Think every piece of food and product packaging that bears the chasing arrows recycling symbol can be tossed in the blue bin? It's a common misconception.
While these items are technically recyclable, they may not be accepted in every recycling program. This can cause confusion and frustration among consumers and may even lead some to skip recycling altogether.
For example, a container made from plastic #5 (polypropylene) may bear the chasing arrows symbol no matter where it's sold — making people believe that they can recycle it, even if their community's curbside recycling program accepts only PET and HDPE plastics.
To clear up the chasing arrows confusion once and for all, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition — an industry working group dedicated to environmentally friendly packaging — developed its How2Recycle Label, a straightforward label that gives consumers detailed information about the packaging materials and their proper disposal.
The How2Recycle Label program finished its soft launch in 2013 and now has more than 20 participating companies and brands. You may have already noticed the label on products from top names like REI, Kellogg's, Minute Maid and Seventh Generation.
In easy-to-understand language, the label breaks down what material each piece of packaging is made from and how to recycle it. For example, the label for an HDPE plastic pouch identifies the package as a plastic bag and suggests store drop-off locations as the most prevalent recycling solution. It also advises consumers to make sure the bags are clean and dry before recycling.
Labels on packaging with more than one material clearly identify the elements (such as the paper box and plastic overwrap) and provide recycling guidance for each element. Consumers are also directed to How2Recycle.info for more information.
The Sustainable Packaging Coalition hopes to make How2Recycle a nationally harmonized label that enables the industry to clearly convey to consumers how to recycle a package. The coalition set up a How2Join page to recruit more companies and hopes to have the label on the majority of consumer goods by 2016.
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