD TOO!
One of our 5 primary missions at GearedforGreen is helping clients that manufacture plastic products to operate more sustainably from inside-out, and show them ways to leverage that sustainability in their market in order to build more sustainable purposeful brands and share the “feel good” with their customers.
Our clients have made tremendous internal sustainable strides… achieving zero plastic waste in their operations, using recycled plastic resins & other sustainable raw materials instead of all prime plastics, participating in “Social Partnerships ” using ocean collected plastic resins in their products and packaging, optimizing, reducing & reusing their packaging, implementing closed Loop Circular Collaborations within our eco supply chain, measuring their carbon footprints, implementing take-back programs to recycle and re-purpose their products after use in the market, and using sustainably made products and corporate logo eco apparel and uniforms in their own everyday operations. Our clients are making a difference! We here it from them all the time, how sustainability has added a common purpose & pride shared between employees and how it’s helped strengthen corporate culture. They feel good doing good!
To make sustainability even more impactful for our clients, moving the needle on top line revenue and brand value, we must find ways to share our sustainability stories with our customers in the market, to connect our internal sustainability efforts with our customers. We must “Share our Sustainability” !
It’s been well documented by the industry leaders such as Unilever, Proctor and Gamble, and many many other manufacturers and brands… that Communicating our sustainability effectively helps build stronger bonds between our businesses & brands, supply chain partners, and our customers, and positively impact sales and revenue.
For those who dare to make a difference and want to SHARE THE ❤ ♻, please contact GearedforGreen.
4. Reusing used cardboard boxes is not only more sustainable than recycling … it can be more profitable too.by gearedforgreen July 13, 2017 ACC cardboard box reuse cardboard boxes Dow eco apparel eco brand marketing eco supply chain gearedforgreen packaging plastic raw materials plastic resins recycling social partnerships sustainability
For years recycling cardboard boxes has been a centerpiece for corporate recycling programs. Cardboard is widely recyclable and for years there has been relatively strong domestic & international markets for corrugated material. Corrugated cardboard scrap also known as OCC (old corrugated cardboard) is generated by many local, regional, national businesses across industries. In 2016 more than 40 million tons of paper related scrap was recycled, much of which was cardboard.
While cardboard box recycling is an excellent approach to handling used boxes, cardboard box reuse, when applicable, offers even better improved (economic, environmental, and productivity) benefits up & down the supply chain.
As a sustainability company involved in circular eco-supply chains, GearedforGreen looks for ways to improve ROI in REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE ♻ programs for clients. Cardboard box reuse is a great approach to improved ROI.
We work with many companies generating good quality 1x used cardboard boxes perfectly capable of reuse, and with many businesses concurrently looking to find good quality suppliers of 1x used cardboard boxes as alternative to having to pay up & buy new boxes.
As part of our eco supply chain sustainability program, our GearedforGreen network connects companies and industries matching used cardboard box suppliers and buyers, helping everyone in the supply chain improve economic, environmental, and productivity ROI.
Many companies involved in manufacturing receive parts and components delivered in cardboard boxes they use just 1x. Many other companies including retailers and distributors use huge amounts of cardboard boxes to send products inter-company between facilities and to trading partners. There is a substantial reuse marketplace for all these 1x used cardboard boxes. Managing the connection between the two is no easy task however, so we partnered with industry to maximize box reuse ROI making cardboard box 📦 reuse valuable and mainstream.
In terms of environmental benefit and ROI, reusing cardboard boxes versus recycling reduces carbon footprint 👣 CO2 substantially and requires far less resources including water and energy consumption. Clients participating in GearedforGreen “Pack Share” box reuse programs also get monthly environmental reports including Life Cycle Assessment documentation showing carbon savings, which are helpful to sustainability score cards. For those businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint, cardboard box reuse is a great option.
In terms of man hour productivity benefits and ROI, reusing cardboard boxes versus recycling reduces man hours by $30.00 per ton on average associated with reduced labor and handling not having to bale cardboard boxes, and reduced movement from 3 touch points down to 1 touch point, not having to triple handle boxes from generation point to baler to trailer.
In terms of economic benefits and ROI, reusing cardboard boxes versus recycling increases revenue for suppliers in our network 40%-60% on average over the last 5 years, reduces customer cost of boxes in our network by 25%-30% on average over the last 5 years, and provides a far more consistent dependable market as a result of getting fixed annual prices for box reuse instead of fluctuating OBM prices for recycling. Box reuse programs also reduce transportation cost, reduce labor cost, and reduce equipment cost associated with baling.
The infrastructure and client base to support large expansion
in the cardboard box reuse market is significant.
