On Thursday, January 14, Companies for Zero Waste (CZW) held their virtual meeting on “Supply Chain Problem Solving Workshop” where attendees were treated to a mix of both speaker and interactive, roundtable format. Kicking off the meeting, President and Founder, Scott Donachie, introduced the session and the emcee, Deborah Dull, Founder of the Supply Chain Network, who took the reins and opened with a survey questionon how familiar people are with supply chain, zero waste and a circular economy as well as familiarity with slowing loops, intensifying loops, narrowing loops and closing loops. Participants were also invited to take part in an online quiz throughout the meeting covering questions related to zero waste and circular economy. Between each section meeting, participants had a chance to be in breakout groups for about 15 minutes to discuss the topics that were just covered and bounce ideas off of each other. This made the experience more interactive and livlier. After attendees regrouped, they shared thoughts and ideas with rest of the audience.

Dull, in the first session, discussed what defines a good circular supply chain. A value stream map can be used to find value and waste in material we use, including energy, time and cost through each part of the operation. There are different types of materials entering supply chain and we can be the stewards. We need to keep loops as small as possible. Recycling should be the last option. She stressed the terms of closing the loop (having material come back into stream to use it again), capture (planning to capture material where you can), narrow (using less in operation), identify (waste and those materials that don’t have any value – think about what goes in and what comes out), intensify (can redesign product or process for less waste and so it can be used over and over again); slow (make item last forever and product incursion so they last forever) and predict (where is the material coming from?).

Next, Carrie Mae George, VP Head of Sustainability and Impact at Everledgerexplored linking efforts and services between specific closed loop activities, consumer awareness and incentives to influence consumers, and service providers (repair and refurbishers) such as those engaged with Right to Repair activities and goals. She asked about circularity potential and how do you connect. You have to know quality and where it is identified. She covered consumer engagement and incentives (lifecycle extension), recycling scheme and fraud management and the fact that mining material is highly valuable. In the discussion, she also interviewed the CEO of iFixIt, Kyle Wiens, who provided commentary on pros/cons of Take Back and Extended Producer Responsibility schemes/regulations, discoverability of service providers (both logistics and repair actors), and what he wants to see in 2021 forward in partnerships and collaborations. He talked about how he started the company in 2003, posting repair manuals. He stressed that we make a lot of products that we don’t use for very long, replacing things every few years. The environmental impacts of electronics are extreme; people replace iphones, on average, about every 18 months, which is also when batteries are designed to die. This has kept us on the cycle of obsolescence. How can we use these things longer and be more resource efficient while having access to tools? Right to repair and interconnections is the idea that we should be able to fix our things but there are obstacles standing in the way. In order to have a circular economy, we need to have products that are circular and there are no repair models available. We create the parts, tools information; there are about 20,000 new products that get released every year. Companies should have a plan to support them and allow consumers to repair components. There is Right to Repair legislation pending in over 20 states as well as Europe, including a cell phone unlocking bill that focuses on the transition from one company to another, and will extended life span of millions of millions of electronics.

Rodrigo Oliveira, CEO of Green Mining, talked about the company’s development of an Intelligent Reverse Logistics technology to efficiently recover post-consumer packaging. Working with Caren McNamara, the CEO of Conscious Container, they discussed taking four main problems and coming up with solutions, including green mining, circular packaging, and smart agriculture. Everyone has a social responsibility when it comes to waste, especially major companies—how are you going to make your product more sustainable? Green mining closes the loop of the circular economy. Sorting at the source is key; avoid cost of MRF with cleaner material and cut out middleman. Cost-effective reverse logistics. In order to understand where the waste comes from, there needs to be collection and traceability blockchain.

McNamara discussed Conscious Container launching a refillable/returnable glass bottle business to enable beverage producers to lower their CO2 footprint and packaging costs. The company is working collaboratively with key stakeholders across the value chain. Bottles include beer, wine and non-alcoholic categories. They will sell new and washed refillable glass bottles, collect glass beverage bottle, wash and provide recycled content for new glass bottles. QR Code technology will track bottles and collect consumer insights. How do we bring technology in to change the landscape? The waste challenges and strategies are industry (beverage producer packaging waste), internal (packaging production supply chain) and external (packaging sold to consumers). Consumers are demanding change. Corporation are responding to that with aggressive sustainability goals but requires capital. We need waste accountability legislation as well as returnable/refillable drivers and data.

