Saluting Sustainability Innovations on World Environment Day 2018

Today, we honor World Environment Day—a global event led by the United Nations and hailed as the largest celebration of our environment annually. As 2018’s global host, India is the epicenter of events to inform and inspire action in support of this year’s theme: “Beat Plastic Pollution.”

It’s mindboggling that 13 million tons of plastic leak into our oceans each year—and that it takes 100 years for plastic to degrade. Only a concerted, global effort can halt plastic pollution, and Jabil is eager to participate as it takes all nations, industries, and individuals to make Planet Earth a cleaner and greener place.

As our recently released 2017 Social and Environmental Responsibility Report reveals, Jabil is steadfast in our goals to reduce environmental impacts while driving sustainable innovations in our service offerings and internal operations. We’re making steady progress in our quest to help world-class brands manufacture more environmentally conscious products while empowering change through responsible sourcing, energy conservation, and sustainable innovation.

Can Technology Provide a Solution to an Ocean of Plastics?

In the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastics - from grocery bags and straws to bottles and caps - are carried into the Pacific Ocean every single day. Like every issue of sustainability, there are multiple routes to addressing this challenge, and they lie around the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Much of this strategy is about reducing the impact of plastics and while it makes sense, this can only be one part of a multi-pronged approach that addresses packaging needs and applications in a sustainable manner and considers a ‘less is more’ approach when it comes to packaging. And light-weighting to ensure that the least amount of plastic is leveraged in a given packaging solution is just one of the ways. 

More than half of the plastics that find their way into the world’s oceans are only ever used once, with the average American throwing away around 185 pounds of plastic per year, that around 10% of our waste and close to 35 billion water bottles annually. Using packaging multiple times is one way to reduce the amount that finds its way into landfills or into the ocean. That may be achieved by using the package more than once – as in the case of a water bottle refilled multiple times for multiple requirements. But, it could also be supporting efforts to help packaging find a second life, perhaps by storing a less sensitive product in the same package, or even reconstituting it so it can find its way into the energy chain as a fuel.

To recycle effectively, a holistic approach is required as it relates to the product, process, and material. Focusing on the material and creating a process that uses too much energy or has an overly complex supply chain truly defeats the purpose. The plastics in the ocean are heavily mixed and hard to recycle, but efforts are being made to ensure that the materials leveraged are recyclable in the future state. Our teams of material scientists are working with recyclers to test materials to support these goals on behalf of our brand customers.

In the fight against plastic pollution, Jabil is driving advancements in smart packaging with better, easier ways to reduce, reuse and recycle and drive toward circular economy principles. At our Nypro facility in Bray, Ireland, we’ve initiated a “waste rebirth” solution where more than 20 types of plastic manufacturing waste have been repurposed to create chairs for Dutch schools as well as art supplies for local charities. 

This effort has enabled the facility to achieve an impressive 96% recycling rate with zero-waste produced onsite going to landfill. Another way Jabil is lowering plastic waste is through low-density polyethylene scrap reduction initiatives and sourcing practices that identify materials that are more easily recycled.

Many Jabil customers have their own product recycling and recovery objectives. Keurig Green Mountain pledged to make 100 percent of its K-Cup® pods recyclable by 2020. Through innovative product designs and advanced production technologies, Keurig is meeting its sustainability and performance goals while giving consumers the eco-friendly product they demand. 

We applaud this as it takes a lot to examine entire product lifecycles and rethink how products should be designed, made, delivered and reused. Jabil is committed to helping our customers move toward a restorative, regenerative circular economy by preserving natural resources, designing for recycling and reducing environmental impacts.

Continuous Improvement in Sustainability Initiatives

We are constantly improving manufacturing processes, ensuring smarter logistics and supply chain management while achieving consistent gains in energy conservation. Over the past year, Jabil recycled 31,609 metric tons of waste and experienced a 2,630-metric ton reduction in landfill waste. 

Moreover, we delivered 500 million kWh of energy from renewable sources while achieving 50% energy utilization from renewable sources. GHG gas emissions were reduced by 10% below our fiscal 2015 baseline and science-based carbon emission goals, guided by a series of carbon footprint analyses conducted at each of our 100 facilities.

Jabil employees share this dedication. At our facility in Kwidzyn, Poland, an effort to refine the collection of recyclables reduced landfill waste by 30% year-over-year. Employees collected more than 500 pounds of plastic bottle caps since February. The money from recycling caps will purchase a specialized wheelchair for a member of their community. 

When it comes to sustainability, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts because it takes the power of like-minded people to make impactful improvements. Jabil continually finds ways to connect people, places, and partners to overcome challenges and facilitate lasting positive change. In fiscal 2017, we began to explore how Jabil’s innovations in sustainability are aligned with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

We are aligned with the UN’s initiatives to reduce environmental impacts and positively affect the communities in which we operate. So, in honor of 2018 World Environment Day, let’s look to the future as a united front, and do what it takes to beat plastic pollution.