One of the biggest challenges I see time and time again when it comes to recycling and trash is consumer education. It’s hard to get people to care about something like packaging. Mostly it’s just viewed as a means to an end. However, that doesn’t make it any less important. The products we use every day almost always come wrapped or packaged in something. And that package’s value doesn’t have to expire the moment it’s opened. We need to recycle, but we need to do it right.
I live in a house of 4 people and I am constantly correcting them about what is and isn’t recyclable. It took a lot of communication to just get through that you can’t put flexible packaging in our curbside bin. I won’t lie, I even often get tripped up about how to dispose of random packaging, but I will usually take the time to look it up myself.
The challenge is the average consumer doesn’t know what can and can’t be recycled. What makes that worse, is they either don’t care to or aren’t willing to spend the time to look it up. The result is large amounts of our recyclables being sent to landfills due to contamination.
However, back in 2008 a project was launched by the Sustainable packaging Coalition in an effort to get more of the right thing into the recycle bin. That project is called How2Recycle. It includes labels like those below. These labels offer detailed yet simple critical information you need to know in order to recycle properly.
Honestly it blows me away that something so simple took so long to catch on. This doesn’t take away from the ingenious concept because sometimes creating something so simple can be even harder. You’ll notice the labels are broken into 3-4 main sections.
At the very top you’ll find information about how to prepare the materials for recycling. This will include things like in the above example of just rinsing before recycling. It can also include information like what to do with caps, sprayers, pumps, or labels.
The next thing you’ll notice is the large recycle logo. This comes in a few different varieties. These range from the example on the left showing something that is widely recyclable, to the middle which is not recyclable, to the right showing something that requires checking locally. Another type that is not shown is items that need to be dropped off at certain store locations. One of the best things about this program is they have information on their website for checking locally and a store drop-off location finder.
Below the logo you’ll see the generic material type. This includes things like paper, glass, plastic, or metal. Below that you’ll see a reference to what part of the package the label is referring to such as pouch, box, or can. Between these two labels, you can get a pretty good idea of which part of the package should be disposed of where. This is great for packages with multiple components.
I highly suggest you check out How2Recycle’s website. They have a ton of information about the brands that are adopting their label and why all of this is so important. It’s a shame more brands haven’t adopted this labeling system. It offers all the tools consumers need to recycle correctly and their website updates frequently as things change and evolve. Keep an eye out next time you’re tossing something out. I’m sure you’ll start to notice these labels in more places than you realized.