It’s an exciting time to be in the Plastics Recycling Equipment Business. For innovative equipment dealers and process developers, there’s more opportunity than ever…if you are willing to grow outside of the box.
Today’s plastics sustainability climate is ripe with innovation. Along with growing pressure from environmental organizations and within our plastics industry itself, there are mounting initiatives all across North America driving plastics recycling growth.
Eco supply chains are connecting Brands and Plastics Manufacturers with Waste Collectors, Plastic Recycling firms and Sustainable Raw Material suppliers, to create transparent connected Closed Loop supply chains. It isnt a passing fad. Circular Supply Chains are increasingly becoming the norm across our plastics industry and in many other industry sectors globally. Companies are working collaboratively across the supply chain to their own benefit but this collaboration is also driving growth, profitability, and innovation that benefits our entire plastics industry.
Eco supply chains are also creating significant opportunities for new and used equipment dealers that know where to find used equipment and have access and expertise in plastics recycling equipment, especially used recycling equipment. There is tremendous value having used plastic recycling equipment expetise!
Traditionally dealers buy and sell used plastic recycling equipment, and benefit on the profit margins they earn on (one time sales). The more one time sales they produce, the more annual revenue created.
Today dealers are also connecting in eco supply chains and leveraging their expertise and resources to create (ongoing long term revenue).
As example, an innovative growing plastic recycling firm developed proprietary technologies to recycle challenging “hard to recycle” plastic waste. They plan to scale their business to 100 million pounds annual plastic recycling. This innovation offers substantial growth opportunity! The innovative plastic recycling firm already owns and has the core equipment and technology in operation, however in order to scale to 100m, they need to add ancillary equipment over time such as grinders, shredders, metal separation, conveyors, wash tanks, silos, etc. This used equipment is out there and available in the market, often sitting idle or in inventory, and equipment dealers have the expertise to get it.
The challenge.. How does innovative plastic recycling firm add this ancillary equipment and at the same time manage their financial resources when they are starting out?
The answer.. Connecting in an eco supply chain whereby used equipment dealers provide the ancillary equipment “in partnership” with innovative plastic recycling firms and share the revenue of the business together.
This eco supply chain approach benefits everyone in the supply chain. Used equipment doesn’t sit idle waiting for a sale. Dealers leverage their expertise and resources for a piece of the action. Innovative plastics recycling firms gain access to much needed ancillary equipment without having to put up money. Equipment dealers earn ongoing revenue beyond the value of the used equipment. By connecting in an eco supply chain, equipment dealers and innovative plastic recycling firms (de-risk) together. Partners in an eco supply chain share revenue. Plastic recycling rates climb.
To learn more about how you can leverage your used equipment resources and expertise and develop long term revenue connecting in an eco supply chain, contact #GearedforGreen.
By Daniel Schrager, President at GearedforGreen 888-398 (GEAR) 4327 firstname.lastname@example.org, www.gearedforgreen.com
Eco supply chains
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.
When it comes to corporate recycling and sustainability, who’s the best person in your organization to lead the way?by gearedforgreen May 26, 2017 gearedforgreen packaging plastic raw materials plastic recycling plastic resins recycling sustainability sustainable packaging sustainableshopping
When it comes to corporate recycling and sustainability, who’s the best person in your organization to lead the way?
CEO’s set the stage for the primary business model, goals and objectives but … the command-control of “leading from the top,” is the reason many businesses sustainability initiatives ultimately fail.
When it comes to sustainable innovation and execution, business’s must distribute leadership. Part of that is encouraging employees at every level to take part in creating the company’s sustainable culture.
Having spent considerable time talking with CEO’s and C-Level business leaders, as well as managers and those in operations and administration, we learned very clearly that effective leaders know they don’t have all the big ideas. Most great ideas come from within the organization, from hands on employees as a result of their passion and commitment to add innovation and sustainability into the business.
Ask yourself? Do you have an aspiration that’s bigger than simply making money and product? Those aspirations lead to greatness!
Creativity, innovation and compassion remain the key drivers to sustainability. But creativity sits in the middle of aspiration and resources so when companies let the gap shrink between the two, that’s when they are in danger. As innovators, we need to provide resources and corporate culture that enables employees to move forward with their sustainable initiatives to grow in an unpredictable world.
Ask? How are you treating your recycling and sustainability initiatives today? How can you change practices to increase sustainability and add economic – environmental – socially purposeful value – for your business and importantly for your customer?
The world today is changing quickly! We all need to be red hot in pursuit of our own disruption and continually search for what obsoletes our business today. Sustainability or the lack thereof will obsolete many businesses in the coming years. The way we operate today will certainly not ensure success in the future.
The first most important steps to successful sustainability is asking these questions below, then “collaborating” with our supply chain partners to find answers, resources, and solutions “together”. Working in a vacuum gets us dirty and clogged. Working in a circular supply chain collaborating with our supply chain partners and involving our customers to create circular economies adds innovation, resources and energy.
- Is there a better different approach to handling our plastic scrap materials that’s touches on and adds economic,strategic, and humanitarian value beyond “price per pound”?
- Are their alternative cost effective plastic and polymer raw materials or better ways of using raw materials to make our products more sustainable?
- Can we create real partnerships within our supply chains that help us and our supply chain partners to all succeed better?
- Are we using sustainably made products in our own operations?Why should we and how does that benefit our company culturally and economically?
- Can we optimize and reduce our packaging to use less material but deliver more product in trucks and on shelves? Can we use more sustainable packaging and is there a way to help our customers to recycle our packaging after it’s used?
- Are we taking responsibility for our products in the market once they reach end of use? Can they be reused or recycled? How can that benefit us and our customers?
- Do our customers care about sustainability and if our company has a purpose beyond making a product and profit? If so, can we better communicate our sustainability and social purpose to our customers to strengthen relationships?
Ask.. Who better to lead the way for your businesses sustainability growth to add purpose to your product and better impact your bottom line, top line, and brand value THAN YOU?
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.