PD_Packaging Digest

Packaging Digest, Fall 2016

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sustainability 27 www.PackagingDigest.com FALL 2016 // TRENDS T is year, the precision of on-package recycling claims is advancing in the United States, as the How2Recycle label will now ref ect critical insights gained from Sustainable Packaging Coalition's landmark 2015-6 Centralized Availability of Recycling Study. T e high- quality data in this study around the availability of recycling for certain packaging types will provide an authoritative foundation for How2Recycle's recyclabil- ity assessments that sit behind each on-package label. T e Federal Trade Commission (FTC) tells companies they can't make unqualif ed recycling claims on their packaging if the majority of Americans can't recycle a package. T e How2Recycle label was designed in 2012 to ref ect the FTC's specif c guidance around these issues; as a result, our recyclability categories Widely Recycled, Check Locally, Not Yet Recycled and Store Drop-of capture dif erent degrees of availability, or access to recycling, for certain packaging types. So what does our new availability of recycling data mean for How2Recycle? It means polypropylene (PP), metal aerosols, rigid low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and some polyethylene terephthalate (PET) thermoforms are moving up to the Widely Recycled category for How2Recycle, from our Check Locally category. T is great news for these materials; the fact that more Americans are able to recycle these packaging types at curbside or drop-of means that certain barriers to recycling are diminishing. T e more that the public is able to see the How2Recycle Widely Recycled label, the more material there will be to turn a waste stream into a supply chain. But availability to recycling isn't the only factor that How2Recycle analyzes; we also look to whether or not a package is likely to be sorted correctly at material recovery facilities, as well as reprocessed ef ectively. What that means for How2Recycle is that our recycling labels don't just convey whether the material a package is made out of has a certain availability percentage: We look at the entire package and analyze how the components interact with one another. We pay attention to things like attachments, additives and closures to scrutinize how they'll behave in the recycling stream. We also contemplate the consumer experience of using and disposing a package when we decide how to layout each specif c label. Take the following example: Now, the majority of Americans have access to recycling programs that collect PET thermoforms. However, PET thermoforms that have paper labels on them encounter challenges in reprocessing. T e APR Design Guide explains how paper labels cause a signif cant load on the f ltering and water treatment systems in the PET reclamation process. Specif cally, "Individual paper f bers making up pulp are very small and dif cult to remove, so some travel with the PET. Paper f bers remaining in the RPET carbonize when the material is heated and remelted, causing unacceptable quality degradation." For this reason, How2Recycle will leave PET thermoforms with paper labels at Check Locally— unless the PET thermoform has a specif c paper label with the appropriate ink and adhesive that the Assn. of Plastic Recyclers deems compatible with reprocessing. T is is illustrative of how labels, inks and adhesives on plastic is one area that How2Recycle will begin to approach in a more nuanced way. As an industry we need to commit to communicating accurate and consistent on-package recycling claims, expand quality access to recycling and prioritize designing packaging for recyclability. Given the promising news that SPC's study unveils, we have reason to believe we will continue onward and upward. How2Recycle sharpens its gaze on packaging recyclability Kelly Cramer, senior manager at Sustainable Packaging Coalition, leads the How2Recycle program. T ere are two big picture catch phrases competing for the attention of the packaging industry: Sustainable Materials Management and T e Circular Economy. Which is better for the environment? Which is better for your bottom line? Wait, grasshopper. T e answer isn't one or the other. It's both. Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) is a framework for minimizing the environmental impacts related to the consumption of products and services. It is based on the concept of lifecycle thinking, whereby the cradle-to-grave chain of inputs, throughputs and outputs of a specif c product or service is measured, analyzed, compared and evaluated. T ere are two primary aspects to SMM. T e f rst relates to source reduction, in which the goal is to minimize the amount of materials and energy needed to deliver 100% of the value expected from purchased products and services. After source reduction techniques are applied, the key to successful SMM implementation is to: • Use only the most eff ective, effi cient material and energy resources when creating products and services, and • Keep those resources operating indeë nitely within the economic system. Doing so requires Circular Economy (CE) thinking, which minimizes disposability and waste while maximizing conservation, reuse and recovery. When working within both SMM and CE frameworks, it is important to keep a couple points in mind: 1. Looking at the "big picture" from a lifecycle perspective can produce counter-intuitive, but more ef ective, actions and results. Example: Recycled paper f bers are shorter, and not as strong, as virgin f bers. In certain cases, containers made from too much recycled content may not adequately protect heavy and/or high-value products such as computers, televisions and medical equipment. If a package is too weak, the value of high recycled content is more than of set by the negative economic and environmental impact should the products inside become damaged. 2. Because we haven't yet invented a perpetual- motion machine, achieving SMM and CE is a journey, not a destination. Over time, innovation and its long- term ef ects can create the need to augment or modify strategies and tactics. Example: Flexible pouches have signif cant source reduction benef ts over rigid containers, even when the former are not being recycled. However, as the amount of f exible packaging increases, so does the solid waste and public concern it creates. T rough innovation, materials are now being introduced that increase the likelihood of f exible packaging being recycled, both physically and thermally. Such innovation adds to the original source reduction benef ts and optimizes the use of resources over the lifecycle. With its emphasis on science-based decision making and material neutrality, AMERIPEN (www. ameripen.org) strongly believes in the yin-and-yang approach of combined lifecycle thinking, sustainable materials management and the circular economy. To ensure a more sustainable packaging supply chain, the organization is working with policymakers, government agencies, and industry to put these concepts to work. When sustainable packaging requires yin and yang thinking Robert (Bob) Lilienfeld, a marketing and communications consultant to AMERIPEN, has been involved with sustainable packaging for more than 20 years. Sustainable Materials Management or The Circular Economy? Choose wisely, sustainability manager.

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