Solid waste management is the most significant environmental challenge that is faced by most cities around the world. The production of solid waste keeps on growing with population growth (Subramanian, 2000). Sustainable measures to curb this menace and move towards environmentally friendly practices have evaded us. Plastic bags are among the most significant environmental challenge facing these cities.
A case study conducted in Kenya revealed that the country imports about 10 million plastic bags per month, half of which end up in streams and rivers and deposited in the ocean. One can find mountains of smelling solid waste in uncontrolled locations in the hearts of the Kenyan cities. While the authorities and environmentalists recognize the risks and health issues related to the poor management of the wastes, the lack of economic capacity has left the citizens crying for help. The need for a clean and tranquil environment in our cities and residential areas cannot be overstressed (Pacheco, 2012). The current nature of sanitation in Nairobi city and the plastic waste crisis is enough evidence of the country’s poor sanitation record.
For my project, I chose Polipaks Group, a company that deals with non-food and food industry packaging and trade. They buy plastics in granules and sell ready-made printed packs and rolls. The global economic and business trends toward renewable resource utilization and transitioning toward environment-friendly production lead packaging industries in the direction of shifting to renewable resources (Dijkstra et al., 2020). Moreover, more frequent campaigns and enacted policies for a plastic ban across the globe become a threat for companies like Polipaks Group. Within the business strategy domain, plastic producing companies face barriers in the form of complications with supply chain maintenance, loss of customers, and lower demand, which undermines the opportunities for growth and sustainable revenue generation (Dijkstra et al., 2020).
Furthermore, the harmful environmental impact of plastic waste demands functional solutions that necessitate additional expenses and investments (da Silva et al., 2019). Polipaks Group has been facing significant challenges in managing their plastic waste. The company has been sued more than five times by environmentalists because of their contribution to increasing pollution in the countries they are in business. This challenge allowed me to find a solution to their predicament, which Polipaks welcomed with open arms. My idea was recycling.
The contemporary world faces a growing threat of plastic pollution, which businesses must address by the improvement of their business models. According to da Silva et al. (2019), “in 2016, the annual global production of plastic was around 300 million tons” (p. 1293). Without urgent actions aimed at adjusting the processes associated with plastic production, utilization, and disposal, environmental damage will amplify and threaten the safety of the planet. Indeed, as stated by Dijkstra et al. (2020), “traditional management of plastic remains linear (production-use-disposal), although nowadays more attention is given to the circular economy” that sets value on waste and encourages reuse of post-consumption plastic (p. 1). Therefore, the best way to deal with this menace of ever-increasing plastic waste is to recycle it.
My main objective is to develop a sustainable solution to the expanding plastic waste problem using waste plastic as a raw material to produce environmentally friendly plastic lumber. Clients can use this plastic lumber made from recycled plastic as fences for homesteads, parks, commercial properties, and farms. My love for the environment was just but a secondary inspiration. My primary motive was maximizing profit from this rare market gap while preserving the environment; after all, I am a businessman. I noticed that the timber posts were in short supply, and their demand and price increased. I had to be creative and innovative to discover an alternative to timber that was as strong, long-lasting, cheaper, and environmentally friendly to reap profits from the promising timber industry. That is when I came up with the idea to use the waste plastics to manufacture plastic timber, thereby killing two birds with one stone.
Discussion of Proposal
For this project, I resorted to using secondary sources of data to inform my analysis. I chose this source of data because previous research on the subject matter had already been conducted, and there was no need to start afresh. I could only build-up to what the other researchers had discovered. I mainly used a journal of Resources, Conservation, and Recycling by Subramanian, P. M on plastics recycling and waste management in the US.
This was my main reference point. Another source that I used was a 2017 journal of Waste Management by Ragaert, K. on Mechanical and chemical recycling of solid plastic waste. The entirety of my proposal was based mainly on these two journals. The outlining of the analysis of the strategy and scope for the company was based on the investigation of the company’s operations as presented on Polipaks Group’s official website and scholarly articles concerning the trends in sustainable plastic management.
Strategy and Scope
This project is to recycle plastic waste. The proposed business strategy is based on the analysis of the industry and the company’s performance within the economic environment. The analysis of the industry of plastic production demonstrates that Polipaks, as well as its competitors, encounter growing opposition from society and environmental movements. Moreover, the industry is impacted by the call for sustainable business models that require investment and operations restructuring (da Silva et al., 2019). Therefore, the economic climate of the plastic industry changes under the influence of social and environmental factors, which results in challenges for companies like Polipaks Group.
SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis allows for measuring various influential factors that contribute to the company’s need for strategy improvement. Polipaks Group’s strengths include its high-quality production operations, equipment, and competitive advantage in the market (Polipaks Group, 2020). However, the weaknesses are associated with the fact that Polipaks was experiencing difficulties in their waste management, which led to them being sued by several environmentalists for their contribution to the environment’s pollution. Another weakness is the insufficient sustainability policy and the inability to mitigate the economic burden of sustainable management of plastic production (Dijkstra et al., 2020).
A very significant threat to the business is the global plastic ban campaigns that encourage more and more companies and customers to refuse plastic use. Such a tendency might impede the company’s business strategy, hinder supply chain management, decrease the number of customers, and diminish revenues (Dijkstra et al., 2020). However, given the recent trends in businesses’ shifting toward sustainable business models that allow for recycling post-consumption plastic without harming the environment, Polipaks Group has an opportunity to resolve the issue by effective means.
Based on the identified opportunity, I came up with the solution to their problems: to recycle their waste, which also opened the door to a business idea of manufacturing plastic lumber from recycled plastic and increasing its portfolio and profits. The primary source of risk for this venture will be the worldwide trend by different states in banning the use of plastics within their boundaries. This will reduce the raw materials (plastic waste) and cripple the plastic lumber’s production. This project assumes that skilled labor that will operate the equipment and machines is readily available. If the assumption is inaccurate, it may reduce the effectiveness by which the process is to be carried out. Additional resources may be required to train the personnel.
