Happy America Recycles Day! This day was enacted to promote and celebrate recycling in the United States. It is a reminder to consumers to be more mindful of how they discard waste and an opportunity for producers to consider how they design packaging which turns into that waste.
Packaging has enormous potential to strengthen the recycling system. Today, let’s take a closer look at packaging recycling, specifically, why we recycle and how to do it better.
Recycling is fundamental to the circular economy, where waste is eliminated, and materials are kept in circulation in the system as long as possible. Circular design incorporates these principles of the circular economy into the product lifecycle to regenerate natural systems and promote sustainable transformation.
However, this ideal is far from the current reality.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, only 8.7% of plastic waste generated in the United States was recycled in 2018. This means the vast majority of plastics wind up in landfills at best and the oceans or other ecosystems at worst.
To protect people and the planet, we need to do better.
Producers are the first line of defense for preventing waste. The materials and methods used to manufacture packaging can make or break its chance to be recycled and used again in a future product.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to the question of exactly which materials and packaging products can be recycled. The United States recycling system is fairly local, and certain items may or may not be accepted depending on the municipality.
That being said, the following items are commonly recycled in the United States:
Organic waste, such as yard waste and food scraps, are composted in certain municipalities, which means they are broken down and converted into compost, which farmers and gardeners can utilize.
Check local governments’ websites to learn the recycling rules of the areas your company operates in to ensure your office recycling practices and products are up to scratch.
It is important to differentiate between recyclable and recycled materials because, while they may seem similar on the surface, their implications for sustainability differ.
On the one hand, recyclable means that the product material can be processed in the existing recycling system. On the other hand, recycled means the product is made from content that has been recycled and then transformed into a new item. This means that packaging can be recyclable but not recycled and vice versa.
Both elements are needed for a recycling system to function. For example, what is the point of making recyclable products if the material is never actually reused?
In the past, the demand for recycled materials has been low, making it difficult to grow the market. However, consumer interest in sustainable packaging is growing, which has, in turn, influenced the demand for recycled content.
Eco-friendly packaging provides an enormous opportunity to reduce waste and support the recycled materials market.
It’s also what consumers want. According to the 2021 Global Buying Green Report, two-thirds of consumers find the recyclability of packaging significant. Additionally, over half of buyers in the United Kingdom think that the percentage of recycled content in packaging should be higher than it currently is (i.e., 15% on average for plastic bottles).
So how can companies rethink their packaging for America Recycles Day and beyond?
1) Get Informed
Become familiar with local and national recycling guidelines. Learn what the recycling options are in the areas your company operates so you can make an informed decision in your packaging development.
2) Design in Recyclability
There are multiple options for incorporating recycling into your eco-friendly packaging product. More traditional routes include creating packaging from recycled and recyclable paper or plastic. If you are feeling more adventurous, try out a less common but still sustainable material, like recycled cork or cotton.
You can also go straight to the experts for sustainable packaging design advice. Edge2Edge Packaging can provide expert guidance on creating eye-catching packaging that meets both quality and recycling standards. We offer certified materials, making sustainability verification and communication to consumers even easier.
3) Make Recycling Easy for Consumers
To go the extra mile, facilitate packaging recycling with a takeback program. Set up bins where consumers can bring packaging to recycle within your store.
Consumers will appreciate the convenience, and your company can demonstrate that it values the environment while potentially saving on material costs by directly reusing or recycling the packaging.
Edge2Edge Packaging proudly offers a wide array of recycled and recyclable retail packaging options. We are here to meet your brand’s needs for memorable and sustainable packaging.
Show consumers your support for America Recycles Day and get started with eco-friendly packaging today.