Microsoft has committed to becoming zero waste across its direct operations, products, and packaging by 2030, including eliminating single-use plastic from its packaging by 2025. As part of this target, the company has undertaken a global effort to reduce the use of single-use plastic for servers and components within its datacenter operations.
This objective of the project was to bring together companies from across the industry, to explore alternative solutions to traditional and linear, single-use pallet stretch wrap.
Anthesis was commissioned by Microsoft to manage and provide technical support for the collaborative project. The group was made up of 10 companies from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Network, including companies along the entire plastic supply chain, from polymer manufacturers to Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), logistics, and recycling companies.
The group came together in January 2021 and has worked throughout the year to find alternative solutions, focusing on reuse, recycling, and composting. The project included:
- An ideation workshop to identify possible solutions to the testing phase
- Formation of three working groups to explore opportunities for reuse, recycling, and material composting and the challenges for each member group
- Fortnightly team calls to develop a testing approach, organise pilot locations and a process for progress updates among the full group
- Landscape review of available solutions already on the market
- Trials and pilots through laboratory and real-life tests to assess technical feasibility, environmental impact, scalability and economic considerations
The results of the research and trials were summarised into a white paper, which was published at the end of March 2022. The white paper aims to provide guidance to companies that are trying to identify alternative, circular solutions within their own operations, as well as to show the challenges faced by the industry in changing materials and the need to collaborate to identify suitable alternatives.
Key insights from the report:
- There is no “one size fits all” circular solution to replace linear stretch wrap. Each of the alternatives piloted have their place within the supply chain and should be selected based on the specific use case. A full life cycle thinking is key to identifying successful alternatives while continuing to prioritise upstream interventions, like reduction and reuse, first.
- Collaboration across industries is crucial to implement a circular solution that benefits the entire value chain. The diverse stakeholder group of this project played a key role in the project’s success towards advancing circular packaging solutions.
- Though the overall aim should be to reduce linear stretch wrap, its performance and ability to deliver a safe transport to a variety of products must be acknowledged, as well as lower material use for high-performing, machine-applied stretch wrap compared to many alternatives.
“With this project, we hope to spotlight viable alternatives to linear stretch wrap and promote continued exploration and development of circular solutions to drive adoption across industries globally. Ultimately, we want uptake of circular models to occur at a scale that will significantly reduce the amount of plastic packaging that ends up in landfills, incinerators, and the environment.”
Sr. Program Manager, Zero Waste and Circularity, Microsoft Corporation
- Project management and project support
- Technical packaging support
- White paper / report writing
- Design of the final white paper
The project demonstrates the need for industry collaboration to solve the key challenges required in the decisive decade as well as a proven methodology for how companies can come together to implement circular challenges at scale.
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