Recycling and repurposing containers and packaging is a great way to make your business more green. Learn why this is important and how to start addressing plastic problems and solutions.
According to Mother Nature Network, the United States, alone, produces over 30 million tons of plastic waste each and every year. Since only 5 percent of plastic waste gets recycled, 28.5 million tons of plastic end up in our environment…each year. Nearly 50 percent of this waste goes into landfills where it will take many thousands of years to decompose. Forty-five percent of the plastic refuse is simply floating around the world as litter with much of it ending up in our rivers and lakes. Other plastics get washed out to sea to join up with one of the several floating trash gyres (floating islands of trash the size of Texas or greater). One of the gyres, the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, is as large as a continent and is wiping out sea life.
How Does That Impact My Business?
Many businesses leaders are aware of facts like these and genuinely want to help the planet, but they have shareholders, need to be concerned with profits, and, quite honestly, are commercial operations and not vigilante recycling organizations. These leaders want to know about plastic problems and solutions, but still need to take their bottom line into account. How does recycling and repurposing plastics impact their organizations, and what can they do about it.
First, green is the new…well, green. If you want to keep the greenbacks coming in, thinking environmentally green is a great idea. In fact, a survey by Cone Communications showed that “a record-high 71 percent of Americans consider the environment when they shop, up from 66 percent in 2008.” And, it’s not just Americans that want businesses to be environmentally friendly. According to the Neilson group, “Fifty-five percent of global online consumers across 60 countries say they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.”
Simply put, consumers want to do business with businesses that are socially and environmentally responsible. Recycling and repurposing containers and packaging are excellent green ideas for businesses and offer the easiest way to start.
Second, when businesses take green initiatives, it makes their staff happy and that is good for morale and PR. After all, many of those customers who buy green are also your employees. When they know that they are working for a company “with a heart” and that has taken an initiative to help the enviornment, they feel better about their work. This not only creates happy employees, but they share that happiness with their family and friends. Every CEO knows the value of good PR and marketing. How much more valuable is it when that marketing and PR doesn’t cost you a dime?
Third, the bottom line is actually impacted by recycling and repurposing. Used containers and shipping materials can be purchased cheaper than new ones. Tax breaks can be earned through recycling efforts or donating materials to local schools or other non-profits. In addition to all of the good-will you will be earning, you will be making positive financial contributions to the company through lower product costs and tax breaks.
How Do I Start?
Understanding that recycling and repurposing is good for business is one thing, but putting a plan into operation is another. How does one go about making a difference and becoming “more green”? Let’s take a look at eleven ways that you can make a difference on both a personal and corporate level.
Plastic problems and solutions go beyond the realm of personal consumption. They are also used on an industrial scale in businesses and corporations around the world. The number of plastic items that end up in landfills can be decreased dramatically by reusing and repurposing the myriad plastic containers used each and every day. In fact, the EarthWorks Group estimates that single-use paper and plastic package amount to 30 percent of waste in our nation’s landfills. Consider these amazing green ideas for businesses instead of one-use packaging and storage:
When shipping or storing bulk items, consider purchasing collapsable or uniform bulk containers that have been used and cleaned. Since the aesthetics of the container are not an issue, a few scuffs or marks are not going to affect the container’s usefulness or purpose. Whether you are moving or storing powders and granules or manufactured goods, many bulk containers are able to hold over a ton of weight regardless of whether or not they were previously used.
Wood pallets break, absorb leaked material, and are generally disposable. This means you are shelling out money each time you need a new pallet. Plastic pallets are durable, reusable, and already in the market. Reusing a plastic pallet not only saves you money, but it keeps treated wood (not safe or desirable) out of the landfills.
Plastic pallets are also bug-free and deter the growth of bacteria and mold. Bugs are the main reason that wooden pallets must be heat treated. Not only do wood pallets absorb fats, solvents, odors, mold, mildew, and bacteria, but they are susceptible to insects. For example, the emerald ash borer is a pest that can easily hitch a ride in wooden pallets and then cause tremendous amounts of damage to its new environment. Plastic pallets do not allow absorption or infestation.
There are many reasons to use pallets, but no good reasons to avoid switching to used plastic ones. They are cost-effective and good for the environment.
Stackable and nesting totes are containers used for storage and shipping. They are made from extra-durable material and have a long life. Sadly, many companies continue to buy more and more totes instead of seeking an alternative solution. Selling your old totes or buying used ones from a container exchanger is not only extremely cost-effective, but it lessens the need for more plastic totes to be manufactured, which is good for the environment as well as valuable green ideas for businesses.
Much more durable than cardboard, the stackable nesting totes stack within each other for storage, but when the lid is added they stack on top of each other. Because they are fully sealed, they can store anything from powder to manufactured goods. The totes are often designed to be used in conjunction with plastic pallets.