Srijanani Bhaskar, Industrial Vertical Manager, DuPont Safety and Construction and Brian King, Executive VP Product Management & Marketing of ADS were next up, talking about collaboration for reusing and repurposing medical packaging materials. After Bhasker gave an overview of DuPont, King pointed out that ADS is thesecond largest plastics recycling company in North America, purchasing over 550 million pounds of recycled plastic annually. They make plastic corrugated pipe for storm water management and develop Tyvek®, which has applications for medical packaging, envelopes and graphics, building innovations, tags, labels, sleeves, protective apparel, clothing and jackets, car covers, and other products. So, how do we repurpose/reuse/recycle manufacturing waste? How do we get more raw material?

Through an ADS/Dupont collaboration, ADS has the capability to use Tyvek manufacturing waste to produce durable cost effective products that perform on par with those produced from 100 percent new raw material. This creates shared value upstream and downstream. The waste is converted to products that are stable underground for several decades and away from landfill.

It is incredibly important partnership and economic benefits are clear and worthwhile. King stresses that the circular economy should not stop at the end of the lifecycle but rather the beginning. Product managers, marketing teams, when they are thinking about new products, they should think about the raw material at the beginning – it is key. That is why ADS has had such a great partnership with DuPont.

Dr. Kevin Dooley, Chief Scientist, for the The Sustainability Consortium at Arizona State University talked about the insight from assessment of 300 innovations for more circular plastic packaging and assessed these innovation types for state of development, impact on circularity, barriers to adoption. The focus was on what problems are we solving? What circular solutions and innovations should we “invest” in to make plastic more circular? We are moving away from disposal of plastic waste in a landfill versus using it for energy, recycling and reuse. They identified 250+ innovations in public domain that can make the value more circular—polymer design (more readily seen by optical sorters in an MRF), packaging reuse and waste collection (marine plastic pickup).

Capital innovation scenarios—instead of landfills becoming the dominant plastic end of life fate, it becomes Waste to Energy (would need to become cleaner, more efficient but will it detract from other circular pathways); chemical recycling (would need to become more profitable) or composting—a big switch to bioplastics (linked to drivers around carbon sequestration?). All are critical to a portfolio of solutions. Progress in process yield, cost and quality comes after a dominant design emerges. Need to examine distributed modular solution—miniaturize technologies and apply them in a more distributed fashion.

The Policy Accelerator is the EU Domino Effect. Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste aims to have 50 percent of plastic packaging waste recycled by 2015. Most experts they talked to think this will be the most likely driver of significant change to the landfilling dominant design. Experts mentioned that Japan and certain U.S. states would likely follow. However, it would take another decade for such legislation to be global. New plastics economy global commitments align with this driver. He ended the discussion by asking what circular solutions and innovations are you going to “invest” in to make plastic more circular?

At the end of the webinar, Scott Donachie, CEO Companies for Zero Waste, explained his journey with Companies for Zero Waste, how company has grown, how many people are willing to make a difference and put in the hard work. There are 400 dormant landfills in his state. In 2001, the average distance to move waste was 90 to 100 miles, now it is 700 miles. He wanted to know what was happening with all the waste, so he reached out to corporations, policy makers, etc. The key component is to get sectors to share their supply chains and successes and failures. He stressed that we have to be willing to talk about challenges and get engineers to educate sustainability and supply directors. These meetings are a good opportunity for all of us to come together; however, actions are better. We need to understand where we want to create metrics over the next few years. The challenge with corporations is that it doesn’t fit into their wheelhouse if it isn’t in their sector. There are huge profit margins that can be captured with these raw materials in the supply chain. We can do better driving things forward through collaboration and innovation.

Finally, Dull wrapped up the presentations by discussing the themes identified in the workshop and the next actionable steps for companies to take.She asked what is one reason to be optimistic after this workshop? Some answers included not in this alone, lot of startups, people are aware, sharing ideas, great innovations are emerging, global interest and knowledge, solving future needs, make use of the things we have to the fullest, opportunities in supply chain, see big companies working on their supply chains to be more sustainable and creating trends, etc. Overall, it was a great discussion of the key themes. The next Companies for Zero Waste “Supply Chain Problem Solving Workshop” will take place on February 11.

For more information or to register, visit www.companiesforzerowaste.com/virtual-meetings.