Reduce the amount of natural resources used, reduce the generation of waste by reuse, and recycling more as we drive towards a “Zero Waste” organization.
O-I is reinventing the future of glass manufacturing through innovation, creating a better planet through our products and our processes. We are committed to reducing the natural resources we use and the waste we generate. Glass is made from four natural ingredients: sand, limestone, soda ash, and recycled glass or “cullet.” O-I is taking a holistic approach to increase recycled content across our global network. We have set a goal of increasing recycled content to a 50% average by 2030, with a target of 2% year-on-year improvement from the 2017 baseline. Globally, our glass products currently contain an average of 38% cullet by tons packed. In Europe, we have produced containers made of up to 100% recycled glass.
Our long-term roadmap to increasing recycled content involves focusing on cullet and the recycling ecosystems around our facilities and solving for increased local collection, processing, and use opportunities. This strategy involves creating end-to-end sourcing plans and locally partnering with processors and our customers to find collaborative opportunities to use more recycled content.
Increasing recycled content in our glass containers grows demand for end-of-life containers. A study by McKinsey & Company found consumers want rigid packaging to be recyclable or to include higher levels of recycled content.  Recycled glass is always part of our recipe. The more recycled content that is used, the greater the decrease in energy consumption, thus alleviating the strain on equipment and prolonging furnace life. The energy reduction translates to reducing emissions. These factors make using recycled glass profitable in the long run, lowering manufacturing costs and benefiting the environment.
Glass is infinitely recyclable without loss of purity or quality, making it a permanent material that can continue to offset the need for raw materials as often as it is recycled. Accenture found that 83% of consumers believe it is important or extremely important for companies to design products that are meant to be reused or recycled. By increasing recycled content, O-I continues to design out waste to make glass production a circular process. Our production process does not produce “glass waste” as any glass that does not make it into the final product is recycled and returned the melter. These practices reduce pollution and minimize the need to use raw materials, lessening the strain on the earth’s finite natural resources. Every ton of glass recycled saves 1.16 tons of raw materials for future generations.
The O-I sustainable waste management initiative aims to reduce the amount of natural resources used, eliminate the generation of waste, and increase recycling as we drive towards being a “Zero Waste” organization.
Though the raw materials we use are readily available, O-I recognizes that natural resources are finite and world demand is increasing. Supply chains disruptions present business interruption and other risks. The world has limited landfill waste capacity. Increasing our cullet usage, decreasing our use of raw materials, managing efficient use of materials, and minimizing waste allows us to lessen our impact on natural resources and mitigate these and other risks.
“Every year O-I prevents more than five million tons of glass from going to landfills by keeping it in the circular economy making us a net negative contributor to landfills“
Jim Nordmeyer (He/Him)
VP, Global Sustainability
Managing and Eliminating Waste Generation
O-I’s industrial activities generate non-hazardous wastes, which are usually recycled or disposed of. Typical non-hazardous wastes (or byproducts that can be reused) include general plant refuse, metal, cardboard, paper, plastic, wood, cullet, most waste batch, and certain refractory wastes. Our industrial activities also generate hazardous wastes, which because of their physical, chemical, or other characteristics can be hazardous to people, property, or the environment if improperly managed.
Proper management of waste reduces health risks, improves safety, reduces environmental impact, improves our sustainability initiatives, and reduces costs. Our global waste goal is driven by following the O-I Waste Management Fundamental, which establishes global measurements, benchmarks best-in-class practices, promotes using less and recycling more, and follows our waste management hierarchy of:
- Energy Recovery
The Waste Management Fundamental establishes procedures that help reduce our impact on the environment and related costs, as well as minimum expectations for our waste management process: inventory, characterization, waste determination, minimization, collection, handling and storage, shipment, disposal, internal audits, training, and records.
Waste is assessed and tracked through a written inventory. Currently, all regions track waste in various databases. In Europe, waste data is tracked throughout the year in an integrated internet-based system. As we look to continuously improve, we are working to integrate all regions into this system.
Through waste characterization we look to define the properties, characteristics, and constituents of each waste, applying waste coding for recycling or disposal. We identify hazardous and non-hazardous wastes in the waste determination process.
