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.”
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.
- PepsiCo North America’s achievement of 95% recyclable plastic packaging
- Nestle’s commitment to phasing out non-recyclable plastics by 2025
- 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.
- How we communicate our sustainability and “social purpose” to create stronger relationships with employees, consumers, customers, supply chain partners, etc., to educate, raise environmental awareness, differentiate from competitors, and build more purposeful powerful brands. GearedforGreen helps integrate consumer market insight with social partnerships, including Lives Per Pound to help our clients enhance economic, environmental and social value.
To implement plastics sustainability initiatives for your business or organization, contact GearedforGreen – Daniel Schrager, President, GearedforGreen 888-398 (GEAR) 4327, email@example.com or visit www.gearedforgreen.com
Over the years we’ve worked on many different types of plastic circular economy programs for clients. We’ve helped retailers create their own internal “Demand” for their plastic waste by closing their own loops into products they use in operations. We’ve helped Plastic Manufacturers achieve zero plastic waste in their operations and create strategies to increase usage of “sustainable” plastic raw materials in their products to gain competitive & market advantages. We’ve “Connected” Eco Supply Chains for clients creating their own circular economies. We’ve helped Consumer Brands connect socially sustainable missions to raise awareness and connect stronger with consumers. We’ve helped distribution channels implement zero plastic waste initiatives to reduce cost and landfill impact and Packaging producers implement redesign, raw material & single use packaging recycling solutions to reduce their environmental footprint.
Each client brings exciting new opportunities to improve sustainability! One thing we’ve learned is there is No Cookie Cutter Approach to plastic sustainability and circular economies. Each client has their own unique goals, logistics, products, brand, supply chain and so on.
Creating successful circular economies is as much about Listening & Learning as it is about understanding Plastics-Polymers-Recycling-Technology, as it is about Innovation & Efficiency, as it is about Environment & Resources, and Passion & Persistence.
That said, we do have (5) Key Elements we integrate into every GearedforGreen plastic circular economy program for our clients. They are our Guiding Principles we integrate into everything we do.
MIMIC is the Circular Economy Ecosystem we help create for our clients, following the natural ecosystem we live in today. We believe that plastic circular economies must focus equally on environmental, economic, and social sustainability in order to be effective long term. So we created MIMIC to ensure that all our efforts keep these principles in mind with everything we do. MIMIC stands for Materials, Innovation, Money, Improvement, Connection.
MATERIALS: Have a deep understanding of plastics, polymers and their physical properties, how plastics are recycled, technologies to recycle challenging materials, the supply chain of local regional recyclable collectors and processors, what recycled plastic materials can be turned into, and what materials can be reused instead of recycled. Maintain extensive expertise in sustainable raw material selection, including additives, engineering and tooling to enhance access and reuse of sustainable raw materials in manufacturing. Utilize science, measurement and certification to ensure the work we do positively impacts sustainability.
INNOVATION: Use our creativity & imagination to look beyond “business as usual “ to help create strategies that truly improve economic, environmental, social brand value over and above “price per pound”. Be forward thinking when constructing circular economies to improve performance, increase efficiency and speed to market. Utilize innovation to enhance and connect internal & external sustainability. Access consumer market data to create competitive differentiation.
MONEY: Circular economy sustainability is as much about “money and value creation” as it is about environment. If sustainability doesn’t cause economic benefit, its not sustainable long term. Focus equally on economic, environmental and social value creation, including bottom line, top line, brand, stakeholder value, and shared-leveraged-stabilized supply chain value.
IMPROVEMENT: Even before we’re done implementing plastic circular economy solutions, “Continual Improvement” strategy is required. Change is the only constant, so we balance the use of today’s newest technologies, materials, resources & circular economy methodologies while staying flexible, relevant and proactive to utilize newest & future shared practices, resources and technologies.
CONNECTION: Circular Economies are all about connecting, collaboration, teamwork & transparency to help our clients and their supply chains improve sustainability “together”. Connecting the supply chain facilitates shared resources & best practices along with communication to educate, raise awareness, and increase sustainability with supply chain partners, stakeholders, customers and consumers.
