Morgan Stanley
  • At Scale Podcast
  • Jul 15, 2021

Revitalizing Recycling

Transcript

Cate Barr: Do you know what's in that bag? Oh, so that's just, oh, paper, a bottle, that's fine. Oh, except for this carton, so this is like a Chinese food takeout container.

Barr: Right now it is not OK in our recycling stream. So those have to go into the trash.

Audrey Choi: YOURE LISTENING TO AT SCALE - A SUSTAINABILITY PODCAST FROM MORGAN STANLEY.

Choi: EVERY WEEK, MILLIONS OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND ME ROLL OUR RECYCLING BINS OUT TO THE CURB. WE FILL THEM WITH JUICE BOTTLES, TAKE OUT CONTAINERS AND MILK CARTONS. BECAUSE A LOT OF THE PRODUCTS THAT COME INTO OUR HOMES ARE MADE OF PLASTIC OR PACKAGED IN IT.

BUT 91-PERCENT OF THE PLASTIC[1] THAT WE USE, INCLUDING WHAT WE PUT IN THE BIN, WILL NEVER BE RECYCLED. ITLL END UP IN A LANDFILL OR THE OCEAN. AND IT WILL OUTLAST EACH OF US BY HUNDREDS OF YEARS.

IM AUDREY CHOI, CHIEF SUSTAINABILITY OFFICER AT MORGAN STANELY AND CEO OF THE INSTITUTE FOR SUSTAINABLE INVESTING. ON THIS SEASON OF AT SCALE, WERE EXPLORING PLASTIC WASTE - THE SURPRISING PLACES WE FIND IT, THE INNOVATORS WORKING TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM, AND WHAT IT TAKES TO MAKE REAL CHANGE ACROSS COMMUNITIES, INDUSTRIES, AND AROUND THE GLOBE.

AND TODAY, WERE LOOKING IN YOUR RECYCLING BIN.

Barr: This is my territory; your street. And so I go to every barrel bin or bag, just take a peek inside and look for items that are questionable.

Choi: CATE BARR IS A RECYCLING INSPECTOR SUPERVISOR FOR THE TOWN OF ARLINGTON, MASSACHUSETTS. SHES PART OF A PILOT PROGRAM THAT EDUCATES RESIDENTS ON RECYCLING -- WHAT SHOULD GO INTO THE BINS AND WHAT SHOULDNT.

Barr: For milk, half and half cream, juice, ice cream. OK, those are the main culprits and including hot beverage cups.

Barr: We don't have a buyer for that recycling right now.

Barr: So many of our residents have been cleaning out those containers, you know, conscientiously trying to do what's right. And now we discover that, oh, those aren't OK. So that's what can be frustrating. And I absolutely get that.

Choi:  65-PERCENT[2] OF U.S. CONSUMERS ARE CONFUSED ABOUT WHICH PLASTICS CAN BE RECYCLED. THE HOT BEVERAGE CUPS CATE MENTIONED ARE ACTUALLY LINED WITH PLASTIC. SO THOSE HAVE TO GO IN THE TRASH. SAME WITH PLASTIC CONDIMENT CONTAINERS - AND ANYTHING SMALLER THAN A CREDIT CARD - BECAUSE THEY CLOG UP RECYCLING MACHINES.

IN THIS COUNTRY, WE GENERATE A LOT OF WASTE -- MORE THAN 290 MILLION TONS OF IT EVERY YEAR. THATS ABOUT 5 POUNDS PER PERSON PER DAY. AND ONLY 32-PERCENT OF THAT ENDS UP BEING RECYCLED.

AND PLASTIC IS AT THE BOTTOM OF THAT LIST. IT ONLY MAKES UP ONLY ABOUT 4-PERCENT OF WHAT IS RECYCLED.

THE TRUTH ABOUT PLASTIC RECYCLING HAS BECOME CLEAR. IT HASNT BEEN THE MAGICAL ANSWER TO OUR PLASTIC WASTE PROBLEM.

