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CSR: P&G Invented New Technology for Recycling

PET Bottles

Plastic bottles are among the biggest cause of pollution in the oceans. The plastic bottles, commonly known as PETs, have caused a lot of distress to the blue economy. While the organisations are now taking up the responsibility to recycle these bottles, the caps of the bottles are often left untreated.

Plastic bottle caps are typically made from a different material than the rest of the bottle. Plastic beverage bottles, for example, are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), while the caps are made from polypropylene (PP or Plastic No. 5).

When Polypropylene, a rigid plastic, is processed, the resulting material is opaque and dark in colour. Typically, the only end use for this material is to down-cycle it into products like park benches or flower pots, significantly lowering its value in the recycling market.

Last year, a Procter & Gamble scientist figured out a solution to change that. John Layman, section head of corporate research and development for P&G, and his team figured out a way to remove all colours and contaminants from recycled polypropylene, essentially returning it to its virgin state.

The discovery was born out of a meeting with the North American Association of Plastic Recyclers, which convened manufacturers to discuss which types of recycled plastic they’re looking to buy—and which types they have trouble sourcing. The team learned from the meeting that recycled polypropylene was in high demand and if they managed to get to a virgin quality, then there would be many manufacturers who would place big orders at a very good price.

P&G became the first brand to join the World Wildlife Fund’s ReSource: Plastic collaborative. ReSource is similar to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in that it seeks to translate disparate goal-setting into a common language—in this case, around preventing plastic waste.

The company has set a number of bold goals around plastic under its Ambition 2030 plan—from halving its use of virgin plastic by 2030 to ensuring no P&G plastic finds its way to the ocean.

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The CSR Journal Team