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Plastics… and the Planet?
In a world plagued by single-use plastic, can the plastics industry focus on recyclability, sustainability, and the planet? The drive toward sustainability is at the front of the plastic industry’s current business model. The time for single-use plastics has come and gone and the need for reusable plastics is firmly upon us. The plastics industry now focuses on advanced recycling technologies, reusable plastic, and the planet. This could be the direction of true sustainable change.
‘Plastic’ and ‘planet’ in the same sentence often casts ‘plastic’ in a bad light. However, what many are missing are the conversations the plastics industry is having about the planet. The plastics industry brought a wide array of technological advancements and continues to bring great value to society. As such, we have begun to see a shift in perspective toward plastic. We can recognize the significant value plastic adds to our world while recognizing the disastrous effect single-use plastic has had.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and the Circular Economy
The American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) Plastics Division developed the ‘Roadmap to Reuse’ to bring true change. The roadmap supports a circular economy in the plastics industry. In short, ‘we need plastics’ but we also ‘must eliminate plastic waste’. Thankfully, the plastic industry is creating reusable plastic options to replace some of the highest-used single-use products on the market today.
Reusability is key.
According to Harvard Business School Online’s course, Sustainable Business Strategy, evidence has more and more shown that firms with positive ESG metrics tend to produce superior financial returns and as a result, more investors have begun looking at ESG metrics when making investment decisions.
Implementing a circular economy shifts the plastics industry’s focus to the triple bottom line – a business concept that focuses on profit, people, and the planet. These categorizations are essential tools for industries to address and monitor their environmental, social, and economic impacts. If a company uses these focuses, this can be key to creating a strong company ESG score.
Committed to Change?
America’s Plastic Makers® has announced two goals to bring about sustainability in the industry.
- 100% of U.S. plastic packaging is recyclable or recoverable by 2030 and
- 100% of U.S. plastic packaging is re-used, recycled, or recovered by 2040
In addition, American Plastic Makers® have invested billions of dollars into advanced recycling technologies. Advanced recycling tech can help address 90% of today’s non-recycled plastic, going a long way to hitting the 2030 and 2040 goals set. They also have strong impacts on the reduction of fossil energy use (up to 97%) and greenhouse gas emissions (more than 100%).
The Closed Loop Circular Plastics Fund represents another leap forward in the plastic industry’s commitment to sustainability. In order to see true systemic change in the plastics industry, significant changes must be made to the plastic recycling infrastructure and related technologies which in itself is a tremendous financial undertaking. The Fund aims to improve and increase plastic recycling through investments made across the plastics industry.
The road to a true plastics recycling revolution still lies long and winding before us. But with a driven desire to change deep within the industry itself, we can begin the journey together and reap the rewards of reusable plastics.