[SOUND: OLD PLASTIC PSA]

Choi: WHEN RECYCLING WAS FIRST INTRODUCED IN THE 1980s, IT SOUNDED SIMPLE ENOUGH. WE DIDNT NEED TO WORRY ABOUT THE PLASTIC WE MADE AND USED BECAUSE IT WOULD ALL BE RECYCLED. WE WERE SOLD ON A SEEMINGLY EASY SOLUTION.

THE CHASING ARROWS INSIGNIA APPEARED IN 1988. YOU KNOW, THE TRIANGLE MADE OF ARROWS WITH A NUMBER IN THE MIDDLE THATS STAMPED ON THE BOTTOM OF PLASTIC CONTAINERS. THE PROBLEM IS THOSE NUMBERS DONT MEAN THE PRODUCT CAN BE RECYCLED. ITS JUST A WAY TO IDENTIFY WHAT KIND OF PLASTIC IS IN THAT PRODUCT.

BUT THAT SYMBOL, ALONG WITH SINGLE STREAM RECYCLING IN THE 1990s, LED TO THE ASPIRATIONAL RECYCLING WE PRACTICE TODAY. NOT SURE IF THAT PLASTIC SOAP DISPENSER CAN BE RECYCLED? DONT WORRY. JUST TOSS IT IN THE BIN AND HOPE FOR THE BEST.

WHEN THAT BIN ARRIVES AT A TRADITIONAL RECYCLING FACILITY, WORKERS HAVE TO SORT THROUGH EVERYTHING. THE PLASTIC CLOTHING HANGERS, GARDEN HOSES - ALL THAT WISHFUL RECYCLING - IS PUT IN THE TRASH. BUT SO ARE TAKE OUT CONTAINERS WITH FOOD OR SODA BOTTLES WITH LIQUID STILL IN THEM. THOSE CAN LEAK OUT AND CONTAMINATE AN ENTIRE BUNDLE OF OTHERWISE VALUABLE PLASTIC RECYCLING[3].

BUT THE PROBLEM WITH PLASTIC RECYCLING GOES FAR BEYOND WHAT WE PUT IN OUR BINS. AND SO DO THE SOLUTIONS.

Brett Helms: We looked at this landscape of, what is the state of the art in plastics recycling?

Choi:  BRETT HELMS IS A SCIENTIST AT THE LAWRENCE BERKELEY NATIONAL LAB IN CALIFORNIA. ITS A LABORATORY THAT CONDUCTS SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY.  AND HIS TEAM HAS BEEN WORKING ON CUTTING EDGE PLASTIC TECHNOLOGY.

BUT BEFORE WE GET THERE, I WANTED TO BETTER UNDERSTAND HOW PLASTIC RECYCLING WORKS NOW.

BRETT SAYS IT OVERWHELMINGLY RELIES ON MECHANICAL RECYCLING.

Helms: So what that means is we take plastics that we collect at materials recovery facilities. These are colloquially known as MRFS. And plastics that come from MRFS are ground up into little particles. It makes them easier to transport to secondary processing facilities.

Choi:  THESE PLASTIC PARTICLES ARE THEN SORTED BY TYPE, GROUND UP AND MELTED.

Helms: And what happens during that grinding process is that the long chains of the polymers are broken up into lots of little baby chains.

Choi: POLYMERS ARE MATERIALS MADE OUT OF REPEATING CHAINS OF MOLECULES. AND PLASTICS ARE POLYMERS. THEY CAN BE RIGID, FLEXIBLE, HEAT RESISTANT OR STRONG. AND THOSE QUALITIES DEPEND ON THE MOLECULES THAT ARE CHAINED TOGETHER.

THE PROBLEM IS, WHEN THOSE LONG CHAINS ARE BROKEN, THE RECYCLED PLASTIC DOESNT HOLD ON TO THE SAME QUALITIES OF THE ORIGINAL MATERIAL. ITS DEGRADED.

