2019 Sustainability Report

arrow blueCommitted to using financial, natural and human resources wisely without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs

ADVANCING CIRCULAR ECONOMY
Cradle to Cradle Manufacturing, Reconditioning & Recycling

Working to divert used packaging from landfills and reduce the use of virgin materials.

United Nations Sustainable Development GoalsDecent work and economic growthindustry, innovation and infrastructureResponsible consumption and productionClimate action

Why Cradle to Cradle Manufacturing, Reconditioning, Reuse & Recycling Matters

103-1
Explanation of the material topic and its Boundary

103-2
Explain management approach components

103-3
Evaluate management approach

307-1
Non-compliance with environmental laws and regulations

Cradle to Cradle Manufacturing, Reconditioning, Reuse & Recycling 2019: 103-1, 103-2, 103-3; 307-1

Greif actively manages the Cradle to Cradle life cycle of industrial packaging through manufacturing, reconditioning, reuse and recycling to advance circular economy principles. We work with our customers, and even their customers, to produce new packages and products that build economic, environmental and social capital. Our Cradle to Cradle management through manufacturing, reconditioning, reuse and recycling solutions help divert waste from landfills while strengthening relationships within our supply chain. As the demand for sustainable solutions increases, our collaborative efforts with our suppliers and our customers, enable us all to reach our collective sustainability goals.

Greif Recycling Operations

Governance

We provide end-of-life services through a program called EarthMinded Life Cycle Services (LCS), which leverages a network of Greif joint-venture owned and other third-party owned and operated facilities in EMEA and North America, including Container Life Cycle Management LLC (CLCM)*. Participant reconditioners in the network collect used, empty, plastic, steel and Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC). Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers (FIBCs) are recollected in EMEA through our wholly owned subsidiary, Rebu. The collected containers are reconditioned so they are suitable for reuse and then reintroduced into trade. The reconditioned containers reduce the demand for new containers and demand for virgin raw materials, while decreasing the number of containers that go to landfill. If a container cannot be reconditioned, the materials are recycled for use into other products. Across our reconditioning operations, we reconditioned, remanufactured, or recycled more than 4.3 million containers and managed over 4 million tons of recycled paper fibre in 2019.

Many of Greif’s largest customers use the EarthMinded LCS network to recondition their containers. Customers who use the network can access real-time reports through EcoTrack and the Greif Green Tool, which enables customers to quantify performance by tracking key indicators like carbon impact and weight of reused and recycled materials.

In 2019, we took a number of deliberate steps to better integrate and align our reconditioning operations into the overall Greif business, beginning with instating a General Manager to oversee all EarthMinded LCS and CLCM operations. The General Manager is tasked with implementing Greif’s policies, procedures, training and business objectives throughout the network. The network is now also operating on many of Greif’s IT systems, including our Compliance Management System (please see the Environmental Management Systems section of our report for additional information). We established a three-year strategy that is well-aligned to the needs we see in the reconditioning market and Greif’s strategic objectives. As part of this strategy, we will be working in 2020 and beyond to expand our return program, build our capabilities across multiple packaging materials and enhance our IBC services.

Our new management structure will allow us to improve our management of social and environmental issues that have the potential to impact the communities in which we operate. Since 2017, CLCM has been actively addressing the concerns of the St. Francis community and applicable regulators related to odor and alleged health and safety violations (many of which CLCM disputes) at a reconditioning facility operating under the trade name “Mid America Steel Drum.” CLCM’s history of engagement with the community and regulators and actions taken to address their concerns, are available at CLCMWI.com. In 2019 CLCM initiated use of a regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO) at the St. Francis facility intended to reduce odors emanating from the site’s operations. Thermal oxidation is recognized as the most effective way to destroy odor-causing compounds and is commonly used throughout the United States for a wide variety of processes. CLCM is one of the first industrial packaging reconditioners to adopt this technology. CLCM is continuing to engage with local officials to endeavor to maintain positive relations with the community and continue to identify areas for improvement.

76,400

Metric Tons of Virgin Materials Saved

Our reconditioning and reuse operations helped us remove over 60,000 metric tons of virgin steel, high-density polyethylene and wood from our supply chain in 2019.

