If you’re reading this, it’s pretty likely you recycle. You sort. You do your best (most of the time) But what about those plastic Scotch Tape dispensers you use? Most recyclers don’t take them. You don’t have much use for them, being empty. What do you do? Toss them in the recycle bin and hope for the best, or just toss them out in the trash?
We’d like to propose a different option, one we hope encourages other companies to do the same. Starting in September we will be collecting Scotch Tape dispensers from the public, giving them the choice of which charity 2 cents for each goes.
But instead of doing what we’re known for, taking packaging and finding a different use for it as is or sewing it like fabric into bags, umbrellas etc—we will be giving them back to 3M to use for the exact same use they were before—tape dispensers. This is as close to Cradle to Cradle design as we’ve seen, but without the need to radically redesign the product packaging. Or redesign at all, in this case.
We’ve often been labeled a cradle to cradle company since we reuse product packaging without the energy/resources it can take to recycle materials. But in reality, what we’ve been doing is upcycling , as the materials we reuse are entering a different loop, a different use.
Here, with 3M’s trailblazing commitment to this initiative, we can begin exploring the possibilities of what it means to reuse the same packaging repeatedly. We’re starting small, 25,000 dispensers collected from 1000 Brigade locations, but with some thought and working out the bugs, this could go much larger.
Who else is doing this?
One example you may have thought gone since the 1950s is the glass milk bottle. Dozens of companies are doing it, right now. But by design, these are mostly limited to a regional operation, since they need to be cleaned and refilled.
People have long informally reused glass jars for drinking glasses, vases, etc.
But I’ve yet to see a large scale, low cost execution of reusing product packaging. Wisdom would tell you that that’s because it’s not a good business move, but I would disagree.
It’s minimal resource use on our part, since our collectors are all unpaid members of the public and groups that are motivated by their being able to raise funds for a favorite cause, or simply by having a free way to find use for product packaging they had no choice but to store or throw away. Boxes of Scotch tape will arrive at our door, we quickly sort then ship them to 3M, to begin the cycle again, no new materials needed aside from the tape.
What’s your take on this? Do you think this model makes sense, financially, environmentally? Where else do you see easy moves to reusing product packaging? Where could it be done, with slight modifications of packaging? Would doing this be preferable to recycling? Can it scale to such a level that it diminishes or eliminates the need to recycle?