Standardizing Package Recycling with the How2Recycle Label
Launched in 2012 and now used by more than 80 brands, the How2Recycle label has graced millions of packages over the years in an effort to clearly convey how to recycle them after use. The label can be applied to any type of packaging and any type of packaging material and has goals of curbing the number of recyclables that still end up in landfills and further standardizing label recycling. For an update on the How2Recycle label project, we caught up with Jessica Edington, project associate with How2Recycle.
Can you briefly explain the origins of the How2Recycle label, how it came to be and why there was a need for it?
How2Recycle is a project of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC). Our program first began in 2012, when SPC member companies saw a need for a clear, concise, unified recycling label that could help to ease the consumer confusion around recycling. Inconsistent recycling labels and messages on packaging can lead to contamination for recyclers and may even deter some consumers from recycling at all if they are confused about what to do. How2Recycle aims to help solve some of those problems with a comprehensive labeling system that identifies every component, explains if there are any steps necessary to prepare the package for recycling and even lets consumers know when something is not yet recyclable to help reduce contamination. Our program has grown to over 80 brand owner and retailer members.
To date, about how many packages have the How2Recycle label?
Our 80-plus brand owner members have featured the How2Recycle label on tens of thousands of different products, translating into millions of packages in the marketplace.
Have you been able to quantify an increase in recycled packaging following the label’s introduction to various formats?
We have a consumer survey on our website, www.how2recycle.info, where consumers provide feedback about their experience with the label. Based on our most recent survey results, 54 percent of consumers who took the survey said they’re changing their behavior as a result of the How2Recycle label, including by recycling more. We’ve seen this number grow over time.
Is the label still in a growth phase? Is there an end goal for how widespread you want the label to become?
How2Recycle is in a phase of acceleration. In the last year, we’ve seen a big surge in new members, and we are continuing to welcome new brand members to the program on a regular basis. We would love to see the label become ubiquitous to really standardize recycling messages across brands and product categories.
Can you detail the type of activity the How2Recycle label currently has when it comes to flexible packaging applications?
Right now in the U.S., most flexible packaging is not recyclable. For these items, we would label them with our “Not Yet Recycled” label, instructing the consumer to discard those packages so they don’t contaminate the recycling stream. However, consumers can recycle certain polyethylene bags, wraps and films at store drop-off locations, where they can be recycled alongside grocery bags. Our “Store Drop-Off” label lets consumers know which flexible packages they can take to the store for recycling. Many of our members use this label on grocery and produce bags, case wraps, air pillows, cereal bags and more, including some pouches that have been designed to be compatible with the stream.
Is there anything else that you want to share about the How2Recycle label?
Our program does more than just create labels that help consumers know how to recycle the packages they buy. We also work with our brand members to help them track, measure and improve the recyclability of their packaging portfolios by conducting a custom recyclability assessment with every label we provide. Each label comes with feedback that lets our members know exactly what steps they can take to optimize the recyclability of their package, and we love working with our members on innovative packaging design to improve recyclability.