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Industry Sustainability initiatives - plastics recycling and recovery, marine debris solutions

Industry Sustainability initiatives - plastics recycling and recovery, marine debris solutions

02-May-17

The term “sustainability" is widely referred to as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) seeks to establish a materials management approach to help us make more informed choices that can reduce the environmental impact of materials.  Most multinational companies have taken steps to protect the environment and are taking comprehensive action to reduce environmental impact by introducing innovative changes to conserve energy, reduce carbon footprint, minimize waste and recycle post consumer waste. This encompasses source reduction, light weighting and recycling; and helps improve performance and save on logistical costs. A few cases of plastics recycling and recovery, industry sustainability initiatives and marine debris solutions are being discussed.

Adidas has unveiled a new US$200 high-performance shoe made from the ocean’s plastic waste. On an average, one pair of UltraBoost shoes made of plastic debris reuse 11 plastic bottles and features recycled laces, heel lining and sock liner covers. Reebok has announced plans to produce a compostable shoe made from Susterra, a corn-based plastic substitute. While the top of the sneaker will be cotton, the corn-based sole of the sneaker will replace the traditionally used ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA).

Hewlett Packard (HP) incorporates e-plastics from used ink and toner cartridges back into new cartridges. It also uses other post-consumer plastic sources, including beverage containers. HP used 6,200 metric tons of post-consumer plastic in PCs and displays in 2015, although it didn’t indicate whether the recycled content came from recovered e-plastics or other sources. Dell has for years incorporated post-consumer e-plastics in its products. During the 2016 fiscal year, Dell used 3.4 mln lbs of post-consumer e-plastics in its products, up about 55% from the year before. Dell has announced the industry’s first packaging trays made with 25% recycled ocean plastic. The packaging is part of a pilot program that supports the company’s goal to achieve 100% sustainable packaging by 2020. Apple announced plans to make iPhones and computers from recycled materials. Currently, Apple forces the recyclers it works with to shred iPhones and computers, turning the materials into tiny shards of metal, plastic and glass instead of repairing or reusing the products.

Most automotive companies are making use of sustainable and recycled materials in automotive interior and exterior parts. Ford announced it is working with Jose Cuervo to explore the use of the tequila producer’s agave plant byproduct to develop more sustainable bioplastics in its vehicles. Kenaf, a tropical plant in the cotton family, is used in the door bolsters of Ford Escape. Repreve fabric, made from recycled plastic bottles, diverts more than 5 mln plastic bottles from landfills annually.  Recycled plastic bottles are becoming floor carpeting, wheel liners and shields in several vehicles.  Soy-based foams are used as seat cushions, seatbacks and head restraints and other interior auto components.

International appliance maker Electrolux reports its usage of recycled plastic increased 20% from 2015 to 2016. So far, its biggest shift has taken place in Europe, while sectors in North America, Latin America and Asia Pacific will contribute more to the future increase. Electrolux has also developed a patented compound based on recycled polypropylene it calls Carborec. The company first began using Carborec in vacuum cleaners before expanding its use to other appliances. The company plans to adapt designs to incorporate recycling materials, look at increasing the percentage of recycled content in already-approved applications and assess new components for the use of recycled plastics.

Procter and Gamble's Head and Shoulders brand will produce a shampoo bottle made from up to 25% beach plastics-  from trash removed from beaches, oceans, rivers and other waterways. P&G’s black high-density polyethylene (HDPE) is unique because unlike many other ocean plastic packages, other polymers from the beach plastic have been sorted out.  The company announced that by the end of 2018, it will have half a billion packages in Europe with at least 25% post-consumer recycled content, among its hair care portfolio, including Head & Shoulders and Pantene. L'Oreal's  Matrix in Brazil revamped packaging for its Biolage range. These products are now packaged in bottles 100% made from plastic biosourced in Brazil using a local sugarcane derivative, bio-PE, a renewable raw material that reduces the carbon footprint of the product. This is the L’Oréal Group’s first bioplastic bottle.

Coca-Cola has pledged to achieve a 70% plastic packaging recycling rate by 2025 from 14%. Coca-Cola has joined the New Plastics Economy initiative, an Ellen MacArthur Foundation initiative that aims to unravel systemic stalemates in recycling plastic and implement an effective and efficient plastic packaging system. The company currently sells products in a 30% bioPET bottle called Plant Bottle, which is fully recyclable and made partially from plants. Nestlé Waters North America said 6% of its bottles are made from recycled plastic. PepsiCo declined to share a percentage, saying only that it grew to using 139 mln lbs of recycled plastics in 2015. As per a report, 6 of the largest soft drinks companies, excluding Coca-Cola, use a combined average of just 6.6% recycled plastic globally. Rather than being recycled into new bottles, the vast majority of beverage bottles are exported to plastic manufacturers in emerging markets and used to make synthetic fabrics for clothing and carpeting, bags, packaging, and straps for shipping boxes.

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