To serve the growing box reuse market, GearedforGreen eco-supply chain network focuses on four (4) areas; warehousing collection sortation, logistics transportation service, environmental CSR compliance documentation, and circular supply chain partner expansion.
- Today we host 30+ regional sorting collection facilities throughout the United States providing local warehouse collection / sortation / quality control resources for suppliers and customers in our “Pack Share” box reuse network.
- We provide full transportation logistics services including drop trailer programs at more than 250 facilities across America.
- We provide monthly CSR environmental reports documenting carbon footprint saving.
- To support the growing demand for reliable box reuse nationwide, GearedforGreen eco supply chain partnerships include the largest network of collection, sortation, quality control providers, and end user customers making us the largest network for 1x used cardboard boxes in America.
It is widely known that sustainability and circular supply chain initiatives can reduce cost, add efficiency, increase innovation, and strengthen and improve supply chain partnerships. Leading businesses worldwide are incorporating circular sustainable supply chains into their operations quickly.
Less known yet equally important, sustainability can significantly improve customer-consumer relationships leading to improved brand value and top line revenue. By effectively communicating your sustainability initiatives, businesses can leverage their sustainability in the market to gain significant advantages. We urge all our clients to engage in consumer facing eco brand initiatives that connect with consumers.
To learn more about our GearedforGreen eco-supply chain sustainability services and how our “Pack Share” Cardboard Box Reuse program increases your economic, environmental, and productivity ROI, please contact us at 888-398-GEAR (4327), firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit us at www.gearedforgreen.com.
If your sustainability strategy isn’t making profound improvement to your business, helping grow top line revenue, build a more valuable purposeful brand, and operate your business with less waste & greater efficiency … you may want to consider a divorce.
We aren’t obligated to stay married to supply chain partners if they aren’t continually helping us profoundly grow a more successful sustainable business. Yet, by partnering stronger and collaborating on circular sustainable initiatives that benefit everyone within the supply chain, we can all grow smarter, stronger, and more sustainable together.
WE ARE STRONGER SMARTER & MORE SUSTAINABLE WHEN WE CONNECT AND PARTNER WITH OUR SUPPLY CHAIN!
Coming from a plastics background myself, there are some things everyone in our plastics industry supply chain should consider:
- Is receiving $.25 (x amt) per pound from selling off our plastic scrap to recyclers really the best way to maximize economic value from our recycling initiatives? Plastic scrap may have even greater environmental, strategic, and social purpose value than simply treating it solely as a commodity.
2. Is using 25% (or x%) recycled plastic resins back in our products & packaging, instead of prime, the best way to set us apart from our competitors? Can we use strategically sourced plastic scrap better, to create market advantages?
3. Is reusing packaging & optimizing the size of our packaging the most effective way for us to gain shelf space? Savings in raw material cost and transportation are excellent, but can we also utilize sustainable packaging initiatives to strengthen our customer and consumer relationships?
“The correlation between sustainability and commercial success is like proper nutrition is to victories for athletes, or reading and travel is to lyrics for musicians.”
There is a correlation between our company’s sustainability strategies and our commercial success in the market. Isn’t commercial success why we are all in business in the first place? Aren’t we all pushing relentlessly to add the greatest possible “value” to our businesses, differentiate and sell over our competitors, and continue to grow more sales with new & existing customers?
Neglecting benefit is the same as neglecting opportunity to win! Yes.. we recycle our plastic waste because it’s good for our environment and helps offset our costs associated with production loss. BUT … when plastic recycling also helps us increase revenue, gain over our competition, grow sales and shelf space, and build a more valuable brand, our ROI escalates profoundly.
Sustainability has the power to profoundly impact and improve our businesses. We shouldn’t be asking our supply chain partners to come to us with better ideas. Our supply chain partners should be relentlessly pursuing better ideas and helping us create circular eco supply chains that not only enhance our environmental initiatives, but connect us and improve our economic and brand initiatives too.
Big Brands should consider buying plastic scrap themselves. Here’s why.. Here’s how..
It’s a debate worth having. A great way to significantly expand plastic recycling is by expanding circular economies with circular supply chains that include Big Brands focusing on economic and environmental sustainability.
A circular economy will help ensure plastic scrap materials maintain economic value, have consistent markets, and importantly, a recollection process for used plastic products and packaging once they reach end of use in the market.
GearedforGreen works with many private and public recyclers across the country who want to get more involved in stronger circular collaboration with end user markets. In an eco-supply chain, recyclers collect consumer and industrial plastic scrap materials on a local level, which get sold to regional processors and compounders who convert scrap into hi-quality plastic resins (sustainable raw materials), then sold to national manufacturers making all kinds of new plastic products, looped back again to recyclers at end of use. From start to end everyone involved in the circular eco supply chain is connected.
