Plastic waste is still a problem, despite our efforts and initiatives to find ways around it. Moreover, it may have even worsened as global plastic production has trended upward despite declining by 0.3% in 2020 due to the pandemic.
At the rate we’re going, our current plastic production—which stands at 400 million tons worldwide—could very well double by 2050.
These staggering statistics seem bleak and hopeless, but there is one thing that might be the answer businesses of all shapes and sizes are looking for in terms of sustainability: creating a plastic circular economy.
What Is a Plastic Circular Economy?
The current system we have fails to capture the economic advantages of plastics. Instead, we should look at plastics not as “waste” but rather as a renewable resource that needs to be disposed of properly.
Creating a circular economy is restorative and regenerative for everyone—businesses, individuals, and the environment. In a “closed loop system,” materials constantly flow instead of being used only once before being discarded.
In the case of plastic, this involves maintaining the economic value of plastics while preventing their leakage into the environment. But of course, this is easier said than done, especially with how we handle plastics today.
Sadly, only 14% of the plastic packaging used globally is recycled. 40% end up in landfills, and 32% in ecosystems. The remaining 14% is used for incineration or energy recovery.
A major rethink is necessary to get society away from the “take, make, dispose of” mentality that has long inspired corporate strategies. To achieve this, individuals and corporations alike need to improve their recycling initiatives, encourage reuse, develop a market for recycled materials, and redesign goods with end-of-life considerations.
What Does a Plastic Circular Economy Look Like for Businesses?
The goal here is not to make plastics disappear but to produce and consume them better. So how can businesses like yours do their part? Read on below!
Innovating Packaging & Sorting Processes
A real circular economy begins with creating products that use less material overall and have fully recyclable packaging so that consumers can reuse them to create new goods.
For example, we can look at what the top beverage companies in America are currently doing. More and more of them are utilizing recycled plastic in their beverage containers, and the industry has already saved hundreds of pounds of raw materials by making packaging leaner and lighter.
When more and more products are designed to be reused and transformed into new packages, companies can provide the conditions for that to happen efficiently.
Meanwhile, other businesses concentrate on innovation at the recycling end of the supply chain. For example, bottles, cans, paper, and other material sorting are currently being automated using robots. In addition, artificial intelligence—smart computers that recognize and retain information about different materials—can now power a company’s systems, increasing the effectiveness of the recycling process.
Extending Product Life
Aside from how you package your products, you can also look into making them last longer.
Businesses may create market opportunities for used goods by concentrating on producing durable products. This may appear to be a poor idea for original equipment manufacturers because a longer product lifecycle results in fewer purchases over time.
However, longevity is a crucial competitive differentiator and offers a compelling case for premium pricing. Plus, extending your products’ lives can help you keep your clients from switching to competing brands!
Educating & Supporting Customers
There are many different players involved in creating a circular economy, including businesses, governments, non-profit organizations, and individuals.
Businesses have a responsibility to educate their customers about smarter plastic use. One way you can do this is to tap into your consumers’ motivations. For example, give people a reason to recycle, such as offering rewards for returned packaging. Without consumer involvement, there simply won’t be enough resources to support a successful circular economy.
Make sure that your recycling solutions consider each consumer’s specific needs, including cultural differences. Diverse solutions are more effective than a single initiative in bringing about societal-level change.
Lastly, embrace a long-term mindset when promoting and accelerating action and awareness. Consumer behavior changes are generational and will take time to materialize.
Partnering With Businesses & Non-Profit Organizations
The knowledge and technical know-how to address plastic pollution on a large scale are not possessed by any one company.
As a result, partnerships—which involve two or more companies working together for mutual benefit—can fill the gap. These partnerships may involve companies from the same industry or from different sectors.
To ensure future success, make sure to create a strong case for collaboration at the very beginning of your relationship and align all parties involved around shared goals.
Even though partnerships with other corporations and non-profit organizations are a positive step, government action will be essential to build the required infrastructure and support voluntary programs with the proper legal framework.
Work with the right policymakers. You can provide them with the relevant tools, data, and insights related to plastic so that they can rally for your cause.
Closing The Loop For The Betterment Of The Planet
The plastics agenda is here to stay, and in order to overcome the challenge, the entire plastics chain must be engaged in scaled-up business activity.
Avoid making hasty decisions to replace plastics with alternatives; instead, ensure that the plastic waste you produce is appropriately handled to stay in the economy and out of the oceans. By enhancing and developing packaging design, motivating consumers to recycle, and inspiring and persuading governments to help the industry, businesses have the chance to redefine the future of plastic.
Looking for a reliable e-recycling service in Tampa, Sarasota, and Orlando? Check out Urban Recycling’s services today!