Improving recycling rates is one of the biggest challenges for those in the food service packaging industry.
While this packaging accounts for less than 2 percent of the overall municipal waste stream in the United States, it's still a very visible part, said Lynn Dyer, president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute. “Because of that, it can be a target.”
So the Falls Church, Va.-trade group is out with a new website and toolkit to help people from all walks of life increase the recovery of food service packaging.
About half of all food service packaging, by unit volume, is plastic, according to the group. The other half is paper. By weight, however, plastic accounts for about a third of the overall material.
“It is one of the most critical issues, to date, within the food service packaging industry,” Dyer said about recovery of used materials. “We have been focusing much of our effort, certainly for the last few years, on how we can make sure that more of our products are actually be recycled or composted and not ending up in the landfill.”
The new website targets different audiences, including communities, material recovery facilities and end markets, in an effort to provide information that will help increase recovery.
Development of the website comes during a time when the packaging industry is receiving attention from environmental groups and legislators seeking more recovery of the used products.
“I would say there are multiple pressure points that we're seeing, and we're happy to voluntarily take a look at this,” she said.
But seeking more recycling and actually achieving higher recovery rates are two different things.
“We need to have market pull for that material. In order to have market pull for that material, so where not just pushing through a product that isn't of value to these folks, we need to make sure that there are end markets for the products. We need to make sure that the MRFs are willing to accept them and can process them. And we need to make sure communities are willing to add them to their programs if they are not already in the programs,” Dyer said.
The website and toolkit was developed by the trade group's Paper Recovery Alliance and Plastics Recovery Group. It is available at www.recyclefsp.org.
“I would say the two most important challenges to our industry right now, frankly, are increasing the recovery of our food service packaging and making sure that we're also somehow able to decrease the amount of our products that end up in the litter stream,” she said.
The largest portion of all food service packaging ends up in customers' homes, according to the trade group president.
“We understand that it's, frankly, a very complex and multifaceted issue. It's not just about the food service packaging industry coming together and saying we have to get more of these products recycled or composted. We need to get the buy-in and support from many other stakeholders,” Dyer said.