Eco-supply chains enable local, regional and national businesses involved in recycling and sustainability to collaborate stronger and transparently working together rowing in the same direction. Scrap is connected to raw material, connected to new products, connected to consumers, looped back connected to recyclers in a continuous process.
Without circularity, companies involved in collection, processing and compounding “go it alone”, struggling with up and down plastic scrap prices, lack of markets for many kinds of plastic materials, and an over reliance on export markets. Circularity gets everyone in the supply chain teaming up together and helps maintain pricing and cost transparency which benefits the supply chain as a whole.
We can minimize these challenges and increase & improve plastics recycling markets when Big Brands take lead, connecting in circular eco supply chains. Big Brands are themselves the biggest consumers of plastic raw material. Big Brands across markets like Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Ford, Nike, Budweiser, L’oreal, Gillette, and so on, should stop selling off their own plastic scrap they generate in their own operations, and instead do an about face, connecting in circular eco-supply chains and becoming significant plastic scrap buyers instead.
Why ??? Big Brands make lots of plastic products and use lots of plastic packaging, hence they buy lots of plastic resins to make products. Big Brands consume hundreds of millions of pounds of new virgin plastic resins including polyethylene, polypropylene, polyester, and other grades, purchased through non sustainable supply chains from producers like Dow Chemical, Exxon Mobil, Sabic, BASF, Chevron Phillips, and so on, made from petroleum and natural gas.
By shifting to buying plastic scrap and participating in a more sustainable circular eco supply chain, scrap becomes a more prominent part of the plastic raw material stream for Big Brands.
Here’s how.. Instead of paying Exxon Mobil etc. for virgin resin, Big Brands buy plastic scrap direct in the open market and pay Processors and Compounders to produce recycled grade plastic resins. Today recycled plastic resins can be made to many specifications, even FDA compliant. By approaching plastic scrap and raw material sourcing from the top down, Big Brands can help increase plastic recycling rates, manage raw material cost, and take greater responsibility for products they make by creating closed loop circularity.
Big Brands carry big leverage because of supply demand. Supply demand dictates the more plastic products we make and sell, the more demand there is for virgin or recycled plastic resins. It’s a matter of choice which kind of raw materials we buy.
A modest shift reducing virgin resin consumption and increasing recycled resin consumption can make a tremendous sustainability shift for several reasons.
1st, it creates larger more consistent markets for recycled plastic resins which creates demand, which helps moderate pricing and adds more pricing transparency down the line which ultimately helps increase recycling rates.
2nd, it creates an environment ripe for innovation and investment. As Big Brands get more involved in circular eco supply chains collaborating with recyclers, processors and compounders, everyone will invest more resources which leads to greater innovation, improved processes, higher quality, etc.
3rd, it creates the closed loop infrastructure necessary for Big Brands to ultimately take greater responsibility for products they make once they reach end of use in the market. It also facilitates increased consumer engagement and participation in recycling contributing to increase recycling rates. When Big Brands integrate consumer sustainability incentives with education, consumers start to take ownership of their sustainability efforts which creates even stronger bonds between Big Brands and consumers, which can also equate to increased sales.
It’s a debate worth having, but from our perspective, circularity and eco supply chains will enhance sustainability and increase plastic recycling rates down the line.
Why not utilize your plastic scrap for something incredibly INSPIRATIONAL with “Social Partnerships”. There’s tremendous value to be gained by doing good.
Most people are aware of the economic value of plastic scrap. Many kinds of plastic scrap materials get recycled, turned into all kinds of new plastic products. GearedforGreen helps clients recycle millions of pounds of plastic scrap every year. Recyclability is one of the wonderful aspects of plastics. For those “in the know”, that’s what’s called “thermoplastics”. Thermoplastics unlike thermosets can be re-melted over and over again, formed into all kinds of new things.
Old “pet” polyester soda bottles get recycled into new carpet & apparel products. Used HDPE detergent bottles get recycled into new decking products & park benches. Used polyethylene plastic grocery bags get recycled into brand new trash bags. We help recycle more than 150 different types of plastic materials.
The good news for industry generating plastic waste is, many plastic scrap materials maintain retainable “economic” value. In our circular eco supply chains, we connect plastic waste generators with “compounders” in our network that convert plastic scrap into sustainable raw material “resins” made to molders specifications, then connect those resins to manufacturers in our network that want to make their products more sustainably using recycled resins in replace of buying more costly virgin resin made from petrochemicals.
Actually, getting involved in a circular eco supply chain can create many economic advantages down the line. For businesses generating plastic scrap, circular supply chains enable you to offset some of your costs and gain some level of economic value. CFO’s seem happy with these financial off sets but... ask yourself a question. Is that the best “value” you can achieve for your business by selling plastic scrap materials as a commodity? For some yes, others no.
