Circular economy keeps PB sustainability moving
Climate change is probably the first environmental impact that comes to mind when we think about sustainability, but it isn’t the only one a responsible company needs to focus on. Pollution through improper ways to treat waste or depletion of natural resources are two other very important topics, and both are central to the concept of Circular Economy.
Circular economy is defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an economic model that “keeps materials, products and services in circulation for as long possible.” (Source: https://www.epa.gov/recyclingstrategy/what-circular-economy.)
There are clear benefits to that model based on the key step of how we deal with products at their end of life and the application of the Waste Management Hierarchy as defined by the US EPA, ranked from most to least preferred: Source Reduction & Reuse; Recycling/Composting; Energy Recovery and Treatment and Disposal. (Source: https://www.epa.gov/smm/sustainable-materials-management-non-hazardous-materials-and-waste-management-hierarchy.)
On the most preferable step is “reuse,” and this is where Pitney Bowes has taken a strong stance for many years.
The EPA lists some of the benefits of reusing as:
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.
- Save natural resources.
- Conserve energy.
- Reduce pollution.
In our Central Distribution Center (CDC) in Indiana, Pitney Bowes recovers meters at end of lease with our clients. Each one of these machines are inspected to assess their potential for remanufacturing, based on strong criteria of performance, compliance, current demand and clients’ expectations.
Machines selected for remanufacturing are dismantled; each part cleaned in our closed-loop, water-based cleaning process; and inspected individually before being reassembled into a complete machine. At the end of the process, clients are presented with Certified Pre-Owned machines meeting the highest quality standards Pitney Bowes offers.
However, readers must be mindful of how companies represent the word “remanufacturing.” Some parts are clearly affected by wear and tear; for example, rollers or belts can’t be reused and need to be replaced. Pitney Bowes has perfected its remanufacturing process to maximize the number of parts that can be reused and is confident in its “certified pre-owned” label. On a machine such as our best-selling C-series, we typically reuse about 87% of parts by weight.
Pitney Bowes put in place a circular economy model for its meters a long time ago. As early as 1987, before expanding to meters, we started our Center for Remanufacturing Copiers. At that time, the environmental consideration was different from our current one, but that activity began from the observation that valuable resources were wasted and could instead be reused in a professional way.
The other most preferable step of “source reduction” is strongly associated with sustainable design of equipment and packaging to avoid creating waste in the first place, reduce the quantity and focus on waste that’s easier to treat later. This is a crucial step that Pitney Bowes has engaged with through initial designs that respect the environment and consider best practice of the time. In the case of product lines with long life cycle, this is done through continuous improvement methodology; for example, leading to the replacement of some expanded polystyrene (EPS) parts of packaging with moulded pulp cardboard parts made of 100% recycled material, or replacement of plastic air cushions by crumpled paper filling material. In both cases, the design change ultimately reduced the amount of waste difficult to recycle (EPS and plastic bag) and replaced it with fully recyclable material.
As a result of this process, we are quite proud to obtain high levels of recyclability in our packaging. For example, in our SendPro® C-series, the outer cardboard box is 25-35% recycled content. The inner packaging is pulp cardboard and 100% recycled content. Overall, 95.7% of the Pitney Bowes C-series packaging is recyclable content.
As you can see, circular economy is impacting every stage of the life cycle of a machine, from intelligent design, selection of appropriate material and delivery to use (for example, of an Energy Star Certified product like our Pitney Bowes SendPro C-series), remanufacturing and final disposal. Pitney Bowes has been working and will continue to work on improving every step of the life cycle of our machine with one constant goal: do the right thing, the right way.