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Plastic Packaging Recycling – “Struggling” to Make Inroads

Posted on: April 9th, 2020

Plastic Packaging Recycling

In a recent study by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and Packaging Digest, participants were asked how they would describe the current state of plastic packaging recycling in the United States?

More than half of respondents (55%) said the United States’ efforts towards plastic packaging recycling were “Struggling” at best, while almost 10% were less optimistic, calling them “Near-death”.

There’s essentially one main problem with any recycling effort, and plastic packaging recycling is no different. There needs to be a dedicated market eager to purchase the recycled materials after they’ve been converted into another reusable product.

Without that lucrative market, municipalities and commercial properties are not likely to incur the expense of collecting plastic packaging and then transporting it to facilities (some of which could be out of the country) for recycling.

When it comes to packaging recycling, the cost to produce new materials is so inexpensive that manufacturers fail to see the economic value, which is why many businesses also shy away from biodegradable packaging.

In short, a lack of reusable product demand, and additional costs with little ROI, are the prime culprits for the statistic relayed above.

An article from The Huffington Post says, “Because the reward for recycling (saving the earth) and the repercussions for infrequently recycling (damaging the environment) aren’t necessarily immediate, it can be hard for people to make the association between their daily habits and those habits’ consequences.”

Large manufacturers across the United States (and globally) have fought against any government interfering in terms of regulating packaging recycling at their facilities – arguing how detrimental the increased cost would be on their business. Additionally, sustainable packaging or eco-friendly packaging solutions are more costly for manufacturers to source and margins are already thin.

But almost half of those surveyed (47%) believe that bans or regulations are necessary in order to help ease environmental impacts while sending a message that plastic packaging recycling is not an option but an obligation. Moreover, regulations might just be the force needed to encourage more manufacturers to entertain using sustainable packaging materials in their operations.

“Recycling is a behavior,” says Brian Iacoviello, an Assistant Psychiatry Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. “Much like exercising or eating healthily, people often engage in this behavior less than they should.”

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