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Pile of Scrap Podcast

Ep. 42: Packaging the Right Way with Atlantic Packaging

Posted by Sierra International Machinery on 3/3/21 5:00 AM

Pile of Scrap Ep. 42: Packaging the Right Way with Atlantic Packaging

As someone who’s spent his entire youth and most of his adult life as an avid surfer, President of Atlantic Packaging Wes Carter has seen the damages that plastic pollution has had on our oceans firsthand. When approached about what the packaging industry is doing about it, a lightbulb finally went off. Since then, Wes is leading the charge in advocating for better ways to clean up landfills and save our oceans’ wildlife, all of which includes getting consumers and packaging manufacturers to join the conversation, get the Elon Musks and the Bill Gates of the world to believe in this initiative, and altogether address the misconceptions of plastic recycling.


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Wes Carter and John Sacco

Introduction: The following is an original audio series from Sierra International Machinery Pile of Scrap with your host, John Sacco.

John Sacco: Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to another episode of Pile of Scrap today. I'm with Wes Carter, President of Atlantic Packaging. Welcome, Wes.

Wes Carter: Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

John: Now, I think people are going to go, “Okay. What does the packaging company have to do with recycling?” I say: everything.

Wes: I agree with you.

John: You know, I did a podcast with Jeremy back in May, and I kinda got… How does that figure? But, from May to February now, this world has changed and you, of all people, have awakened to the idea of creating a recyclable packaging product and closing the loop. Tell us how you got there. What morning did you wake up and say, “This is it?”

Wes: Um, I guess it's been an evolution, you know, of just how I view the supply chain. Um, and quite honestly, you know, through the months of COVID, um, the emphasis on packaging with the general consumers… I mean, friends of mine who were coming to me and saying, “Hey, you're in this business. Can we not do anything about the amounts of packaging that are coming to our house?” You know, and “Is there not a better way to do some recycling?” And so, the lights started going off for me. Um, and you know, I also recognize that the packaging industry, as much as any industry, has a responsibility to begin to own our part of how we solve a lot of these big problems related to pollution and carbon. Um, and I felt like if the packaging industry would begin to, uh, pull the curtains back on some of the blind spots that we've had, um, and really began talking about, you know, collaborating across the supply chain with the consumer products brands – the large brands – with the experts in recycling and really begin to talk about, “Hey, there's a lot of these products that are in the supply chain that are valuable and can be recycled and put into new products.” And right now, just basically, because no one's really talking about it in innovating. We're just allowing a lot of those products to end up in landfills – or worse, end up in the environment. And, um, so yeah, that's the light sort of went off for me.

John: So, you know, speaking of the environment… Because this is a background about you, I think people need to know. You're an avid surfer.

Wes: I am.

John: So, the oceans – clean oceans are hugely important to you. And, you're an avid hunter.

Wes: Correct.

John: So, the… So, the environment – the oceans, everything in hold is important to you. This isn't just… You woke up one day and, “Oh, I think I better do this for PR.” You actually believe in it because you are a person of the land.

Wes: You know, it's, you know, the outdoors, the oceans, um, you know, waterways have been a part of the history of my family. Really… Um, you know, my grandfather who founded Atlantic, um, was an avid outdoorsman and, you know, the second part of his career, he lived in Florida and traveled with a professional bass fisherman and wrote books about the outdoors. So that, that's what I grew up with. My father was a big outdoorsman. I grew up at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, and spent my entire youth in the ocean. Um, and you know, as I've gotten older, you know, I've had the privilege to travel to lots of places. Uh, you know, places like Indonesia and surf some of the greatest waves in the world. And, you know, it was just impossible to ignore, you know, it's impossible to ignore, you know, the offshore fishing and how it's been impacted by pollution. What – the kind of the – the kind of fishing that we were able to do when I was a kid… It's just not the same anymore. You know, something has shifted. And, you know, when I'm over in Indonesia, or even in Central America surfing, the amount of pollution that's in the waterways, it's just so obvious.

John: And, it's really sad.

Wes: It is.

John: And, you know, I have, um… You know, I'm out there in social media a lot, obviously. And, I've taken some pictures, here of late… Just trash on side of the road, and it just pisses me off. Come on. Quit being ­– it's a cultural problem I see. People,  stop throwing your crap on the side of the road. And, I don't get it. But, I'm really excited that I've learned from you… Something here, as we started talking, and I got this, here, this stretch film. Plastic. First thing is, people are going to go, “Oh, Boogieman. Man, this is no good for the environment.” But you, with this new vision that you have on your product development, have found and working with the people who make it and you – or they have make the residents to create this product. You're closing the loop in the recycling. Tell us about what you've done with this and how it’s – you've closed the loop on it because of your initiative.

