3. Scott Breen on recycling and consumer packaging

Vice President of Sustainability at the Can Manufacturers Institute

November 17, 2021

Welcome to The Multi-usiverse. Alongside your guide, Garr Punnett, explore worlds of opportunity within the use of physical resources across companies and organizations. Consider this a field guide in scaling reuse, refurbishment, remanufacturing, and recirculation. We’ll learn from guests who have ventured down this path and carved their way. Our aim is to discuss the successes, opportunities, and challenges of scaling a connected, circular economy. On this episode we’re joined by Scott Breen, VP of Sustainability at Can Manufacturers Institute.

YouTube video

Audio Transcript:

Garr Punnett (00:16)

Hey, everybody, welcome back to the Multi-usiverse podcast. My name is Garr Punnett, chief of staff here at Rheaply and lead Circular Economist. This week we spoke to Scott Breen, the vice President of sustainability at the Canned Manufacturers Institute. We got into deeply into recycling conversations around where the system is today. How can we actually instigate and facilitate change when it comes to recycling systems and the good work that the Can Manufacturer Institute is up to, whether that’s providing grants or really leading the education around how metal is still the future of recycling and consumer packaging. Enjoy.

Garr Punnett (00:56)

I’ve listened to a couple of your podcasts. You’re now the first guest in which they also have a podcast. And you’ve been quite a leader in this space. You’re almost on five years with your podcast. Tell me about how it started because I would love to know your journey in that. And then also, really, I’ve got a couple of follow up questions then on the podcast because I’d love your opinions on sort of what you’ve gotten along the way and how sustainability has maybe changed along the way.

Scott Breen (01:25)

Sure. So you want to hear the meet cute story with my podcast?

Garr Punnett (01:28)

Yes, exactly.

Scott Breen (01:32)

It was at a networking event because that’s how people, of course, meet. And so we just started talking at the networking event. And afterwards, J. A. Siegel, who’s my podcast cohost. He said, I really enjoyed talking with you. You have good BS conversational skills. What do you think about podcast? And at the time, I was an attorney, like practicing attorney at NOAH, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. And as an attorney, I like being an attorney, but it’s a lot of reading and writing. You get involved in the legal problems you’re not creating. You’re not trying to make things more efficient. If there’s not a legal problem, you’re not involved. And the podcast offered me an opportunity to be creative, start something and craft it and have something exist that wouldn’t exist without my efforts. So I was very attracted to all this. And Jay seemed like a nice guy. So we thought about what podcast we like and to your .5 years ago, the space was a lot smaller. I joked that everybody’s got podcast now, right? Even you do Garr. Oh, my God.

Garr Punnett (02:28)

Shot fired.

Scott Breen (02:32)

No no no. But we thought, okay, we like how I built this, where they interview people and get into the weeds of how they started something. We like how stuff works, where they explain a concept. So we tried to do both of those in our podcast where each episode, we do a different concept. Our tagline for the sustainability defined podcast is defining sustainability, one concept and one bad joke at a time. So we first introduce the concept 15 minutes. Assume the listener is nothing about it. Just yes, we intersperse some jokes in there, but we try to be rapid fire insights, explaining things. And then 25, 30 minutes after everybody’s up to speed now on the concept 25, 30 minutes with an expert in the field. That’s a bit more of how I built this feel to it. And, yes, been over five years. We’re up to, I think, like 450,000 downloads every month, close to all 50 States, people in North Dakota, we kind of need someone there to download, so we can say, 50 days. But most of the time it’s off 50 States and then close to 100 countries. So it’s pretty awesome.

Garr Punnett (03:33)

I love that. And I love hearing that for our industry when it comes to really the next question, though, out of these three choices in your first season, you talked about electric bikes, sustainable apparel and sustainable beer, which one of those have outperformed expectations stayed about the same or underperformed expectations. Do you think on five years later,

Scott Breen (03:59)

Like the topics or the episodes downloads?

Garr Punnett (04:02)

The topics themselves. Yeah.

