Local Opportunities to Achieve Global Goals: Circularity

In the pursuit of sustainable operations, an increasing number of Texas-based companies are embracing the circular economy. Texan by Nature found that over 50% of the state’s leading companies committed to conservation are actively advancing circular material practices. From designing products with extended life cycles to championing recycling initiatives that divert waste from landfills, companies are seeking innovative ways to “close the loop” and minimize the use of new materials and resources in their operations. Innovative collaborations between business and local conservation offer a unique avenue for companies to not only advance their sustainability goals but also yield tangible environmental, social, and economic benefits.

PET 1 plastics accepted during the El Paso PET Recycling Project.

The Demand for Circular Materials
Currently, only 18% of thermoplastic polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle waste is recycled within the U.S. value chain. Alarming projections indicate that, should companies maintain their recycled-content commitments, the demand for recycled PET plastic (rPET) will surpass the available supply by threefold come 2030, according to a report by McKinsey.

This challenge is already impacting Texas companies, exemplified by 2023 Texan by Nature 20 Honoree, Mary Kay. Reflecting on their sustainability journey, Mary Kay emphasized the importance of adaptability and the continuous pursuit of alternative options when faced with material shortages. 

“We encourage others embarking on similar sustainability journeys to anticipate and address these supply chain complexities to ensure the continued success of their sustainability initiatives. In a world of finite resources, collaboration and flexibility emerge as crucial elements in advancing collective sustainability efforts.”

Explore more sustainability lessons learned from the 2023 TxN 20 honorees – Download the 2023 TxN 20 Industry Report.

Four green recycling receptacles with bilingual signage were placed outside Sam’s Club locations in El Paso.

Increasing Circularity Supply: The El Paso PET Recycling Project
The El Paso PET Recycling Project, launched in 2022 by Texans for Clean Water and Texan by Nature in partnership with Sam’s Club, Blue Triton Brands, and D6. Facilitated by Texan by Nature, the project incentivized the El Paso community to participate in the material return process by depositing PET 1 thermoforms at the collection receptacles placed outside four local Sam’s Club locations. Users were offered 10 cents per PET 1 thermoform or bottle deposited, with the option to receive payments via Venmo or contribute to a local non-profit organization. 

Over 170,000 PET items were deposited by more than 531 unique active users as of July 25, 2023. Additionally, all data, best practices, and lessons learned were captured and reported to share with other retailers as a model for replication. As a result, Sam’s Club and D6 are continuing a modified version of the pilot in El Paso, along with expanding to other locations. Waste collected will be transported to facilities for recycling or returned to brand sponsors for use in circularity initiatives.Learn more about their on-going recycling efforts inspired by the El Paso PET Recycling Pilot here

El Paso Partners attend the inaugural El Paso PET Recycling Project launch. 

Community-Driven Sustainability
Low recycling rates are often a result of a lack of public awareness of the importance of recycling and lack of access to recycling infrastructure. To drive the community to use new recycling receptacles, the El Paso project launched an awareness campaign featuring a video contest for El Paso High School students, paid social media advertisements, bilingual public service announcements, and local media outreach.

The ethos-focused messaging of the project’s awareness campaign focused on the impacts of litter on Texas wildlife and waterways creating positive sentiments and a steady increase in participation from the community over 6 months.

I really love what you guys are doing and really hope this program gets to stay in El Paso. It can help keep the community clean and provide people with a chance to make extra money. It’s a great incentive for the people that recycle and the companies that produce plastic waste.

Erick., El Paso PET Recycling Project Participant

At the conclusion of the pilot, $3,500 in donations was made to seven local El Paso non-profits: El Paso Community Foundation, El Paso Zoo Society, Green Hope Project, Paso del Norte Community Foundation, Second Chance Wildlife Rescue, The Frontera Land Alliance, and Tom Lea Institute.

The road to zero-waste will require collaboration
According to McKinsey, boosting the supply of rPET will require local public-private partnerships  to increase local material collection rates in areas without curbside recycling. Initiatives like the El Paso PET Recycling Project showcase the catalytic effect of local conservation efforts on a broader scale. With measurable impacts and multi-faceted benefits, such investments become integral components of corporate sustainability strategies, addressing global environmental sustainability challenges like material shortages. 

Our vision is for every business, every Texan to participate in conservation, and for Texas to be the model of collaborative conservation for the world.

To explore opportunities and discover how Texan by Nature connects business to conservation, visit our Business Member page or reach out via email.