Improving Your Sustainable Supply Chain – Life With Plastic, It’s Fantastic!
Recycling is not just something that makes consumers feel good about being eco-friendly; it is also something that the earth requires. With limited resources, we must utilize materials to their highest potential. Plastic is a great example. Much can be done to increase the percentage rate of recycled plastics, especially when careful attention is paid to using recycled plastics in supply chain management. It is easily reused and recycled, cost-effective, light, durable and can be easily molded and modified to fit supply chain needs.
The China Effect
Until recently, the UK has relied on China to process plastic recyclables. The processing in China is now more rigorous due to world-recognition through the Beijing Olympics, increased global pressure on China to improve their human rights and news releases that exposed the poor quality plastics which were sent from the UK. This change is good in the long run as it forces the UK to review its general criteria in plastics.
The key complaint regarding any recyclable plastic is that it is contaminated, which causes higher transportation and storage costs that deal with rejected material. To bypass these challenges, the UK will need to: 1) differentiate plastic types with better control, 2) increase effective sorting of plastics, 3) improve awareness of types, amounts and quality, 4) educate supply chain members on specifics in the plastic trade, 5) and improve production runs and methods of packaging.
Milk Bottles = UK Success
While the plastic road to China may be riddled with obstacles, milk bottle recycling in the UK stands as a shining example of plastic recycling possibilities. Seventy-six percent of HDPE milk bottles were recycled in 2010, a rise from 2009’s seventy-two percent. This recycling rise is partly attributed to higher curbside collection rates. Still, the remaining percentage of unrecycled bottles does contribute to landfill costs while causing losses of up to eight million Euros in potential recyclable sales. This shows the great potential in recycling plastics at a high rate of efficacy, and that still more can be done.
What We Can Do
If we think about supply chain economics, we can apply the basic principle that products will pass through stages along the chain. The ability for products to complete the cycle equates to “closing the loop” of the chain. By closing supply chain loops, businesses can secure economic benefit while providing true social value. Closing the loop necessitates avoidance of damage or spoilage of the materials.
The different types of recyclable plastics include polyethylene terephthalate, high density polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, low density polyethylene and polypropylene. These plastics are used for soft drink bottles, milk jugs, shrink wrap, trash can liners and meat trays, respectively, and numerous other uses. Currently, the infrastructure for separating these plastics can be improved. Also, many recyclable plastics are not collected at all—for instance, in 2008, only 13.2% of recyclable plastic waste was collected in the U.S.
Closing the Loop
In order to optimize recycling potential, we need to appropriately label products within their differentiated plastic categories, which requires more focused management of the recycling supply chain in every community. This will offset some of the waste which currently takes place. Also, we need to support investment in recycling in order to build infrastructures for complex recyclables like plastics. The infrastructures play a key role in separating plastics and seeing that they move along the appropriate route in the chain. With organized effort, we can ensure that most major plastics achieve a full life cycle from inception to use to re-use such that our reliance on materials coincides with our reliance on the earth.
University Alliance submitted this article on behalf of The University of San Francisco’s online program. The University of San Francisco provides all the tools and resources necessary to gain a sustainable supply chain management certification online. For further information please visit .
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