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The Sustainability Challenge For Plastic Manufacturers

At ENL Group, operating in injection moulding and blow moulding, we are committed to being a sector leader when it comes to sustainable business practices. Within the company, much of this work is led by Zofia Furczyk, a Project Supervisor and the ‘Environmental Champion’ for the company. 

Zofia is passionate about helping UK and European manufacturing to become more sustainable.

We sat down with her to hear more about how she is helping ENL Group, and its customers, reduce waste going to landfill and helping move towards a zero-carbon future. 

Manufacturing Has A Key Role To Play In Sustainability

Later this year, the UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (known commonly as COP26) in Glasgow. This key event brings together countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty agreed in 1994, to discuss progress that the world is making towards addressing climate change.

The event will undoubtedly become the focus for a broader public debate about climate change, wider sustainability issues, and how different sectors can make a real difference in achieving the targets that the world has set.

Manufacturing has a key role to play. It is fair to say that, in the past, manufacturing has often been seen as part of the problem. The challenge now is how we ensure it becomes part of the solution. 

Recycling And Sustainability At ENL

For plastic companies such as ENL, the task goes beyond energy use and global warming. It is also about the products that we manufacture, and the waste that this generates. 

“When I first started, I was really shocked by the amount of waste that was going into skips,” Zofia admits. “I just thought ‘we really need to do something’. I spoke to the senior managers and shared some ideas. They were really supportive, and we started projects to really drive recycling within the business”

The results are unarguably impressive. The company now recycles seven types of plastic material, slashing the amount of waste plastic that was being sent to landfill. As awareness has grown, this is now leading to wider changes, as people from across the business take ownership and responsibility to tackle waste at all stages of manufacture. 

For instance, ENL now recycles the packaging that materials arrive in, as well as oils, pallets, cardboard, and metals. New processes have also been developed to try and be more efficient at a design and manufacture stage to minimise the amount of waste being created in the first place. 

Cultural Changes

For Zofia, for all of the success of the individual recycling schemes, it has been this culture change within the business that has been the most important contributor to reducing waste. “Plastic recycling was a huge step forward because it really started to change the culture around waste within the company”, she tells us. 

It is not just within the company either. As ENL has started tackling waste, employees from across the company have started to make changes in other areas of their lives.  “People are now just much more in tune with recycling”, Zofia explains with a grin. “People often come up to me and say, ‘Since we’ve started doing this at work, we’ve got a recycling bin at home’. That always makes me really happy, – that people are changing how they behave in other areas of their lives”

More Recycling Should Be Done At Work

Zofia is clearly a passionate and articulate advocate for this agenda. She wants to see large scale changes, not just within ENL but across the UK manufacturing sector as a whole. 

She believes that by putting so much emphasis on changing consumer behaviour, The government is missing a bigger opportunity to change the way manufacturers work. “The government is going the right way”, she explains, “but what one plastic manufacturer could recycle in one month is probably as much as a single household could recycle in a lifetime”.

Does she have a message for other manufacturing businesses?

“Look into your waste streams and divert them in the best possible way,” she says. “Think about recycling at the start of production not just at the end.”

Zofia also believes that local and central government could do more to encourage recycling and to make it easier for companies to reduce waste. She points out that some materials that could potentially be recycled are still going to landfill because there are no facilities locally that can take them. For her, the big win would be making recycling feel like an easy choice for both individual consumers and businesses alike.

Customers Expectations Around Sustainability Are Changing

It is clear over the course of our conversation that for all of the progress ENL Group and others are making, Zofia will not rest until recycling of waste becomes standard practice across the industry. She believes the pressure to achieve this will be driven by the changing expectation of customers. 

“Customers need to demand this,” she argues. “It needs to become normal for customers to request recyclable material when they are submitting orders.”

She acknowledges that there may be technical challenges around this, with some plastics being more difficult to recycle and reuse than others without significantly compromising quality, which is a particular challenge for injection moulding companies. However, given the world’s increased focus on this issue, she also believes it would be no surprise to see new technologies emerging which enable a much broader range of materials to be recycled in the future. 

For now, it is clear that Zofia will continue to champion and challenge within ENL, to encourage us to do as much as we can to reduce waste and energy use as we all move towards a zero-carbon future. 

Can ENL Group help you with your recycled plastic manufacturing or your injection moulding requirements? Contact us here.