Helms: At the same time, because lots of different plastics are being melted from lots of different products into the same recycled resin for remanufacturing, not only are the properties of that resin less attractive, but also the physical appearance of them is less attractive.

Choi:  IN OTHER WORDS, ITS REALLY HARD TO RECYCLE A CLEAR WATER BOTTLE INTO ANOTHER CLEAR WATER BOTTLE. BUT THERE IS ANOTHER WAY TO RECYCLE PLASTIC, USING CHEMICALS OR SOLVENTS.

Helms: We take those long linear chains that make up the plastic and we break those chains down into smaller fragments that are referred to as monomers. And monomers are what we use to make polymers. And if you can get rid of all of those additives and impurities while you're refining those monomers in a chemical process, then that gives you the ability to remake the resin in the exact same way that it was made initially.

Choi:  SO BASICALLY WITH CHEMICAL RECYCLING, YOU CAN REMOVE COLORS AND ODORS, AND FILTER OUT ALL THE STUFF YOU WONT WANT. AND YOU END UP WITH A RESIN THAT HOLDS ONTO THE QUALITIES OF VIRGIN PLASTIC. AND BRETT SAYS THE RECYCLED MATERIAL CAN BE USED FOR LOTS OF PRODUCTS THAT YOU WOULD NORMALLY USE NEW PLASTIC FOR - INCLUDING FOOD PACKAGING.

SO WHY ISNT CHEMICAL RECYCLING ISNT USED ALL THE TIME?

Helms: That's a great question. So if we're talking about making and breaking bonds in polymers that have very strong bonds, you often have to use a lot of energy to break those bonds. And so you have to basically crank up the temperature in order to break those bonds using pyrolysis methods. And so those temperatures can be as high as seven hundred and eighty degrees Celsius, which means the energy use underlying the execution of a pyrolysis process is quite high.

Helms: It's not as clean as you want. So the total yield of reusable material may only be 60 to 70 percent of the initial weight of the plastic that you're recycling.

Choi: Right, so then people, I'm sure we're going to ask also if it's not actually any better for the planet to, you know, in terms of energy use or in terms of material waste to recycle it, then should we even be bothering? Or is it actually then better for the world to just use virgin plastic?

Helms: I think that any recycling process is always going to be compared to just buying virgin resin and using it as such. There are downstream implications to that, which is, the way that we manage waste is problematic and it leaks into our environment. And if you can't control that process, and the mismanagement of waste, if you can't control that yet, then the best we can do is provide new opportunities to reuse the resources that we've thrown away.

Helms: And so even if circularity becomes practiced on the basis of reducing waste, I think it will have value. If we can develop novel methods to recycle plastics that lowers the energy intensity and increases the materials efficiency, that would constitute a breakthrough.

Choi: ITS COMPLICATED. MEANINGFUL SOLUTIONS TO PLASTIC RECYCLING CAN SOLVE ONE PROBLEM, BUT CREATE ANOTHER, LIKE CONSUMING ADDITIONAL RESOURCES IN THE PROCESS. THIS GOT BRETT AND HIS FELLOW SCIENTISTS AT THE BERKELEY LAB THINKING. HOW COULD THEY RECYCLE AND REUSE PLASTIC THAT MAXIMIZES EFFICIENCY BUT DOESNT USE A LOT OF ENERGY.

Helms: So what we considered is whether or not bonds can be designed into the polymer to lower the energy intensity of making and breaking them, as well as to provide a more clean transition from waste plastic to reusable monomer feedstocks for resin production. And that's where the invention of our poly diketoenamines came from.

Choi: IN 2019, BRETT AND HIS COLLEAGUES INVENTED A NEW POLYMER. POLY DIKETOENAMINE. OR PDK FOR SHORT.

Helms: In fact, reusing our materials over and over and over again is more efficient than making them the first time.

Choi: IT TURNS OUT, BRETT AND HIS TEAM STUMBLED UPON THEIR INNOVATION.

