What drives sustainability? 3 steps you can take today

Fact: The overwhelming majority of plastic garbage ending up in rivers and oceans doesn’t come from U.S. firms or consumers. 

But here’s the reality on the ground – people want businesses to ramp up sustainability programs, not rest on their laurels.

And that’s what’s driving change by industry. For example: Poland Springs is switching to 100% recycled plastic for all of its one-liter water bottles by 2022. Its parent company Nestle Products’ goal is 50% recycled plastics by 2025.

Sounds like an ambitious plan right? Maybe to some folks, but not all. Consider the reaction of the Conservation Law Foundation spokesperson to Poland Spring’s announcement: “Recycling plastic is better than not recycling plastic, but it’s always better not to use plastic at all.”

Thus proving the old adage, you can’t please all of the people all of the time!

Waste-cutting in action: 3 steps

So how can facilities like yours reduce use of raw or virgin materials plus hazardous materials like paints, solvents, pesticides and the like?

Here are some ground-level sustainability strategies that pay dividends for your peers:

1. Centralize purchasing: Excess inventory typically results from departments ordering on their own. This leads to spoilage and added treatment and recycling hassles.

Utilize software that lets decision makers see what’s in stock and where, and limits who can OK orders.

2. Look at biodegradables: Plastics can be phased out in many areas. Example: SaltWater Brewery in Florida makes edible six-pack holders out of excess barley and wheat that dolphins and fish can eat.

Get feedback from team members on where plastics and raw materials can be recycled. Toyota’s reduced supply chain materials for years largely due to employees’ suggestions.

3. Takebacks & exchanges: Some manufacturers will take back chemical products you can phase out (typically without a refund).

And the Materials Exchange can point you toward 50 kinds of waste exchange lists for materials you don’t want.