For the last seven years How2Recycle has been providing clear, consistent, and accurate messaging on packaging to consumers to empower them to recycle more, and recycle better. The labeling system launched as a pilot in 2012 with 12 companies, and now has grown to announce its 200th member this month. These 200 brand owner and retailer members collectively own over 2,600 individual brands and $680 billion annual sales revenue in North America (not including retailers). Product categories featuring the How2Recycle label include food, beverage, toys, personal care, electronics, and more.

Throughout 2018, the number of How2Recycle members grew by 45%, and since the beginning of 2019, How2Recycle has welcomed a higher number of members to the program than over all of last year. Growth of How2Recycle is forecasted to continue as the demand for transparent labeling and packaging sustainability becomes an increasingly prominent consumer concern.

Solving Recycling Problems

Recycling still has big problems that need solving, like increasing the quantity of valuable materials getting into the recycling cart, and reducing contamination from nonrecyclable packaging that does not belong there. How2Recycle continues to advance progress against these challenges by bringing more clarity to end-of-life packaging instructions than any other system in North America. The How2Recycle label is on over 70,000 products in the marketplace and accelerating—more than 175 new How2Recycle labels are issued to brands every day.

How2Recycle is important because it is critical that consumers are told what to do with every main component of a package, not just part of it—and that those recycling instructions are standardized, but also custom to each package. In a perfect world, packaging design would be standardized across brands and product categories so that consumers could intuitively or easily know how to recycle everything based on a couple basic rules; unfortunately, this is not the case. Two packages that look the same to the average person can differ in terms of recyclability. Packaging design is extremely diverse and complex: there are over 3,200 unique How2Recycle labels in the program’s library. The How2Recycle label cuts through confusion to help people know exactly what to recycle, and how.

“How2Recycle is an exciting success story with significant impact,” says Nina Goodrich, Executive Director of GreenBlue. “Not only does it help consumers but it helps brands and converters understand how to improve their packaging. On the How2Recycle Member Platform, How2Recycle has issued over 85,000 specific recommendations for packaging design improvement to its members since late 2017. The platform also allows brands to test new package designs to ensure recyclability before they are launched. This helps close the loop between package design and recovery. The ability to track, measure, and improve recyclability will be critical in helping brands reach their new recyclability targets.”

Overcoming Skepticism

“Every new sustainability initiative has naysayers—change is hard,” says Kelly Cramer, lead of How2Recycle at Sustainable Packaging Coalition and Director, Program Management at GreenBlue. “When How2Recycle launched in 2012, many in the recycling and packaging industries were skeptical that brands would voluntarily label their packaging in a standardized way along with their competitors, including ‘giving up precious on-pack real estate’ and admitting when their packaging wasn’t recyclable,” she continues. “Many also believed that managing and operating a program of such scale and complexity within the retail and consumer packaged goods space was beyond the capabilities of a small environmental nonprofit, and that the persuasive abilities of a handful of passionate packaging professionals inside a few companies couldn’t turn the tide.

Years later the How2Recycle movement proves those status quo adherents wrong. While labeling packaging for recyclability certainly won’t solve all our problems in how we use, value and manage materials in society, telling people how to actually recycle is frankly the least we can do. We are thrilled that so many companies share this belief and together we can empower people to recycle more accurately.”

How2Recycle’s recent Consumer Survey Report shows that 61% of people may be changing their recycling behavior as a direct result of How2Recycle, and also feel overwhelming positivity for the label on a package. Specifically, 77% of respondents claim that they like a company more for having the How2Recycle label on pack, and 85% claim they might be more likely to purchase a product because of the label. Companies who are not yet members of How2Recycle should consider joining this movement to build brand equity with an evolving and increasingly sophisticated consumer base.

 Given this breadth of membership, the How2Recycle team has touchpoints with more than 3,000 packaging or sustainability professionals per month. How2Recycle is a movement of many people working together towards a common goal of helping drawing attention to and capturing the value of materials in our world. If you are a brand or retailer and interested in joining the How2Recycle program, reach out to today.