Scott Breen (04:04)

Well, I think electric bikes has quite come quite a bit of ways, actually, I even see in my local bike share in here in DC, there’s electric bike options. And my understanding is that during COVID, it was actually hard to get bikes because people were trying to buy them. There are some supply chain issues, and the technology is really you can go very far on a charge and go fast. And so I think just like EVs, I think the electric bike technology has grown. And so there still can be a cost barrier. I mean, the people that we interviewed, they had an innovation. It’s called Riide R-I-I-D-E. Was the company. And when they started, they thought they weren’t going to last because they said that their conversion rate was only like, one or 2% because people would come in, they’d like the bike. And then they tell them, Well, I forget what it was $1,000 expensive. And people are like, I don’t want to pay that upfront. I’ll think about it. And then they were like, shoot, we need to fix something. And then they said, Well, how do people pay for transportation? Normally they pay monthly. So they introduced a monthly plan, and all of a sudden, the conversion rate shot through the roof. And the company started doing much better. So I think with those innovations in how we’re selling, as well as the technology of the bike, there’s been improvement there. Sustainable apparel, I think that there’s been a lot of promises, but are a lot of clothes today still made in the same way with the dyes, the water use, the way our people treated fairly in the countries where they’re making a lot of this apparel. I think there’s still problems there. So I think there’s been some improvement, but I think there’s a bigger problem, right than the bikes. But there’s still quite a ways to go and then sustainable beer. I mean, I think it’s more about how they produce it, how they’re sourcing the hops and all the things how they’re at the brewery. So I think that there’s been some improvement there. But I think that just because that’s another thing that’s hard to do at scale. There’s still a way to go. But people really like that episode because it’s a little more tangible than it’s a specific thing that people can think about.

Garr Punnett (06:18)

I was going to say it seems like the clear winners are the beer or the toys. And really, it’s just the adult. Both of the adult toys in that way just makes sense. What I loved what you said about the electric bikes was the fact again. And we’ve talked about this a couple of times now around service revenue and how service revenue really is sort of maybe our sustainable future in maintaining. And if you’re paying a monthly fee towards something or towards the use of an item, then having that be owned by someone else who’s going to maintain the quality of that item is very important.

Scott Breen (06:50)

Yeah. Service was included in the monthly fee, and I think it was after you bought the bike, you could, like, change it in for the next model, and then they would sell the older model, and they all got you to pay that monthly fee to buy it also.

Garr Punnett (07:05)

Well, let’s dive in here. And you are not just the podcast host. You are vice President of sustainability at the Can Manufacturers Institute. What does that mean? What does that mean for people who don’t know what an Institute does? Don’t know what a trade organization does. Why is it so important to our industry, to our economy? What does it mean for you on your day to day?

Scott Breen (07:32)

Yeah. Trade associations. I feel like our world that maybe if you don’t live in Washington, DC, you’re not as familiar with. Of course, you can think of your local Chamber of commerce. That’s a trade Association where there is an industry or a group of people that want to be represented by one single entity. So with the Can Manufacturers Institute, we represent US metal can manufacturers and their suppliers. So our core members are the people that take aluminum, steel and manufacture those into beverage cans, food cans and aerosol cans. Our job at the trade Association is to communicate the story of our industry, to consumers, to lawmakers, to do research that gives us new insights into our industry that we can use to further tell that story in a better way to follow what’s going on at the regulatory level, in bills that are being passed at the state and federal level and to be the voice of the industry and not only talk to people and engage with people about the voice of the industry, but also to reflect back to our industry what we’re hearing, and so that they’re informed. So it’s a little bit of both ways and to be that one representative.

Garr Punnett (08:43)

We were in a luxurious position here as a growing startup that we found a space in circular economy where we get to be dot connectors, and we get to have multiple conversations with different parties, say, maybe industry, but we’re connecting those knowledge gaps potentially a little bit. How have you found in your experience from that trade organization, from that Institute perspective, where you all are able to help facilitate necessary change and to help drive sort of process change?