Here’s a thought we want you to consider. Ask yourself these 2 questions … “Why are you in business in the first place? And what is the actual impact (gain) your business achieves by selling recycled plastic scrap materials?”
Here’s a value analysis for manufacturers to consider. You generate plastic waste in your operations, and you sell off 40,000 pounds of plastic scrap per month as a commodity. You originally paid $.44 per pound for your widespec plastic resin, you generated 5% scrap rate in production, and you sold your scrap for $.21 per pound, so in effect you have a net raw material loss of around $.23 per pound times 2,000 pounds = around $460.00 loss recovery. I recognize there’s many ways to analyze this revenue loss recovery, and I welcome any market economic feedback on this analysis, but for the sake of this topic, let’s assume for argument sake your scrap sale value helped recover a relatively small portion of the actual loss associated with your production scrap.
Back to the original question. “Why are you in business in the first place? And what is the actual impact (gain) your business incurred selling recycled plastic materials?”
Most business owners we talk with agree, businesses are in business to make and sell product, generate profit for shareholders, create fulfilling environments for employees, and build valuable lasting brands. If you think about value that way, the actual economic benefit you receive by selling off your scrap plastic is small in relation to your company’s economic, employee, and brand goals.
When treating plastic scrap only as a commodity, the revenue generation or loss reduction associated with it isn’t remotely enough to move the needle up or down to make any significant impact on your business. But wait …”A💡moment “. Value can be achieved in many different ways. Plastic scrap may have far greater value beyond just “price per pound” economic value gained selling it as a commodity.
Your plastic scrap has environmental value! Sustainability value! Saving our earth value! Doing good for mankind value! Bonding with your customer value! In other words … it has “Social Purpose” value. Plastic scrap and recycling, when leveraged properly, can indeed move your needle!
Plastics can be used to make many different products used for all kinds of wonderful applications. Think about all the great socially positive humanitarian impacting products that can be made (if you partnered together) in the right eco supply chain that uses your plastic scrap, turned into products like – plastic water filtration systems that generate clean drinking water in third world countries, mosquito nets and blankets that protect people from disease, and many other plastic products that save and impact lives around the world.
For plastics businesses and brands looking to do good, there are great opportunities to connect “Social Partnerships” using plastic scrap to make socially purposeful products connected with causes that impact and unite people around the world. Social Partnerships can become incredibly inspirational to your stakeholders, employees, and customers and serve as a powerful connection that impacts your business & brand, adding value that’s far more valuable than $460.00 loss recovery.
In a highly resource-constrained world, there’s little room for waste! For all us in the plastics manufacturing space whether we make, use, or sell plastic products, getting creative with the way we obtain, use, and dispose of plastic materials will be KEY for a long term healthy and sustainable plastics industry.
We all understand that unless we change what we do and how we do it, we cannot expect different or improved results. Business and sustainability experts globally are making the shift to “go circular,” implementing smarter processes for sustainable inputs, improved product design, more efficient delivery methods, and close loop initiatives for materials in manufacturing and after use. For us in the plastics world… This is the basis of our circular economy and it’s one of the biggest growth opportunities for plastics businesses and brands!
The circular economy itself is a $4.5 trillion opportunity, according to Accenture. Who in our plastics industry wouldn’t want to get circular? For companies making, using, distributing, and selling plastic products, it is important for us to understand the distinction between a linear supply chain versus a circular supply chain, and how that can improve our businesses and environment.
Today’s status quo in our plastics industry is linear. We use inputs to make our plastic products, our plastic products get used, and then we dispose of our plastic waste. This linear model poses serious long term risks for each of our businesses and our whole industry! Aside from the obvious procurement issues associated with diminishing and costly resources and growing demand for sustainability, plastics companies should consider the wider financial, reputational and regulatory concerns too.
Here’s a liner risk/waste example: We make polyester plastic water bottles and polyethylene plastic grocery bags for consumers to use, the plastic products get used and discarded by consumers, some of which wind up in the ocean. As we all know, plastic marine debris has been news worthy for some time and is a real serious problem for plastics companies who care about their brands. Branded trash is literally crowding our oceans. Every year, 800 million tons of plastics leak into our oceans, equivalent to one full garbage truck every single minute! Assuming this trend continues, we’ll have more plastic in our oceans than fish by weight in 2050. Bad news for companies that care about their reputations because much of this plastic trash is easily traced back to its origin company through brands and logos.