Helms: We had been making these PDK materials in our research labs and they're kind of sticky and they stick to the glassware that you make from them. And so one of the easiest ways to clean glassware is to sort of etch it chemically either with acid or base. So we had an acid bath in the lab and we took some of this glassware that was sort of contaminated with this resin.

Helms: And came back the next day and what we saw was this kind of like snow flurry of material. And it looked very similar to the monomers that we used for making PDK.

Choi:  WHEN THE TEAM ANALYZED THE MATERIAL, THEY FOUND THAT THE ACID HAD TURNED IT BACK INTO THEIR ORIGINAL MONOMERS.

Helms: We didn't have to try very hard. We didn't have to raise the temperature. We didn't have to do anything. And so that is one of the reasons why PDK’S are so attractive is that you don't have to try very hard to get them to go back to what you want in a recycling process.

Choi: SO HOW DOES THIS WORK? THINK OF IT LIKE BUILDING A LEGO SET.

Helms: And when you build them with a specific arrangements of shapes and colors, you see something, right? You have, like, a starship or a pony. And really, that's how we've been thinking about building up things we want to see in the materials as well. So when we mix really flexible building blocks, what we get are really stretchy and flexible, elastic materials from them. And when we have, like ,harder materials then these are things that have more impact resistance.

Choi: THE PDKs[4] - THIS NEW PLASTIC BRETTS TEAM INVENTED - CAN BE PULLED APART AND REASSEMBLED INTO DIFFERENT TEXTURES, COLORS AND SHAPES. OVER AND OVER AGAIN - WITHOUT LOSING ALL THE QUALITIES THAT MAKE IT FLEXIBLE OR STRONG OR HEAT RESISTANT.

SO BRETT SAYS PDKSs CAN BE USED FOR CELL PHONE CASES, COMPUTER CABLES AND WATCH BANDS.

Helms: I think there may be opportunities to use these materials for textiles. If we can make fibers and fabrics and things like that from them, they would behave very similar to spandex. So a lot of athleisure wear makes use of these types of materials in the garments. And that's obviously a market that's quite large.

Choi: So the discoveries that you've made around sort of being able to break down the polymers into these monomers and the development of PDK, does that help us at all with the, you know, billions of tonnes of existing traditional plastic waste that we have on the planet?

Helms: So this is an emerging area of intrigue and research for my group, where we want to take existing waste, turn them into the monomers for PDK and take something that has a linear lifecycle and create something new that has a circular lifecycle.

Choi: How much do you think, though, at some point we really do need to redesign the whole system? If we wanted to envision a future state where we had actually a fully circular plastic economy, kind of like aluminum today, to what extent do we really have to be thinking much more as you are with PDK around really kind of redesigning it from the initial creation of the molecule through end of life?

Helms: There's a challenge in managing waste on the back end that could make or break the success of any new polymer that might be introduced, no matter how circular it is, right?

Helms: That new material needs to go into a product that is recognizable so that an AI can look at it, sort it, and figure out what to do with it on the back end. And they're emerging digital strategies based on barcodes and other things like that that can bring along the metadata that help materials recovery facilities define the best path for recycling and recovering the resources that are in that product. But we haven't seen widespread implementation of that yet.

Helms: So if we were to introduce PDK now in that context, we would just see it all lost, and it would just get to landfill or incinerated. And I think that's the challenge that you have to face in this early stage where we're trying to figure out, you know, what is the product that lets us test a business, for example, that is circular.

Choi: So what will it take to scale to get to that widespread implementation?

Helms: I think that we can run under the assumption that there will be increased use of digital information to manage the resources embodied in waste. I think within that paradigm, it becomes easier to introduce new materials that might be intrinsically more circular than the materials we use today.

Choi : AND THERES ANOTHER SOLUTION THAT BRETT SAYS WOULD REVOLUTIONIZE PLASTIC WASTE – REDEFINING OUR RELATIONSHIP TO PLASTIC.

Helms: Essentially what you're looking to do is offer the material as a service. So it's no longer a commodity, single use product. You really want to establish a relationship between the person selling the product, the consumer using the product, and then have a reliable take back scheme that lets the company recycle the material into a next series of products once the consumer has sort of decided that they don't want it anymore.

