Flexible Packaging Round Table Podcast

Podcast: Episode 16 – Crystal Bayliss, Program Manager of Circular Economy Strategic Relationships from the US Plastics Pact

Why do we need the US Plastics Pact? How is the US Plastics Pact communicating your message around plastics – are you advocating for creating more sustainable plastic, eliminating plastic altogether, or just creating alternatives to plastic? What is the Roadmap to 2025 and can you tell us more about the four action items that correlate with that? Tune in to hear what Crystal Bayliss, Program Manager of Circular Economy Strategic Relationships from the US Plastics Pact had to say.



00:00:22 Sara Januszewski
Hello and welcome everyone to the Flexible Packaging Round Table. Today we are speaking with Crystal Bayliss, Program Manager of Circular Economy Strategic Relationships from the US Plastics Pact, and I am your host, Sara Januszewski. Thank you for being here, Crystal. Are you ready to jump right into the questions?

00:00:43 Crystal Bayliss
Thank you for having me.

00:00:45 Sara Januszewski
To start here, can you just tell our viewers and listeners more about yourself and the work you do with the US Plastics Pact?

00:00:54 Crystal Bayliss
Alright, so I’m Crystal Bayliss and I’m with the US Plastics Pact. Prior to joining the Pact, I was in supply chain for about 15 years and so I had a variety of roles within procurement most recently I was a buyer of rigid resin packaging and in June of this year I joined US Plastics Pact. We’re an organization that was started by the Recycling Partnership and World Wildlife Fund, and we’re part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Global Network of Plastics Pact. We’re about two years old. We’ve got over 115 activators from all aspects of the plastics value chain and I’m excited to tell you more about us today.

00:01:34 Sara Januszewski
Why do we, and we being manufacturers, brands, consumers – Why do we need the US Plastics Pact? 

00:01:45 Crystal Bayliss
No, that’s a great question. So, as you know, in the United States we don’t necessarily have all the legislation that other countries have to standardize the packaging formats and the infrastructure that’s needed to get to a circular economy. So, this is where the US Plastics Pact comes in. In my former role as a plastics buyer, I used to get really frustrated in talking to different suppliers about is our packaging actually recyclable, and they would hear so many different things as far as if this happens and this happens, when this happens, then yes, it’ll probably get recycled. I would hear things about like you could do this, or you could do that and sometimes honestly it was conflicting. So it seemed as though it was like a bit of an unorganized mess and there were lots of things that we could do, but no one was really saying what we should do. And so, this is where the Plastics Pact comes in, and so in absence of that legislation, which we will hopefully have someday, we’re helping to lay out the strategic framework for the industry. We’re building on all of the great research that has been done by all these different organizations and pulling people together to understand what we have line of sight to get to be circular, both in practice and at scale. And making the decisions on harmonizing those packaging formats, allowing for the different forms of collection and sortation to get put in place to be able to handle those packaging formats so that we can truly drive toward a circular economy.


00:03:20 Sara Januszewski

Right and how is the US Plastics Pact communicating your message around plastics, you know, are you advocating for creating more sustainable plastic, eliminating plastic altogether, or just creating alternatives to plastic?


00:03:36 Crystal Bayliss

Another great question, so the views on plastic, like it’s certainly a mixed bag, no pun intended, but you hear everything. Obviously plastic waste is a huge problem. Plastic in the environment is detrimental. Lots of plastic in the landfill is also very problematic, but at the same time you, you know, plastic is lightweight, it has reduced carbon emissions for shipping products. It also plays an important role in increasing the shelf life of food. Increasing food safety. Things like that. So those are important things too. And so, what we’re focused on is making plastic circular in nature so that you get the benefits of plastic, but you avoid all those terrible things of plastic in the environment, plastic in the landfill. So that’s done by eliminating problematic and unnecessary plastics, so things that are harmful to human health or detrimental to the recycling stream and then designing things to be recyclable, compostable, reusable. Then actually getting it recycled or composted and then using recycled content in plastic packaging.

00:04:45 Sara Januszewski
What is the Roadmap to 2025 and can you tell us more about the four action items that correlate with that?

00:04:53 Crystal Bayliss
Yeah, so the Pact has four targets, and this is in line with Ellen MacArthur and all of the other Plastic Pacts around the globe. The first target is to eliminate problematic or unnecessary materials. The second is to design everything to be reusable, recyclable or compostable. And then the third target is to get to a 50% or better recycling rate, and then the 4th target is to get to 30% PCR. So post-consumer recycled content or biobased plastics. So, these targets feed into each other. If you eliminate problematic materials and you design for circularity, that makes it easier to recycle, and then there’s more material available to use as recycled content, and so each of these things, like it’s a positive loop that feeds into it. Each target feeds into the other.

00:05:44 Crystal Bayliss
Another key piece of that, though, is making sure that we have that post-consumer recycled content commitment from companies because that you know it’s going to enable the laws of supply and demand and it’s going to pull material through the value chain so that we can get that necessary infrastructure in place to collect and sort. So those are our four targets that we have for 2025. Beyond that, we actually have a roadmap that’s available on our website at usplasticspact.org, and that lists out specific deliverables for each of the four targets, and it maps it out between now and 2025, so all the different things that we need to do to hit those targets.

00:06:23 Sara Januszewski
Wonderful, and how can companies or organizations work together to achieve those targets that you just spoke about?

00:06:32 Crystal Bayliss
Yeah, so what’s interesting to me in this role, I have further seen just how fragmented we’ve been in the past, and so it’s been very powerful to bring together the entire value chain, so you have the MRFs talking to the brands, talking to local governments and everybody discussing what their challenges and needs are. I love getting on the phone with both, a MRF and a brand owner and hearing them have conversations. That brand owner is saying, well, we went with this packaging format for these reasons and then the MRF saying I understand, but this is really hard to sort. What can we do about that? And so, by bringing everybody together we were able to understand like what are the challenges and how do we work together to overcome them and where can. You know where can this area make changes?

00:07:21 Crystal Bayliss
To make it easier over here and vice versa. And so, by really bringing together in an organized format those conversations we can start to make progress. As I mentioned before, there’s been a lot of great work done, but on some level it’s still pretty fragmented and so as an organization, we’re helping to pull it all together so that we can make decisions and move forward together instead of being stuck in a rut. Here’s the things that we could do. We’re moving from we could, to we are doing.

00:07:53 Sara Januszewski
Great yeah, we all must stick together. And then just lastly here to wrap it up. I mean, is there anything else that you would like to add or shout out?

00:08:04 Crystal Bayliss
Yeah, so a couple of programs that we have going on right now. We have our Sustainable Packaging Innovation awards which are being announced at Verge. And so, there’s some really exciting solutions that are out there. And we also have a program happening right now called the Reuse Catalyst and that is to help out companies that are putting innovative, reuse programs out there and also helping understand how that impacts the consumer and what the consumers are looking for. And so, these are a couple of things that we have right now that are wonderful. You can find out more information about both on our website if you’d like to visit.

00:08:41 Sara Januszewski
So then, to conclude things here, I just wanted to thank you again Crystal, for joining us today. It was a pleasure having you on the podcast.

00:08:48 Crystal Bayliss
Thank you for having me.


Spotify | YouTube