Scott Breen (09:11)

I mean, that’s part of one of the reasons I love my job is that I’m not honed in on one company’s problems, and I think that could be interesting, certainly. But to think about it industry wide and try to think about that system change that benefits the whole industry is very interesting. And I take it very seriously that we don’t make anything at the Institute, right? The can makers that our members are trusting us and paying in to enable us to be their representative. And so that’s a really trusting thing. They don’t have to do that they don’t have to be members of our organization. And so I work hard to connect those dots like you’re talking about. And to give you an example of one thing that we set up, we set up a grant program on behalf of a couple of our members, our Daw Metal Packaging and Crown Holdings. There are two big beverage can manufacturers, and they wanted to increase the aluminum beverage can recycling rate. And one of the issues in the aluminum beverage can’t recycling rate is that when the aluminum beverage cans go to what’s called the Material Recovery Facility, or Murph, this is where they sort the single stream recycles. There are certain instances where the aluminum beverage can get mis sorted, and you could think about if you flatten a can really flat, and it’s almost like a 2D object. It sometimes goes with the paper because of the way this rotation process works, and that can be a problem. Then we don’t get it back to recycle it. And that’s particularly sad because someone put in a recycling bin, we hold it all the way to this Murph, and then it gets misorted. That’s not happening. It’s not like the majority of the time by any means at all, but aluminum beverage cans. You can recycle infinitely that aluminum most of the time, 93% of the time, the aluminum beverage cans that are recycled in the United States could turn into new beverage cans. So it’s really important that we get all of those cans, and the Murph wants it because they can sell it for a relatively high amount of money. And so with Arda and Crown, we set up a grant program with the help of the Recycling Partnership. So we talked to Murphs and said, what do you need? We need a little bit of grant money so we can put in additional Eddy currents. And I could explain how those works if you’re interested. But this additional can catch equipment. And we said well, we can’t do it ourselves. We’re a small staff. We don’t have experience in these granting programs. So we partnered up with the Recycling Partnership, which is a national nonprofit focused on systems changing recycling because they experience in this sort of granting. And then we made an RFP. And to date, we’ve given out four aluminum beverage can capture grants. And just with those four grants at former, we’re going to capture a lot more cans. We’re talking 67 million aluminum beverage cans recycled per year. And when those beverage cans are recycled, that’s more than a million dollars in revenue. That gives you a sense of how much beverage cans are worth and the energy savings could power 26 million US homes for an hour. So I was pretty pleased with connecting those dots. And hopefully that gives you and the people listening a sense of the impact when you recycle beverage cans.

Garr Punnett (12:18)

Across what demographics are we talking? Do you see these towns, where were these grants issued? What type of impact are you all looking for on that?

Scott Breen (12:27)

There are 350 residential recyclables like 350 merchants across the country, sort residential recyclables. And so some are bigger than others. Some are more advanced than others. So we were looking for those material coverage facilities where there’s a lot of volume. And maybe they have an old Eddy current or no Eddy current, and that we could make a big impact because these Eddy currents $100,000 for the equipment. I mean, sometimes you have to modify the facility itself. But that equipment I said 67 across the four grants, 67 million cans per year, a million dollars in revenue. The equipment is only 100 per. But you can see very quickly that that equipment can pay for itself. So in Milwaukee, we gave that was our most recent one, the city of Milwaukee and Waukesha County co-owned the Murph. So sometimes we’re privately owned. Sometimes they are publicly owned. But in that one Murph, we’re going to capture 27 million cans a year and that can generate revenue about $400,000. And the equipment is only $150. So you can see the payback.

Garr Punnett (13:29)

Yes. So you were mentioning working with two different organizations, and I’m about to use a term that may or may not be familiar to most who are listening. But in the Coopetition model. So competitive cooperation, what do you find to be the most successful results? Or why do organizations come together to work with you all? What is the benefit to each one of these organizations on sort of jointly offering opportunities like this or collaborating?

Scott Breen (14:03)

Yes, those are two of our members. Right. But to your point, they are both aluminum beverage cans.

Garr Punnett (14:09)


Scott Breen (14:11)

Certainly they want people that are buying cans like the beverage brands to choose one or the other. And certainly they compete on things like price and efficiency and quality and certain things like that. Sure. And they’re not cooperating on that. And in fact, they can’t cooperate on price. Right. But in terms of on the sustainability front with recycling, making sure that the cans get recycled, I think they see that as something where we’re going to all rise together or fail together. Right. Because people don’t think about our dog cans or Crown cans. Although I do encourage you, it’s kind of fun on aluminum beverage cans. If you look, you can see a little logo. It tells you you can see a little Crown or a little SG. That’s who made the can. People don’t normally think about the company.