Minimization is also assessed. Each plant estimates the portions of their existing waste generation practices as they relate to the waste management hierarchy: minimization, re-use, recycle, energy recovery, or disposal. The plants set site-specific waste management targets per the hierarchy and review them annually. Plants maintain a written waste minimization plan that identifies the waste management targets and the methods used to reduce, eliminate, or prevent waste at its source.
O-I works to ensure appropriate waste collection, handling, and storage through regulatory compliance, maintaining standard operating procedures, and conducting job hazard analysis to manage wastes safely. Through identification, labeling, and an audit process, we look to avoid mixing different types of wastes, in particular, non-hazardous with hazardous waste. This leads to proper waste separation and collection, which maintains workplace safety.
When waste is transported for disposal, our process seeks to address whether carriers of waste and waste processors have all required permits and shipments are documented correctly.
Local EHS Managers perform internal audits of the waste management program. The results are shared with facility managers to communicate corrective and preventative actions. All persons leading or participating in waste management must complete classroom or on-the-job training to become familiar with the waste management and emergency procedures for the waste handled at the facility. All documents relating to waste management and all associated procedures are retained for a minimum of three years, or per applicable local regulations, in a location that is accessible by all relevant personnel.
Waste Management Leadership Structure
The EHS Center of Excellence Team develops, maintains, communicates, and provides guidance on waste. It also conducts global EHS audits on the waste management process, its implementation, and the results at plants across O-I.
Country Group Teams ensure O-I plants have implemented a waste management process and hold them accountable for an effective program. The process must be consistent with the Global Waste Management Fundamental, regional guidance, and with any local applicable EHS legal and regulatory requirements. Country Group Teams give procedural guidance, provide coaching or mentoring of plant and EHS staff, and ongoing monitoring of waste management expectations (implementation, process, and results).
Each O-I plant EHS Manager or EHS Leader works with the local EHS Leadership Team to assign a Project Champion. The Project Champion facilitates the development of the local documented waste management program and its implementation. They monitor program effectiveness and facilitate continuous improvement when needed.
Project Champions also develop and implement a plant-specific waste management procedure incorporating any “more stringent” regional or local requirements. The plant Facility Manager is responsible for the communication, implementation, and execution of this procedure at their location. The Facility Manager ensures the waste management process involves the plant EHS Manager, the front-line leaders, and all relevant employees. Plant EHS staff are responsible for ensuring that all plant-specific procedures relating to waste management comply with local legislation, environmental permits, ISO14001 standards (where applicable), and the minimum requirements identified in the Global Waste Management Fundamental.
The Packaging of Packaging
O-I recognizes that if we manufacture the world’s most sustainable packaging, we must also ensure that the glass itself is packaged sustainably when delivered to our customers. We have found several opportunities to meaningfully reduce the environmental impact of our packaging.
Together with our customers, we understand that wood is a precious and limited resource. Therefore, we treat wooden pallets used for our goods as returnable packaging. All across the world we either use our own pool or participate in national or industrial pallet pooling systems. Through partnerships with customers, we have been able to repurpose and reuse pallets in small closed-loop systems to reduce scrap and minimize new wood pallet purchases.
In 2020 only 1 in every 16 pallets was new in Europe, and in North America, only 1 in every 10 wood pallets purchased was new.
In 2020 only 1 in every 16 pallets was new in Europe, and in North America, only 1 in every 10 wood pallets purchased was new.
For cardboard packaging, we follow two parallel paths in close cooperation with our customers. In Europe, we limit consumption of cardboard packaging and mainly use products made from recycled paper fibers. Our European cardboard composition is 71% recycled paper. We are looking for more sustainable alternatives to cardboard pads and sheets to the plastic layer pads (made from recycled polypropylene) to work in a returnable scheme, as we do with pallets. From 2016 to 2020 Europe increased returnable packaging usage from 60% to 70%. In the Americas, we use premium quality cardboard packaging, giving customers the opportunity to reclaim it, which extends the product life, reduces waste, and minimizes the environmental impact.
In order to increase the number of times fiberboard tier sheets can be reused, our Americas business unit has created an initiative to optimize the reuse of tier sheets. To date, over a quarter-million sheets have been reused, which offsets the need to purchase new sheets. Additionally, to reduce the amount of new fiber going into tier sheets, we worked with a supplier in North America to reduce the basis weight of tier sheets. By implementing a new, lighter-weight tier sheet, we reduced our annual paper consumption by over 900 metric tons annually.
