August 30, 2022 / 3 minute read
Our Sustainability Depends on the Right Partnerships
Written by Brian King, Executive VP, Marketing, Product Management and Sustainability
Anyone who knows me will tell you: I’m straightforward and vocal about the things I believe in. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been such a passionate defender of plastics recycling, which has received (unfair, I think) criticism over the last few months. I also think our company has a responsibility to talk about recycling: ADS is the number one plastics recycler in North America. It’s important for us to put up those big numbers, of course, but we also need to explain why recycling matters.
Plastics are an important part of our economy and have been for more than a century, when scientists first created plastics made entirely from synthetic materials. Unfortunately, we, as a society, have not done a great job of figuring out what to do with plastic goods when we are done with them. Companies like ADS, however, have. We take HDPE plastic waste — the old shampoo bottles and laundry detergent jugs that families no longer need — and through a mechanical recycling process, turn them into small pellets that we then transform into stormwater management solutions.
We just released our Fiscal Year 2022 Sustainability Report, which shares that we recycled 600 million pounds of that plastic over the course of the year. We’ve got an ambitious goal to recycle a billion pounds a year by 2032, so of course, I am thrilled by this progress. We still have a long way to go, though, and one thing that has become clear as we have pushed forward on our recycling goals is that our partnerships will allow us to achieve them.
Earlier this year, ADS and The Ohio State University announced a new collaboration on both sustainable water management and recycling. Our partnership will support water management research, student learning and campuswide sustainability. We entered into this partnership for a lot of reasons, but one of the most exciting to me is that our products will be used for research and teaching.
As we were working toward the partnership announcement, one of the other members of the Sustainability Institute said something that resonated with me — that still resonates now, months later: “Everybody that is a part of the institute is here to help make a better circular economy. It’s folks working together who have similar goals and talking about how we all collectively create better outcomes.”
That collaboration and that desire to work together toward our similar goals is going to be crucial over the coming months and years as we figure out how to make better use of existing plastics in our waste stream. It’s part of why we joined another collaboration, the Recycling Partnership. One of the challenges we are facing at ADS is that we cannot get enough recycled materials.
This is a problem for our business, of course, but it’s also a problem for our society. Some 40% of Americans do not have access to curbside recycling. They live in multifamily homes, perhaps, or rural areas where curbside recycling has not yet been extended. By making it difficult for people to recycle their goods, we ensure that those goods don’t end up getting recycled. We need to increase access to recycling to protect our landfills and make better use of the existing materials on the planet.
ADS has a strong voice for recycling, as it should. But that voice becomes stronger when we partner with other organizations that have similar goals. That’s how we create real change, and I believe, it’s how we will reach the goals that are best for both business and the planet.