Garr Punnett (15:01)

Yeah. Actually explain where that logo might be. That’s fascinating.

Scott Breen (15:05)

Like where the nutrition facts are often it says distributed by X Company right around there’s a little logo you can see.

Garr Punnett (15:13)


Scott Breen (15:15)

Yeah. But these companies, they say, well, people are judging cans in general. Right. And so as an industry, we need to talk about our average recycler, our average recycled content, our average value per ton. We need to improve those numbers together. And the challenge is so big that it doesn’t make sense for any one company to try to tackle it themselves. And that’s why we can talk about this, too, for we made these aluminum beverage can recycling rate targets.

Garr Punnett (15:46)


Scott Breen (15:46)

Where the aluminum beverage can manufacturers that are members of CMI and the aluminum can sheet suppliers, those people that take the aluminum turn it into can sheet to sell it to those manufacturers turn into cans. All of our members that are one of those two things agreed to these targets where we said, okay, our recycling rate in 2020 is 45%, and that means more than half of cans are going to landfill. But the nice thing is, yes, that is the highest recycling rate among all beverage containers in the United States. But we need to be higher because I’m saying infinitely recyclable most of the time in the new can, we need to be better than 45%. So the most near term target we set was a 70% rate by 2030. And so going from 45% to 70%, that’s a big jump to give me a sense of how big that is. If we were to have achieved that in 2020 instead of 45%, we had been 70%, that would have been 25 billion more cans recycled, which is a lot of cans. And if we had done that, though, there would have been $400 million in revenue for the US recycling system and energy savings to power 1 million US homes for a year.

Garr Punnett (16:57)

I think that was one of my favorite stats. Was seeing what that meant for in terms of not necessarily needing as much coal production. Or I think there were some stats around two iron ore. And what that meant for the extraction of that material and resource.

Scott Breen (17:25)

Yeah. We need the scrap to your point with the competition. If we can do more scrap pack, then everybody can incorporate motorcycle content, and then we together have a better sustainability story.

Garr Punnett (17:35)

Love that. So let’s speak more about these targets and what this means for the recycling system in general.

Scott Breen (17:43)


Garr Punnett (17:45)

We’ve come a long way. There’s still more way to go as the targets allude to and structure us for success on what is it going to take? This is maybe taking off the CMI hat and maybe putting on sort of the innovative approach that you have and who you’ve talked to in your own podcast, the ideas that you have. But what’s going to work? What types of innovations are we talking about? Systems changes. What do you think is the future of us recycling in that way?

Scott Breen (18:21)

Man. Big question.

Garr Punnett (18:23)


Scott Breen (18:24)

So I think there’s a couple of things to think about. Right. One is I think it’s important for the people that are pumping out packaging to consumers to think more critically about what they’re putting out there. And can the system handle it? Right. So I will say the nice thing about aluminum steel is that most every recycling program takes it because it’s easy to sort. It has high value ready and markets to buy it. But where it seems a lot of companies are going is that you’ve probably seen this guy where a lot of companies have targets around. We want to have 100% recyclable packaging or recyclable compostable. Right. And that’s where it seems to end. And so I don’t think that’s enough. Just being technically recyclable isn’t enough you got to think about. Well, is this material worth something such that the recycling system can handle this in a cost efficient way? How many times can this material be recycled? What is it going to get turned into? Is that is what it is getting turned into?

Garr Punnett (19:32)

Is that something that also be recycled up cycling versus down cycling?

Scott Breen (19:37)

Yes. So there’s many other things to think about beyond just can this be recyclable? So I think that companies need to start thinking about setting goals around that and changing what kind of packaging they put out, because right now your company, you can put out whatever package you want, right. If it doesn’t work in the recycling system, you might get some backlash from certain consumers that care about that stuff and more and more do. But it’s not like you feel it financially, for sure. Other than maybe some consumers don’t buy you or buy less of you because of it, if that makes sense.