Wes: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, at the end of the day, I'm in the packaging industry and I do sell a lot of plastic products. Um, and I think for those of us that are in this part of the business, really analyzing where plastic packaging makes really good sense ‘cause there's a lot of places that it does. And then, there's other areas that it just doesn't like single-use plastic. But, one area that I believe plastic packaging is an absolute revolution is stretch packaging, which is this product here is stretch film. Um, as most folks know this product is used to consolidate loads for shipping. So, whether you're in the food industry, the beverage industry, medical device, automotive, textiles, you name it. Pretty much everybody uses this product to consolidate a load.

John: Okay. So, you know, everybody who's going to see this or listen to this knows that stretch film… When you go to a big house – take a Costco.

Wes: Sure.

John: I'm going to just use Costco because they got all these pallets of, uh, paper towels or toilet paper or whatever the product is, and it's all wrapped in this product.

Wes: Correct.

John: Now, tell us how you were able to work with and closing that loop – how you were able to educate these people in getting this product back into the recycle stream without having it put into the waste stream.

Wes: Sure. So, you know, first and foremost, you know, high performance stretch film, which is primarily what Atlantic sells is made from the most high-quality premium resins that are available. They're developed by people like Dow and Exxon. So, this product has no ink on it. It has no adhesive on it. It's not laminated. It is pure polyethylene, high-quality resin. So, for that reason, and talking to guys like you in this industry, I began to realize like… This product is as about as recyclable as plastic can be. And, the demand for recycled content in products has never been higher. All the big brands want post-consumer resin in their products. Well, the big issue they have is the feedstocks. We can't find clean feedstocks for plastic to create these resins. And I said, you know what? There's nothing cleaner than stretch film. It's perfect. The problem is, nobody is looking at it as a resource. Everyone's looking at it as garbage. So, my idea was to work closely with some of the large brands we deal with – uh, the beverage industry, for instance. A big beverage guys use a ton of stretch film. They're shipping so many pallets of product. And so, the idea was if the beverage guys… They typically ship to distribution centers. So, it's not going direct to a consumer, it's going to distribution centers. So, the number of inputs is just not all that large in comparison to the inputs of consumers.

John: Okay.

Wes: So, it was okay if we can work with the distributor locations to begin to view this as a resource, put it in sophisticated baling systems, establish a market price for the stretch film recyclable, that was, that actually was attractive to people, you know? Hey, this isn't garbage. This stuff is worth 20 cents a pound, 25 cents a pound – begin to create that market. Then, consolidate those bales and ship them to the large companies that are reprocessing thst product.

John: Okay. So, let's start ­– let's go – let's go there for a second. The company – now, the market will always dictate the price, you know, supply and demand.

Wes: Sure. Of course.

John: Right now, they can't get enough of this clean stretch film for repurposing, for –

Wes: Correct.

John: Okay. Like a steel mill uses scrap metal to make new steel.

Wes: Correct.

John: What do we call the plastic, uh, what – who – give me the name – the exact name of the plastic people that are, um, reusing this, making it – what did we call them?

Wes: One of our major partners is a company called Berry Plastics, which is one of the largest plastics companies on the planet. Um, and the great thing about Berry is that they're so diversified. So, they don't only make stretch film. They make shrink bundling film, and they make can liners and they make top sheet material. So, for them, they – and they make this stretch film. So, it's sort of a perfect deal. If we can bale their stretch film and get it back to their facilities, they've got the infrastructure to recycle it and repurpose it and put it into other products internally.

John: How are they doing that? They flake – flaking it, cut, chopping it, what – what are they doing?

Wes: Traditionally, there's been a fair amount of flaking simply because these companies – they created a lot of their own way to just trim waste and things like that. But, they are now investing in the infrastructure to actually turn it back into pellets.

John: So, are you really, now – because of your packaging and you're going to the big bottling houses and the, you know, the distribution centers who received this, is it your conversation with them now saying, “Hey, when you get your pallet full of the stretch film, take it off, don't put it in and commingle it with other garbage. Put it directly in its own clean bin and then bale it and you can get back hauls back to the consumer of this.” Is it you starting this conversation?

