Ensuring a Package Is Recyclable AND Useful

4. May 2016

Generally speaking, there’s a lot of doom and gloom talk in the recycling space at the moment, mostly thanks to low oil prices, but despite that consumers remain passionate about the topic.


It’s been reported that many customers are turning to virgin materials over recycled materials due to cost considerations. But during her keynote address at SPI’s first-ever ReFocus Recycling Summit & Expo (April 25-27; Orlando, Fla), Kelly Semrau, sr. v.p. global corporate affairs, communication and sustainability for SC Johnson, said that consumers are very much passionate about packaging that not only offers recyclability but is also made from recycled content.


“Recycled content is what consumers want to see on labels and packages—all over the world,” Semrau said.


She noted that her company has a goal to add a “please recycle” message onto its low-density polyethylene Ziploc bags. However, before that can be added, the company has to ensure that enough communities can accept the material. Because of its lightweight structure, those type of bags tend to get tangled in recycling equipment and Semrau said it will be an “uphill battle” as many MRF operators don’t want a new product added to their stream.


“One thing we know from consumer focus groups is that some people dislike a great brand like Ziploc because they don’t feel it’s environmental and now that we have issue with plastics in the oceans— we don’t want to be part of that,” she said. “We want to make sure we get our products recycled— it’s very tricky and we know this but we’re going after it. Consumers want recycled content, they want to know that they can throw all their products in the recycling bin, and we know we have to work to educate consumers and municipalities and need to debunk myths.”


During Refocus, I talked with Alan DiUmberto, sales manager for the recycling division at American Starlinger-Sahm, about the overall consumer demand for recyclable packaging, and he brought up a very interesting point.


“What happens in its next life?” he asked. Meaning there’s a lot of focus on making sure a package is recycled, but what happens after that?


“I would like to see the words ‘recyclable and useful’ on a package,” he said. 


So for consumers when they see ‘recyclable and useful,’ they would know that they can recycle the package, and when they do recycle it, it will be made into something useful. Those three words could truly help to express the recycling value chain to the consumer.


Alan is on to something with that idea—maybe marketers of consumer packaged companies should take note. 

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