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How Packaging Can Increase Recycle Rates

Improved Sustainability from New Packaging

Recycling is key to our sustainable future. Unfortunately, as the global supply chain struggles to keep up with demand, recycle rates can be ignored in favor of convenience and speed. In fact, fewer Americans have access to recycling today than they did even five years ago. However, through a combination of better education and corporate encouragement we can turn the tide on decreasing recycle rates.

Recycling is dependent on a three-step process: collection, sortation and reprocessing. Some types of packaging, like single-use plastics, can adversely affect this process, but others, like plant-based containers can make each step easier. The way consumers interact with packaging in their daily life can make a huge difference for the future.

Heightened Consumer Awareness of Recycling

Despite the current downturn in recycle rates, we are lucky, because awareness of recycling has never been higher. Sometimes, awareness comes from horrifically striking images like “Garbage Island,” a floating collection of debris in the Pacific Ocean. Coverage of these events is important because it inspires consumers to demand environmental awareness from big corporations. In turn, corporations look towards plant-based packaging to prevent their products from winding up on the news.

During the pandemic, many people have become aware of how much waste they generate—especially waste from single-use packaging. This can inspire a need for companies to create packaging that can either be reused or recycled.

Corporate Cooperation for Recycling

One way corporations are working to improve recycle rates is through closed-loop recycling. With a case study of Bradburys Cheese, we can see how four companies

work together to cut single-use plastic. Tesco Supermarkets collect discarded flexible packaging materials and send them to Plastic Energy. The packaging is then converted into oil through a process called pyrolysis. SABIC, a chemical manufacturing company, turns the recycled oil into plastic pellets. The pellets are passed along to a packaging company, Sealed Air. The packaging company uses the pellets to create recycled packaging film of the same quality as virgin plastic. Then, the cycle begins all over again—no additional fossil fuels needed.

Individual companies are making an effort, as well. In one example, a laundry company created a new, concentrated version of their product. This concentrated version, only sold online, had a reduced weight and a lighter plastic sleeve than the original formula.

By Humankind is a company whose entire mission statement is to reduce single-use products. Typically, toothpaste packaging (like tubes) is impossible to reuse, but By Humankind uses tablets instead of gel in order to create a reusable packaging for toothpaste. Sometimes, the key to improving recycle rates for packaging is rethinking the product itself.

Increased Government Response

The final tool at our disposal to increase recycle rates is help from the government. As mentioned earlier, Americans have less access to recycling than they did five years ago. Local and federal governments can make it easier for people to recycle used packaging by increasing the number of collection facilities. We can also invest money in chemical recycling plants, an essential new technology that will help us significantly reduce our reliance on landfills.

Additionally, the government can set industry-wide regulations to improve recycle rates. Extended producer responsibility (EPR) fees for the paint, battery and mattress industries have been in place for decades, in order to offset the cost of these industry’s inability to fully recycle their products.


GCB Solutions has the experience and the resources to help you through any shifting trends in packaging or other issues you may be facing. Whether you are just beginning the design process or looking to make that final push to launch, we can help.

Call us at (904) 263-2804 or schedule a free consultation, today!


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