Green packaging shifts up the priority list for brand owners and consumers

By Chris BARKER , 29-Nov-2013

100% recycled packaging logo

Increasing environmental awareness means that sustainable packaging is becoming a higher priority for both consumers and brand owners, as evidenced by the number of cosmetics firms opting for a greener option.

Elizabeth Arden this week chose the Airopack dispensing system, and this adds to the long list of brands opting for environmentally friendly packaging in order to appeal to customers.

The Elizabeth Arden Ceramide products are being produced through the Airopack Full Service Operation, which will see the dispensers produced, filled, sleeved and packed to meet the brand’s specifications.

Increasing awareness

“Brand owners become more aware of their responsibility in today’s society. As environmental awareness shifts higher up the priority list at both consumers and brand owners, sustainable products become increasingly important to express a brand message,” Airopack marketing manager Caren Kuijs tells to CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com

“Over the last 10 years we have identified an enormous growth in cosmetic formulations holding natural ingredients and with this Airopack is able to enhance the total sustaining message on shelf for the consumer.”

This technology has also been adopted by other major companies in the recent past; including Procter & Gamble and Danish brand Nordictan.

As technology advances, lightweight packaging and aerosols with a low carbon footprint and CO2 impact are becoming more practical and are being adopted by larger numbers of companies.

Industry examples

Estee Lauder subsidiary Aveda recently brought a new dimension to packaging by introducing 100% recycled packaging for eye colouring in their ‘Essence of Nature Single Eye Color Refil’ line, launched earlier this year.

The company also adopted the tactic of selling refills of its most popular colors, to allow consumers to re-use the same packaging multiple times.

Copyright – Unless otherwise stated all contents of this web site are © 2013 – William Reed Business Media SAS – All Rights Reserved

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Plastics Recycling: Are You Still Confused?

The following was posted on The PlasticsBlog on March 21 by one of our favorite experts on plastics recycling, Don Loepp.  It provides excellent commentary on the challenges plastics recycling faces, particularly as we try to improve our recycling rates and recycle more types of plastics. You can read the original article here: http://tinyurl.com/dysfpbq

Plastics recycling: are you still confused?
By Don Loepp | March 21, 2013 02:26 pm ET

I think it’s usually pretty easy to identify plastic products by resin type and process — although I still pause when I see an unfamiliar package on a store shelf.

But the most non-plastics folks don’t know (or care) about the difference between PET, oriented polystyrene and PVC.

And that can be a problem when someone wants to do the right thing and recycle their plastic products.

The issue was reinforced to me the past few days, which I spent at the Plastics Recycling conference in New Orleans.

I spent my time talking to many of the 1,000+ attendees — many of the people who are responsible for the tremendous growth that we’ve seen in plastics recycling.

They’d like that growth to continue to accelerate, but they know there are still some barriers to overcome.

One of the biggest problems is that the public just doesn’t fully understand plastics recycling.

Many people think they understand plastics recycling. Just ask your neighbors and friends.

If you’re lucky, they’ll tell you which plastics products they think are recyclable. (If you’re not lucky, they’ll tell you that plastics recycling is a sham, and that it all ends up in the landfill. There are a lot of conspiracy theorists out there.)

But many are confused about things like resin codes, product types and whether recyclers want people to leave caps and labels on containers.

Most folks just want to do the right thing and recycle everything. In fact, one of my fellow panelists at the conference admitted he does just that — he puts containers into his recycling bin that he knows his city doesn’t want, hoping that his small protest will convince city officials to change their minds.

With that in mind, I’d like to share a guest column that appeared in our sister publication, Waste & Recycling News, earlier this week. It was headlined: “Plastics recycling is still confusing — It’s the industry’s job to fix it.”

Spoiler alert: You probably won’t be surprised by which industry is being blamed.

The column was by Tom Watson, who manages the King County, Wash., EcoConsumer public outreach program.

He wrote that “I have an observation that I’m sure the recycling industry and plastics industry really do not want to hear: Plastics recycling is still pretty messed up.” He offers a variety of examples of materials and products, and how what’s accepted varies by community.

“The reality, it seems to me, is that plastics recycling is confusing even for the companies that collect it and make new stuff out of it. Quality control is extremely difficult. It’s gotta be. Or, if they don’t do much sorting and all they end up with is a very low grade of mixed plastic, where does all that go? I believe it’s getting recycled, but I’d sure like to know where. Probably it’s often some place overseas where very low-paid workers are sorting through it,” Watson wrote.

“And if plastics recycling is confusing for the companies that deal with it as a business, it’s much more confusing for the public. You wouldn’t believe how many questions I get about it. It’s mind-boggling how many people still put into their recycling bin everything that has the recycling symbol on it (and of course it seems logical to do that), even though there are many things with that symbol on it … that residential recycling programs definitely don’t want.”

Watson puts the blame squarely on the plastics industry.

“Recycling companies and governments are working on this problem, but personally I feel that the ball should be in the plastics industry’s court. The industry needs to provide more recycling options, do much more public education about recycling, and make its products and packaging more recyclable. But instead, the plastics industry acts like it’s the public’s fault that plastics aren’t recycled at a higher rate (recycling rates for most types of plastics are abysmal),” he wrote.