A favorite of every business from the admin office to the mechanic’s garage and carpenter’s shop, stacking and nesting organizers are one of the most efficient ways to keep your papers, nuts, bolts, tools, and widgets separated and organized. If you doubt their durability, just think about how many uses nesting bins are good for at the TSA area of an airport.
Next time you set out to the office supply store or industrial wholesaler to pick up some organizers, consider purchasing ones that have been used. They still function the same, but they can be purchased for pennies on the dollar. Even better, you reduced your carbon footprint and took one more step toward being a green industry.
also known as styrofoam, is used in everything from packing material to egg cartons and from plates, bowls, and cups to take out containers at restaurants. Consider these four easy ways you can cut down on the use of styrofoam by using your own glass containers.
- At the meat counter, provide your own packaging. The butcher can weigh your container, balance out the scale, and price the meat for you without using plastic wraps or Styrofoam meat trays.
- Carry your own coffee cup with you. Almost every restaurant, gas station, and fast food joint will fill up your container instead of putting your drink in a disposable cup.
- Bring your own “take out” containers to the restaurant. Most of us know if we are going to finish our meal when we go out to eat. Past history tells us that some people clear their plates, and others take half of their meal home. We also know which restaurants provide scanty portions and which go overboard, so you know when to bring additional containers. Instead of adding another stack of Styrofoam containers to the garbage, simply put the unused food in your own reusable containers. If you are ordering take-out, you can give the service person your container and ask that they put your food in it instead of using their packaging. They may give you an odd look at first, but you might be surprised how quickly the idea catches on.
- Make sure you get your eggs in cardboard and not Styrofoam containers. If you have extra egg containers, bring them back to the store so they can be reused. If you only use a dozen eggs a week, you will keep several thousand containers out of the landfills over your adult lifetime.
are everywhere. It is estimated that plastic bags are used millions of times every minute around the clock. To cut down on plastic bag use, consider the following:
- Bring your own bags to the grocery. At the very least, ask for paper bags at checkout. The average consumer disposes of several hundred small plastic grocery bags each year. You can make a huge impact on the environment simply by transporting your groceries in a reusable or greener alternative.
- Bring your own produce bags. A thin cotton bag (you can make one from an old t-shirt) is the perfect way to transport your fruits and vegetables without adding more plastic bags to the system. Additionally, since the cotton breathes, it is better for your produce.
- Use your own bags at the bulk food aisle or store. Simply check with customer service prior to filling the bag to find out how they will deduct the weight of the bag for you.
Bring your own straw
While this may seem silly at first, there are billions of straws that end up in our ecosystem every year, and they don’t decompose any faster than plastic bags, which means they will be there for the next thousand years, at least. It may not seem convenient, but once you get used to bringing your own stainless steel straw with you, it will be hard to remember doing things any other way.
Avoid plastic juice containers
Not only does juice contain extra sugar and, often, additives like high fructose corn syrup, but it is missing the fiber from the actual fruit. If you feel you must have juice, modern blenders and juicers are able to provide high-quality juice in a matter of moments. By eliminating just two bottled juice containers each week, you, alone, will quickly reduce the number of plastic bottles in our environment.
Choose refillable metal lighters or use matches
There are billions of disposable lighters sold every year in the United States. Hundreds of millions of these lighters end up in storm drains, on our shorelines, and in landfills. In addition to the plastic taking thousand of years to decompose, the unused chemicals seep into the water supply, and animals see the bright colors and eat them, often dying from this consumption.
Say no to bottled water
Ban the Bottle’s fact page says that “Americans use some 50 billion plastic water bottles annually – that’s over $1 billion in plastic. And we recycle just one-quarter of them.” By taking advantage of reusable bottles, you are are helping to save the land, waterways, and oceans.
Consider using cloth diapers
This isn’t suggesting that you go back to swaths of cotton clumsily pinned to your baby’s bottom. The cloth diapers of today are form-fitted with elastic legs and button or velcro closures. They can be paired with absorbent covers for extra protection. Because of advances in textile technology, diaper materials do not need to be soaked in tubs of bleach and do not create horrible smelling sections of your home.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that disposable diapers amount to over 7.5 billion pounds of waste each and every year in the United States. Not only are cloth diapers easy to use, convenient, less expensive than disposables, and better for the baby’s skin, but they are a great way to reduce your contributions to landfills, as well as your carbon footprint. Your use of cloth diapers might not eliminate the 20 billion disposable diapers that are thrown away each year, but you can reduce that number by approximately 6,000 for each one of your children who use cloth!
The Bottom Line
Millennials are consumers who think green. It doesn’t take a complete retrofit of your industry or corporation to make a difference, either. A small change in your personal and corporate habits can have a major impact on your business and your world. Best of all, if you are using a container exchange service, you can save enough money to have a major, positive impact on your bottom line, as well.