The Case for Sustainable Business: The Benefits of Post-Consumer Recycled Plastic
Did you know that it normally takes 450 years or more for a single plastic bottle to decompose? Single-use plastics are ever-present in our everyday life, and few Americans experience a single day without using one of these products. Today approximately one million plastic bottles are consumed by the world’s population every minute. This magnitude of consumption of plastic bottles coupled with the fact they do not biodegrade have created severe ecological and environmental issues in just a few decades.
What is Post-Consumer Recycled Plastic?
We learn from a young age that in order to help save the environment, we need to do three things: reduce, reuse, and recycle. When we talk about recycled plastic, we may be referring to either post- process or post-consumer. How do they differ?
Post-process recycled plastic refers to the process of reusing off-cuts or rejects that may be found in a plastic molding factory through a procedure called molding. Post-consumer recycled plastic, on the other hand, refers to the process of reinventing a plastic product whose useful life already expired. These plastics, after being used or thrown away, are collected and cleaned to be made into something new. Under this kind of recycled plastic, the use of non-renewable fossil fuels (e.g., petroleum) will be lessened.
How is Post-Consumer Recycled Plastic beneficial to businesses?
Through the years, more and more businesses have fortunately decided to use post-consumer plastics in their packaging for two reasons: environmental and economic benefits. The most common plastic packaging material by far is called Polyethylene terephthalate (PET). This kind of material is also commonly used in clothing fibers or in liquid or food containers. A research in 2016 showed that 56 million tons of Polyethylene terephthalate could be recycled as plastic bottles. Using post-consumer recycled plastic bottles are beneficial for business owners since they will be spending less compared to what they will be spending if they buy brand new plastic bottles.
Business owners may also designate an area where spent plastic may be thrown. Thereafter, they can send it to recycling plants to have it sterilized and sorted. Subsequently, these used plastics may be repurposed into a new object or material. At the end of the process, a person can have a new object which has stemmed from its existence to a plastic material whose useful life already expired.
Since companies are now becoming environmentally active and aware of their carbon footprint, a lot of them are now shifting to using post-consumer materials as it enables the manufacturers to reduce their carbon footprint. Also, consumers are now becoming environmentally conscious in choosing the products they use or the businesses they support.
In an age where information can be readily available with just a few clicks, unethical business practices can damage an organization's reputation and sustainability of its brand. Consumers now demand that companies become more transparent and environmentally aware. A study has shown that consumers are even willing to pay a higher price for products made with the use of post-consumer plastics.
Corporate Environmental Responsibility
Corporate Environmental Responsibility (CER) is the way an organization incorporates environmental issues as part of their operations when eliminating waste, maximizing the efficiency of its resources while at the same time eliminating or minimizing practices that harm the natural resources of an area.
Incorporating CER into a company’s business practices can be difficult. Even businesses which aim to provide natural alternatives to chemical-heavy and artificial products end up producing significant levels of plastic waste.
As a relatively young business, Nantucket Spider has drawn inspiration from the practices and values of a number of companies that have successfully integrated environmental responsibility with day-to-day business operations.
Yet one in particular stands out: Patagonia. Over the years, the outdoor apparel company has pioneered the use of recycled materials in its products and has repeatedly refuted the misconception that sustainability and profitability are conflicting principles. Today, Patagonia not only embodies the principles of sustainability and responsible growth, but is also arguably the strongest brand in the huge outdoor apparel and gear market. The company is proof that the switch to post-consumer products is not only good for the environment, but good for the bottom-line as well.
At the end of 2019, we at Nantucket Spider made a big decision: starting in the spring of 2020, all our insect repellent spray bottles would be made from 100% post-consumer plastics. Although this significantly raised our material costs, some of which would inevitably have to be passed on to customers, we felt that reinforcing our commitment to conscious environmental and practices was ultimately more valuable than saving a few bucks in the short-term. As of 2022, all of our insect repellent sprays are bottled in 100% post-consumer plastic bottles and we are working to further reduce our environmental impact.
Our goal is to not only provide our customers with a more sustainable insect repellent option and reduce our waste, but like the way Patagonia has done, to also hopefully show other eco-conscious companies that environmental responsibility is fundamentally good business.
By John Deen