Choi: That’s fascinating. So instead of like software as a service, the next thing could be plastic as a service.

Helms: Exactly. And I honestly think that type of reorientation is going to be quite powerful and have implications across the entire manufacturing sector. We do that for lead. We do that for glass. We do that for aluminum. And I think that if we can do that for plastics and if we can get plastics producers to buy in and support the infrastructure development necessary to achieve this reorientation, I think that we as humans on this earth are going to benefit from it long term.

Choi: BRETT GAVE ME AN EXAMPLE OF A PRODUCT THAT COULD BE MADE WITH PDKs AND FIT INTO THIS SERVICE MODEL.

Helms: Many of the properties of PDK’S are similar to those of your eyeglass frames. And this gives you a way of thinking about how to think about your sunglasses or actually see your normal prescription glasses in a way that lets you reuse them over and over and over again. So if you don't like the style anymore, if you scratch them, you no longer have to throw those away. You can, in fact, just send them back to the people you got them from originally. And that type of take back is one that lets you participate in this make, use, and reuse virtuous cycle.

Helms: I think a transition to plastics as a service model is revolutionary, and the materials can be designed to ensure the efficiency of that process so that we get essentially infinite cycles of reuse, those are things that will have a transformative impact on the manufacturing economy as well as the way we all live our lives. And the guilt we might feel or not with what we're using on a day to day basis.

Choi: THIS NEW PLASTIC TECHNOLOGY ISNT THE ONLY WAY TO INNOVATE OR CREATE BIG SYSTEMS CHANGE. AS BRETT SAID, WE HAVE TO THINK ABOUT THE WHOLE LIFECYCLE OF PRODUCTS, NOT JUST THE END. SO HOW DO COMPANIES REDESIGN THEIR SYSTEMS FOR CIRCULARITY?

MY TEAM REACHED OUT TO CHRISTINA RAAB. SHES THE VICE PRESIDENT OF STRATEGY AND DEVELOPMENT AT THE CRADLE TO CRADLE PRODUCTS INNOVATION INSTITUTE. THE NON-PROFIT WORKS TO BRING ABOUT LARGE SCALE CHANGES IN THE WAY THINGS LIKE PACKAGING AND CLOTHES ARE DESIGNED AND DEVELOPED. THE GOAL IS TO ULTIMATELY DESIGN WASTE OUT OF PRODUCTS.

Christina Raab: It's about innovating the plastic for a circular economy. So to ensure that no plastic ends up in the environment. That means that the plastic contains a certain amount of recycled content or renewable content and is designed to be recyclable and compostable.

Choi: TAKE A SHAMPOO BOTTLE. CHRISTINA SAYS CRADLE TO CRADLE WORKS WITH A BRAND TO DESIGN A REFILLABLE BOTTLE. OR HELP THEM MOVE AWAY FROM THE PLASTIC BOTTLE COMPLETELY,  LIKE CREATING A SHAMPOO BAR THAT DOESNT NEED ANY PLASTIC PACKAGING.

Raab: More and more companies are looking at making their branding more around the positive impact the company has around sustainability and circularity efforts and linking it very closely to the business and to the branding strategy.

Choi: THERE IS A FAST GROWING MARKET FOR SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTS. A RECENT STUDY BY NYUs STERNS CENTER FOR SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS FOUND THAT SALES OF PRODUCTS LABELED AS SUSTAINABLE GREW FIVE AND A HALF TIMES AS FAST AS SIMILAR PRODUCTS THAT WERENT, ACCOUNTING FOR 114-BILLION DOLLARS IN SALES.

THE PRODUCTS WITH THE LARGEST NUMBER OF SUSTAINABLE ITEMS IN THE MARKET INCLUDED BOTTLED JUICE, FACIAL TISSUE, YOGURT AND COFFEE.

