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By Eric Roegner, Amcor

 

April 22, 2020 is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. 

Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson came up with the idea for a national day to focus on the environment while serving as U.S. Senator for Wisconsin.  He witnessed the ravages of a massive oil spill in California, in 1969 and, inspired by the anti-war movement, saw an opportunity to use emerging public consciousness to encourage environmental protection onto the national political agenda.

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, urban dwellers and farmers, business and labor leaders.  By the end of 1970, the United States Environmental Protection Agency was established and the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts were passed.

Fast forward 50 years and the annual day is still important as a way to remember to reduce air and water pollution. This year, the world acknowledges Earth Day very differently as we all adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic. This “event” has increased awareness about how our day-to-day activities impact our planet. For example, we see images of blue skies where smog filled the air weeks before because there are fewer gas emissions related to transportation. That’s a monumental step! It’s a step that’s given us reason to pause and reflect about the greater purpose that connects us - the true spirit of Earth day – that we’re all in this together.

At Amcor, we supply products to the food, beverage, home and personal care, healthcare, and pharmaceutical industries. Our packaging is critical to the health, safety and welfare of the world. Amcor packaging is enabling the delivery of fresh, nutritious food and safe products around the globe while also helping to reduce environmental effects.

The theme for Earth Day 2020 is climate action. The environment is a key stakeholder in our business and our commitment to sustainability means climate protection strategies are incorporated into Amcor’s global strategy.

We continuously push ourselves and others to achieve more and are committed to understanding challenges and advancing transformational change, categorized with three major goals: First, we are on the path to developing all the packaging we make to be recycled or reusable.

Secondly, we are significantly increasing our use of recycled materials in our packaging. Study after study shows that consumer decision-making is swayed by sustainability claims on the package.

This leads to our third goal: to increase recycle rates worldwide. We’ll achieve that by working closely with customers, suppliers, NGOs, and municipalities to develop better and easier ways to collect, sort and recycle our product.

We are proud that 97% of our rigid packaging is already recyclable. And we’re working every day to advance the circular economy. Currently, only around 30% of PET plastic in the U.S.  is collected to be recycled, compared to Europe’s 51%. It will take a strong cooperative effort between producers, consumers and recyclers, but I know that we can reduce landfill waste.

When each person in a city of about 200,000 people recycles just ONE PET bottle each day, 1150 tons of greenhouse gas are eliminated. That’s the equivalent of taking 240 cars off the road for a YEAR. Enough power—32 billion BTUs—is conserved to power almost 500 households for a year. And $600 to $800 million is added to the economy.

PET plastic is an ideal example of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” goal. PET is currently the most recycled plastic in the U.S.2; with cooperation among consumers, manufacturers and waste companies, PET bottles can end up in the recycling bin, the first step to becoming yet another PET bottle.

COVID-19 has impacted so much of our lives and its affect can also be felt across PET bottle recycling. Many states suspended bottle deposit/redemption and cities across the U.S. have temporarily closed their curbside recycling programs. This is reducing the availability of all recycled content, including rPET for bottles. In order to help our customers achieve their stated commitments to use more post-consumer materials, we are working with our partners and associations to get these collection programs restarted. 

Meanwhile, we are finding ways to continuously improve the design and sustainability of our products, we are also minimizing the impact of our operations on the environment and the communities we serve. Our global EnviroAction program, active in all Amcor 250 sites, is driving reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, waste-to-disposal rates and water use.

At Amcor on this and every Earth Day, we are working to inform all our stakeholders on the benefits of our products, and to effect real change in our environment by pushing for the advantages of recyclable—and recycled—PET bottles through our 2025 Pledge.  Learn more at www.amcor.com/choosepetbottles.