Brand Owners Seeking Sustainable Solutions for the Circular Economy

More brand owners are embracing a circular economy mindset—a plan of action that covers the entire lifecycle, from production to consumption to waste management and the market for post-consumer plastics.

Related Topics:

Oftentimes at a recycling conference or trade show, there will be consumer-goods companies and brand owners in attendance. For instance, Dell Technologies and P&G are some of the companies here at NPE discussing their sustainability efforts during the Re|focus Sustainability & Recycling Summit. And for a good reason—there’s global pressure on these companies to reduce the amount of waste in its packaging.

For instance, in 2017, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and World Economic Forum released The New Plastics Economy: Catalyzing Action, which aims to address global plastics issues through innovation in packaging design, recycling and delivery models. The report looks to present a path to increase global recycling rates for plastics packaging from just 14 percent today to 70 percent or more.

Six participants in the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative—candy maker Mars Inc., retailer M&S (Marks & Spencer), PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Co., consumer-goods company Unilever and home-care products supplier Werner & Mertz—are making or reiterating commitments to use 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025 at the latest.

P&G has made advances in the use of post-consumer plastics (PCR) by producing packaging made partly with “ocean plastic” (marine waste). The company also partnered with PureCycle Technologies to open a plant that will restore used polypropylene plastic to “virgin-like” quality with a recycling method that the consumer-goods giant calls “one of a kind.” The patented technology was created in P&G labs and then licensed to PureCycle.

“I think you are seeing durable-goods manufacturers beginning to get creative with compounding, exploring additives that can enhance properties of recycled materials,” says Kim Holmes, V.P. of sustainability for the PLASTICS Industry Association (PLASTICS). “And brand owners like Unilever and P&G have invested in solvent-extraction technologies that eliminate colorants and other additives, and can separate resins used in products like multilayer structures.”

More brand owners are embracing a circular economy mindset—a plan of action that covers the entire lifecycle, from production to consumption to waste management and the market for post-consumer plastics. Research from McKinsey and Co., a global consulting firm, suggests that the global savings in materials alone could exceed $1 trillion a year by 2025, and that, under the right conditions, a circular economy could become a driver of global industrial innovation, job creation, and growth for the 21st century.

“It’s an exciting time in innovation and it’s being directly driven by brand-owner demand to use more recycled content in a wider variety of applications,” Holmes says.

Editor Pick

AM Powder Designed to Create Conformal Cooling Channels

With so much happening in a busy show year between NPE2018, Amerimold 2018 and IMTS 2018, MoldMaking Technology is revisiting some of the technology that was on display. In case you missed it: Uddeholm says that using Corrax additive manufacturing powder enables the creation of conformal cooling channels to reduce cycle times. The company had the powder on display at NPE2018.