Garr Punnett (20:10)


Scott Breen (20:10)

And that’s why there’s a lot of people looking at extended producer responsibility where you would have a per package fee. Maybe it’s what’s called eco modulated, where there’s some baseline fee to make it so that our recycling system performs to some certain targets. But the baseline fee could perhaps be modulated based on is this packaging maybe some of the things I mentioned, what is it, recycled content or recycling rate or value per time. So that could help give that price signal. And that motivation for those companies even if they’re not setting those kind of goals. I talked about to start rethinking what packaging they’re pumping out. But we also need to think about the infrastructure that exists, the access rate. I mean, the recycling partnership. I mentioned them earlier, this national nonprofit working on recycling. It’s very clear from their data that as you increase access, recycling improves. It’s not kind of common sense. But as you go from no recycling or drop off to curb side and robust education, people recycle more. So it’s expensive to give people cards. It’s expensive to do that education. But we also get that material back. And that has an economic and environmental impact. So you got to think about what we’re pumping out and making sure that infrastructure is there so people can recycle it.

Garr Punnett (21:28)

How have some of the manufacturers of cans thought about some takeback efforts and their investments and what they’re doing to enable that system that will ultimately benefit them?

Scott Breen (21:42)

Yeah. I mean, that goes back to the can capture equipment. You know, there are grants, right? We’re not getting that money back, but that’s because they want to stimulate that capture of cans but also stimulate material coverage facility saying, hey, look at that Murph. They did that and they captured a whole bunch of cans and made a bunch of money. I’ll put my own money into it. So we were trying to stimulate good activity more generally.

Garr Punnett (22:06)


Scott Breen (22:07)

But in terms of, I think, where the can industry is looking now is around beverage container deposit systems. So ten US States have deposits $0.05, pay $0.10 when you buy the container, and then when you take it back for depth and you get that money back and that financial incentive crucial. It means that a lot of people now collect containers or recycle containers that they otherwise wouldn’t. And the data proves that this leads to higher recycle rates in the ten States that I mentioned that have deposits.

Scott Breen (22:38)

And some of those deposit systems aren’t all that great. To be honest. And not all that efficient. A lot of them are $0.05.

Garr Punnett (22:44)

Some of them are older or newer. And so they’ve got their problems.

Scott Breen (22:47)

All of them are old. Hawaii was in 2002, but the rest, most of them were in, like, the 70s, right?

Garr Punnett (22:53)


Scott Breen (22:54)

So that average respect me in those ten States, 77% for aluminum beverage can. The rest of the 40 States, like 41%. So that’s a big Delta. Right. And so because we’re serious about the target that I was mentioning and we know we want to increase that recycled content because we want to drive down our carbon footprint even further. That’s why we’re more serious about deposits. Came out with an oped just last week with Reloup, which is a circular economy nonprofit and US public interest research group and advocacy organization calling for a national deposit system so that we get rid of this patchwork, make it. So we have those high recycling rates everywhere. And we also included our best practice principles to make a well designed, efficient, effective deposit. And what’s interesting is that reloup that circular county nonprofit. I mentioned they did some research. What is that impact? If we had a national deposit system with a 90% redemption rate, what would happen? They calculate that we would annually avoid greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to taking more than two point 37 million cars off the road. And this is because that scrap, be it aluminum or glass or PTGa.

Scott Breen (24:06)

It’s displacing Virgin material. And aluminum has the biggest impact, like per pound. Right. But together, they all have an impact. So there’s a greenhouse, a total of 155,000 jobs. And we collect seven point 42 million tons of additional material valued at $6.1 billion. That’s annually if we had this sort of national system in place.

Garr Punnett (24:31)


Scott Breen (24:35)

Garr! Politics.

Garr Punnett (24:37)


Scott Breen (24:37)

What’s next, religion?

Garr Punnett (24:39)

Yeah, exactly. We’ll get to it because we know how people every cycle can get. But politically, that’s hard. I think in Illinois, we’ve had a bottle bill come up almost religiously every five years. And we all have our thoughts on why. What’s your thought? Why, yes.

