Jun 18, 2021

Sustainability and Predicting the Future

Part of being a reliable and trusted supply partner is our ability to anticipate what’s coming and how that impacts not only on our business but also our customers, as well as the overall market.

So how do we do this? Do we have a Jenkins Freshpac calibrated crystal ball or a DeLorean time machine that we use to see into the future? Oh, how we wish we did, but in truth it takes a lot of hard work and effort to stay abreast of latest trends, issues, and opportunities. In the past we have encouraged team members to attend trade shows, conferences, or be active on industry committees etc. With Covid restrictions, this has been curtailed significantly, especially regarding international events. Even locally, the Summer Fruit conference earlier in June was the first of this type in over 12 months.

This year I have been focused on getting up to speed on sustainability, what’s driving customer behaviour, what’s real and what’s just smoke and mirrors and how to filter and distil this to assist you, our customers to navigate through the sustainability maze.

Earlier this month I participated on a WasteMinz study tour of the lower North Island with 20 like minded people representing councils, manufacturers, waste recovery facilities and the 2 major supermarket chains. Starting in Napier we wound our way down the island finishing up in Wellington. Over 3 days, we saw a variety of companies that were recycling waste into other useable products, be it from paper, cardboard, plastic milk bottles or PET soft drink bottles, each had a unique system for turning waste into gold and saving significant tonnes of waste ending up in landfills. We even saw a business that is using a Pyrolysis thermal processing system, extracting either gas, liquid (petrol or diesel) or charcoal from end-of-life waste products like tires and used engine oil HDPE bottles. Very mad scientist stuff, but certainly a practical application for dealing with difficult products and again avoiding landfill.

One great success story that really struck a chord with me was Earthlink in the Hutt Valley. They are a not-for-profit organisation who provide training, a work experience pathway for people with mental health, addiction, or other similar barriers to getting into paid work. Amongst the services that they undertake is the collection (for the greater Wellington regions) of soft plastics recycling on behalf of the Packaging Forum. They collect bales and then send to either Future Post or Second Life Plastics, so providing a valuable service and at the same time providing valuable work experience. For me the coolest part of their business is where they take old unworn and unwanted corporate clothing, cutting and sewing children’s clothing from the fabric then sell it either online or via their onsite shop. A truly inspiring story of trainees learning the skill of clothing making and at the same time up-cycling unwanted clothing. If you’re ever in the Wellington region I would highly recommend a visit to see what they do first-hand and support their programme by buying something whilst there.

My takeout from the tour was that there isn’t one “silver bullet” to the sustainability question but rather continuing the 4 R’s approach i.e. re-design, re-use, recycle or recover. There are great businesses doing great things and making a difference in the sustainability space. Feel free to email me if you want to know more about the trip or sustainability in general.

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