Packaging firms put stewardship up front

By Don Loepp
Editor

Published: September 7, 2012 6:00 am ET

It’s encouraging to see progress with some issues that are of critical interest to the plastics industry — reducing packaging waste and incorporating product stewardship into company business strategies.

Staff reporter Mike Verespej recently updated Plastics News readers on the trend, listing and describing the growing number of organizations focused on voluntary product stewardship. (Growing number of organizations focus on reducing packaging waste.")

One key word — at least for most of the companies — is voluntary. No doubt about it, very few companies are lobbying for extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation, like we’ve seen in Europe. They want to increase recycling rates and improve their sustainability record, but they don’t want the government dictating how the plan must work.

OK, fair enough. I have no doubt that packaged goods companies, retailers, packaging manufacturers and recyclers can all work together — with communities and environmental groups — to create successful programs.

It’s still early, but what we’re hearing so far sounds pretty good.

For example, a group called Ameripen — the American Institute for Packaging and the Environment — has set up a web-based “product recovery knowledge map” that allows its 30 members to develop recycling plans.

Another, Action to Accelerate Recycling, is working with Ameripen on ways to boost the effectiveness of curbside recycling.

Paul Gardner, executive director of Recycling Reinvented, summed up the goals of these new organizations when he said: “We want to increase recycling rates, recycle materials on a larger scale, and do it at a lower-cost per household.” Companies say they want to provide incentives for consumers to recycle, and they want to use more recycled content, too.

Still, I’ve been around long enough to know that sometimes groups form with an eye on public relations rather than making real progress. So I’m skeptical.

I’ve seen examples over the years where companies have seemed to have a serious commitment to recycling plastics packaging, only to see the promise disappear if public pressure diminishes or if they perceive that the cost of supporting recycling gets too high.

No doubt about it, marine debris and litter are front-burner issues right now in many communities. Bans on bags and polystyrene foam have been on the uptick. And we’re sure to see them spread — geographically, and to other products.

Industry wants to react the right way. It wants to be able to say that plastics products have a solid environmental record — for saving energy, conserving resources and for recyclability.

That should be a winning formula, but it’s essential to have a successful record to stand on, and evidence of progress.

There are challenges ahead, but industry looks to be on the right path.

Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of “The Plastics Blog.”


Comments

Packaging firms put stewardship up front

By Don Loepp
Editor

Published: September 7, 2012 6:00 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story

Market Reports

Injection Molders Market Report & Ranking 2014

This special package contains our 132-page 2014 Market Report on the Injection Molding segment and our exclusive 2014 RANKINGS database of 500+ Injection Molders for a discounted package price.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Market Review & Outlook 2014

This special report from Plastics News examines the North American plastics recycling industry and provides insight into indicators that impact market viability, including Resin pricing trends for virgin and recycled market material and historical Resin production trends for post- consumer and industrial waste.

Learn more

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events