Scott Breen (25:04)

Yes well, the politics, as you say, can be difficult, in part because it’s a change from the status quo. First of all. And it’s something that is talking about things being tangible. Right? Like, every time someone buys a beverage standard, they’re paying five or $0.10 more, you get it back. But that’s a very real individual. Hey, this is impacting the decision, right. And I think some politicians are weary of some people may be seeing that as a fee or a tax. Now, I think that the ground has shifted a bit in the sense that there were some people that were against this in the past that I think are more in favor of it. And I think it’s a secret that beverage brands used to fight it, in part because they thought people would see it as an additional cost. And maybe it would drive down some people purchasing it. But they know that they need to get that material back because they and they should have kudos for this. They’re setting very ambitious targets. I mean, Coca Cola just throw out one. They want to have an average of 50% recycled content across all their packaging. And I will say limited beverage can right now at 73%. That’s very ambitious, because right now, plastic recycled content is quite low. I want to throw out a number. I think it’s less than 10% if memory surgery. And just to get up to 25% recycled content for all plastic pet bottles, you would need a lot of material because you actually lose a third of Pet during the recycling process to get the amount of pet back just to reach 25%. Right. You would need every American recycle 100 more PT bottles per year. So we have a material collection problem to meet the recycled content goals. Or mandates. Some States, like California, they have mandates for the cycled content. So I think that’s going to drive some of the that’s different from in the past politically, like you were saying.

Garr Punnett (27:02)

So I think that in that equation, what is the relationship between cans and bottles, plastic and metal? How do you all cooperate when you give a grant to some sort of recycler? They’re also doing plastic. What’s the advocacy here? What is the push for metal? Is metal the tried and true of the past? Or is it now also the future?

Scott Breen (27:33)

It’s very much the future because metal can be recycled forever and it can turn into the container was before. But I will say that there are some things you do at the recycling. If you give someone a cart and you improve that recycling access, that’s going to mean all recyclables go up. If you Institute a deposit system, all the beverage container recycling go up. But the can caster grants I was talking about earlier. If you put in a neti current, a Netty current solely exists to sort out the aluminum. So that really only helps cans. So it varies by intervention. But sometimes we do work together. So I mentioned deposits and we actually had a joint statement come out recently where it was the Glass Packaging Institute. So everybody’s got a trade Association Glass Glass number, which National Association of Pet Container Resources, Netcore and US CMI Can Manufacture Institute. We came out with a joint statement around deposits basically saying we all want our recycling rates to go up. We all recognize the data that deposit systems. And here I mentioned principles and we modified it a bit so we can all agree. But here are principles that we could all agree to collectively. And so we didn’t work together on that.

Garr Punnett (28:52)

Do you all collectively get together and hate on plastic clamshell Industry Association? No, it’s all one big, happy family.

Scott Breen (29:01)

I mean, I’m focused on telling the can story.

Garr Punnett (29:04)

Got it.

Scott Breen (29:04)

And there’s enough good stuff there to last me, I could have done the whole interview on that.

Garr Punnett (29:10)

I love it. Okay. So really, then this is where Rheaply’s focus is around reuse and recycling and where in the path of recycling is reuse, where do cans and metals play into reuse, where we just had a guest on who gave us the wonderful quote that reuse is the new recycling. And so what I’m really curious about is Where’s the future for potentially some sort of service model, are can manufacturers interested? Has there ever been conversations around establishing washing systems? What does that look like? Is that ever a future possibility, or is that just far too inefficient or not really thought out that well out?

Scott Breen (30:03)

Well, I think it’s important. You see it in EPA. They come out with a national recycling strategy where the national recycling strategy said, we need to go beyond recycling and we need to create a circular economy for all. And to your point, reuse service models all the things. Right. And so it is important to go beyond recycling. But at the same time, we are selling more than 110,000,000,000 beverage containers a year. We’re selling a lot. And growth. We’ve had unprecedented growth recently because people are saying, Well, I could have PT, I could have glass, or I could have this aluminum beverage can that has the high value per ton that has the hibercycle content, has the Hiero cycling. And there’s other advantages, too. Beyond sustainability, it preserves the quality because of blocks of oxygen and light. You got the 360 degree marking canvas. So there’s other reasons, too. But given that we’re going to see that unprecedented growth, it’s important that we improve the recycling system for the can and go beyond that 45% recycle rate. And I think we can do that with improved access, improved deposit systems, improved communication about our sustainable advantages, including on the can. We need to improve that recycling system. But for those that want to do reuse metal containers are used quite a bit for that. Everybody points to Loop as sort of like the Reuse model. And you look at Loops packaging. A lot of it is sleek, shiny metal. Right. So I think there’s a place for metal in the reuse space, for sure. But for right now, in the more traditional realm, aluminum beverage can, for all the reasons I talked about is certainly the way to go. We’re growing like crazy. And the more cans we get back, the more we can incorporate it into new cans.