CHRISTINA SAYS COMMUNICATING SUSTAINABILITY TO CONSUMERS IS KEY. CRADLE TO CRADLE WORKS WITH BRANDS TO CERTIFY THEIR PRODUCTS. THEY LOOK AT ALL AREAS OF CIRCULARITY FROM MATERIAL SOURCING AND RECYCLING, TO RESPONSIBLE MANUFACTURING AND SOCIAL EQUITY.

Raab: And our framework offers the basis for that in a very holistic way so that this thinking can be incorporated in business processes, but also supply chain structures, and in the way products are being made and designed.

Choi: AND CHRISTINA MEANS EVERYONE IN THE SUPPLY CHAIN HAS TO BE INCLUDED TO CREATE REAL CHANGE.

Raab: And designers can be helped in that approach by being also better linked to other departments within the company. So having dialogs with the sourcing teams, with the production teams, even with the marketing teams throughout the creative process to have this thinking incorporated and this realization of how to really impact with their designs with each step along the supply chain and then also in the use and reuse phase of a product.

Choi: THIS IS A HUGE SHIFT IN HOW MANY INDUSTRIES WORK. BUT TO SOLVE THESE COMPLEX ISSUES, CHRISTINA SAYS COMPANIES HAVE TO WORK TOGETHER.

Raab: Companies should not compete on sustainability and circularity, so that must be a joint effort across sectors and within sectors to really advance for the common good of the planet and the people.

Choi: OK, SO WHAT DOES THIS ACTUALLY LOOK LIKE? HOW DO WE DESIGN WASTE OUT OF PRODUCTS?

LETS TAKE THE COFFEE CUP. WE STARTED THIS EPISODE GOING THROUGH THE RECYCLING BIN WITH CATE BARR, THE RECYCLING INSPECTOR. SHE MENTIONED THAT ONE OF THE MOST COMMON THINGS SHE FINDS IN BINS THAT CANT BE RECYCLED IS THE HOT BEVERAGE CUP.

PAPER COFFEE CUPS ARE ACTUALLY LINED WITH PLASTIC SO THEY DONT LEAK AND CAN HOLD THEIR SHAPE[5]. BUT THAT PLASTIC COATING IS REALLY HARD TO SEPARATE FROM THE FIBER, SO THE CUPS END UP IN LANDFILLS.

62-PERCENT[6] OF AMERICANS DRINK COFFEE DAILY. WE CONSUME MORE COFFEE THAN TAP WATER, SODA OR JUICE. AND MOST PEOPLE PREFER TO ORDER COFFEE IN A TO-GO CUP. A CUP THAT GOES RIGHT INTO THE TRASH.

IN THE U.S., WE USE 120 BILLION[7] OF THEM A YEAR.

Chris Krohn:  We're standing in line at a coffee shop or placing an order. And I want a coffee or tea. I'm not thinking about the cup.

Choi: CHRIS KROHN IS A PORTFOLIO DIRECTOR OF SYSTEMS CHANGE AT IDEO, A GLOBAL DESIGN AND INNOVATION COMPANY. IDEO AND ITS PARTNERS HAVE BEEN LOOKING INTO WAYS TO INTRODUCE A NEW KIND OF RECYCLABLE COFFEE CUP.

AND SINCE PLASTIC DOES MAKE DAILY HABITS LIKE BUYING COFFEE EASY, IDEO IS OUT TO MATCH THAT.

Krohn: So that level of convenience, in our opinion, cannot be eliminated with any new types of products that we're designing. Circular sustainable products must also be convenient.

Choi: TO ACCELERATE INNOVATION, IDEO CO-SPONSORED THE NEXT GEN COFFEE CUP CHALLENGE. 480 TEAMS FROM AROUND THE WORLD COMPETED TO INVENT A CUP THATS RECOVERABLE ON A GLOBAL SCALE[8]. THEY HAD TO DESIGN INNOVATIVE CUP LINERS, NEW MATERIALS, AND REUSABLE SERVICE MODELS.

