Scaling up the zero-waste supply chain model

13:00 | 13/11/2021 Environment

(VEN) - Numerous multinational brands are increasingly applying a zero-waste supply chain model that reuses plastic bottles and boxes after sterilizing them, instead of discarding or recycling them.

Zero-waste shopping and consumption

As part of the circular economy, the zero-waste supply chain model is being applied by numerous brands around the world to reduce the cost of waste collection, recycling and disposal.

Pioneering this model is Loop, the brainchild of pioneering US-based recycling business TerraCycle, launched on a limited worldwide basis in 2019. Similar to the online delivery services many have turned to during the global pandemic, Loop has an environmentally friendly twist: everything from the padded delivery boxes to the product packaging is 100 percent reusable. Now, in addition to the US, France, and the UK, a Loop pilot project targeting 5,000 consumers is set to begin in Japan on August 31, 2021 with approval and funding from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

scaling up the zero waste supply chain model

Ajinomoto Co., Inc. is among the global brands partnering with Loop on the Tokyo pilot project, planning to offer a selection of their most popular seasoning products attractively packaged in glass containers. Even the labels will be recycled after each container use, reducing waste to virtually zero. And as the Loop project grows, so will its impact on plastic reduction.

The Ajinomoto Group’s collaboration with Loop underscores its commitment to realizing a circular economy through its ambitious goal of achieving zero plastic waste by fiscal 2030. A variety of efforts to reduce plastic by incorporating single-layer materials, biodegradable plastics, and plant-derived materials are currently underway among Group companies worldwide. One is the Ajinomoto Philippines Corporation Group (APC), which has reduced packaging size and thickness and is currently working to increase the recyclability of its packaging materials. It has also launched a public awareness campaign to help consumers incorporate sustainable practices in their daily lives, and to instill a shared sense of duty that we all must use the earth’s limited resources wisely and efficiently.

Loop handles online orders, payment and delivery, plus the collection and sterilization of used containers, which it returns to suppliers to be refilled and sent out to consumers again, closing the waste-free loop. Users pay a small deposit on each item, which gets refunded directly to their accounts once the container is returned. This ensures a high level of compliance, ensuring an unbroken cycle.

Green supply chain in Vietnam

Here in Vietnam, the pioneers in zero-waste operation were not big foreign brands but Vietnamese beverage businesses and small stores.

In the 1990s, buyers and users of Hanoi Beer bottles, products of the Hanoi Beer Alcohol and Beverage Joint Stock Corporation (Habeco), had to deposit a sum of money and had it refunded after returning bottles or containers of the beer after use. The containers were then gathered and sterilized by the factory for reuse. Small soy milk sellers also required their customers to deposit and return the milk containers after use. Nowadays, this model is being applied by stores selling glass bottles of fruit juice throughout the country’s big cities.

Many models of trade in products recycled from waste and environmentally friendly products have been formed and developed in Vietnam. The notable ones are those of Unilever and Nestlé. Nestlé Vietnam is implementing a number of programs to achieve its goal of discharging no solid waste into the environment, including recycling and reusing milk containers.

scaling up the zero waste supply chain model
The “Swap milk cartons for green trees” program in Hanoi

Through its global strategy, Unilever has committed to avoid disposing hazardous waste to landfills. The corporation announced that over 240 its factories worldwide (including those in Vietnam) had achieved zero waste to landfill status. As a result, 140,000 tonnes of hazardous waste were treated and not discarded to landfills.

By replicating this zero-waste model in other parts of the business, nearly 400 additional sites have now eliminated waste to landfills. This has been achieved through the four “R” approach of reducing, reusing, recovering or recycling, proving that waste is a resource with many alternative uses, from converting factory waste to building materials to composting food waste from staff cafeterias.

Multinational consumer product manufacturers, retailers and wholesalers in Vietnam have taken practical steps to minimize and recycle plastic packaging waste, while waste recycling and control organizations have also been established, such as the Vietnam Package Recycling Organization (PRO Vietnam) and the alliance of businesses saying “No” to plastic waste.

Thu Huong