Recycling Information – “Reduce” is the most impactful 

6 Packaging Reductions That Don’t Increase Food Waste

Reduce is the most impactful way to achieve more sustainable packaging. Graphic courtesy of Packaging Technology and Research/©

Packaging reductions that do not create additional food waste equals more environmentally friendly food packaging. The desire to reduce packaging remains strong, and four motivating factors can prompt the packaging industry to take additional action for sustainability.

Cost. Higher prices for packaging are prompting brands to reengage with packaging reduction efforts to reduce costs.

Environmental. Calvin Lakhan of York University’s Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change connects the role of packaging reduction to a more sustainable food system. “It’s important to remember that ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ is not just a catchy phrase,” he says, “but the order in which we are supposed to do things. Reduction of packaging achieves the very first of the three Rs to reduce the amount of packaging waste we generate. The benefits of durability, transport, and ease of consumption can also be attributed to the adoption of lightweight packaging. Lighter and more flexible packaging also means lower greenhouse gas emissions from transportation because more material can be transported safely per shipment.”

Legislative. Legislation such as the European Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, slated for 2024 enactment, sets waste reduction targets of 5% by 2030, 10% by 2035, and 15% by 2040. Critically, Article 9 states that packaging must be “scaled down” to the bare minimum of size, weight, volume, and layers required to ensure the product’s functionality and safety. As more nations move toward extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation, more brands will likely focus on reduction since they will be required to share in the cost of packaging disposal. Similarly, California state legislation, CA SB54, focuses on meeting recycling rates and reducing plastic packaging. Legislation restricting nonfunctional slack-fill also serves to reduce the amount of packaging.

Changing Supply Chain. Climate-related disasters and factory slow- and shutdowns to control the spread of COVID-19 have led to altered supply chain and sourcing dynamics that adversely affect the supply of packaging materials. Using less packaging makes these raw materials stretch further.

Lightweighting Lights the Way

Lightweighting, or thinning of the package walls, and rightsizing, or converting packaging to an optimum size, are processes that are helping food companies reduce packaging and realize sustainability goals. 

  1. Corrugated boxes have led the way in terms of source reductions of materials. Now corrugated box manufacturers are replacing a ply of 35-pound paper with a 26-pound paper ply.
  2. PET bottle lightweighting focuses on increasing crystallinity by fine-tuning processing speeds, temperatures, extension ratios, molecular weight, molecular weight distribution, and other processing changes.

Redesigning for Function

Redesign includes the re-exploration of the function of packaging. This is critical because consumers and supply chains have altered dramatically. And package redesign is best done when packaging optimization is scheduled.

  1. Right-sizing corrugated cases for ecommerce can reduce dimensional weight (the ratio of shipping box size to total package weight), resulting in fewer trucks on the road, lower fuel use and emissions, and lower transit costs.
  2. Replacement as a tactic to replace, for example, thick pallet corner posts with two layers of pre-stretched film reinforced with laminated filaments under tension. The materials tolerated sudden shifts and continuous vibration while maintaining load stability.
  3. Removing a packaging component results in significant packaging reduction.

REFERENCES: Institute of Food Technologists, Packaging Digest

Recycling is the process of collecting and processing materials that would otherwise be thrown away as trash and turning them into new products. Recycling can benefit your community and the environment.

Benefits of Recycling

  • Reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and incinerators
  • Conserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals
  • Prevents pollution by reducing the need to collect new raw materials
  • Saves energy
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change
  • Helps sustain the environment for future generations
  • Helps create new well-paying jobs in the recycling and manufacturing industries in the United States

Steps to Recycling Materials

Recycling includes the three steps below, which create a continuous loop, represented by the familiar recycling symbol.

Step 1:

There are several methods for collecting recyclables, including curbside collection, drop-off centers, and deposit or refund programs. Visit How do I recycle… Common Recyclables

After collection, recyclables are sent to a recovery facility to be sorted, cleaned and processed into materials that can be used in manufacturing. Recyclables are bought and sold just like raw materials would be, and prices go up and down depending on supply and demand in the United States and the world.

Step 2:

More and more of today’s products are being manufactured with recycled content. Common household items that contain recycled materials include the following:

♦ Newspapers and paper towels

♦ Aluminum, plastic, and glass soft drink containers

♦ Steel cans

♦ Plastic laundry detergent bottles

Recycled materials are also used in new ways such as recovered glass in asphalt to pave roads or recovered plastic in carpeting and park benches.

Step 3:

You help close the recycling loop by buying new products made from recycled materials. There are thousands of products that contain recycled content. When you go shopping, look for the following:

♦ Products that can be easily recycled

♦ Products that contain recycled content

Below are some of the terms used:

♦ Recycled-content product – The product was manufactured with recycled materials either collected from a recycling program or from waste recovered during the normal manufacturing process. The label will sometimes include how much of the content was from recycled materials.

♦ Post-consumer content – Very similar to recycled content, but the material comes only from recyclables collected from consumers or businesses through a recycling program.

♦ Recyclable product – Products that can be collected, processed and manufactured into new products after they have been used. These products do not necessarily contain recycled materials. Remember not all kinds of recyclables may be collected in your community so be sure to check with your local recycling program before you buy.

Some of the common products you can find that can be made with recycled content include the following:

♦ Aluminum cans, Car bumpers, Carpeting, Cereal boxes, Comic books, Egg cartons, Glass containers, Laundry detergent bottles, Newspapers Paper

MORE ABOUT Recycling

Content courtesy of EPA