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February 24, 2017 - Plastics Technology

How2Recycle Label Changing Recycling Habits

The How2Recycle Label program finished its soft launch in early 2012 and now has more than 60 participating companies and brands and is growing every month.

Blog: 2/23/2017

HEATHER CALIENDO

Digital Managing Editor

The How2Recycle Label program finished its soft launch in early 2012 and now has more than 60 participating companies and brands and is growing every month.

I finally live in a neighborhood that has a curbside recycling, which to be honest, is such a relief especially given the fact that I’m the recycling beat writer for PT. It felt kind of odd not to recycle at my house when I cover the industry on a consistent basis.

Yet I still found myself having to double check a couple items…Is this material too thin to be recycled?...What’s the rule again for in-mold labels?. Thankfully though I noticed much more packaging comes with the How2Recycle Label, which let’s face it—makes it as clear as can be about what can and can’t be recycled at the curb.

For a refresher, the How2Recycle label began in 2008, and is a project of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. The How2Recycle Label program began in 2012 and now has 60-plus companies and brands participating.

How2Recycle was the first recycling labeling system in the U.S. designed for consumers. As you can see with the below example, it is very clear about the recycling instructions.

I recently checked in with Kelly Cramer, senior manager of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, to get an update on the progress of the label and where is its future is heading.

Teaming with the Association of Plastic Recyclers

The How2Recycle program also works very closely with the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) when they determine technical recyclability.

“The unparalleled expertise of APR has been critical to building How2Recycle’s precision, so plastic recyclers can be confident that the How2Recycle label reflects an informed and objective recyclability analysis for each package,” Cramer says, “What this means is that the How2Recycle can help distinguish between lookalike packaging. That is packaging that looks exactly the same to the average person, but is actually different in terms of recyclability. In a perfect world, there would be more standardization and consistency across packaging types so that consumers can draw accurate and sweeping conclusions across similar-looking packaging. So the How2Recycle label is able to cut through that chaos, and call packages as they are.”

For example, plastic bottles that feature a metal spring inside a trigger sprayer have a Discard Sprayer instruction on the How2Recycle label. Since metal is detrimental to the plastic recycling stream, How2Recycle wants the consumer to leave it out. In contrast, bottles with all-plastic trigger sprayers have a Re-Attach Sprayer instruction of the How2Recycle label.

“Our member companies told us in a survey in 2016 that being empowered with that information allows them to improve their packaging design,” she says. “So when recyclers are supportive of How2Recycle, they aren’t just supporting an accurate recycling label; they’re also supporting a program that is influencing brands to make more recyclable packaging.

For these reasons, the How2Recycle label provides value to plastic recyclers by reducing contamination and increasing the volume of good material recovered. As the recycling and packaging industries continue to evolve, alignment along all entities in the system around initiatives like the How2Recycle label will help make the future of recycling resilient and prosperous.”

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