In tomorrow’s status quo, our plastics industry will operate circularly. We make and package our products using more sustainable materials and processes and design them in advance for reuse and/or recycle at end of use, we create recycle/reuse collaborations upfront with other industry providers and manufacturers, and we connect stronger with our customer / consumer so they understand how/why to reuse/recycle our products and packaging once they are used, and we collect our plastic scrap to use as new raw materials to make new products or be used in new reuse applications. This circular model creates long term collaborative shared opportunities for our businesses and our whole industry! By connecting circularly, we share and use less raw material resources and harness the economic value intrinsic in plastic materials, we connect closer with our customers through shared sustainability, operate proactively in terms of regulatory mandates, and open new doors of innovation for our businesses.
Here’s a circular opportunity / sustainability example: We make polyester plastic water bottles and polyethylene plastic grocery bags for consumers to use, recycle and reuse programs have been developed in advance circularly / collaboratively by supply chain partners including plastic resin producers and resin distributors, product manufacturers, packaging manufacturers, recyclable material collectors and recycling companies, and manufacturers that make new products using recycled plastic as their raw materials. The plastic products get used and more conveniently collected for recycle / reuse from consumers who have been taught / incentivized to participate in the circular economy. More of the Branded recyclable plastic bags and plastic bottles are collected through the supply chain while less is discarded, recycled back into more sustainable plastic resins, and used by collaborating supply chain partners to make new plastic products like automotive parts, consumer electronics packaging, footwear, or reused clothing for those in need around the world. Through circularity, more recycling / reuse programs develop, consumer education, participation, and pride increases, participating brands engage stronger with consumers and their brands gain value, less plastic waste gets discarded as trash, and plastic resources are used more efficiently and sustainably.
An effective circular supply chain needs to focus on both internal and external sustainability.
A circular economy and supply chain will enable us to operate our businesses more efficiently and sustainably by connecting our supply chain and collaborating closer with our supply chain partners on shared goals. To get circular, we need to recognize differences between internal sustainability in our operations and external sustainability in the market, because both are essential to a circular economy.
Internal sustainability is the implementation of sustainable manufacturing and operational initiatives, how we make and deliver products, better waste management and recycling / reuse practices, etc. Circular supply chains will help connect new value, more value, and more effective ways to gain value. As examples, major brands can become huge purchasing organizations to buy scrap plastic waste which can be recycled and used back by them in countless new products and packaging. Manufacturers making plastic products can develop more efficient ways to buy recycle grade plastic resins created from specific and strategic sources like ocean plastics, adding strategic & brand value beyond price per pound.
External sustainability is implementing sustainable connections between industry and the consumer marketplace. Plastics companies need to look externally to implement initiatives that educate and collaborate, to connect stronger with consumers for a shared purposeful cause. We need to leverage our sustainability in the market to enhance sustainability and to create stronger more sustainable valuable brands for our businesses. External sustainability includes finding ways to logistically collect plastic waste that’s already (or) will eventually be “out there”, at end of use, partnering with retailers as example, to implement more resourceful ways to promote and sell sustainable plastic products and provide consumers with more efficient recycling drop off collection programs at their retail locations that give incentive and educate consumers as part of a circular supply chain. We see many companies finding new and creative uses, including using plastic waste as raw materials to make humanitarian products. We need to connect stronger with consumers so they understand how / why they should participate in a circular economy and circular supply chain. Remember, one man’s plastic waste literally becomes another’s plastic raw material.
Circular supply chains and circular economies sound big and confusing? How can businesses start getting circular???
It’s understandable why business owners and managers may have concern to jump in to a circular supply chain ocean. So instead of jumping, let’s dip a toe in the water and let circularity evolve over time? Understanding how effective circular strategies can benefit our business and industry up and down the supply chain is the key to implementing circular supply chains on a mainstream basis. Circularity doesn’t just benefit manufacturers making plastic products, it benefits everyone up and down the supply chain including plastic resin manufacturers, resin distributors, compounders, plastic recyclers, logistics providers, distribution and retail, and most certainly, consumers and our environment.
These are a two steps I suggest to our clients for them to take in order to begin the process of getting circular.
1st establish a soft sustainability plan (you can add to it down the road) that outlines your goals and time lines to grow circularly. Plans need to include how we make, package, deliver, sell our plastic products more sustainably, and how we communicate (education) our sustainability and end-of-product use (recycling and reuse) resources to our customers and consumers.
2nd is to begin connecting your sustainability goals with your supply chain partners and their goals, to form solutions together. That connection (connect the dots…) and teamwork within your supply chain is the KEY to Success and will lead to even more innovation and efficiency! For us in the plastics world, our supply chain include our plastic resin suppliers, packaging suppliers, mold and tooling suppliers, recycling vendors and/or sustainability vendors, logistics providers, sales, distribution, and marketing communications vendors that connect sustainability more broadly with consumers. Many businesses involved in circular supply chains and circular economies utilize the services of a Supply Chain Advisor to assist in connecting eco supply chains, to ensure everyone is rowing in the same direction and providing feedback and resources towards a shared sustainability goal.