Fair criticism? Not completely. For now, which plastics are acceptable for recycling are going to vary by community, and depend on market forces and whether local recyclers can make money on them. There’s no need to standardize and pretend that certain plastics aren’t recyclable when there really is a market, even if it’s just in a handful of communities.

At the same time, it would be great for the plastics industry if there were opportunities for consumers to put almost every type of plastic into a recycling bin.

That’s a fantastic goal, and I hope that Watson’s column gets people in the plastics industry thinking about how they can achieve it.

7 Misconceptions About Plastic and Plastic Recycling

Whenever you input “plastics recycling” into an internet search engine, one of the top three results (after ads) will be the article “Seven Misconceptions About Plastic and Plastic Recycling” from the Ecology Center in Berkeley, California.  This blog article is well written, but its content is locally driven and not particularly accurate across a broader cross section of the country, or even California for that matter.  Since recycling programs and their effectiveness vary significantly across the country, these “misconceptions” may or may not fit your particular situation. 

Because their blog article comes up consistently high in internet search results, we felt that we should provide our perspective, as plastics recyclers with national scope, to the issues addressed in the blog article.

–      Misconception #1: “Plastics that go into a curbside recycling bin get recycled.  Not necessarily.”, says the Ecology Center.  This statement is not accurate.  Provided that we put the proper plastics in our recycling bins, as requested by our municipal waste authority, they will all be recycled.  In Berkeley, they ask for #1 PET bottles and #2 HDPE bottles only.  These plastics are in high demand and will be recycled back into plastics products.

The Ecology Center states that “In fact, none of the recovered plastic containers from Berkeley are being made into containers again…”.  This is not an accurate statement.  We buy the #2 HDPE material from Berkeley (and many other California communities) and most of it is converted back into plastic bottles by Graham Packaging, Liquid Container, Consolidated Container, Clorox, Polytainer, Microdyne and other molders on the West coast.  It is true that there are other end markets for this material and some of it may become plastic drainage pipe, plastic lumber or other products, but it certainly does not wind up in landfills.

–      Misconception #2: “Curbside collection will reduce the amount of plastic landfilled.  Not necessarily.”, says the Ecology Center.  This doesn’t make sense to us.  Our plant in Chino, California saved 344,626,607 plastic bottles from being landfilled in 2010 alone and we are not the only recycler on the West coast.

The Ecology Center argues that more recycling will lead to more demand for plastics products.  This is not how demand for consumer products is created; however, demand for recycled plastics currently exceeds supply of curbside collected plastics, so our attitude is, bring it on!  We’ll recycle it!

–      Misconception #3:A chasing arrows symbol means that a plastic container is recyclable.  The arrows are meaningless.”, says the Ecology Center.  We agree.  The chasing arrows identification system does not mean that a plastic container is recyclable, nor necessarily recycled.  This system is currently being overhauled by ASTM and should be replaced in the near future.

–      Misconception #4: “Plastic resins are made from non-renewable natural resources that could be used for a variety of other applications or conserved.”, says the Ecology Center.  We agree.  Since plastic packaging and products are not going to go away, what better argument could there be for recycling plastics back into useful products.

–      Misconception #5: “Plastics recyclers pay to promote plastics’ recyclability.  No; virgin producers pay for the bulk of these ads.”, says the Ecology Center.  This may be true, however, it would be nice to see some ads regarding the facts of plastics recycling.  There haven’t been any in circulation in years.

–      Misconception #6: “Using plastic containers conserves energy.  When the equation includes the energy used to synthesize the plastic resin, making plastic containers uses as much energy as making glass containers…”, says the Ecology Center.  This is nonsense.  They definitely need to make a trip to a glass container producing plant.  The single largest cost to making glass is energy, not raw materials and its cost dwarfs what it costs to make plastic.  This has been well documented elsewhere.   Less energy is used to make plastic and far less energy is used to transport plastic products.  This is not even debatable.

–      Misconception #7: “Our choice is limited to recycling or wasting. Source reduction is preferable for many types of plastic and isn’t difficult.  Opportunities include using refillable containers, buying in bulk, buying things that don’t need much packaging, and buying things in recyclable and recycled packages.”, says the Ecology Center.  We agree wholeheartedly.  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

The Ecology Center goes on to make some other points, such as, “Plastic container producers do not use any recycled plastic in their packaging…”.  This is not true.  California has a recycled content mandate for non-food plastic containers that all molders must adhere to.  They are audited annually for compliance and will be fined if they are found to have less than 25% recycled content in their containers.

They go on to say that “Plastics recycling costs much and does little to achieve recycling goals.”  That may have been true in the early stages of establishing recycling programs.  If setup correctly and efficiently, plastics recycling is economically viable and provides a profitable revenue stream to waste haulers and municipalities alike.  It also is a job creator, even in these difficult economic times.  Plastics recycling creates 6 jobs to every landfill job.

While we agree with many of the messages the Ecology Center is making in their blog article, we need to be clear that plastics recycling is effective and, if anything, needs to be expanded in order to conserve natural resources, reduce energy consumption, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create new jobs.

We welcome any other topics you wish to see or your comments on our posts.

Need more information? Envision Plastics Vice President, Tamsin Ettefagh will be happy to discuss your comments or concerns in greater depth. Contact her at 336/342-4749 Ext 225.