Plastic waste is the consequence of poor system design. Although plastics undoubtedly have benefits, the consequences of its production and disposal are causing devastating effects worldwide.
Using virgin plastics in production and allowing materials to leave the loop costs us dearly. We must rethink how we produce and consume, so plastics never become waste.
There are many opportunities for individual consumers to reduce waste. However, redesigning our system must begin with companies reimagining how they conceive, produce and sell products.
After accomplishing internal reductions and optimizations, every company must also consider how they can help enact change at the systematic level.
It’s remarkably clear that our current waste management systems are remarkably underdeveloped. In the US, only 5 – 6% of plastic waste was recycled in 2021. It’s up to the private sector to change the narrative.
Enough theory — let’s be practical. How can companies take action?
Here are three steps to help your company reduce plastic waste, and redesign for circularity:
- Reduce unnecessary plastics by examining system design and product composition.
- Optimize residual plastics to increase recycling potential.
- Engage in systematic change to support circular systems and waste management infrastructure.
Let’s explore how each can be implemented.
Reduce Unnecessary Plastics
As a first step, consider how to reduce unnecessary plastics. Sounds obvious, but it’s actually rather nuanced.
Of course, this begins by minimizing excess plastics used in packaging, shipping, ect. But going deeper, it also involves rethinking the conception of each product.
At Ampliphi, we work with many consumer goods companies to help them reduce plastic waste, think food, beverage, beauty, retail, etc. And we know how difficult it can be to reimagine an entire product line, let alone one single product. But these are the factors we must consider if we are to enable a just transition.
For example, products are often composed mostly of water weight and shipped in single-use packaging. Reducing plastic waste begins by reimagining the fundamental design of products and packaging.
So here is some inspiration to help make this concept more attainable.
Blue Farm is an oat milk provider and an early adopter of our platform. Typically, shipping liquids, like oat milk, is a resource-intensive process. But, realizing the opportunity to stand out from the crowd and minimize its environmental footprint, Blue Farm innovated by selling its oat milk as a powder.
Reducing the water weight of a product can be implemented across industries from homecare to beauty products. It can also reduce the carbon footprint of shipping and optimize the use of packaging materials.
While a product redesign may seem burdensome, the benefits of sustainability leadership can translate to tangible ROI. Consumers are calling for sustainable packaging alternatives, and the benefits of being a climate leader are a market differentiator.
Optimize Residual Plastics
Next, residual plastics should be optimized. Again, we understand that not all plastics can be designed out of the system, but they can be optimized to increase the likelihood of responsible management.
Factors that can increase the likelihood of collection and recycling include: color, toxicity, design, material type, and the list goes on. Examining waste management data, clear and rigid PET (Recycling Code #1: often used for beverage bottles), typically has the highest likelihood of recycling as waste management organizations can resell it at the highest price.
This brings up an important point; market factors influence recycling rates. For example, if there is demand in a market for a material, there is a much higher likelihood of proper management. So, we can all do our part by including recycled content into our products and packaging to help increase demand.
Additionally, sales regions should also be considered when making material decisions. For example, a region may have a market for HDPE (Recycling Code #2), while LDPE (Recycling Code #4) isn’t recycled.
Clearly, there are many factors to evaluate and many more we haven’t mentioned. However, managing your company’s environmental footprint always begins through proper measurement – A theory of change we religiously abide by at Ampliphi.
Engage in Systematic Change
Finally, it is time to consider how we can further enable systematic change.
Although it may be up to companies and consumers to improve our waste management infrastructure, we now all have the opportunity to shape a transparent and democratized system.
We see impact investments as an excellent vehicle to amplify positive change and mobilize capital for essential waste management infrastructure.
When considering impact investments, judging the transparency and efficacy of the project is essential. Using a platform like Ampliphi’s Plastic Credit Marketplace to consider different investment opportunities can simplify the process.
Working Toward a World Without Waste
Our world is heading into the biggest economic transformation since the industrial revolution, where sustainability and circularity are at the forefront of everything we do.
Governments, consumers, investors and employees are all calling on companies to step up and take action.
Today, every business needs a waste reduction strategy, but over 90% of companies are still unable to measure their environmental impact. How is your business addressing this?
The need to take immediate action to minimize waste and reduce emissions is clear, but solutions are difficult to identify.
We encountered this first hand, so we built a simple solution. Say hello to Ampliphi — the market leading software for plastic management and circular economy engagement.
Amplify every vertical of your company with reliable data and circular solutions to take your climate action to the next level with our simple, yet systematic software solution.