NOW, IDEO IS PILOTING THE WINNING IDEAS. CHRIS TOLD US ABOUT ONE PROTOTYPE THAT TREATS YOUR COFFEE CUP LIKE A LIBRARY BOOK.

Krohn: Now, a customer would walk into a coffee shop, order their coffee just like any other day. But in this case, they would associate themselves with that cup. So you're essentially checking it out like a library book. Right? And you're now responsible for that cup.

Choi: THE CUP WOULD BE SCANNED WITH A QR CODE OR RFID TAG. SO YOU BUY YOUR COFFEE, CHECK THE CUP OUT, AND HEAD OUTSIDE. IDEO FOUND THAT MOST PEOPLE ARE DONE WITH THEIR CUP WITHIN TWO MILES OF THE COFFEE SHOP.

Krohn: But ultimately, it will be time to return that cup. And so that's where it comes to, how can we create convenient moments to drop that cup back off into a system?

Choi: THERE ARE A FEW OPTIONS. ONE IS TO CREATE PARTNERSHIPS WITH LOCAL BOOKSTORES OR SHOPS, THAT WOULD FEATURE A RETURN BIN INSIDE.

Krohn: What we call a drop point or point of return that can take the cup and the lid, account for sort of the residue or liquid that might be left in that cup, place it cleanly in a bin. Those would then be picked up by a logistics provider, taken to a washing facility, washed and sanitized, cycle them back into the system, restock them at the shop on the counter and it starts all over again.

Choi:  RECYCLING INNOVATIONS WILL TAKE A LOT OF COLLABORATION. LIKE CHRISTINA RAAB AT CRADLE TO CRADLE SAID, INDUSTRIES NEED TO WORK TOGETHER TO ACHIEVE TRUE SUSTAINABILITY AT A GLOBAL SCALE. THAT MEANS COMPANIES THINKING HOLISTICALLY FROM DESIGN THROUGH MANUFACTURING AND RECOVERY. ITS CORPORATIONS SHARING MATERIAL INNOVATIONS. AND LOCAL BUSINESSES SHARING RECYCLING INFRASTRUCTURE.

Krohn: So that's when we again start to look at how can we partner with cities? How can we look at the layout in the way that people are moving around cities so that dropping off is as convenient as purchasing that beverage initially and you can really complete the system.

Choi: PLASTIC HAS MADE LIFE MORE CONVENIENT. AND THE SOLUTIONS TO PLASTIC WASTE AND RECYCLING HAVE TO BE JUST AS CONVENIENT IF REAL CHANGE IS GOING TO HAPPEN.

NEXT TIME...

Ellen Jackowski: You can choose to just have an environmental lens, but whatever choices you're making, those have an impact on the people in the communities where you're making those choices.

Choi: IM AUDREY CHOI, CHIEF SUSTAINABILITY OFFICER AT MORGAN STANLEY AND CEO OF THE INSTITUTE FOR SUSTAINABLE INVESTING. YOU CAN FIND OUT MORE ABOUT WHAT WERE DOING TO TACKLE PLASTIC WASTE AT MORGAN STANLEY-DOT-COM  SLASH  PLASTIC  WASTE RESOLUTION.

Recycling has not been the magical answer to the plastic waste problem. But new technologies and new materials might just change that. We talk to scientists who are developing new plastics, designers who are reimagining products for recyclability, and innovators who are out to redefine our relationship to plastic.

Hopes were high for consumer recycling, but in the end much of the plastic we put in the bin does not make its way into new products. On this episode, host Audrey Chol talks with folks who are trying to change that reality.  Scientist Brett Helms, of the Berkley National Laboratory in California, is working at the cutting edge of new plastic technology; designer Christina Raab of the Cradle to Cradle Products innovation Institute is working to get companies to design recycling right into their products; and innovator Chris Krohn of Ideo is working on new ways for consumers and companies to think about their relationship with plastic products. All are trying to bring an additional level of circularity to the plastics economy.

Listen to more At Scale: A Sustainability Podcast episodes here

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