Great Brands Don't Just Happen

According to industry leading brands.. here are (3) takeaways you should consider if you want to build a more sustainable business and brand

1. Start adding social purpose to your brand sustainability initiatives

Kirti Singh, VP of Analytics and Insights at P&G spoke passionately about this. We’ve all pondered about what our brands “do for people” and how they “make people feel”. The notion of how our brands make society better is an increasingly important conversation in consumer product industries.

We highly encourage all of our brand clients to integrate “social sustainable purposeful practices” as integral components of their business models, considering a brand’s physical, personal and societal benefit.

Social sustainability surrounds your brand with passion and purpose, creates your story, creates conversations around the table, and creates stronger connections with consumers and your employees.

As part of our inside-out sustainability approach, we help clients develop and implement their socially sustainable partnerships including using ocean 🌊 collected plastics back into products, developing sustainable collaborations around shared causes like “Lives Per Pound” using plastic waste to make products like water filtration systems that to save lives in developing countries.

When social purpose connects with functionality and consumer value, that’s the real grand slam! As example, Cold Water Tide uses less electricity (which results in lower carbon impact with every load of laundry), and actually goes easier on clothes ensuring they last longer. This multi benefits us consumers, our clothes get clean, they last longer and we lower our impact on the planet. Functional + Societal + Emotional benefits. Yeah! Let’s buy Tide!

2. Sustainable brands advocate with other brands

David Grayson, Chris Coulter and Mark Lee have created a framework and a book called All In: The Future of Business Leadership. The framework is this: Purpose, Plan, Culture, Collaboration, Advocacy.  It’s a fantastic read.

We’ve been preaching for a long time that brands with a strong social and sustainable purpose are the ones that will thrive in the future. There’s plenty of research to substantiate this, which is why leading Brands including Proctor and Gamble and Nestle have been changing their culture as socially sustainable companies that care about our environment and us consumers.

3. Sustainability and consumer communities have embraced the false narrative that “plastic is bad” when in fact “plastic is vital”

We have been deeply-passionately involved in plastics, recycling, sustainable raw material, packaging optimization, sustainable technology, and circular eco supply chain collaboration for 20+ years..

We are proud to have helped many clients and supply chain partners to achieve significant sustainability enhancements including zero plastic waste.

For all us involved in the supply chain of Plastics and Sustainability.. it’s more vital than ever that we get active, get diligent, get involved in circular sustainability, collaborate, and change the conversation from “plastic is bad” to “plastic waste is bad.”

Plastic is vital! As example, transportation industries from trains, planes, and automobiles (great movie 😀) use plastic to get lighter and more fuel efficient. Food lasts longer with less waste in distribution, on retail shelves, and at home using plastics. There are literally thousands of applications where plastics make sustainability possible. Even single use plastics play a vital role in our lives and towards sustainability.

That said … we MUST all work together to solve the plastic disposal and ocean debris crisis!!! It’s real. Plastic and micro plastic waste is a catastrophic problem we as a plastics, recycling, and sustainability community must help STOP.

Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately, as the “ocean plastics” issue gets talked about – and its talked about often.. attitudes perpetuate the notion that all plastics are bad. WE as sustainability service providers and sustainability brand marketers MUST CHANGE THE NARRATIVE from Plastic = Bad to Plastic Waste = Bad.

To learn more about strategies and steps you can take over time to become a sustainable company and brand, contact GearedforGreen – Daniel Schrager, President, GearedforGreen 888-398 (GEAR) 4327 info@gearedforgreen.com, www.gearedforgreen.com  

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

100 PERCENT RECYCLED PLASTIC RESINS

We may be Green, but when it comes to your Sustainable Plastic Resins… We’ll help you achieve whatever color you want! Learn about our ONE HUNDRED % RECYCLED resin programs, strategies to increase recycled plastic resin usage and WHY, our on-site technical support and 24/7 plastics lab services, “designing out” plastic usage to make your products using less material, closing your plastics loop through circular sustainability, implementing toll reuse for plastic waste generated in your manufacturing operations, end of use plastics recycling for your products used in the market, and more.

Mike Tyson Quote

When it comes to sustainable plastics initiatives, there are many risks to deal with, from long term repeatable supply of sustainable plastic raw materials – to – consistent long term recycling markets for your own plastic scrap. Starting-stopping-pivoting is challenging. A connected, collaborative and transparent eco supply chain will help mitigate risk so you don’t have to.

Here are some suggestions to help you De-risk.