Garr Punnett (31:52)

For the average listener or viewer. Depending on wherever you’re seeing this, how does one help push change through their organization? This is more of a broader look at both your experience of talking to many, many professionals, both in your professional again, your professional life. But also in the podcast life, I talked to so many people who are like, I just don’t know where to start. They might see a problem they don’t know to talk to. They might see a problem, but they don’t know where to find a solution. What do you talk to people about when you have that sort of question of, hey, this is how you get this going. And it all starts with what?

Scott Breen (32:38)

Well, it’s a good question. I think that first of all, it’s important when you’re talking with someone about a problem that you don’t just go with the problem, you got to come with at least some idea of the solution. And that’s something I’m trying to be better about, even just in my day to day job. If there’s a problem, I can’t just call my boss or calling be like, oh, my God, this happened and then stopped. Okay, a little bit ago, I got notified about this. Here’s the important context. I thought about it. And here’s one potential solution. What do you think of that? Do you have others? And I think if you’re going to go to someone and try to create change, you have to have done some homework yourself and done a bit of thinking and not just be ringing the alarm Bell. But I also think it’s important. And this isn’t, like, crazy innovative, but you got to think about their interests and you got to fashion it and frame it so that whoever you’re talking to, it rings true for them. And it doesn’t necessarily need to be like a profit and loss sort of thing or a business case thing. It’s just thinking about what does this person care about? And how do I frame it in terms of the thing that they care about and that they’re going to at least get to yes, on and start to agree with me on.

Garr Punnett (33:56)

We just got out of them. I completely think that’s all about messaging and being empathetic with someone who’s listening. I think in that way, we’ve been talking a lot about circular economy, and I love your perspective on this, too, of how the messaging, what we fear with circular economy is it will potentially run the same course as sustainability a little bit, which is get to this point of overuse that probably will just happen naturally. But how do we always keep claiming on to what the word actually means? And so in this meeting we were talking, this is a marketing meeting, and we were really discussing, okay, how do we get to the core of what we mean in a circular economy? A circular economy is so broad, it encompasses everything from sharing to remanufacturing refurbishment and ultimately recycling kind of on the perimeter. But I think that’s what I’m getting from that answer, which is really who are we trying to target? How are we trying to give our most empathetic answer to them so that we don’t get tuned out? And I think that’s the most important part. And when we talk about, we can kind of harken back to one of the answers, which when we talk about the religion around recycling, we all know the people that take it so seriously and we need them. But it’s in that messaging that somehow it can get lost or it’s a little overbearing or it’s like, okay, yes, we absolutely need to do certain things in the United States policy wise, but there are systems in place that we need to follow, and there’s procedures that we need to take or whatever it might be. I’m kind of going on and on with really. The question is, what are the dangers around our term usage? We talk about sustainability at length. We talk about circular economy. Where do you find yourself honing in on and making sure that people really understand what core concept? I’m going to not just give you an out on talking about recycling, but what other types of concepts are you really drilling down on to make either those in the manufacturing world more aware of what you all are trying to do or in just the general consumer base.

Scott Breen (36:07)

Well, for us, it is this idea that you talked about down cycling, up cycling, that there is a repurpose. It’s not enough to just repurpose something. And I think that’s the step further, you could have something go in a circle. But can you keep going around and round? Right. And I think that at least focusing on the metal can part of it. That’s really key for us is that we want people to understand that our circle can keep going. And I think that that is something simple that people can understand. But to your point about the terms to keep the religion thing going, we need a gospel and referring to because I think you will break people’s spirit. And you talk about the religious recycling people. I think all these articles about recycling being broken, which I think we’re a little bit overblown, and you’re not seeing them right now because prices are better in recycling the business. But if people think that what they put in the recycling bin is just going to the garbage, it hurts to something. It’s very intrinsic.

