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.
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.