Wes: It – it is.

John: Do you take credit for it?

Wes: I'll – I’ll take some credit for it. Now it is a – it is a collaboration. I mean, the only way that this is successful is if multiple parties are all invested in this happening, but because we are the primary or one of the largest sellers of this product, I felt like, “Hey, we are –we have to be the voice here. We have to be the voice that's advocating for being sure that this resource that we sell does not end up in landfills.

John: So, how much – and I don't know if you would have this answer, but it would be a good thing to start looking into. What percentage of this stretch film is now being pulled out of the waste stream and put back into the recycling stream from the distribution – just talking distribution centers alone right now. Where…

Wes: It's really low.

John: It's really low, okay. It's low today. A year from now, it's not going to be, is it?

Wes: If we can get the consumer products brands to believe in this, and I believe that we can, especially if we can create a market where it is – maybe it's never going to be wildly profitable, but at minimum, maybe it's cost neutral. And, these brands have such a renewed investment or a new investment in sustainable practices. I mean, the brands… There's been a really big shift. It's no longer all about costs, costs, costs. The brands want to be environmentally responsible. So, really right now, what I'm trying to do is just prove to everybody that this is doable. We can do this. It's just never been done before.

John: I have a friend, uh, out of Arizona who, um, is customer of Sierra. And they, they work with big companies and helping them repurpose, recycle what they use within their indus–you know, their built their industries or whatever, the – whatever they are. So they're not throwing this away, but that's on a small level. These big distribution houses, you know, I'm sure Amazon uses an enormous amount of this. I'm sure, you know, you name it. Pepsi, and Coca-Cola, and Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch and co–I mean, their pack–

Wes: You just named 50 million pounds of stretch film, probably.

John: We need to get that 50 million pounds back into the recycling stream. But, here's the thing. Are there enough people that will consume that? I asked you this last night and I want to make sure I got the answer. If all that 50 million pounds of stretch film for those distribution centers got back into the recycling stream, can they be consumed and repurposed?

Wes: Yes. I believe that they can.

John: That's the message, Wes. This is where the – these big companies, instead of paying money for it to go to be hauled away to a landfill or somewhere else, they can play their part in getting this back into… So, it's like scrap metal. Iron. There's enough steel mills in the United States and around the world… Scrap metal’s always going somewhere. If we can get that stretch film and there – and it's known that they can be used, you know because China – U.S. used to dump so much plastic into China. And, some like Ag film that we used to deal with out at Sierra out in California. We're in the San Joaquin Valley, but this Ag film had dirt and had foliage, and it was just so contaminated. China woke up one day with a green conscious, and they put a green wall and said “We're not accepting this anymore.” So, now everybody going, “Oh my God, where are we going with the plastic?” They're going to the landfill. They just throw it – start throwing it away.

Wes: Yeah.

John: And, this is the conversation. And, this is why I'm really excited to be here with you because this is the message. People like you from industry – you're not a recycler.

Wes: No.

John: But, you are creating the conversation to get the big people who use this product to understand it's recyclable. We're going to do our part. We're going to bring industry. We're going to bring in the recycling industry with the packaging, with the product manufacturers together and create this. This is exciting because this is where we need to go. Now, I got something here that – because I think people need to understand what ­–  this is a Keurig coffee and this plastic container. This is single-use plastic.

Wes: It is.

John: And, the problem with this… Not in the recycling. So, you put your – make your coffee… Okay, that's great. But, now, is this recyclable? Technically, yes. Is it recyclable profitably? Oh, no. You would have to fill up this room here with this, to my – maybe make one bale of it. Real estate at MRFs is very expensive. So, when a MRF that, you know, separates some material and bales it and gets it to the different consumers, want to handle this and put in with real estate… So, how about Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, San Francisco? MRFs in those cities that the real estate is a premium. You can’t… This is – this is the big, big, big challenge down the road. But, I don't want to focus on this because you've created the conversation and you are a leader in creating this conversation now and that's going to bode well. So…

Wes: Well, I do think you bring up a good point though because, you know, I do think, and this is the way – I think we have to be honest and transparent in our analysis of plastic packaging through the supply chain. So, anyone who says all plastic is bad and needs to go away. That's black and white thinking. And, quite honestly, just incorrect.

John: It's, you know what, I – I'm sorry to interrupt, but I had this conversation with Leonard Zeid about paper. But, you know, virgin paper, “Oh, we're destroying our forests.” No, we're not. There are tree farms for the fi–for the pulp.