WHEN IT COMES TO DE-RISKING YOUR RECYCLED PLASTIC RAW MATERIAL SUPPLY CHAIN, WE RECOMMEND DIGGING A LITTLE DEEPER FOCUSING ON THESE (3) STRATEGIES

1. Go Direct to De-risk Raw Material Resin Quality & Repeatability

Some resin suppliers are actual resin producers themselves, others are agencies / distributors, each providing unique expertise and resources. Since recycled plastic resins have more challenging quality nuances versus prime resins, it’s important to keep a close watch on repeatable quality. Raw material quality can impact the integrity of your product and more so, the value of your brand. So when it comes to De-risking your Sustainable plastic raw material quality, we highly recommend working direct with your resin producers. It’s more than price per pound! A direct relationship enables you to form close “technical relationships” between resin producer-resin user with mutual site visits and continual improvement processes. You should visit every facility making your recycled plastic resins to see their operations, on site lab, quality control testing regiment, inventory capability, and to meet the floor team first hand. And you should require your resin supplier to also visit your manufacturing operations too, to better understand your products, equipment, internal logistics, and team. Remember.. when using recycled plastic resins, technical relationships really matter! The more your resin producer knows about your specific product, your equipment, your process, your floor personnel.. the better you can both formulate solutions that help lower your total cost of manufacturing and maximize performance.

2. Dig Deeper to trace your Ingredients. That’ll further De-risk Raw Material Quality & Availability

When it comes to using sustainable recycled plastic resins, it’s important to not only know the ingredients used to make your recycled resins, you should also know the entire supply chain used to make your recycled plastic resins. A transparent connected eco supply chain will help De-risk your sustainable raw material supply. Important Questions you should ask your resin supplier… Does the plastic scrap come from consumer or industrial sources? Have you seen the actual plastic scrap prior to recycling, that’s used to make your resins? What contaminates are found in the scrap supply? Is the raw material certified and trackable through the supply chain? Has the carbon footprint been measured to confirm how sustainable the resin actually is? Does it come from one source that may not be reliable long term, from constantly changing sources, or from many sources that are diversified? What if that one source dries up? Is the raw material source dependable long term? What is the relationship between your resin supplier and their sources of plastic scrap? These are among the important questions you need to answer about your resin supplier and their plastic scrap supply chain in order to De-risk your raw material sourcing initiatives.

3. Implement Indexed Pricing to De-risk Price Volatility and Lock-in Relationships

Maintaining long term consistent raw material plastic resin supply is important to both manufacturers and suppliers. However, that gets challenging as market prices fluctuate over time. Establishing a Price Index model that sets prices up and down over market fluctuations can be a great tool to De-risk price volatility. Plastic Resin Manufacturers that buy resins can establish pricing based on indexes such as CMAI. This approach De-risks price fluctuation in case your raw material supplier disproportionately increases pricing? When the supply chain Indexes Together, including the actual sources of plastic scrap… even better!

WHEN IT COMES TO DE-RISKING YOUR PLASTIC RECYCLING INITIATIVES, YOU NEED TO MAKE SURE YOU HAVE LONG TERM SECURE MARKETS FOR THE PLASTIC SCRAP THAT MEET YOUR UNIQUE REQUIREMENTS. WE RECOMMEND YOU FOCUS ON THESE (3) STRATEGIES TO DE-RISK YOUR PLASTIC RECYCLING EFFORTS

1. Diversify & Deepen your customer base to De-risk against long term Market bubbles

For those investing money in the stock market, it’s generally a good practice to diversify your portfolio. Same holds true when developing markets for your plastic scrap. By design, it’s a very good idea to have multiple customers supplying into multiple industry sectors, thus diversifying and De-risking your markets. Anyone who’s been involved in plastic recycling for long periods of time knows… plastic scrap markets change, shift, even dry up entirely. Look what recently happened to the China market! Starting a large scale plastic recycling program is hard enough. The last thing you want to worry about is not having available markets to sell the plastic scrap you collect. De-risking against market reliability can be achieved in a couple of ways.

You can develop multiple diversified customers in different markets to buy your scrap, however juggling like that can have its own challenges.

Or you can connect in circular eco supply chains that are transparent and connected by design. Circular eco supply chains are generally Open Loop. In an open loop eco supply chain you sell or supply your plastic scrap to processors within the eco supply chain, the processor converts your plastic scrap into sustainable recycled plastic resin made to each of their customer’s specifications, and the processor sells-supplies their recycled plastic resins to multiple end use manufacturers all within the eco supply chain network. This approach enables companies on both sides to diversify, collaborate on technologies and innovations, gain efficiencies together, and even share reporting through the supply chain. This approach connects sustainability from waste-to-recycle-to-reuse. Participating in an open loop circular supply chain helps diversify markets for your plastic scrap, deepens resources and knowledge, and De-risks everyone involved.

2. Certified Destruction road mapping should be implemented to De-risk against Brand Protection

Regardless of your sustainability goals, for many brands.. ensuring absolute 100% certified destruction, prior to disposal or congruent with recycling, is and should be absolutely essential! Whether it’s your logo on plastic packaging, plastic films and bags, or on overstock or defect merchandise, if your brand and logo is printed on it, the last thing you can afford is to have it front & center in a landfill, or strewn on a street, or washed up on a beach. In a day when your brand is one social media click away from a fire storm, ensuring certified destruction should be a necessary component of your sustainability plan. In order to effectively De-risk against brand protection issues related to waste and recycling, a proper certified destruction program should require a written documented road map diagramming the exact locations and destruction process, transportation, handling and processing of your products, including photo/video back up, a confidentiality agreement, and certified destruction documents signed by all vendors involved in your destruction supply chain. Everyone involved needs to value the importance of protecting your brand, with everyone rowing in the same direction.

