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What Does Recyclability Mean to Us, and How Can We Increase It at the Point of Inception?

As a sustainable packaging company, recycling is a subject that’s interwoven into the fabric of our very being. Recycling isn’t just a method we use and encourage—it’s also a responsibility we must continue to uphold.

 

That’s exactly why we’ve decided to dive into a three-part series on the topic, where we’ll investigate why recycling is still so important, who’s most responsible at each point in the process, and how we can all work together to improve the system as a whole.

With so many mixed messages out there about recycling, we hope to inspire and encourage you to block out the noise and continue on the recycling journey—just as we are.

We’re kicking off the series by discussing inception: the phase where we, a global packaging company, are responsible for the heavy lifting. Inception involves helping our partners analyze, compare, and choose sustainable and recyclable materials that fit their use case. We use Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to inform these decisions, so we can create bespoke packaging that helps our partners meet their goals while reducing their impact on the planet. When we think and operate this way, it allows us to set you (our partners and their end-consumers) up for success when the time comes to recycle.

It’s important to note that sustainable initiatives such as recycling have the potential to generate a ripple effect.

This majority belief puts pressure on businesses to increase the recyclability of their packaging—which is where we come in. We help our clients increase their packaging recyclability while also encouraging our raw material manufacturers to prioritize these mindful materials.

As you can see, increasing recyclability at inception is essential if we want to create a well-oiled recycling machine and generate that positive ripple effect, which is exactly what we want to do.

 

Why is recycling as (if not more) important than ever?

If we all recycled according to the textbook, and our facilities could actually handle the volume of materials and process them accurately and efficiently—our landfills would be less overwhelmed, recycling centers would be a bustling hub for cities around the world (providing jobs and boosting the local economy), and we would all be contributing to a circular economy.

Sounds pretty ideal, right?

Well, it’s no secret that we don’t all recycle according to the textbook, and recycling facilities around the world have historically not been able to handle the sheer volume of materials that come their way.

And when we hear that our individual and collective efforts to recycle are going to waste (quite literally), it’s tempting to stop trying altogether.

But we’re here to urge you to do the opposite. When our recycling systems are struggling as they are, it’s more important than ever to own our individual recycling responsibilities and come together to improve the system however we can.

For a bit of inspiration, let’s review the many benefits of recycling. When done right, it has the power to prevent air, water, and land pollution, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve energy and natural resources, and free up more forested land and open space. To put this into perspective:

  • Making a can from recycled aluminum requires 95% less energy than using virgin aluminum would.
  • Research suggests that the carbon footprint of post-consumer recycled plastic is 60% less than that of virgin plastic, and using post-consumer recycled plastic reduces plastic waste. This is huge in a world that contains over 30 million tons of plastic with a plastic recycling rate of a mere 9%.
  • If everyone in America recycled one aluminum can, it would result in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions equal to removing 6,750 cars from the road.
  • Over the next 30 years, recycling has the potential to help us reduce carbon emissions by six gigatons, which is equivalent to removing one billion cars from the roads for one year.

On the other hand, if we give up on recycling, we’ll use significantly more energy and raw materials, we’ll release millions of extra tons of greenhouse gasses, our soil and groundwater will become more and more toxic, and our landfills will fill up faster—overflowing into fresh land and natural habitats.

 

Who is most responsible at the point of inception?

When we say, “It’s more important than ever to own our individual recycling responsibilities and come together to improve the system however we can,” it’s important to identify who’s most responsible at each point in the process.

Healthy systems require a healthy foundation.

Our partners turn to us to point them toward the best, most efficient types of sustainable and recyclable packaging. This is a great honor, but it’s also a great responsibility. We’ve maintained this responsibility for decades, considering sustainability and recyclability in our earliest days as a packaging company—and we hope to inspire other key players in our industry to do the same.

That’s exactly why we keep a circular economy (+ our partners’ and the planet’s best interests) at the forefront of our minds from the beginning—from reducing the overall weight and volume of the packaging to increasing its overall recyclability with environmentally friendly materials that can be continuously reused, remade, or returned to the earth.

 

So, what types of recyclable packaging are available?

One of our main goals as a sustainable packaging company is to provide innovative, recyclable packaging options that make sense for the planet, its people, and our partners’ operations. Over the years, we’ve discovered and implemented various solutions that inspire us to believe there’s a bright future for recycling. Some of these solutions include:

  • Post-Consumer Recycled Plastics (PCRP): It’s efficient to replace virgin plastics with PCRP, made from a combination of recycled plastics and ocean plastics.
  • Molded Pulp: This highly renewable resource is made using a range of post-consumer waste such as old newspapers, bamboo, and other bi-products.
  • Recycled and Recyclable FSC Certified Paper: Paper, historically, has a very high recycling rate hovering around 68%. This is a huge success story, and we hope it inspires you to believe efficient recycling is We use recycled and recyclable FSC Certified paper, meaning any virgin paper we use is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to ensure it does not contribute to deforestation.
  • Aluminum: Aluminum is a great option, especially for child-resistant packaging. You can create child-resistant tins that are fully and infinitely recyclable.
  • GreenBlister: Our own eco-friendly material, GreenBlister, is a trapped blister package made from recycled (and recyclable) paperboard and plastic.
  • Soy Inks & Water-Based Adhesives: Both of these sustainable options heighten the recyclability of a pack, as chemical-based inks and adhesives introduce a barrier to recycling.

Please note that this is not a comprehensive list, and we’re always discovering and developing new packaging materials to increase the recyclability and overall sustainability of our offerings.

 

What innovative methods increase packaging recyclability at this point?

To increase end user recyclability, it’s important to pair those awesome, sustainable materials with innovative packaging methods. What do we mean by that? There are various ways to optimize the functionality of our packaging, so that end users are more inclined to (1) reuse the packaging and (2) recycle it properly. Some of these methods include:

  • Ships In Own Container (SIOC) Packaging: Using this method, products can be shipped without an overbox. These packages can bypass the fulfillment center, which ultimately means you can use more sustainable packaging while lowering costs and creating a better unboxing experience.
  • Dual-Use Packaging: Ah, packaging that has a built-in second life. The packaging we developed for the KITH x Estée Lauder Generational Beauty Kit is a beautiful example of this. Once you remove the inner fitment that holds the makeup in place, the remaining container doubles as a chic clutch purse.
  • Mono Material Packaging: This is a sustainable move away from the traditional approach of gluing or laminating packaging components (making them difficult to separate). Mono material packaging is designed to ensure different materials are easily separable, so it’s smoother for end users to separate and put them in the correct recycling bin.
  • Light and Minimal Design: We’re fans of minimalist design, especially when it benefits the planet—and looks good doing it. Whether it’s an innovative plastic spiral design for a bottle pump or a minimal pull-out tray for a CBD pen, we’re always looking for ways to minimize materials while maximizing functionality.

No matter what, we always take a very tailored, bespoke approach to every single piece of packaging we create. Working with clients across so many different sectors requires great flexibility and adaptability—there’s no denying that. But we pride ourselves on finding the perfect balance between our partners’ needs and the well-being of the planet.

Increasing recyclability at the point of inception plays a key role in achieving this balance, and we’re honored to uphold this responsibility.

6 December 2022
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