Wes: Correct.

John: And, we're not distracted. Are we destroying the land when we harvest wheat, cotton or corn? No. Lettuce? No. Trees are actually grown to be made into paper.

Wes: You know, I read something the other day.

John: Plastic. Not all plastic’s bad.

Wes: Um, you know, Elon Musk, you know, put out that big deal where he was going to award a hundred million dollars to whoever came up with the best carbon capture technology. And, I was listening to somebody talk and they were like, “Yeah, I'm really looking forward to the person that invents forests,” because – and, he makes a good point. I mean, at the end of the day, yes, we need more carbon capture technologies, but planting trees… That's where you capture carbon – in the soil. So, there is a, um, a synchronicity with the way that we farm and capturing carbon to offset some of the carbon that we released. So, more regenerative farming practices, um, cultivating the land, keeping soil healthy so it can capture carbon, I think, has to be a part of the conversation.

John: It's a, you know, this discussion, this is why it's great. That's why I’m really excited being here with you to talk about this because I think people are gonna start saying, “Wait a minute. There is more about recycling that even those who are in the recycling industry need to know, learn,” and now they're going to get involved. They're going to go to their local distribution houses and they're going to work to try to recycle this because they –look, I always say, I say this every podcast, Wes. The recycling in–we are the original environmentalist. Okay? We are.

Wes: I believe it.

John: We are the ones who kept this stuff from landfills, and streets…

Wes: Absolutely.

John: And gutters, and what have you. This is going to be – this is going to take off and I want to go – I'm going to take from your stretch film that has high-quality resin plastic as very recyclable – to me, one of the most exciting products I've ever heard of coming in in the packaging industry is this.

Wes: The fish bone.

John: The fish bone. Now I put out on my LinkedIn, a small video I did, and just came to me do that of the Mox juice, uh, apple juices that had the plastic green. What do you call those things? The…

Wes: It’s the… The industry name is a high cone ring.

John: High cone ring. And, it's plastic. And, this is the stuff you see on documentaries that are around turtles necks.

Wes: Yeah, for the last 50 years, they've been around turtles necks.

John: Yeah, and they're not biodegradable.

Wes: No.

John: But, now this can holder… Tell us about this, because this… When I said I did the video, I said, “I can't wait for this product.” Okay? I want this out there. I want everybody, I want Pepsi Cola, I want Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, Coors… I want everyone to know this is your future. Not because plastic is bad, but this is biodegradable in 12 weeks. This is recyclable and made from recycled parts. So, tell me how you got into this. This is so exciting. I'm really pumped up about this.

Wes: And I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about fishbone. I think it's one of the more innovative packaging products certainly that we've ever brought to market. Um, and I do believe it's transformational. And so, as I mentioned before, when I'm evaluating plastic packaging, the one area that I think it's really problematic is consumer destined single use plastics. You know, the recycling infrastructure domestically for recycling plastics at the consumer level is not where it needs to be. The recycling infrastructure for recycling paper is. I mean, we were selling this amount of corrugated we're recycling in this country. So, to me, one area that we really need to focus on in finding alternatives to plastic packaging is in single-use. And, what attracted me to this product quite honestly, it's my experience in the ocean. Like I mentioned, those six pack rings have been a problem since I was a kid. I mean, we have known that those things were choking turtles and sea life and, you know, but again, today it's still the predominant packaging used in the beverage industry. So, why is that? It's mainly being driven by cost. So, when we were introduced, there was some inventors out of California who created this product and they approached Atlantic and they said, “Hey, we're five guys. We invented this product. We think is revolutionary. We were looking for a partner to take it into market and we think you guys are the right guys.” And, we looked at it and said, “Wow, yes, we want to take this to market. We've already got a great presence in the beverage industry. So, we've already got the avenues to get this introduced.” Um, it was important to develop equipment, to be able to apply this at high speed. Uh, and we have a very developed, um, uh, packaging equipment program and some great partners. So, we were able to do that as well. So, um, you know, we, we been working on this for the last two years and we officially launched Fishbone, um, uh, mid-fourth quarter last year. So, it's still very new. Um, but the reception has really been fantastic.

John: Okay. The reception… Short-term… Fantastic. How are the results? Are people buying? Are these big companies buying? Are they – are they, like, sticking the toe in the water? Are they placing orders with you? Come on now, where are they?