To deliver our products to customers, we use film packaging to assure products are clean and safe when it reaches customer warehouses. Particularly for the bulk deliveries, we cannot avoid using a thin plastic stretch or shrink film to secure the load. Being conscious about the environment, we have run several development projects to improve this area. The two main pillars are: substantial plastic film downgauging (reducing thickness and thus the amount of plastic that we use and provide to the market) and developing films with recycled content (mainly in Europe). We have already conducted tests and downgauged with success as well as requested vendors provide film with recycled polyethylene content. In North America, we worked with our stretch film supplier and an external third-party lab to identify how to get the most out of our stretch film, while minimizing the amount of film needed on each load and maximizing stability. Our stretch film supplier worked with each of our facilities to adjust settings on our wrappers that resulted in a reduction of nearly 65 metric tons of film used annually. Additionally, internal scrap from all global packaging materials, as well as the returnable packaging at the end-of-life is fully collected and further sustainably recycled by specialized partners.
Better Use of Raw Materials
In order to improve O-I’s use of raw materials and reduce waste, in 2020 we introduced four initiatives: managing glass consumption, reducing raw materials inventory, reducing raw materials and logistics cost, and minimizing raw materials waste. We worked to manage glass composition based on the best Total System Cost, minimizing raw material use and increasing cullet. We drove increased cullet use and reduction in raw materials use by improving a cullet optimization tool and cullet levels considering batch cost, energy, emissions, and quality impact. We also focused on defining targets for soda ash reduction in both North America and Europe.
O-I drove raw materials inventory reduction based on a best Total System Cost approach to minimize obsolescence, the working capital invested, and scrap from raw material aging. We focused on increasing internal cullet use in North America. The Total System Cost approach was also applied to raw materials and logistics cost reduction, which included the adoption of new suppliers, and explored new ideas for distance and cost impact mapping and optimization. This includes identifying transportation options (truck or train) where possible to reduce emissions.
We minimized raw materials waste through upgrades and process optimizations, including internal cullet utilization and a waste batch program. We focused on specific batches, color change transition waste reduction (identifying areas in process of loss or waste) and reducing scrap from raw material aging.
Aiming to create a zero-waste process, any reusable internal cullet, or any reusable glass that does not make it into the final product, is recycled back into the furnace. O-I is working to address even the smallest wastes, glass fines (small particulates), to improve utilization. In Europe, several plants are using sodium sulfate, a byproduct from the rayon and methionine industries, as a fining agent. This is just one example of our ability to utilize wastes from other industries to pursue our sustainability goals. Some plants in Europe are also reusing the dust from the filter as a byproduct rather than disposing of it as waste. Twenty-two European plants (65%) recycle the majority of the dust, eight (23%) partially recycle, and four (12%) plants do not recycle depending on compatibility with market, quality, and regulatory requirements.
To reduce the amount of raw materials used in O-I’s production process, our focus has largely been on increasing the amount of cullet in our supply.
Increasing Cullet Rate
We recycle returns from customers including obsolete containers or end-of-life returnable containers. We have developed partnerships with many of our customers in Europe to close the loop on glass. In 2020, O-I launched an initiative to set up a centralized cullet processing location in the Netherlands through a third party. This will allow O-I to source high-quality and non-contaminated cullet from customers, not only securing our product’s sustainability but ensuring its quality. The project has the potential market for approximately 35,000 tons of high-quality and non-contaminated cullet annually, and a projected cost savings of €10 ($11.94) per ton. We are currently exploring opportunities to expand closed-loop systems, particularly in North America.
O-I is increasing cullet availability via efficient, plant-centric, and cost-effective recycling programs and systems. In addition to container glass, we are developing recycling of industrial cullet from flat glass (buildings and automotive) and end-of-life-solar panels and auto windshields. O-I is targeting all North American facilities as the region is responsible for a large portion of our production and cullet availability is unevenly distributed within our plants (globally and in North America) due to differences in local regulations. This is particularly true in the southeast United States where we have focused our efforts. Our ultimate goal is to increase cullet usage in the long term across the globe. We must address the following challenges: economics, legislation, collection (volume & quality), treatment capacity and capability, and limitations to our ability to receive and use the maximum amount of cullet possible while continuing to meet the final container specifications.
