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OM in the News: J and J’s Circular Supply Chain for Packaging

October 16, 2020

Converting bottles to recycled plastic. Redesigning baby lotion bottles to ditch the pump. Swapping out the black Listerine cap for a clear resin one. Reducing the dimensions of cartons holding Carefree pads to use less paper. Johnson & Johnson’s goal is to use 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable plastic packaging, and recycled paper and pulp-based packaging by 2025, reports Supply Chain Dive (Oct. 13, 2020) .

The company will spend $800 million to make these packaging changes in an effort to convert its consumer health products packaging to sustainable options. To make a package fully recyclable, every part must be recyclable, including the label. (Some bottles use a label which can cause recycling issues). The packaging should also be compatible with the recycling process, likely a reason J&J is looking to remove the pump from some products. The pump needs to be discarded before recycling the bottles, and not all consumers do this.

J&J is planning to change Listerine’s black cap for a clear resin one, because clear plastic can be reprocessed into more forms than black plastic.

But sustainability isn’t the only consideration in packaging. The packaging has to be functional. There’s a greater issue if the packaging causes product damage in an effort to use more sustainable packaging materials. Plastic color can also change to generate higher recovery values.

Instantly reducing supply chain waste starts with using less material. Package optimization testing can help determine the least amount of material needed to effectively ship products. Looking at the carbon footprint is also part of the sustainability process. Usually, the less material used, the lower the carbon footprint.

These efforts all support the circular economy that we describe in Supp.5, “Sustainability in the Supply Chain” on pages 197-200.

Classroom discussion questions:

  1. Select three products and evaluate their packaging. How could it be more sustainable?
  2. How have hotels become more sustainable conscience?
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