Wes: Yes. We have received some large orders. Um, we've sold several of our BCF-40 machine, which is our 240 a minute, uh, 240 cans per minute machine. It's a very sophisticated –

John: Hey, you and I are in the equipment business.

Wes: Yeah, absolutely. So, we've sold a few of those to some pretty big name brands. We've also had a lot of success in the beer industry, especially with some of the regional brewers. You know, a lot of those, um, you know, craft breweries, you know, they have an, uh, an ethos with their brand that's about being environmentally friendly. And so, this product matches up really well with them. So, without dropping too many names, we have some very recognizable brands that have made some investments to start a move to this product.

John: Now, are you – are you actually manufacturing this product – the fishbone, uh, can holder? You actually take the paper and some facility here in the United States, you're actually manufacturing this?

Wes: Absolutely.

John: Where is that at?

Wes: The board –

John: If you don’t mind saying it.

Wes: Absolutely. The board itself comes from a mill in Sweden – a company called [inaudible], which is the most sustainable paper mill in the world. Uh, they have a zero carbon footprint at that mill, which is a remarkable feat for a paper mill. So, we partner with those guys because we wanted our paper to be as sustainable as possible. Um, so it starts with that sheet, um, in our printing facility, which is in Tabor City, North Carolina, which is just inland of Myrtle Beach. Um, we've got a very nice ISO certified facility there, and we print the fishbones custom print to any graphic that our customer might want, and we dye cut them as well. So, all that's done in-house at Atlantic. Um, we offer six generic Fishbones with some print on them. If somebody just wants to order a couple of thousand to get started, um, or people can order custom, you know, with their brand, we can do promotions. Really, it's totally flexible. So, one of the cool advantages over a high cone too, is not only is it compostable, uh, fully curbside recyclable, but it also is great for marketing because you can print on it, which you never could on those a six pack rings.

John: I'm taking this with me. I'm going to Balcones Resources, um, and meet with my friend, Carrie Getter. They got the state-of-the-art MRF. I mean, it's these optical sorters and these four plastics and for the screens for paper. He'll have never seen this and I'm going to introduce it to him. And, I'm going to make sure that he gets the word that this is coming down the pike, and that we need to get the messaging out that this needs people at home because this is like the single-use… The consumer goes to the store, grabs a six pack or whatever it is. They know this has to go into the blue bin or the recycle bin. What are some, some recycle bins aren't blue. So…

Wes: Sure.

John: I'm going to introduce this to them because I think, in the end, they're made more – it's more efficient because during the pandemic, because you talk about COVID and the different things that have happened. In LA, I did a podcast with my friend, Jason Young, uh, when I first started the podcast Pile of Scrap and he – we were talking and we talked with, and he said, during the pandemic, the contamination rates have skyrocketed…

Wes: Sure.

John: Because everybody's staying home, right? And, you're running out of places to put your garbage. The blue bin’s free. The garbage bin comes at a cost. So, now you're getting diapers and you're getting food waste, and you're getting other stuff in the blue bin. Contamination rates are going up, cost of sorting it is going up. So, when we come out of the pandemic and I think life gets back to normal, sometime later this year, we can only hope and the vaccine takes hold… That this is going to be more coming out of people's households. And, they got to know, we're putting this in the blue bin. This is recyclable. This isn’t waste. This is recyclable. So, we're going to create a whole new, new recycled product. And you're leading the way, Wes.

Wes: Well, I'm happy just to be a part of the conversation. Um, you know, we believe we do have a responsibility as a packaging company, a large packaging company that has a fair amount of influence that, you know, we are introducing environmentally friendly options and that takes creativity and innovation. Um, and again, uh, you know, in what I love about what you're doing with your podcast, um, the, the area that we see where we need the most emphasis as well is educating consumers. You know, we've done some studies, some independent studies, um, at Clemson University, bringing in consumers and getting their feedback on certain products. And, it's pretty overwhelming how much misinformation is out there. And again, the brands, the large consumer products brands want to serve customers. If the consumers demand more paper-based packaging products at their homes, that's what the brands will deliver to them. We just have to educate the consumers and let them understand that like, “Hey, most of the plastic that comes to your house, doesn't get recycled. Even though you put it in that blue bin, it ends up in the landfill or worse. It ends up in the ocean or the environment.” You know, let's, let's pivot away from single use plastics to more sustainable paper-based products like the Fishbone in that in that area of the supply chain.

