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Jan 23nd, 2019

Convenient, temporary packaging is everywhere we look. It is colorful and stylish. Some have unique shapes and window panels. It is also very convenient to toss them into the closest trash receptacle in the office, lunchroom or kitchen. Most temporary/disposable packaging is either plastic or paper. If it can’t be reused, it should be recyclable, right? Those colorful little bags, boxes and pouches may look recyclable but if they have foils, liners, barriers, valves or closures, they cannot be considered recyclable. With so many claims of “sustainability”, how do we know that it really means.

Some of the claims are:

  1. zero carbon footprint
  2. carbon neutral
  3. compostable
  4. biodegradable
  5. recyclable
  6. earth-friendly

We commend any efforts by industries to make their packaging more recyclable and sustainable for this and future generations. Each year, more improvements and initiatives are made by manufacturers in response to the major Brands desiring a good rating in the responsible corporate citizen area.

In a recent article in Brand Packaging, they reported on the new innovation by TC Transcontinental Packaging in collaborated with Dow and Charter NEX Films – a fully-recyclable stand-up pouch. The all-polyethylene pouch is supposed to be 100% recyclable, post-consumer. After the product is consumed or used, the consumer must save the pouch and take it to a grocery store drop-off location. That defeats the “convenience” of the package if properly disposing of it requires more than other recyclable packaging such as steel, aluminum, glass and paper.  Read the full article. There are very disciplined recyclers who do their homework and go the extra mile but that is not the average consumer.

If a package is compostable, for example, but requires commercial composting that is not available in many places, the claim should have an asterisk. Special drop-off locations deserve an asterisk, as well. Sustainability requires discipline and education. It is not likely that the food company that is touting their new earth-friendly package is going to provide recycling instructions on the package. There are 7 codes for plastic recycling. Most curb-side pickup will only include 1 – 4.

Cans made of tin-plated steel have no asterisk next to claims of infinitely recyclable and convenient curb-side recycling.


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