Despite the many environmental benefits of flexible packaging, the industry is fighting an uphill battle when it comes to consumers’ perceptions.

Right or wrong, most consumers equate sustainable packaging with recycling, not with source reduction. Recycling is a “feel good” act that consumers can do for themselves and the environment. It’s something they understand, and know how to do.

Source reduction, on the other hand, is a complex concept that could refer to different things. Perhaps it’s a pouch that replaces bag-in-box. Perhaps it’s 40-mil film rather than 60. Perhaps it’s one bulk bag, not multiple single-serve packs.

See what I mean? Try explaining all this to a consumer in 10 seconds or less as she compares products in the store based on how environmentally friendly she thinks they are. And, more and more, that’s exactly what’s happening at the point of purchase. Sustainability, or the perception of sustainability, is becoming a key factor in her buying decision.

So, how can flexible become the package of choice with green-conscious consumers?

One answer might be to figure out how to explain this complex concept as simply as possible to consumers. Let me know what you come up with. I’m all ears.

Another is to make it easy, or easier, for consumers to recycle flexible packages. Most flexible packages are laminations or coextrusions engineered for high performance and don’t carry a resin identification number. However, many product manufacturers are now challenging their converters to develop mono-material products that provide the same or similar performance, to make them recyclable.

Yet a third solution might be a bit more unconventional, like how TerraCycle ( “recycles” used pouches into pencil cases and backpacks.

Be proactive. Talk with your customers about post-consumer recycling options. And then, together, help teach consumers why flexible packaging is a viable choice for the good of the environment. It could mean more sales of flexible packaging in the future.