New How2Recycle Label Adds to a More Consumer Friendly Packaging Recycling Effort

Posted on 12/14/2012 6:55:50 PM By Jeff Timm

Readers of the Packaging Blog know that I am a proponent of biobased plastics, bioplastics, biodegradable plastics, traditional plastics and any plastics that end up in the recycle stream. Readers also might know that I am not a fan of the state of recycling in the U.S. or the efforts in place to increase these recycle rates. The recent study by the Freedonia Group, Recycled Plastics, states only 7% of available plastic is recycled annually in the U.S. This low percentage is due to the fact that many large plastic segments have almost no recycling at all, like auto and construction. In fact, packaging which is the largest plastic segment, also has a component -- packaging films and composites -- that has a very low recycling rate. Even in the bottle recycling segment many recent initiatives seem to be working in the opposite direction of setting a clear national policy that would encompass all players in the value chain – polymer manufacturers, converters, brand owners, government agencies, trade associations, recyclers and consumers. See the September 4 Packaging Blog, Will Somebody Please Grab-a-Hold of This Issue!

One bright beacon in the fog is the How2Recycle on-package recycling labeling system designed and being promoted by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), a project of the sustainability nonprofit GreenBlue. The SPC recently announced that more brand owners including Best Buy, Clorox and Minute Maid, will be joining the initial ten leading companies already participating in the soft launch implementation of a recycling label on select packaging available nationwide in early 2013. The SPC aims for the label to appear on the majority of consumer product packaging by 2016.

The How2Recycle goals, taken directly from their highly informational website, are to:

  • Reduce confusion by creating a clear, well-understood, and nationally harmonized label that enables industry to convey to consumers how to recycle a package after its use.
  • Improve the reliability, completeness, and transparency of recyclability claims through a nationally relevant data set on access to recycling for all packaging materials and forms.
  • Provide an incentive for industry to participate in a pre-competitive labeling initiative that follows Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Green Guides. (See the October 31 Packaging Blog, FTC Green Guides & Other Bioplastic / Environmental Marketing Claims Guidance).
The benefits of this recycling labeling system are many:

  • Non-biased third party directing the effort
  • Compliance with the recently revised FTC Green Guides
  • Recycling instructions for all packaging materials - glass, metal, paper and corrugated, plastic and composite materials (liquid food and beverage cartons and multi-layer packaging, i.e. snack food bags)
  • Address recyclability of each component of a package, i.e. lid, cap, body, outer-wrap, etc. as well as each packaging material used in a package
  • Address access to recycling facilities in specific geographic areas where a brand is sold • Provides direction to influence consumer recycling behavior. It also specifies when a package component is not recyclable.

The soft launch of the How2Recycle label will run through Q1 of 2013. During the soft launch How2Recycle will focus on consumer use, feedback, and understanding of the label. How2Recycle is also looking for potential partners in local government, trade associations, and recyclers. The website lists the launch plans and how to get involved both at a corporate and consumer level. This is well worth looking into at both levels. How might you implement this label in your business? We would like to hear examples from your company on how you have used the How2Recycle label in commerce. Please share your comments.

The Label
The How2Recycle label is comprised of five pieces of information for each unique packaging component:

packaging, adhesives in packaging, packaging adhesives, recycling adhesives, paper recycling, plastic recycling, rinse before recycling, how2recycle

NOTE:  The views and opinions expressed in the Packaging Blog are solely those of the blog author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Adhesive & Sealant Council (ASC).

Related Links:

Sustainable Packaging Coalition -

Green Blue –

How2Recycle –

FTC Green Guides -

The Freedonia Group -

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