Cross-functional teams composed of experts from Procurement, Manufacturing, Quality, Glass Science, Sales, and Governmental Affairs work in each geography on advancing our understanding of evolving markets, needs, and cost. The teams are supported by senior leaders’ sponsorship and are developing strategic options.
Forming for Our Future
Moving into 2021 and beyond, O-I has developed sustainability plans to continue increasing cullet rate, decreasing the use of raw materials, and reducing waste. We will move these initiatives forward by defining metrics, establishing baselines, setting goals, and creating tracking mechanisms. Our roadmap will lay out initiatives, actions, and plans to execute and achieve goals.
Reducing Waste and Increasing Cullet
Our current waste management approach includes conducting waste inventories. Though track waste individually, we are working to bring the entirety of our global waste tracking into this integrated system.
We plan to reduce our raw material waste by improving conditions of our batch houses and recycling any residue, instead of disposing of it. This will require resources for analysis and testing, as well as batch house maintenance and upgrades.
We will build capabilities for enabling data-driven decision making and continuous improvement for cullet use rate and quality. In 2021, we’ll expand the use of data to drive decision making for the proper ratio of raw materials and cullet. This information will be used to maximize the overall cullet rate while minimizing overall cost, as well as provide input to build business cases for capital investment requirements. The approach to cullet rate needs to be holistic and long-term, considering raw materials and cullet prices, as well as savings on raw materials, energy, and emissions. We are in the process of refining the methodology for metrics and developing enhanced reporting.
On the three- to five-year horizon, we will keep populating the supply opportunity pipeline with inputs from our strategic sourcing process and industry coordination. Maintaining prioritization of opportunities, O-I will build business cases for capital investment and execute accordingly. This initiative will be piloted in North America, where production is high, but cullet availability is low compared to other regions due to differences in local regulations.
The increase of the recycled content in our finished products will require a coordinated and collective effort by several our stakeholders such as country group leadership, Manufacturing, Sales, Glass Science, Sustainability, Government Affairs, and Procurement. In order to reach the transformational long-term company objective, we will need to dramatically improve our ability to manage supply, demand, regulation, cost, and quality, we will need to develop long-term strategies. The priority for execution is North America. We are looking to expand customer partnerships in North America to create closed-loop systems, to reclaim shipped containers, in order to produce cullet and create new glass containers.
Industrial cullet may present an opportunity to increase cullet availability. We will map availability and cost to qualify sources. This could include glass products such as fiber, flat, tableware, or solar panels. We can leverage a current relationship with a U.S.-based solar company for the recycling of solar panels. This initiative can begin in North America, improving process speed, and continue in Europe, starting with Germany, as well as Southeast Asia.
Decreasing Raw Materials Use
As part of our initiatives to reduce raw material use and increase recycled content of all kinds, O-I has launched several initiatives to incorporate material alternatives. For example, by replacing some limestone with slag, which is a byproduct of steel production, we find new ways to increase recycled content and create the opportunity to reduce energy consumption and emissions by 3 to 5%. Slag is already used in several facilities in Europe and one facility in the United States where availability, cost, and location transportation are favorable.
Reusing concrete, ceramic, and porcelain as alternatives for limestone, alumina sources, and sand are opportunities for us to replace raw materials and increase our recycled content. Our aspirational initiative is to explore ways to reuse sand that is waste for one industry but can be substituted for virgin sand in our process to make new containers. A pilot project is being conducted in North America linked to a foundry to reclaim and reuse an estimated 80 kilotons of sand per year that otherwise would be landfilled.
Raw Materials Management
To make better use of our inputs and reduce waste, we plan to continue the four initiatives we launched in 2020, into 2021 and 2022. Composition will be managed through investment in soda ash reduction and expanding our focus beyond North America and Europe to the wider Americas. O-I will assess imported materials compared to local material replacements to reduce transportation impact. Our roadmap for success includes developing and implementing a monitoring system and alerts to keep composition within targets.
We will also implement a monitoring system and develop key metrics, targets, and policies to reduce raw materials inventory. Raw materials waste reduction will be achieved through inventory optimization, replicating transition best practices, and training users on risks and costs.
The implementation of a raw materials logistics monitoring system will facilitate decision making, enhance governance, and consider supplier process impacts as part of our roadmap to reduce raw materials and logistics costs.
Sustainability in Action
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