Garr Punnett (37:20)

Yeah. I see. Probably that question. I feel that probably almost once a month is like, why do I even still do this?

Scott Breen (37:31)

Luckily, I work for an industry with the can where I can say confidently that recycler loves that you just put a can in the recycle bin because it’s so valuable to them when they sell it. When I say the recycle, I mean, the people sorting it to sell it to people who will recycle it. So I think there’s that but one point I want to make about terms and the concept of not getting too broad is I think we also need to be clear about what it’s not. And I think that that helps also to clarify things as well as keep it from getting too broad if we all agree. No. So if we want to say you recycle this into a bench and then there’s no way to recycle that bench. Why not include that? I don’t know if that’s really circular economy.

Garr Punnett (38:18)

I love that. And that’s a good ending thought. While we wrap this up, we always do our random act of reuse. I see some great reuse already in your frame here of the camera, but it’s anything that you might have done personally to reuse a bottle or to reuse some sort of aspect or found some sort of use out of something in your everyday life while you think of it. I can share mine unless you got yours right away.

Scott Breen (38:47)

No, I mean.

Garr Punnett (38:49)

That one’s cheating. That one’s cheating. Okay. Excellent.

Scott Breen (38:55)

Let me explain so people know.

Garr Punnett (38:55)

Oh, I like it. That looks very personal.

Scott Breen (38:57)


Garr Punnett (38:58)


Scott Breen (38:58)

So I really liked it was from the Arbor Day Foundation. I was like, I love this water bottle. And of course I dropped it and there’s a little hole in it. And once a water bottle has got a little hole, basically useless. So I said, well, this isn’t the kind of metal you shouldn’t place your reusable water bottles in the curbside bin. I should take it to, like, a transfer station or a metal scrapyard or something. But anyway, I didn’t want to have to deal with that just yet. So I said, well, I’m going to buy some fake flowers and put it in a water bottle that has a hole in it. So there is that. But go ahead. I’ll think of something else. While you’re in yours.

Garr Punnett (39:47)

We have to demolish a certain amount of tile, and I didn’t want to throw it away. But what that tile and that little bit of sort of cement mix was perfect for was actually building basically an irrigation channel in our yard. And so that’s going to be perfect for that specific use. And then we’ll cover that a little bit with some of the metal from our gutters. I was very excited about thinking through what we were going to do with this material that we had somehow just now obtained through a little bit of a remodel.

Scott Breen (40:24)


Garr Punnett (40:28)

That was a good 30 seconds.

Scott Breen (40:33)

So one is that I know with the loop thing, they actually sent me some stuff, right. And then it’s, like, different times. I’ve finished some things faster than others, and I haven’t ever shipped the thing back. So I’ve been like, well, shoot, I have now these containers. So I’ve been using it to go to the store and use it. There’s a couple of stores here where you’d use the tear, right? Yeah. And using it as, like, the reusable container I go to without buying new Tupperware.

Garr Punnett (41:08)

I love that. Did you get the haagendos?

Scott Breen (41:10)


Garr Punnett (41:11)

That’s a hot item from Lou.

Scott Breen (41:13)

They can ship that.

Garr Punnett (41:14)

Yes, literally. Every time I look on the site, it’s sold out. I’m always fascinated. I want that container. I love the way that container looks. I was curious.

Scott Breen (41:24)

You have a haagendaz favorite flavor. I’m a Haagen Das strawberry man.

Garr Punnett (41:27)

I will always go towards some sort of chocolate chip peppermint chocolate chip. That’s straight up. That’s my goal.

Scott Breen (41:35)

It’s the season right now. Exactly.

Garr Punnett (41:37)

This is it. Well, Scott, thanks for taking the time. It’s been such a pleasure. And thanks for sharing all of your knowledge from the Can Manufacturing Institute to your life in the podcast, to everything else that you see that we’re going to have to start pursuing to get to a more sustainable future. So thanks for taking the time.

Scott Breen (41:55)

Thanks for having me. This is fun. Thanks.

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