HOW WE STEM THE TIDE

IN A WORLD THAT CAN SEEM overwhelmed by potentially eternal plastic waste, are biodegradables the ultimate solution? Probably not. But it’s complicated. The industry is still debating what “biodegradable” actually means. And some plastics made of fossil fuels will biodegrade, while some plant-based “bioplastics” won’t.

Biodegradable plastics have been around since the late 1980s. They initially were marketed with the implied promise that they’d somehow disappear once they were disposed of, just as leaves on the forest floor are decomposed by fungi and soil microbes. It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

Biodegradables don’t live up to their promise, for example, in the dark, oxygen-free environment of a commercial landfill or in the cool waters of the ocean, if they should end up there. You can’t throw them in your backyard compost either. To break down, they require the 130-degree heat of an industrial composter. Many industrial composters accept only plastics that meet certain standards, ensuring they will leave no fragments behind that can harm the environment or human health. And if you throw some biodegradables in with recyclables, you might ruin the latter, creating a mix that can no longer be relied on to make durable new plastic. In 2015 the United Nations Environment Program wrote off biodegradables as an unrealistic solution that will neither reduce the amount of plastic flowing into the oceans nor prevent potential chemical or physical harm to marine life. It concluded that the label “biodegradable” may actually encourage littering.

Some engineers are looking for ways around these obstacles. Jenna Jambeck and her colleagues at the University of Georgia’s New Materials Institute are using polymers synthesized by microbes to make packaging they hope will compost readily and biodegrade in the ocean. Corn chip bags are their first target.

It’s a tall order. Even the best biodegradable product won’t magically disappear. A plastic container robust enough to carry a gallon of milk can’t decompose like paper. A flowerpot, one of Polymateria’s experimental products, could take up to two years to dissolve if tossed in a ditch, Dunne concedes. Biodegradables, some critics say, don’t address the fundamental problem: our throwaway culture.

“What is it that we are promoting?” asks Ramani Narayan, a Michigan State University chemical engineering professor. “Throw it away, and eventually it will go away?” The more responsible approach, he says, is a “circular economy” model, in which everything is reused or recycled and “any ‘leakage’ into the environment, whether biodegradable or not, is not acceptable.”

China is providing motivation. For nearly three decades it has bought about half the world’s recyclable plastic. But this year it called a halt to most scrap imports. Recyclables are now piling up in the countries that generated them. “We hope it will push towards more circular management.”

To learn more about this National Geographic article by #LaurieParker and GearedforGreen sustainability, recycling, raw material, circular supply chain services, please contact us at:

GearedforGreen – Daniel Schrager, President, GearedforGreen 888-398 (GEAR) 4327 info@gearedforgreen.com, www.gearedforgreen.com

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Plastic Manufacturer (Alpha) generates a difficult to recycle plastic scrap material, yet wants to increase Plastic Recycling & decrease Plastic Disposal. Why? Because they care about our environment and they care about their economic bottom line.

(Alpha) makes pet or polypropylene or some other grade of plastic sheet or film that’s challenging to recycle because it’s either heavily printed, colored, coated, or laminated with polyethylene or nylon or PVDC or some other surface contaminant.

Alpha wants to recycle their industrial plastic scrap however… because their scrap is challenging to recycle or reuse, the value of the scrap is low and/or there are limited, fluctuating, unreliable recycling markets.

(Alpha) connects in a gearedforgreen eco supply chain, which connects (Alpha) with Innovative Recycling & Technology Company (Bravo )and with a strong Plastic Manufacturer (Foxtrot) that purchases Recycled Grade Plastic Resins. All 3 companies are now connected together.

1st benefit of an eco supply chain is technology-innovation. Utilizing patented proprietary plastic decoating technologies, (Bravo) is able to remove all the surface coatings off the plastic sheet and films, including laminates, heavy inks, coatings, etc., bringing the plastic scrap back to its original virgin clear or white quality without causing any heat history or degradation, providing a cost effective way to transform this plastic scrap from “challenging to recycle plastic scrap” to “reliable high quality plastic resin”.

2nd benefit of an eco supply chain is connected transparency for recycle grade plastic scrap. For many major brands…making their plastic products and packaging more sustainable is a top priority and increasing their use of recycled sustainable plastic raw materials and reducing their dependence on virgin plastic raw materials made from natural gas and petroleum is a very important part. (Foxtrot) switches from virgin to sustainable recycled raw material by connecting in our gearedforgreen eco supply chain to ensure a consistent reliable repeatable quality, ongoing raw material availability, and to have full open access and transparency throughout the supply chain, from the origin source (Alpha) where their plastic raw material originated from, straight through to the technologies and cost per pound to create their sustainable raw material at (Bravo). In a time when “consumers care & communicate”, connecting a supply chain Alpha-Foxtrot-Bravo helps ensure long term sustainability.

3rd benefit of an eco supply chain is the connection itself, and the reliability and consistency of material, quality, and price that a connected eco supply chain provides. Everyone in manufacturing knows.. consistency and repeatability at scale is essential. By connecting in an open transparent eco supply chain, (Alpha supplier) is connected to (Bravo technology-converter) and connected to (Foxtrot resin customer) together. This connection through the eco supply chain creates beneficial eco partnerships.

* Eco Partnership Benefit #1. Sustainable Raw material streams can be “contracted” which creates long term market stability for suppliers, consistent feedstock for converters, and reliable raw material supply for customers. It’s also easier to invest capital in sustainability initiatives when you can rely on long term consistency.

* Eco Partnership Benefit #2. Manufacturers using recycled sustainable plastic resins can be assured of consistent repeatable quality since the raw material supply, recycling process, lab and specifications all remain consistent.

* Eco Partnership Benefit #3. Raw material pricing can be indexed which creates long term stability and economic fairness throughout the eco supply chain as resin markets fluctuate up and down. Indexed pricing can be very impactful in establishing long term eco partnerships that ensure fair prices for raw material plastic scrap suppliers, converter fees, and end use customers, as resin prices adjust up & down overtime.

To learn more about gearedforgreen eco supply chains and how they can help enhance your plastics sustainability initiatives, please contact us at info@gearedforgreen.com

By Daniel Schrager, President at GearedforGreen 888-398 (GEAR) 4327 info@gearedforgreen.com, www.gearedforgreen.com

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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.

By Daniel Schrager, President at GearedforGreen 888-398 (GEAR) 4327, info@gearedforgreen.com, www.gearedforgreen.com

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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.

By Daniel Schrager, President at GearedforGreen 888-398 (GEAR) 4327, info@gearedforgreen.com, www.gearedforgreen.com