John: Let's get back to something you said, not all plastic is bad. You know, the PET bottle is a highly recyclable product. Milk jugs value’s crazy right now. Uh, HDPE color, the detergent bottles – very recyclable. Okay? There's a good market for them. Good product, good packaging, recyclable. That's good. And so, just want to make sure I am not saying plastic is bad in this podcast for whoever's listening: plastic isn't bad, but there is better use of materials for the recycling program, but when it gets to the consumer level, but the plastics that they use for detergent bottles and milk jugs – fantastic product. Very recyclable and a good commodity value. So, I'm going to go to something.

Wes: Okay.

John: Your new little passion.

Wes: Okay.

John: A New Earth Project.

Wes: A New Earth Project.

John: You are super fired up about this.

Wes: I am super fired up about it.

John: Talk to me about it because I think this is something – this isn't bull crap. This is real passion, real emotion from Wes Carter. Tell us about it.

Wes: So, yeah. The New Earth Project, um, has really been, uh, a kind of a labor of love and not something that has been a long time in development. I mean, it just sort of appeared. And, um, you know, the day after Christmas, actually, um, you know, Darren, who is a friend of mine called me up and said, “Hey, I know a guy named Peter King, um, who lives in Hawaii. He's very connected to the professional surfing community. And, he wants to do a documentary about cleaning up the oceans and getting plastic out of the oceans.” And, we were talking a little bit about it, and he's like, “I really want to find a partner in industry that could potentially, you know, bring another side of the conversation.” And Darren said, “I think Atlantic's the right company for you. I need you to talk to Wes.” So, I got on the phone with Peter, um, and literally this is the day after Christmas and we're FaceTiming and I'm in Park City, Utah, and he's in, uh, the north shore of Oahu. And, over that next two hours, we discussed how the professional surfing industry, or the professional surfing community as much as anybody, sees the ravages of plastic pollution because these guys are traveling all over the world to some of the greatest, most beautiful surf spots. And, a lot of those are in third world countries. And, the plastic pollution is really, really problematic. So, they are our environmental advocates and I've got a deep passion for surfing. So, there was something personal there for me as well. But, what we started to establish is, if we can connect the advocates – the surfers ­ with industry like my industry that could add actually impact to this problem because we can have all the advocates that we want. But, if those advocates can't link back to the industry – the supply chain, that quite honestly is creating the problem, you know, and it's not one industry. I mean, consumers are contributors, consumer products, companies are contributors, uh, packaging companies are contributors, but the idea was, let's bring those parties together with this documentary series and talk about finally all collaborating and getting really creative and working together to solve this problem. So, um, you know, after that happened a week later, I was on an airplane to Hawaii and we began to start this conversation. Um, and it's just been really exciting. So, I really hope that, um, the documentary, the New Earth Project, um, will be a way to educate the customers and, you know, educate the general public about the opportunities for recycling, the opportunities for new products that can replace single-use plastic, um, and really, um, and really inspire our supply chain more than anything else to get the supply chain to begin to say, “Hey, we need to do this.”

John:                Well, you know, okay. Sierra – we manufacture balers and conveyors, and you and I have talked about this. We can put a baler, and Sierra – my brother, Philip, and I have discussed it. We're willing to put a baler and conveyor on a vessel out there in the Pacific to start cleaning up. You know, they could haul this stuff out with the net.

Wes: Sure.

John: The way I see it is, take it out of the ocean, you know, skim it, pull it out, bale it because for space purposes on any barge or a hole of a ship. You know, I'm involved. I've actually put this out a few times over the years. No takers because the bottom line… This takes a lot of money. It takes a lot of resources. And, government isn't – I don't think the answer. I think industry… I think the big bottling companies, I think the big, uh, people who – the big packaging companies… Because I want to tell you, I don't think it's Proctor and Gamble's fault that their product ends up in the ocean. I think it's a cultural issue with people and being so lazy, but that's beside the point. I think if we can bring these big manufacturers together with recycling industry, with advocates like you, we should be able to come together and at least attempt the first true cleanup. But, then you and I were talking and I was wondering, “Well, is there a government that's going to allow this barge to enter its waters into its port to go to a facility to be separated, maybe burned for an incineration plant RDF, refuse, derived fuel, take the recyclables out, repurpose it, see what's there.” We have to start someplace. Sierra wants to be involved. You are leading the charge with your New Earth Project.