Our commitment to enhancing our IBC services expands outside of North America. In 2019, we took a majority stake in Tholu, an IBC rebottling, reconditioning and distribution company serving the EMEA region. We will also be working with our new colleagues that have joined Greif through the Caraustar acquisition to improve our capabilities to provide reconditioning services for fibre containers.

Greif’s acquisition of Caraustar vastly expanded our recycling footprint and operational capabilities. Greif now operates 20 recycling facilities, offers complete outsourcing solutions for plastics, pulp and  paper fibre procurement, transportation and administration and provides complete paper fibre audit and management solutions. 98 percent of the products we handle, by volume, is paper fibre. Our paper fibre recycling operations collect paper fibre for use in our own containerboard mills and for sale to other containerboard manufacturers or converters. Because of our integrated capabilities, Greif now holds a central position in the paper recycling industry and operates as a net positive recycler. Approximately 50 percent of the fibre we collect is used in our own operations to manufacture paper products for use in consumer and industrial settings. The remaining 50 percent of the fibre we collect is sold to external converters for use in their own operations. Over 90 percent of the fibre we use in our paper manufacturing is from 100 percent recycled inputs.  

We are proud to be able to offer these services, however global demand for fibre from converters is falling and driving commodity prices down. For many recyclers, the cost of collecting fibre is now higher than its commodity price. Many users of recycling services, including municipalities, have not yet realized or adjusted to the costs that may be required to continue offering these services. Through our sales force and participation in various industry groups, we are doing our part to educate the market on the dynamics of the changing industry to ensure this remains a viable business for ourselves and our peers. As a collector, converter, and supplier of fibre, Greif is well positioned to continue to operate profitably as the market adjusts to these changing dynamics.

Beyond our Paper Packaging & Services (PPS) operations, the use of recycled plastics plays an important role in our business. In our Rigid Industrial Packaging & Services (RIPS) business, all of our plastic products globally are 100 percent recyclable and 100 percent of our internal regrind plastic is reused to be incorporated back into our products. Internal regrind accounts for approximately 20 percent of our drums and IBCs.

We use recycled steel where possible. Globally, steel products were made from a minimum of 15 percent recycled steel in 2019. In North America, steel products were made from a minimum of 33 percent recycled steel. 

In our Flexible Packaging & Services (FPS) business, 90 percent of our internal scrap is recycled by ourselves and the balance is sold to recycling companies. There is approximately 7 percent recycled plastics (internal scrap) in our FPS plastics products.

Cradle-to-cradle and the use of recycled products are just two components of our circular economy strategy that spans across our operations and value chain. As part of that strategy, we are working to drive circular economy principles in four key areas:

  • Reducing raw material use
  • Waste reduction and reducing natural resource use
  • Innovation and increasing recyclability, and use of recycled materials, in our products
  • End-of-life

Please see the Supply Chain Management, Waste and Innovation pages of our report for more information about how our circular economy strategy spans our entire business.

In 2020, we will continue to engage customers on packaging innovation and partner to develop new reconditioning solutions. Greif will develop the appropriate tools to educate and encourage our customers to ensure empty packaging is disposed of in a sustainable fashion. This includes engaging customers at conferences and other events. Greif is continually evaluating partners who can both manage collection and ensure Greif’s safety standards so we can support our customers’ goals and to better offer a truly global reconditioning service. Currently, we are building the infrastructure to respond to demand, particularly as the global market continues to evolve to meet consumer expectations for sustainable products and operations.

* EarthMinded LCS is comprised of Greif, Inc. subsidiary EarthMinded Europe (formerly “pack2pack”) with network sites and alliance participants across Europe, and Container Life Cycle Management LLC in North America, a joint venture composed of Greif and the former owners of Drumco of Arkansas, Drumco of Tennessee and Mid-America Steel Drum Co., Inc. The EarthMinded LCS network in North America also includes West Texas Drum Company covering the Gulf Coast, Chambers Drum Company, Inc. covering the southeast United States, and Kearny Steel Container covering the northeast United States.

Goals & Progress

Our end-of-life efforts support our 2025 supply chain, waste and innovation goals.

