Mike Wright, managing director of Wrights Plastics Limited, looks at the plastics recycling and recovery trends and how “proper” waste management can save your business money
CIWM Journal Online Exclusive
The cost of sending waste to landfill is increasing as space runs out. It harms the environment in the process and isn’t a solution that can continue far into the future. Doing nothing to improve your company’s waste management is increasingly not a viable option, financially or ethically. By looking at what’s happening in the world of waste plastics, it’s possible to demonstrate not only how developing your own company strategy for good waste management can benefit your business and influence the supply chain to become more sustainable, but also ways in which this can be achieved.
In the world of plastics, an EU target has been set to send zero plastic waste to landfill by 2020. Whilst there has been a positive trend in the recycling and recovery of plastics in the last 5 years, the total amount of post-consumer plastics waste has actually increased. It’s clear, therefore, that if we’re to meet this target, businesses need to look first at producing less waste and using fewer resources.
In the case of plastics, petroleum is one of the raw materials needed to produce it and as oil reserves become depleted, the price increases, so being more efficient and using fewer raw materials would save your business money as well as helping the environment. It is also worth investigating whether the use of recycled materials would prove cost effective if your business uses increasingly costly raw materials.
77% of Europe’s waste plastic is generated by 7 countries, with the UK being the third worst offender. We’re also 22nd out of 29 when it comes to energy recovery of waste plastics. However, energy recovery comes from incineration of waste polymers, which can cause toxic gases to be released into the atmosphere. It is worth checking the green credentials of your waste management company to ensure recycling or recovery is being carried out in a way that won’t cause further damage to the environment. Whilst this isn’t necessarily going to get you financial gains, becoming a company known for its green credentials may attract new customers and clients who value your ethics, so taking time to check that you truly are sustainable is worth it for your customer loyalty and trust.
63% of post-consumer plastic packaging waste is from households so if you are a business, which sells direct to the public, altering or reducing your packaging may reduce the cost of packaging for your business. In addition, considering the types of materials and packaging customers can easily recycle through local bin collections will encourage them to do so. From this change you may be able to affect the behavior of your customers, encouraging them to become more environmentally friendly. Clear information on your packaging about whether the materials can be recycled will help to educate your customers and may actually win you new ones who prefer to use sustainable and greener companies. In addition to this, finding ways to reduce the weight of packaging or any of your products can save on fuel and transportation costs, reducing CO2 emissions in the process.
If you are a retailer you can, not only influence the behaviour of your customers, you can also impact the supply chain further down. Seeking out more efficient and environmentally friendly suppliers will not only put pressure on that industry to create greener product solutions, it will encourage new suppliers to fill the gap if there aren’t already green alternatives. Working closely with suppliers to develop these new products can give them clear criteria to aim to meet your own sustainability plan. Sourcing suppliers from nearby rather than the other side of the globe, will also reduce shipping costs and CO2 emissions.
If you are a supplier, it’s likely that businesses will increasingly be searching for sustainable products to use. The sooner these are developed, the stronger a position you will be in for retaining big clients and even gathering new ones who are searching out more efficient suppliers. Once you’ve developed these products, you can also begin offering these to current clients, educating them about the benefits, which, if they are willing to take it up will mean further benefits to the environment and ultimately less waste being sent to landfill or even being generated in the first place.
Suppliers would also do well to invest in newer, more efficient machinery and equipment. It will often save you money in terms of energy costs and time, which are two valuable commodities for any business. New machinery can also mean a reduction in waste products, such as scrap materials. Reducing this will reduce your waste management costs and also help the environment. It may even be possible to pass on savings made from a good sustainability plan to your clients. Likewise, this influence could even be felt at consumer level in the long term. Having competitive pricing is always good for business!
To recycle effectively once the total amount of waste and, for example, when packaging has been reduced, companies then need to be provided with good sorting and collection services. Demand for these services will certainly cause good waste management companies to spring up, but it can work both ways. Establishing an outstanding waste management company that works with businesses to improve their rate of recycling by making it as easy as possible and educating them about the benefits, will have an impact up the supply chain as well.
In the case of plastics there are examples where a company’s decision to become more sustainable has impacted on their suppliers, their suppliers’ other clients, the company’s own staff, customers and waste management contractors. It just takes one link in the supply chain to have the motivation to make these changes to have a huge ripple effect across their industry. Having outlined both the environmental benefits and the financial, it is becoming increasingly necessary to make that leap. Now is a good time to start asking, ‘how can we become sustainable?’.
Mike has worked 34 years in the plastics industry and is second generation owner of Wrights Plastics Ltd.
You can read the company’s full report on recycling plastics in the UK at http://www.gpxgroup.com/blog/wrights-plastics-recycling-environmental-journey-contininues/