Wes: We – I've been so inspired by your vision of what this ocean cleanup could look like. And, I really think if we can get enough people on board and enough buy-in… Like, this could be the great environmental cleanup of our generation. I mean, this could be something that we could all be sitting on the rocking chairs in 30 years and go, “Wow, look what we did. Look what we did for our children and our children's children.” And, I do, again, believe it's about massive collaboration. It's going to take government, too. I mean, we need people at the government level that support it. It's going to take private enterprise. It's going to take some thought leaders and some highly successful leaders who are willing to say, “Hey, I'm willing to put in a hundred million dollars as a part of this.” And, then all of us sitting around the table, every party saying, “How do we do this? Well, how do we effectively do it?” And, what you mentioned too about, you know, I mean, maybe part of what we do is work with some of these countries in the South Pacific and maybe the U.S. government helps fund some of the recycling infrastructure that is needed over there to accept some of this trash. I mean, there's so many creative ideas. And, at the end of the day, I think we could do this. We just it's just about will.

John: It's will, but we have to start the conversation. And, you're starting the conversation on a larger level now. And, you know, look, I'll look straight in the camera and I'll say, “Hey, Elon Musk, you know, you're one of the most innovative human beings on this planet today.” “Listen. Help, Bill Gates. You like feeding the people, but you know what? You can't feed people when your oceans are polluted and the fish are dying because of the pollution.” There are some people… Jeff Bezos. Look, people… Your packaging at Amazon, not all of it's recycled.

Wes: Nope.

John: Now, I'm not calling them out in a negative way, but these people have the fire power, the billions of dollars. And, we don't need billions. We need to just some money to get going here. And, if they're on board, you're going to have governments on board. You're going to have industry on board. Think about… Look, we're not going to clean up the oceans and the lakes and rivers across this world I don't think in our lifetime, but if we can start now… Wes, you will be, you know, you will be remembered because you're the one who's starting this, trying to bring it together. You're really one of the passionate guys I've heard. I've talked to people who did, but you're actually doing something about it.

Wes: Well, I – you know, this is certainly not about me. Um, I want to be a part of the conversation because I do believe that that the position our company sits in, we just touch a lot of areas of the supply chain, you know? And, so our ability to bring those parties together, I think, is significant. And, I see that and really that's, you know, the, the role I want to play is just that bringing all these parties together so that we can collaborate, because I am acutely aware that Wes Carter, Atlantic Packaging can't begin to solve this problem on our own, but collectively we absolutely can. And, you know, at the rate we're going right now, this problem, the amount of plastic that's in the ocean today, in 10 years, the estimates are that it will be three times that much. So, this problem isn't getting better, you know, just because we've stopped using plastic straws, you know, we are using more plastic packaging and more plastic products than we ever have before. So, if we do nothing, it's going to choke our waterways. You know, the youth that I – my children won't have, my children's children certainly won't have. And, so I do believe we have an imperative responsibility to begin to have this conversation. And, to your point, you know, to the, to the Jeff Bezos and the Elon Musks… Like what could be more important than this, really? I mean, if we really want to do something significant let's, first and foremost, we got to start to curb the tide. We got to quit putting the plastic in the ocean and an industry could do that. We can do that as industry. Then we need innovative companies like you guys in recycling and governments and funding to actually do the cleanup. It's – we gotta quit putting it in. And, we got to clean it up. Both of those things. And again, if we collaborate and work together, I think we've proven as humanity – humans, there's really little we cannot do. We're great innovators, great creators… If we collaborate.

John: Wes, I got to tell you. What a great day, great night. Last night, getting to know more about you, learning about your passion, seeing it, feeling it because it's there. It's just powerful. I mean, it's just there. It's awesome. You have a great facility here. You're testing your products. Your vision. And, this is part of the recycling world. And, you're part of it. And, you may not be a recycler – “recycler,” but you're part of the recycling solution. And, I appreciate you. Thank you for your time. My friend.

Wes: Absolutely.

John: It's been an honor to be here with you. Thank you so much. And, I look forward to our collaboration and with all these big companies, they’re gonna hear this and go “We're in.”

Wes: Yes, this is the beginning. Thanks, John.

John: Thank you. And, that's it for another episode of Pile of Scrap.

Conclusion: This has been a Sierra International Machinery original audio series. Thanks for listening. Please share this podcast and make sure to subscribe.


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Topics: Recycling

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