You’ve probably been hearing about Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) lately. So, what does it mean for packaging and consumer goods companies? And more importantly, how do you do it?
SMM is a holistic approach to evaluating and enhancing the sustainability of products and packaging that’s rooted in life cycle analysis. The SMM approach guides us to consider many aspects of things produced, such as GHG emissions, energy and water use, waste generation, and recycling. It’s a comprehensive approach that helps us to assess how to best use and protect goods and materials, from beginning to end—or beginning to new beginning.
Measuring Environmental Impacts
The good news is: we’ve gotten much more sophisticated about what we can measure. How much energy was used to make something? How much emissions were generated during transportation,? How much food loss was prevented?
And after use, what’s the most sustainable way to manage the packaging. Recycling works for some packaging, but if you can’t recycle, how do you recover value from the packaging? And this is increasingly important because some of the most sustainable packaging solutions—the ones reducing energy use and emissions – are often difficult to recycle.
Sustainability Information Outreach
Many thought leaders are embracing SMM as a comprehensive approach for reducing and measuring environmental impacts. The U.S. EPA and states like Oregon are incorporating SMM into their programs and reporting structures. Other states such as Minnesota and Michigan are starting to investigate SMM and we hope other states follow their lead. Therefore, we’ve put together a new resource for policy makers and others who want to better understand the bigger picture.
Post-use Management and Sustainable Materials Management
We also need to focus on better post use management of our resources because it is a critical component of SMM. And, our resource is packed with good ideas and strategies for increasing recovery of valuable plastics via broadly supported policies, industry created programs, and recycling non-profits and organizations. This resource has been shared all over the country with policymakers in the fifty states. The programs and resources are easy to implement and can contribute much to any state’s sustainability goals and objectives. We hope you’ll check it out and share this blog and this new tool with policymakers in your state. There’s even a group on LinkedIn for recycling professionals—from policymakers to waste haulers– Recycle Your Plastics on LinkedIn where they can come and ask questions and learn more, so please share these great resources with folks you know could use information that would help recycle and recover more plastics.