Path to Progress: How SC Johnson is Navigating the Plastic Waste Challenge
Change happens over time and tackling plastic waste is something SC Johnson is all too familiar with. From launching their first Future® bottle made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic in 1990 to introducing method® all-purpose cleaner starter kits with aluminum bottle dispensers in 2023, finding innovative solutions to reduce plastic waste is something they are passionate about.
But it takes more than just product innovations from one company to help break the cycle and tackle plastic waste. As SC Johnson Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson has echoed, it takes all stakeholders in the plastic ecosystem working together collectively to help tackle this issue. Working together collectively is the only way to turn the tide on plastic pollution.
Embracing A Circular Economy for Plastics
Let’s begin by clarifying that not all plastic is inherently bad. Plastic can be useful, convenient and affordable. Eliminating plastic entirely is not the goal of a circular economy. Instead, the idea is to transition away from single-use plastic that becomes waste to a system that extends the life of plastic so that it can be used again and again.
So, how do we address the plastic waste issue? It starts with collaboration and transparent reporting, and that's a central focus of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. The Commitment represents a global network of businesses, governments and other organizations behind a common vision of a circular economy for plastics, led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme.
In 2018, Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson joined leaders from around the world to sign the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, taking another step in their efforts to tackle plastic waste. The following year, SC Johnson became EMF’s tenth Strategic Partner. Since then, the Commitment has grown to include more than 1,000 organizations.
Members of the Global Commitment – referred to as signatories – set ambitious 2025 targets to drive systemic change. Every year signatories report their progress and reflect on the significant strides made across areas and the urgency to accelerate action in order to meet their 2025 goals.
Driving Progress Across Key Targets
Over the years, the company has been working to decrease virgin plastic use, increase the use of post-consumer recycled content, increase plastic packaging that is reusable, recyclable or compostable, move toward reuse models and keep the momentum going.
Reflecting on 2018, five years since joining the Global Commitment, the progress made is encouraging to see. While progress in some areas evolve slowly, others grow faster than we expected.
In 2021, SC Johnson surpassed the first of their targets, going beyond their ambition to use 15% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic content in packaging and achieving more than 19% instead. They immediately increased their 2025 target to 25% PCR content, aiming to continue driving progress across their business.
This year, SC Johnson is excited to share some of their plastic packaging progress included in EMF’s 2023 Report.
SC Johnson plastic packaging improvements since 2019:
- Increased the amount of post-consumer recycled content in packaging to 22%
- Reduced use of virgin plastic by 28%
- Increased the amount of plastic packaging that is reusable, recyclable or compostable to 55%
A Deeper Look into the Numbers: Product Innovations and Partnerships
A key to SC Johnson’s progress has been reuse models across products segments, enabling bottles, triggers and other components from previously purchased products to be used again. In fact, the company continues to have the highest percentage of reusable plastic packaging in the Commitment’s household and personal care sector, at 9%. Today, the company offers over 45 product lines with reuse options across their portfolio. Brands like method®, Ecover® and Mrs. Meyers Clean Day® offer an array of reusable alternatives in both cleaning and personal care lines. Additionally, products like DISSOLVE™ Concentrated Pods, that use 94% less plastic than a 23 fluid ounce or larger same-branded sprayer bottle with ever refill pod, reduce plastic usage and encourage the use of refills.
SC Johnson also continues to test and expand refill stations for the Ecover® brand across select retailers throughout the U.K., Belgium and the Netherlands. From an innovative pop-up in London to launching The Refillution®, a movement that aims to bring consumers, shopkeepers, retailers, the supply chain and others together to unlock the potential of refilling to help make reusing bottles mainstream, the Ecover® brand has been working to increase consumer access to refill options at home and in-store.
And whenever possible, SC Johnson goes a step further by redesigning and eliminating plastic. In 2020, the company introduced select Mrs. Meyers Clean Day® products into the European market without black plastic triggers – which can contaminate the recycling stream and limit circularity – making them easier to identify and separate in recycling facilities.
SC Johnson also continues to focus on making recycling plastic film at home easier. Since 2019, the company has partnered with communities in the U.S.to sponsor curbside plastic film recycling programs to make items like grocery bags, food packaging and Ziploc® brand bags easier to recycle.
Another key to SC Johnson’s progress includes partners like Plastic Bank and sports teams like the Milwaukee Brewers, Milwaukee Bucks and Liverpool Football Club that contribute to the development of a circular economy.
SC Johnson’s partnership with Plastic Bank not only focuses on tackling plastic waste but also providing economic opportunities for underserved communities. Since 2018, they have worked with Plastic Bank to create more than 550 collection locations across Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Brazil. As part of this partnership, local collectors gather plastic on land, within 31 miles of an ocean that might otherwise end up in oceans or landfills, in exchange for income.
The recovered plastic is turned in at designated collection points and some of the plastic is then recycled back into specially marked 100% recovered coastal plastic bottles (minus trigger) in two brands: Windex® in North America and Mr Muscle® in the U.K. and Ireland. In January 2022, SC Johnson celebrated a key milestone with Plastic Bank, stopping 2 billion plastic bottles before they reach our oceans and landfills. Almost two years later, the partnership has helped recover the equivalent of 3 billion plastic bottles and continues making waves to tackle plastic pollution.
A Glimpse Ahead: SC Johnson’s Plastic Packaging Journey Continues
This year's report is not only a reflection of our progress, but a sign of the impact collective action can have tackling plastic waste when businesses, governments, communities and individuals join forces. There’s still a lot of work to be done to deliver the 2025 commitments, but with every step, we get closer to a world where plastic is managed responsibly.