To learn more about plastics sustainability, recycling, zero plastic waste solutions, raw materials, packaging solutions, circular economies, social partnerships, eco apparel and uniforms, and MIMIC our five elements to create successful plastics circular economies, contact GearedforGreen – Daniel Schrager, President, GearedforGreen 888-398 (GEAR)4327, email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.gearedforgreen.com
Most Plastic Films & Bags including grocery bags, shopping bags, retail bags, Stretch Wraps, and Shrink Wraps are primarily made using #polyethylene based plastic resins, generally #lowdensitypolyethylene, #highdensitypolyethylene, #linearlowdensitypolyethylene, or blended #polyethylenes.
In all cases, polyethylene films & bags are 100% recyclable. Polyethylene is a “Thermoplastic” material and nearly all thermoplastic materials can be recycled because their polymer chains have been specifically designed to weaken rapidly during the recycling melting process, turning into a viscous liquid that can be reshaped into all kinds of new products, including new films, bags and even rigid plastic materials too.
When it comes to plastic film & bag waste,
their are typically three (3) primary categories of plastic waste…
1. Industrial waste – that is waste generated in the manufacturing process which is generally cleaner and easier to recycle.
2. Commercial waste – that is waste generated after use but in tighter supply chains such as between manufacturing & distribution which is often still contaminated.
3. Consumer waste – that is waste generated after use by consumers which is generally more contaminated with both (plastic and non plastic contaminates) and more challenging to recycle.
The challenges in recycling Industrial Plastic Waste is that in many cases, the plastic waste contains heavy inks and possibly coatings which limit how much of this waste can be recycled back by the manufacturers. Also, these plastic typically are printed with “branded” content making certified destruction a requirement. GearedforGreen helps solve these challenge by using specialized technologies and by ensuring the plastic waste is recycled at facilities that track the certified destruction process.
Commercial & Consumer film and bag recycling comes with many additional recycling challenges, including much heavier degrees of (plastic & non plastic) contamination that must be removed prior to recycling. GearedforGreen helps solve these challenge by using sophisticated eco-supply chain film and bag recycling technologies including proprietary washing, screening, re-pelletization systems that remove a much greater % of contamination, producing a far more “pure” grade of recycled plastic resin that can be reused back into a wider more broad array of applications that can absorb the greater volume.
Another significant challenge in managing Commercial and Consumer plastic film and bag sustainability initiatives is managing the supply-demand dynamics as well as long term pricing dynamics. This is because the quantity and volume of commercial and consumer plastic film-bag waste is enormous, and in order to solve this issue longer term, we must utilize indexed pricing that links the value of scrap with the value of resin so that they both rise and fall together over time along with normal market conditions, to maintain a longer term value proposition for both waste generators and resin buyers in the supply chain.
Whether you generate plastic film and bag waste or would like to use recycled resins in you products, Gearedforgreen can help GUIDE you implement a successful long term plastic film and bag recycling initiative. In 2019 Let’s get Sustainable Together.
In a highly resource-constrained world, where export demand is dwindling, and domestic markets are getting saturated, there’s little room for waste or wasted opportunity! For all us in the plastics manufacturing world making, using, selling plastic products, getting creative and innovative with the way we obtain, use, and dispose of plastic materials and how we buy and use sustainable raw materials will be KEY for a long term healthy and sustainable plastics industry.
We all should understand that unless we change what we do and how we do it, we cannot expect different results. If not now… WHEN?
Businesses, organizations, and governments are making the shift to “go circular,” implementing smarter processes for sustainable inputs, improved product design, more efficient delivery methods, and close loop – open loop initiatives for materials in manufacturing and after end 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 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’s important to understand the distinction between your linear supply chain versus a circular supply chain and how that can improve your businesses and brand.
Here are two steps you can take towards getting circular
1st establish an initial sustainability plan that outlines your goals and time lines to grow circularly. Share your plan internally and get your internal team rowing in the same direction. Plans need to include how you make, package, deliver, sell plastic products more sustainably and how you communicate and educate your sustainability and end-of-use recycling options to your customers and consumers.
2nd begin connecting your sustainability goals with your supply chain partners to form solutions together. Connecting the dots and building connected transparent teamwork within your supply chain is absolutely imperative. Connecting a circular supply chain will ultimately lead you to increased innovation and efficiency. Initiatives should connect multiple areas of your the supply chain including plastic resin, packaging, mold and tooling, recycling, solid waste management, sustainability and market insight and brand communications.
Many companies seeking to connect in circular economy supply chains utilize the services of Circular Supply Chain Advisory firms to assist in connecting the dots. To learn how you can connect in the circular economy, contact email@example.com or visit www.gearedforgreen.com