3. Toll Reuse Closed Loop Recycling Programs help maintain the value of your plastic scrap & De-risk against Market Volatility

While many plastics manufacturers internally reuse much of their own plastic waste back into their own products, due to contamination issues, many others can’t. That’s partially why 90% of all plastics today wind up in landfills or worse! In many cases plastic products and packaging are printed or coated or multi layered, making internal Closed Loop recycling nearly impossible and making Open Loop markets extremely challenging to0. Knowing how costly it was buying your prime virgin plastic resins at the start, having to landfill these kinds of plastic waste materials isn’t just environmentally costly… its economically costly too. At 3%-8% manufacturing waste + disposal cost, whether it’s PET, PP, PS, PE, or other plastic materials, that adds up big time! To De-risk against costly landfilling of challenging plastic waste materials, we recommend connecting in more “specialized eco supply chains” that utilize specialized custom developed niche equipment, recycling technologies, and that offer back up alternative Open Loop markets in case Close Loop isn’t a sole option. We develop these programs for clients all the time. Using specialized technologies to remove challenging contamination enables you to more effectively reuse your own plastic waste back into your own products, preserving value and ensuring maximum sustainability. As example, if your generating PET or PP printed coated packaging scrap and can’t reuse your own scrap, you can utilize specialty processors that can remove the print and coatings off your PET & PP and return back these materials in clear near virgin quality, ready to be reused Closed Loop.

FOR FURTHER GUIDANCE & RESOURCES TO DE-RISK YOUR PLASTICS SUSTAINABILITY INITIATIVES, PLEASE CONTACT US AT: GearedforGreen – Daniel Schrager, President, GearedforGreen 888-398 (GEAR) 4327 info@gearedforgreen.com, www.gearedforgreen.com

Sustainable Shopper

WE ALL KNOW DOING GOOD MAKES US FEELS GOOD. SO IN 2018 LETS ALL DOUBLE OUR EFFORTS TO ACHIEVE “ZERO PLASTICS WASTE” AND SHOW IT… SO WE CAN ALL FEEL GOOD!

Among our GearedforGreen missions is helping clients make and use plastic products more sustainably from inside-out, and show them ways to leverage their sustainability in their markets to build more sustainable purposeful brands, to educate stakeholders, and to share the “feel good” with their employees, customers & supply chain partners. Showing your sustainability matters!

In 2017 our clients made great internal sustainable strides! Some achieving zero plastic waste in their operations ♻ others achieving 100% use of recycled plastic resins as replacements instead of prime virgin materials in their products ♻. This year we had clients participate in new “Social Partnerships” using ocean collected plastic resins in their products ♻ and we had clients optimize & reuse their plastics packaging materials to use less raw material and recover what they wasted. ♻ In 2017 we had clients and supply chain partners connect in closed Loop plastic recycling programs and in GearedforGreen Toll Reuse circular supply chains to reuse their own plastic waste materials back into their own products. ♻ This year our clients implemented end-of-use take-back programs to re-collect, recycle, and repurpose their own plastics products after use in the market, and many of our clients started using sustainable American made industrial products and corporate branded eco apparel and uniforms for their own everyday operations.

Looking back .. In 2017 our clients made a difference!

We hear from clients all the time, how sustainability has added a common purpose & pride shared between their employees and helped strengthen their corporate culture.

People feel good doing good!

We cannot say it enough… “There is a significant difference between internal sustainability in our products, packaging, and operations, versus external sustainability that touches, teaches & inspires our customers and employees”. You can’t preach external sustainability without doing the work internally, but … external sustainability matters a lot if you want to educate & inspire employees and customers and build a more socially purposeful brand.

“We must never underestimate the importance of inspiration”
To help make sustainability more impactful for our clients, to help move the needle with respect to top line revenue and brand value, we focus on helping clients implement programs that share our clients sustainability stories with those that matter most to them, to connect their sustainability efforts from inside-out. “Sharing our Sustainability isn’t about self-promotion… it’s about connecting and creating bonds with people that care and matter”.

It’s been well documented by industry leading brands including Unilever, Proctor and Gamble, and many others … that Communicating your Sustainability helps build stronger bonds between businesses, brands, supply chain partners, and customers, and has a positive impact on sales and revenue.

So in 2018 let’s all double efforts together to connect sustainability from inside-out and SHARE THE ❤♻

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

china ban 2

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, info@gearedforgreen.com, www.gearedforgreen.com

shopping cart sustainability photo

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

save our Planet

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:

  1. 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.

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

plasticresins-post

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  

Gallery - Plastic balls

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. 

 

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