While the founding members of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste include several chemical and resin companies, Berry Global Group Inc. stands out a processor among the group.
CEO Tom Salmon of Evansville, Ind.-based Berry provided his insights about the new effort, and the ocean plastics problem, in an email interview that has been edited for length.
Q: Why get involved in the Alliance to End Plastic Waste?
Salmon: We jumped at the opportunity to work alongside other leaders from the plastics value chain to collectively solve this problem. One of the cornerstones of the alliance is education, and we feel with enhanced education there is going to be a more balanced narrative around how we manage and ultimately clean up plastic waste in the environment.
Only by attacking the problem from all aspects of the value chain, from brand owners, plastic resin producers, chemical companies, converters like ourselves, as well as waste management companies and recyclers, can we make a lasting impact and help create a more sustainable industry.
Q: What's Berry's commitment, both financially and otherwise?
Salmon: The alliance was formed to create a powerhouse of combined resources and industry knowledge that would work together as one unified organization. As such, we aren't talking to the specific details of our individual financial contributions, but rather the collective impact that the alliance can bring, which financially speaking is currently at $1.5 billion.
Q: Can you put the plastic waste problem in perspective from Berry's view?
Salmon: We've all seen the news and this is a problem that cannot be ignored. Studies have shown that the vast majority of plastic waste in the sea travels by river. One study estimates that over 90 percent of river borne plastics in the ocean comes from 10 major rivers around the world — eight in Asia, and two in Africa. The problem may seem miles away, but it is something we must acknowledge.
As a global leader in packaging and protection solutions, we feel we have a responsibility to play a positive role in the communities and environments in which we operate and serve. We believe that we can have the greatest impact on reducing waste through partnerships with trade organizations and initiatives that bring together multiple stakeholders throughout the supply chain.
Q: This is such a daunting issue, one that's gaining steam every day. What role can processors play in finding solutions?
Salmon: Join us. We are encouraging all companies affected by plastics to join us in this quest so we can begin to change the trajectory of this waste issue. At Berry, we are bringing change through creating more sustainable packaging solutions through lightweighting along with increasing the amount of recycled material.
At Berry, we have a history of taking steps to reduce our environmental impacts. That coupled with the use of post-consumer recycled materials is something that we're very encouraged by. By joining the alliance, we are now able to make a greater impact on the end of life for plastic products, which we hope will lead to increased use of recovered plastic material which can be used again.
Q: What's your sense of interest or responsibility in the processor community?
Salmon: I've seen an incredible response from all alliance members. As we continue to learn more about this issue, we also are uncovering improvement opportunities. Since then, those all along the plastics value chain have contributed to make an impact.