Some questions we should consider:
- What % of recycle plastic resin can we effectively use in making our plastic products? How can we get access to high quality consistent recycle grade plastic resins?
- How can we design our plastic products so they can be recycled/reused more effectively at their end of use in a circular economy?
- How can we develop a zero plastic waste program for plastic scrap we generate in our own factories, offices, and distribution processes and how can we use these valuable plastic scrap materials ourselves or sell them to other manufacturers in our circular economy to maximize value?
- How can we ourselves use recycled plastic or recycled fiber in our own packaging? How can we optimize our packaging to use less raw material and get more product on our trucks and shelfs to reduce shipping cost and carbon footprint? How can we help our customer to recycle our used packaging?
- Are we operating our facility at 100% capacity and if not, how can we use (share) our production capacity to produce products for other businesses?
- How can we effectively communicate our sustainability (and educate consumers to reuse/recycle) our products and packaging, and to promote a circular economy?
- How can we help our customers to recycle or reuse our plastic products once they reach end of use in the markets, to avoid disposal?
How do we track and measure our sustainability and economic advantages in a circular economy and supply chain?
Many people react skeptically to circular economy / supply chain model because they see obstacles that can prohibit circularity, including economics and consumer participation. That said, I know many business leaders in our plastics industry who are incredibly innovative business managers and great capitalists, and we should be the ones to tackle this opportunity to close our own loop on plastics, not environmentalist! We cannot sit on our hands and stay comfortable. We should be the ones to try new strategies and develop shared measurement.
Plastics has economic value when we purchase resin and it has economic value when we buy & sell plastic as scrap. We all recognize there’s economic value to be harnessed, and we should be the ones to hold onto this value throughout the supply chain instead of dumping it in our oceans.
We all care about our environment and understand the importance of sustainability, especially when we think about our kids and about our future generations. As business manager’s we also have bottom line and top line economic goals to meet, otherwise we may not be in business to worry about sustainability. The logical longer term question for business owners and managers in our plastics industry is … how can we tell if we are implementing circular supply chain and economy principles successfully to yield both improved sustainability / profitability results?
Long term answer. For circularity to go mainstream in our plastics industry it will require open collaboration from our supply chains on metrics and measurements we all can use together to gauge effectiveness. Understanding and communicating the economic, social and environmental benefits of going circular will go a long way in helping businesses integrate circular principles across their supply chains. There’s a lot of work to be done on this, but I believe plastics companies that take leadership roles now will lead and gain competitive advantages.
Don’t be afraid to get circular when it comes to sustainability and innovation..
Circular economies and circular supply chains simply mean connecting stronger with our supply chain “partners” which includes our customers, in order to connect sustainable and innovative synergies in the supply chain. Companies working in Circular supply chains tend to think of each other and their customers more as “partners” instead of customers-vendors, and they share common goals for one another’s business growth and our planet. Circular supply chains look to reduce cost, increase efficiencies, and add sustainable value up and down the supply chain.
It’s no secret our Earth’s natural resources are diminishing at an alarming rate. We’ve all heard it. According to the Global Footprint Network’s estimate, human demand on our planet’s ecosystems is projected to exceed what nature can regenerate by about 75 % in just the next 3 years. Considering we only have one Earth, we all need to reinvent how we use its resources and use our own resources before it’s too late. Odds are business owner’s care, employees of the business care, and our customers, the “consumer” cares.
An important distinction I’d like to make clear is this. For us business owners, a circular supply chain and circular economy focus as much on economic sustainability as environmental sustainability. We as business owners shouldn’t pay up for sustainability! Instead we should leverage sustainability to reduce cost, gain efficiencies, and connect stronger with our supply chain partners and customers.
For all us that make, use, or serve customers in the plastics industry, we have every incentive to operate as sustainably as possible and showcase our sustainability to everyone that wants to listen! After all … Plastic is the greatest most useful man made raw material made. Yet it’s also a pollutant in many well documented ways. As business owners and operators, it’s imperative we evaluate the effects that our business operations, practices, and products pose on our society. Recognizing where we can reduce our environmental impact is the entry point for us to join a circular economy.
A circular economy or supply chain is about reinventing how we make our products and how they are used, maintained, and ultimately handled at end-of-use.
We must evaluate factors such as product design, raw material selection, manufacturing process, packaging optimization, and the end product’s reusability and recyclability. It’s about reinventing our business standards to be more efficient, using less to achieve more, while making the world and our business better. To get circular we need to get rid of the “take, make, dispose” mindset and adopt “make, use, return” our plastics industries collective mantra. When we embrace that together in each of our supply chains we create our own circular economies.
