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Interview with Gerald Rebitzer

07 julio 2017

Gerald Rebitzer

Gerald Rebitzer: "There is still a lack of cooperation in the plastics value chain"

Gerald Rebitzer: "There is still a lack of cooperation in the plastics value chain"

Doctor Gerald Rebitzer is responsible for Sustainability at Amcor Flexibles Europe & Americas. This role encompasses both environmental management and social responsibility from an operations perspective as well as working with customers and suppliers to enhance the performance of the packaging products his company provides. He has nearly 20 years of experience in implementing sustainability initiatives and life cycle approaches in sectors such as Packaging, Building and Construction, Automotive, Aerospace, Electronics, and Metals. He holds a Ph.D. in Life Cycle Management from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne and a Masters in Environmental Engineering from the Technical University Berlin. To date he has published more than 120 papers in the area of life cycle thinking and sustainability.

Gerald Rebitzer

Your company is leader in managing the environmental impacts. What are the main strategies that you use to face this challenge?

One important strategy is the continuous improvement and environmental management in our own operations. Another one is working with our suppliers so they can achieve material improvements. I must remind that 80% of our environmental impact is in our supply chain. Then, if we can influence in that area, we can also reduce our impacts. Product design is another way of reducing waste because it also leads to use less material for the same application.

Do you think that efficiency is "business as usual"?

Yes, because efficiency is driven by economics. Certainly, our whole economy gets more efficient when we use less energy and less materials and when this is cost-effective then it is implemented, but this does not bring, let's say, the step change for reducing impacts in a fundamental way.

You are involved in a project with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, could you tell us what is it about?

Yes, it is about aligning on packaging design, collection and recycling for flexible packaging to create a system that exists already in several regions for PET recycling. It is basically a standard to enable more recycling of that material.

You have stated more than once that value chain cooperation is essential for the circular economy. Does this cooperation exist in the industry today?

I think it is an ambition and Ellen MacArthur Foundation projects or a project like the CEFLEX - Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging in the EU- are working in that direction, but overall if we look at our reality today there is still a lack of cooperation. I think every actor involved in the plastics value chain is developing its work in isolation. Besides, legislation only looks at one part and not to the whole chain. Initiatives like the New Plastics Economy of the Ellen MacArthur try to overcome this obstacle.

Amcor Limited is a global leader in responsible packaging solutions. Could you explain the importance of packaging in achieving more sustainable scenarios?

Packaging has a series of functions. The first is product protection. Depending on the region of the world from 30% to 60% of the food that is grown in the fields is lost because of bad packaging. So, its role is very important, but it must have the minimum harmful effects and externalities.

What is your opinion about the EU circular economy package? Is it ambitious enough?

I think that generally it is. There are some countries where they have already implemented it like Scandinavian nations, Germany or the Netherlands. The key is the enforcement of policies in all member states. We have legislation today that is not being implemented in many EU countries. What we need is to bring everybody to a similar level of development in this area.

Albert Punsola



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