However, a recent report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that most plastic packaging is used only once; 95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth $80 billion-$120 billion annually, is lost to the economy after a short first use. Of the more than 300 million tons of new, virgin plastic produced globally per year, it is estimated that up to 129 million tons (43 percent) of the plastic used is disposed of in landfills.
Recycling is the most accessible and easily understood aspect of environmentalism and sustainability, and consumers do care. But with the plastics recovery rate for recycling holding at a stagnant 9% in the US, creating resources that encourage municipal recycling is one way brands can improve sustainability for their category and drive value for consumers.
For example, widely recyclable items here in the U.S. are laundry detergent bottles. Though highly recyclable when recycled together, #2 plastic laundry bottles and their #5 caps often end up in landfills. This is due to the lack of a local facility or confusion about how to recycle.
Tide has launched a national laundry bottle recycling program with us at TerraCycle to make sure as many laundry bottles and caps are recovered for recycling as possible. Through the Tide Laundry Bottle Recycling Program, individuals are now able to use a free recycling database to learn whether they can recycle curbside or find a nearby drop-off location.
If a consumer does not live near one of the points listed on the database map and cannot recycle municipally, they can register themselves as a drop-off location for the community or recycle on their own from home using a free shipping label provided through the program. With this new database, consumers have nationwide access to a solution that will prevent these recyclables from entering the waste stream.
By encouraging recycling of any brand of laundry bottles and their caps, Tide drives value for its brand by providing tools and resources that educate and engage consumers. Municipal recycling is the first line of defense to diverting waste from landfills and seeing these common household plastics to a second life, and Tide makes laundry care even cleaner by reducing impacts on the planet through this accessible, easy-to-use resource.
Consumers increasingly report a willingness to patronize and pay more for brands that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, and this may include the sponsorship of initiatives that encourage participation in regenerative activities like recycling. Companies and major brands are in a position to act as thought-leaders in the CPG space by empowering consumers with information they can use to make an impact.
About the Author
Tom Szaky is the founder and CEO of TerraCycle, a global leader in the collection and repurposing of otherwise non-recyclable post-consumer and post-industrial waste. In 20 countries, TerraCycle creates national platforms to recycle products and packaging that currently go to landfill or incineration, in collaboration with the world’s largest brands (e.g. Mars, PepsiCo, P&G), retailers (e.g. Staples, Target), and cities (e.g. Tokyo, New Orleans).
Through TerraCycle, Tom is pioneering a new waste management process, involving manufacturers, retailers, governments and consumers, to create circular solutions for materials such as cigarette butts, laboratory waste, coffee capsules and even food packaging that otherwise have no other path to be recycled.
Tom is the author of three books, “Revolution in a Bottle” (2009, Portfolio) and “Outsmart Waste” (2014, Berrett-Koehler) and “Make Garbage Great” (2015, HarperCollins). Tom created, produces and stars in a TerraCycle focused TV show, “Human Resources” airing on Pivot TV. Season 3 of the show aired Fall 2016. Tom and TerraCycle have received over 200 social, environmental and business awards from a range of organizations including the United Nations, World Economic Forum, Forbes Magazine, Ernst & Young, and the Environmental Protection Agency.