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April 17, 2019 - Waste Today Magazine

APR in the News

ISRI2019: Packaging innovations that support recycling

Single-use plastic packaging has been identified as public enemy No. 1 largely because of the environmental pollution that results when this material is mismanaged after it has fulfilled its initial purpose. Knowing this, a number of consumer packaged goods companies have made commitments to increase the recovery of their packaging and its recycled content.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), Washington, recently recognized Stamford, Connecticut-based Nestlé Waters North America (NWNA) as its 2019 Design for Recycling (DFR) award winner. ISRI gives the annual award to the most innovative contribution to products designed with recycling in mind. The organization says it recognized NWNA for the design of its Nestlé Pure Life 700-milliliter bottle made from 100 percent recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET).

John Caturano of NWNA was among the speakers to address attendees of the session Increasing Recycling Through Packaging Innovation during the Residential Recycling Summit, which was part of ISRI’s annual convention, ISRI2019, in Los Angeles April 8-11.

Caturano said he was “very proud about award we are going to get shortly,” referencing the DRF award that ISRI would present to NWNA President and CEO Fernando Mercé during the conference’s final session later that day, April 11.

Caturano showed photos of plastics that had accumulated on beaches and in the ocean, saying the photos “touch you, they bother you.” He added, “They are not what we want to see, but they’re real.”

Young people are seeing the images and responding, Caturano said. “There’s a plastic guilt thing going on,” he said, adding that problems arise when PET is mismanaged. “But it’s a local resource when it’s managed properly.”

To ensure the recyclability of its packaging, NWNA looks at “reuse first” during the design phase, Caturano said, by asking the question, “Will I be able to bring that packaging back through the system and be able to use it again?”

He said this objective can sometimes be lost often because “there are a lot of creative people in marketing that want to do great things but it’s not always great for recycling.”

Six billion pounds of PET containers go out in the market annually, Caturano said. Only 2 billion pounds get collected for recycling, while 4 billion pounds go to landfill or incineration. “No one really knows how much packaging is lost because of bad design.”

NWNA uses the Association of Plastic Recyclers’ design guidelines, which Caturano said he felt was an underused resource.

Not only do brand owners need to consider whether a package is recyclable, Caturano said, they also must consider whether it is detrimental to recycling.

NWNA has committed to using 25 percent recycled plastic across its U.S. domestic portfolio by 2021 and 50 percent by 2025. The company also has committed to making 100 percent of its packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025.

The challenges the company sees in reaching its recycled content goals include insufficient resource recovery in the U.S., Caturano said, as well as “quality access to recycling.” He described such access as being on par with the ease of garbage disposal. “And only 30 percent of Americans have that. There is a lot of focus that has to go into improving that piece of the system so we can get more materials back into the supply chain,” Caturano continued.

Read the rest of the article from Waste Today Magazine here.