The main reason why most companies have shied away from venturing into this prospective business is due to the complex nature of its process. However, with strict professionalism and attention to detail, the workers get accustomed to the process, and it becomes simple. Regardless of the type of plastic or its uses, it usually undergoes the same procedures. The essential steps are:
Collection of waste plastic
The gathering of waste plastic items is the first step in plastic recycling. This step may look like an easy job, but it is not. Employees and volunteers go around collecting plastic wastes from residential areas, workplaces, and public areas. Some rooms have collection centers where individuals can dispose of their plastics (Faraca, 2019). A more straightforward strategy is placing recycle bins around public places and homesteads where individuals can dump their plastic waste, making collection easier. This strategy is entirely dependent on individuals disposing of their plastic waste in the right place.
Sorting of plastics into categories
The next step is the sorting stage, where the plastics that we have collected are taken to a facility where the plastics are sorted by type; plastics vary in scale, color, density, and use; recycling machines use these properties to categorize the plastics. This process will enable us to identify the materials involved and apply the correct method of recycling.
After sorting, we wash the plastics to eliminate impurities such as dirt and plastic labels. Washing also removes glue and extra chemicals that might be in the plastic. This step is essential since the failure to get rid of the impurities may harm the finished product.
Resizing involves shredding or cutting plastic waste into tiny particles. This increases the surface area of the plastic, making it easier to reshape and transport if necessary. This step also provides one last opportunity for the recyclers to remove any impurities that had maneuvered their way through the first three steps. We will make use of magnets and metal detectors to extract any leftover metal in the batch.
Identification and separation of plastics
The next step is identifying and separating plastic materials. Here, plastic particles are taken through testing procedures to determine the plastic’s class and quality (Ragaert, 2017). They are then separated depending on their properties for further processing. Density is the first quality tested. This is accomplished by floating the particles in an enormous water tank. The less-dense particles will float while the denser will sink. The other quality tested is air classification, which is the thickness or thinness of a particle, determined by dropping the particles into a mini wind tunnel. The larger pieces will remain lower while the smaller particles fly higher up the tunnel.
This is the final step of the recycling process, where we transform plastic particles into materials to be used in the future production of finished goods. Compounding is the process of smashing and melting together the small particles into plastic pellets. The plastic pellets will then be transported to a facility where time and intensive energy will produce plastic lumber and other plastic goods.
Application of Better-Up Assessment Results and Coaching
I took the Better-Up Assessment that revealed my strengths to be Self-Compassion, Strategic Planning, and Empathy. This project provides an opportunity to showcase and boost my strengths. The practice of self-compassion will help me avoid the trappings of self-limiting that many times lessens our motivation. In the sorting stage of recycling, once the plastic is sorted wrongly and proceeds to be processed, it reduces the whole process’s efficiency and requires the entire batch to be returned for resorting. This can happen a couple of times, which can kill motivation for the recyclers. Instead of criticizing and mercilessly judging myself for the shortcomings, I would exercise self-compassion and comfort myself; after all, I am human.
Another strength that was revealed by the Better-up Assessment result is Strategic Planning. This involves recognizing a particular hurdle and making a plan to move forward no matter what. This project has portrayed my strategic planning skills in many ways.
To begin with, I identified a market gap with the shortage of posts and its increasing demand. I knew I had to find an alternative to timber. I began my research, analyzed various options like concrete posts, carried out a SWOT analysis, and finally settled on the plastic lumber. This skill will be of use in assigning human labor to various processes. An example, the sorting stage is the most difficult, tiresome, and sensitive of all steps. As a strategic planner, I will need to evaluate this and adjust the resource allocation towards that stage, meaning I will increase the workers doing the sorting to ensure the process is carried out effectively and not cripple the project’s process.
Empathy is another crucial trait for becoming a better project manager since you understand how your team members work. This trait will enable me to invite better ideas from everyone, even those down the organizational ladder. Not looking down on my subordinates and understanding that they may have better ideas than those up the chain will foster better relationships and trust between the workers and me.
With the increased contribution of pollution towards climate change, environmentalists tighten their fight against those polluting the environment. This project provides Polipaks Group an opportunity to solve their problem and avoid the legal consequences while conserving the environment by providing an alternative to timber. Extensive research and analysis have been carried out to ensure that the project will meet all of its objectives and be completed within the set-out time frame with the required resources. I am looking forward to your approval to continue to the next step.
da Silva, L. F., de Hoyos Guevara, A. J., Gonzalez, E. D. S., & de Oliveira, P. S. G. (2019). Evolution toward environment sustainable behavior: search for survival in the plastic industry in Brazil. Environment, Development and Sustainability, 21(3), 1291-1320.
Dijkstra, H., van Beukering, P., & Brouwer, R. (2020). Business models and sustainable plastic management: A systematic review of the literature. Journal of Cleaner Production, 258, 1-14.
Faraca, G., & Astrup, T. (2019). Plastic waste from recycling centers: Characterisation and evaluation of plastic recyclability. Waste Management, 95, 388-398.
Pacheco, E. B., Ronchetti, L. M., & Masanet, E. (2012). An overview of plastic recycling in Rio de Janeiro. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 60, 140-146.
Polipaks Group. (2020). About us. Web.
Ragaert, K., Delva, L., & Van Geem, K. (2017). Mechanical and chemical recycling of solid plastic waste. Waste Management, 69, 24-58.
Subramanian, P. M. (2000). Plastics recycling and waste management in the US. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 28(3-4), 253-263.