Glass played a key part of everyday life when growing up in rural south east Indiana, where reusable and refillable containers were an important part of the local farming community. And many of the engrained traditions were maintained in the Nordmeyer household as Jim and his wife raised a family. “To my surprise and delight, in many respects my children are also making conscious choices in that direction too” he confirms. “I am proud to be part of O-I’s vision to create a better future through innovative, competitive and sustainable packaging.”
Jim Nordmeyer spends a lot of time travelling to communities around the world where O-I operates. He engages with customers, consumers, suppliers, waste haulers, academia and others to help elevate the urgency of why recycling, particularly glass, is so important to the planet. “It’s really quite basic, with the amount of packaging waste, glass is the perfect partner for a circular economy. It’s an economy that is regenerative by design to retain as much value as possible of products and materials. We need to aim for long life, optimal use and remanufacturing and recycling of products and materials. We are getting more and more people to understand but it goes beyond understanding. It’s about doing, taking action, which includes behavioural changes and investment.”
According to Mr Nordmeyer, that behavioural shift is needed especially in the USA. “In Europe, recycling is over 70% versus 34% in the USA and that’s mainly because of behavioural, social and cultural differences. Although there is still plenty of work to be done, in Europe people learn from day one that recycling is important… but in the USA during the 1990s and before, when plastics took over carbonated soft drinks, it was about convenience and we became a throw-away society. That attitude needs to change with a behavioural shift, going right back to education in schools – getting back to the basics and teaching children to be responsible members of the community.”
An advocate for glass
Although consumers drive sustainability, O-I says it also has an important role to play. “We believe we are the first mover in the glass industry in terms of sustainability and being advocates for glass” says Jim Nordmeyer. “We hope other glass manufacturers will come along with us because we are all fighting against competitive packaging and have to provide an apples for apples comparison in terms of carbon footprint and recyclability etc.”
Approximately $6 million has been invested by O-I in glass recycling processing facilities around the world in the last few years. The company also aligns with other glass recycling processors through multi-year supply contracts, ensuring there is a market for curbside recycling.
O-I was the first food and beverage packaging company to achieve a gold rating in material health and material reutilisation on the Cradle to Cradle Product Scorecard. The Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Program is one of the premier sustainability certifications for products around the world and across industries. “The certification provides brand owners, consumers, regulators and shareholders tangible validation of our company’s ongoing commitment to sustainability” says Jim Nordmeyer. “It’s an important baseline and helps us identify next steps to improve our environmental and social performance.”
Nearly 90% of O-I’s glass operations have been certified across product categories and for certain container colours in the beer, non-alcoholic beverage, spirits, wine and food markets. Certification is based on five categories: Material health, material reutilisation, water stewardship, renewable energy use and social fairness.
“Complete Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is very important because there is a lot of misinformation out there” Mr Nordmeyer adds. “It has to be an educated and informed decision by customers and consumers.” Glass containers are also the only food contact material that is ‘Generally Recognised as Safe (GRAS)’ by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Jim Nordmeyer is proud to be part of O-I’s vision to create a better future through innovative, competitive and sustainable packaging. He strives to inspire innovative thinking and developing solutions in collaboration with the end to end supply chain. “I always say this job does not keep me awake at night but it gets me up in the morning. My 13 years at O-I have never been dull and I wake up every day with a smile on my face, ready to go!”