Here’s 3 area’s we see making significant improvements for clients that are pursuing circular supply chains.
- Look forward and get disruptive.
Forget about the old models we created yesterday and open our eyes to new improved models for tomorrow! Disruptive and innovative business models can be developed across every manufacturing-retail sector and certainly in the plastics manufacturing space. The emergence of today’s sharing economy propagated by tech-savvy, environmentally conscious millennials and members of Generation Z exemplifies the “product as a service” ethos. In this business model, our physical products, services and software join to create an ongoing experience rather than a one-time transaction-purchase.
For example, ride-sharing companies like Lyft & Uber offer their product (rides) as a sustainable service — drivers use their own cars, and riders use their own mobile devices to call for a ride. Furthermore, matching service such as Lyft Line pair passengers headed in the same direction, turning what would be multiple rides into one — meaning less fuel consumption and reduced carbon emissions.
Subscription-based models are another viable entry point into the circular economy. They often result in economic and environmental benefits for both sides, including cost savings for customers and more sustainable outcomes for companies. One example is HP’s Instant Ink program, which uses the Internet to ensure that print customers have ink when they need it and that they can recycle used cartridges more responsibly. Through the program, an internet-connected printer notifies HP when it is running low on ink. The customer is automatically delivered a replacement cartridge and a postage-paid envelope for returning used cartridges. This strategy connects the company & customer in a joint mission, and saves customers time, hassle and money — up to 50 percent on ink — while being gentler on the planet.
3D printing can help reduce the amount of material needed to make a finished part by realizing complex shapes or redesigning complex assemblies into a single part. These same efficiencies are being created for companies molding and manufacturing products, sharing production capacities, sharing logistics and delivery routes, teaming up to reduce cost and waste.
- Leverage Digitized Supply Chains to make plastic products quicker and more efficient.
In addition to disrupting business models, you can dive into the circular economy by digitizing the way your products are designed, manufactured and distributed. Digitizing supply chains and production helps turn your ideas into finished products in a more efficient, economical and environmentally conscious way, preserving our planet for generations to come. As example in our plastics industry, additive manufacturing is being enhanced by 3D printing. From initial design to supply chain, logistics and distribution, 3D printing technology is transforming our manufacturing industry. 3D Printing also reduces the amount of raw material needed to make a finished part by realizing complex shapes or redesigning complex assemblies into a single part, and because it requires the transmission of digital files instead of the shipping of tangible goods, 3D printing enables manufacturing on demand. This localizes supply chains, reducing the need to transport physical goods on trucks, cutting time and emissions, and allows for short-run production and greater product customization, opening up new ways for a company to connect with individual customers.
Early adopters are already turning these possibilities into reality. Automotive company BMW is using 3D printing to make lighter tools for its assembly line. Nike uses additive manufacturing to make shoe models, reducing waste by 80 percent, and Siemens has employed 3D printing to create industrial gas turbines, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and lessening resources used throughout the production process.
- Separate business growth from business consumption.
It doesn’t always take huge technological innovation to make big impacts. You can start getting circular simply by encouraging consumers to reuse or recycle your goods and by integrating recycling in your own manufacturing and distribution channels. Doing this separates the concept of business growth from consumption — a huge departure from the way many companies operate. As example, outdoor clothing company Patagonia is a pioneer in the sustainability world, from making fleece jackets out of plastic bottles to tracking the paper the used to print catalogs, environmental concern is engrained into everything Patagonia does. The company even launched a program called Worn Wear, which not only encourages customers to repair and reuse their Patagonia garments — it provides them with the tools to do it themselves. Urging customers to repair instead of replace clothing is radical in a world infatuated with fast fashion — and this is an important step in the right direction. Guess what??? Patagonia’s customers know they care and the bond between manufacturer and consumer is incredibly strong and loyal as a result. Another example is The North Face’s “Clothes the Loop” program that allows consumers to drop off worn clothes from any brand at collection bins at The North Face stores. After being sent to recycling centers, the used clothes are then repurposed for reuse to extend their life or recycled into raw materials for use in products such as insulation, carpet padding, stuffing for toys and fibers for new clothing.
These innovative examples of circular economies and supply chains are regenerative by intention, recovering, recycling, reusing materials. It decouples growth from a reliance on increasingly scarce raw materials, benefiting the company, the consumer, and our environment.
When it comes to sustainability and recycling, we urge companies to engage in circular economies and supply chains! There’s never be a perfect time to integrate your company into the circular economy and supply chain — but the right time doesn’t require the perfect time.