Performance

EARTHMINDED LIFE CYCLE SERVICES - ESTIMATED DRUMS AND IBCS RECONDITIONED*

 

FY 2015

FY 2016 

FY 2017

Fy 2018
FY 2019

Recycled

780,500

1,045,093

904,883

849,498

831,576

Steel Drums

553,300

689,513

534,369

571,355

509,884

Poly Drums

196,300

277,672

212,272

161,447

243,186

IBCs

30,900

77,908

158,242

116,696

78,506

Reconditioned

4,076,700

3,808,242

3,218,885

3,258,848

3,533,358

Steel Drums

3,356,200

3,072,348

2,565,052

2,713,025

2,699,393

Poly Drums

374,100

375,307

321,188

244,497

194,011

IBCs

346,400

360,587

332,645

301,326

639,954

Total Collected

4,857,200

4,853,335 

4,136,828

4,105,936

4,348,706

Steel Drums

3,909,500

3,761,861

3,099,633

3,284,380

3,193,049

Poly Drums

570,400

652,979

535,460

405,944

437,197

IBCs

377,300

438,495

501,735

415,612

718,460

Virgin Materials Saved by Reconditioning and Reuse (Metric Tons)**

77,773

71,573

63,111

63,587

76,400

Steel

70,198

65,743

56,200

57,664

66,900

High-Density Polyethylene

5,742

5,830

5,150

4,243

5,900

Wood

1,833

 

1,761

1,680

3,600

Virgin Materials Saved by Recycling (Metric Tons)***

12,076 

17,402

18,755

16,644

16,145

Steel

9,657

13,288

13,463

12,697

10,918

High-Density Polyethylene

2,297

3,817

4,580

3,385

4,888

Wood

122

297

712

562

339

  1. Virgin Materials Saved by Reconditioning and Reuse data has been restated to standardize units across regions
*Estimated Drums and Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBCs) Recycled and Reconditioned (North America and Europe, Middle East and Africa) 
**Estimates based on the quantity of reconditioned packaging and average packaging specifications (North America and Europe)
***Estimates based on the quantity of recycled packaging and average packaging specifications (North America and Europe)

 

REBU – ESTIMATED Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers (FIBCs) RECONDITIONED Europe, Middle East and Africa 

 

FY 2015 

FY 2016

FY 2017

Fy 2018

FY 2019

 Total FIBCs Collected - -  -

316,324

275,732

Reconditioned

 -

 -

 -

224,418

179,912

Recycled

 -

 -

 -

91,906

95,820

Total Virgin Polyethylene Saved (Metric Tons)

     

727.6

634.2
Virgin Polyethylene Saved by Reconditioning and Reuse (Metric Tons)*

 -

 -

 -

516.2

413.8

Virgin Polyethylene Saved by Recycling (Metric Tons)**

 -

 -

 -

211.4

220.4

*Estimates based on the quantity of reconditioned packaging and average packaging specifications (Europe)
**Estimates based on the quantity of recycled packaging and average packaging specifications (Europe)
Highlight Stories
Highlight Stories

State of the Art Reconditioning Services in Lille

Greif’s EarthMinded LCS facility in Lille, France has taken significant steps to innovate the logistics associated with offering reconditioning services to our customers. Traditionally, empty IBCs were picked up from and delivered to a single location for a single customer. EarthMinded LCS Lille has begun picking up from locations along our customers supply chain, then delivering reconditioned IBCs back to our customers, simplifying logistics for our customers. Lille as also implemented datamatrix, a traceability system that allows us to record all production steps from reception to delivery, have visibility into the origins of an IBC and provide a real time view of our inventory in support of overall enhanced customer service. Datamatrix also supports better management of residue in the IBCs they collect. Each IBC that enters the facility is automatically weighed to determine how much residue is in the container and inform how it is treated. With datamatrix, this information can be sent directly back to customers to improve how they manage IBCs that are ready for pick-up. Lille uses a closed loop water system for water that is used to clean IBCs recycling 100 percent of the water they use, and collects, treats and shreds plastic that is used to manufacture new IBCs and plastic drums.

DEFINITION