To get closer to the goal of decreasing their carbon footprints, companies have had great success using tactics such as lightweighting, using more renewable energy resources and switching to plant-based plastics. These days, more and more firms are discovering that betting on recycled content can be just as effective in reaching that laudable goal.

Several things need to happen to make recycling work at its best. Consumers need to correctly use recycling bins; a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) should sort recyclables correctly; and reprocessors need to transform all that material into new flakes, sheets and pellets. Even if all that happens, if no one ends up buying that reclaimed material, those efforts have all been for naught; the recycling system won’t be profitable, and might not even continue to exist. Strong end markets are necessary to justify a recycling system that reuses materials and consumes fewer natural resources. When a recycling system works correctly and recycled materials are put back into packaging, the cycle starts all over again and carbon footprints are lowered.

An EPA study of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions found that landfills are the nation’s third largest source of methane emissions and paper is the third most common material found in municipal solid waste. When metals, plastics and glass are recycled, they use less energy and fewer greenhouse gases are produced than the extraction of natural gases, crude oil and other fossil fuels needed to produce virgin feedstocks, which traditionally have never been used or processed before. When paper is recycled, it reduces greenhouse gas emissions that would otherwise be produced by the decomposing paper in landfills.  

Studies have found that environmentally-conscious consumers are drawn to recycled content (no big surprise there.) They choose brands they perceive as being sustainable and are often willing to pay more to do so. Unsurprisingly, brands that target these consumers (such as Unilever’s Love Beauty & Planet) are growing. They proudly tout that they use bottles made with 100% recycled plastic, even admitting that doing so means the bottles might not always be completely clear. This demonstrates that when you create demand for recyclables in your supply chain, it encourages customers to think of recycling not as an end in itself, but rather as a source of materials that can be reused, giving them new life with commendable end goals (saving our planet.)

Companies can also go beyond the use of recycled content for packaging products; they may expand their use of recycled content for durable items, such as carts, crates, pallets and trash bags. Trade groups like The Association of Plastic Recyclers’ Demand Champions use programs that motivate customers to purchase these types of durable goods, that contain recycled content.

Increasing the amount of recycled content in packaging takes time and requires more than platitudes and good intentions; it demands a tangible commitment from everyone involved in the packaging supply chain to study the benefits and buy into the concept, in effect becoming ambassadors for recycled content.

To learn more about Pioneer Packaging’s dedication to a sustainable environment and how we can help your firm lessen its carbon footprint, contact us today.