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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

By: Sara Mason
Posted: September 3, 2009, from the September 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 4 of 6

For companies looking to use 100% PCR bottles, clean certified recycled resins are becoming more available and at improved quality levels. Suppliers were at first hesitant to work with 100% postconsumer recycled plastic materials for fear that the finished product would be brittle. “We’ve worked through that, and now have at least four manufacturers worldwide who are able to produce various 100% PCR plastic packaging for Lush,” said Lisa Apfelbaum, creative buyer, Lush.

Although Alpha Packaging is one such manufacturer that can make bottles with 100% postconsumer recyclate using regrind, the company recommends that marketers conduct their own compatibility tests before packaging products. Alpha utilized PCR collected in community recycling programs, cleaned, pelletized and approved by the FDA for food contact for manufacturing. The company also has run some tests with postconsumer high-density polyethylene, but at the present time does not have an FDA-approved source for postconsumer HDPE.

While the cost is slightly higher than for bottles made from virgin PET due to extensive sorting, cleaning and processing, the cost can be expected to remain stable, if not decline, as consumers continue to increase the recycling of PET packaging. According to the PET recycling industry, only about 26% of all PET bottles were recycled in the U.S. in 2008.

Repurpose

When all else fails, there is the reuse of old product packaging and turning it into something else entirely. TerraCycle has turned this idea into a very profitable business. Co-founders Tom Szaky and Jon Beyer take packages and materials that are challenging to recycle and transform them into affordable, high-quality goods—including tote bags, kites and umbrellas. The up-cycling process requires far less energy than recycling, and yields much higher amounts of usable material, according to the company.

Consumers get involved by signing up for free. They are then paid to collect plastic bags, wrappers and packages and send them to TerraCycle using the company’s shipping bags. In addition to partnering with Frito-Lay and Mars, TerraCycle is working on programs to upcycle packaging from select Kimberly Clark brands and re-purpose material from Aveeno.