It’s now. We all live on Planet A — and until Elon Musk or some other genius gets us on Mars, there is no Planet B. If you feel overwhelmed with the task at hand, remember what’s most important is to take ONE STEP at a time, and develop a commitment to head towards your own circular supply chain. No single company can solve the world’s gargantuan problems alone. The move toward a more circular economy and supply chain is a collective effort and requires intention and collaboration both internally within our organizations and externally with our supply chain and customers.
So how do you get started?
As an individual consumer, be mindful of the companies you purchase from and educated on ways to reuse and recycle are crucial first steps to joining the circular economy.
As a company, ask yourself how you can improve the customer and supply chain partner experience while making everyone part of the change — and how this change will benefit all of you in both the short and long term.
6 Tips for being a more Sustainable Consumer
Be a shopper who supports sustainable, ethical manufacturing practices
Consumers make an impact through their shopping habits by being a shopper who supports sustainable, ethical manufacturing practices.
There are several ways to be more eco-friendly in your everyday life by supporting companies that are ethical and sustainable. The move to sustainability in industry is driven by consumer demand, and that’s where you can make a greater impact.
You can add sustainability to your list of ‘must-have’ features for your everyday purchases. There are several consumer websites which rate companies and products according to their ethical and environmental records. This can help you decide which companies to support.
Focus on Quality
Think about foregoing the two-for-one special or prices that seem too good to be true. Poor quality items can be landfill fodder that cost you more in the long run as they need to be constantly replaced. Instead, consider buying quality products that last so you save money and help the environment too.
Keep it Local
Consider shopping from local producers as this gives you the opportunity to ask questions and do research into how items are produced. Local items likely have a smaller carbon footprint because they haven’t traveled long distances to get to you. And, supporting local farmers, producers and manufacturers means you bolster the economy in your community.
We shouldn’t have to pay more just because a product is made more sustainably. Sustainability generally leads organizations to innovation and improvement that can drive costs down, so even if they pay more for sustainable raw materials, they can make up for that added cost by reducing costs in operations and disposal. All things being “relatively equal”, buy Green!
There are a number of certifications which provide indications that the products you are buying are eco-friendly.
When buying wood or paper products, you can look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo which tells you the product was sustainably sourced. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification mark on your seafood means you are buying responsibly caught fish and you can also shop ‘organic’ for your fresh food and meat.
EnergyStar indicates appliances that are energy efficient and items that carry the Fair Trade seal meet the internationally agreed social, environmental and economic Fairtrade Standards.
Many consumers are now engaging with their favorite brands to see what steps they are taking to be more environmentally friendly. Get more involved with the products you purchase to learn about the company’s commitment to people and planet. It’s always good to buy from companies that do good.
I’ve mentioned many times to clients why businesses need to leverage their recycling & sustainability initiatives in the market, as part of their CSR “corporate social responsibility” platform. “Doing good without communicating good may not be good enough”.
There’s mountains of evidence today that “doing good” isn’t just good for our planet & for mankind … it’s also good for business and fast becoming the expected norm by consumers.
When it comes to sustainability and recycling, businesses are increasingly coming to understand the power of communicating their purposeful activities. Unilever and Proctor & Gamble, two of the world’s biggest brand marketers, both recognize that doing good (corporate social responsibility) has a hugely positive impact on brand value & Top Line growth.
The 2013 Cone Communications/Echo global corporate social responsibility (CSR) report showed that:
- 91% of global consumers are likely to switch brands to one that supports a good cause, given similar price and quality.
- 92% of consumers would buy a product with a social and/or environmental benefit if given the opportunity, and more than two-thirds (67%) have done so in the past 12 months.
Global consumers have definitive expectations for the role companies should play in addressing social and environmental issues, and are avidly considering CSR in a variety of decisions:
- Just 6% of consumers believe the singular purpose of business is to make money for shareholders.
- 91% of consumers believe companies must go beyond the minimum standards required by law to operate responsibly.
- More than 8 in 10 consider CSR when deciding where to work (81%), what to buy or where to shop (87%), and which products & services to recommend to others (85%).
Don’t get lulled by just stats! In today’s uber Social Media environment, many companies look to utilize connected supply chains that link their recycling and sustainability practices to their corporate communications strategies, to both maximize their sustainability efforts internally and to leverage and showcase their sustainability in the market with employees, customer, and consumers.
We work with many companies helping them to recycle their plastic waste, or make their products using a % of recycled plastic resins, or optimize and reuse their packaging, and in every case we tell our clients how important it is to connect and promote their sustainability and recycling practices to their customers, employees, and consumers. Doing good is not merely a “nice to do”… it’s an essential component for businesses impacting your bottom line, top line, and brand value.