“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”
– Karim Seddiki
Human Judgment vs. Machine Learning
It may feel like robots are taking over the world — and quickly. Supply chain managers have been hearing about autonomous fleets, blockchain software and analytics, all of which help them see patterns and optimize their workforce. In fact, Spend Matters UK predicts that robots will run procurement by 2020. Machine learning is improving at a rapid pace, and people are getting used to the idea that computers are smarter than us. However, Sourcing Innovation argues that machine learning should be used as a tool to support decisions, not to make decisions for us. Even though robots may be right 95 percent of the time, that remaining 5 percent can have devastating consequences that machines don’t understand because they have no knowledge outside of what they’re programmed to know. So while it might seem nice to hand over the reins (or the coded decisions in this case), a human with a broader context should be the one making the final call.
It’s Like Dumpster Diving, But Better
Food waste is a big problem for the earth, communities and the food service industry. While it may not be a big financial cost to your restaurant, it still is a back-of-the-house problem that needs to be solved — and restaurants are beginning to take the first steps. The National Restaurant Association recommends reevaluating the value of your food, tracking your food waste and donating unused supplies. Once you understand the cost and labor that goes into producing the food your business uses and how much you’re wasting, you can make smarter decisions about your ordering and create some goodwill in your community with donations. Not only is it a win for you, but it’s a win for planet Earth.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
Know someone looking for a job? Point them to the nearest restaurant. Food service is beating out healthcare, manufacturing and construction as the No. 1 source of job growth, according to Fast Casual. And those old factory jobs? They’re being replaced by restaurants. In fact, many sources are calling restaurants the new factories because restaurants will soon employ more people. While this sounds great when you hear people grumbling about the economy, restaurants don’t tend to pay high wages. And even though some money is better than no money, how fast the industry is growing in comparison to middle-class jobs raises the question whether having restaurant jobs everywhere is actually a good thing. So what’s an industry to do when it finds itself the leading employer in the country? It seems all anyone can really do is heed the great words of Uncle Ben.
Recyclable, Compostable, Biodegradable and other -Ables
Biodegradable, oxo-degradable and photo-degradable products are big news in the plastics industry. There has been a lot of confusion surrounding these terms and what can or should be labeled with these names. Simply put, biodegradable plastic can decompose naturally in a compost environment. Oxo-degradable plastic requires additives, and photo-degradable plastic requires light to decompose. But the real question is whether additives prevent plastics from being recycled. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) is working to solve this issue with a few regulations. Some of these include third-party testing for products that use the above degradable terms, following currently acceptable recycling standards and ensuring that these products don’t encourage bad consumer behavior. There are a lot of points of view on compostable, biodegradable and recyclable plastics when it comes to health, economics, access and the environment, but these hard-to-pronounce words are taking baby steps to creating a more environmentally friendly industry.
Economics For The Win
If you haven’t already heard, back in July China announced that it will ban the import of scrap plastic – a ban that could take effect as early as September of this year. Initially, many in the US recycling industry panicked since China is the largest market for US plastic scraps. But now that the sky is no longer falling, people are starting to see this as a real opportunity to get America’s recycling infrastructure back on track. Plastics News recently spoke with the head of the Association of Plastic Recyclers, who seems pretty darn confident they have the capacity to handle anything that can’t make it through China’s iron gates. He did give one caveat, however. Demand needs to go up. Recyclers need demand for recycled plastics to meet the supply that can no longer go to China. If the market can find equilibrium, well then everyone wins! Recyclers will have the capital they need to invest in more efficient recycling tech, the price of PCR content goes down, and with it, the price of PCR products like these. It’s a win-win-win for the whole supply chain. So get out there and start demanding PCR! The environment and plastics recyclers will thank you.