We work with a variety of substrates here at PI, including highly recyclable ones like PET, so we know the value of using sustainable materials. Product packaging made out of recyclable materials reduces waste and ultimately makes plastics better for the environment, but manufacturing with recyclable and repurposed materials is only part of the equation.
The United States produces about 250 million tons of trash every year—an average of more than 4 pounds per person per day. According to the EPA, though, only about 35 percent is recycled. In fact, just more than 50 percent of Americans describe themselves as "extremely" or "very" knowledgeable about proper recycling.
This means that a large percentage of recyclable plastic packaging ends up in a landfill instead of reaching its full potential. Of course, that doesn't mean that packaging companies like us shouldn't focus on sustainability—in fact, it means quite the opposite.
Recyclability: Educating and Encouraging
Now, Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council are teaming up for the "I Want To Be Recycled" campaign, geared toward providing recycling education for American consumers. The campaign is structured around increasing awareness about different types of recyclable materials, proper recycling procedures, and other information that will encourage people to recycle things like plastic product packaging instead of throwing it away.
The Role of the Packaging Companies
While campaigns like this one focus on educating the public on better recycling practices, packaging companies like us have a responsibility to continue with our environmentally-friendly manufacturing processes. This isn't restricted just to modern innovations like our green ingenuity, though—not all manufacturers have access to that kind of technology. By focusing on more sustainable manufacturing processes, like using less material and focusing on recyclable materials, we can help consumers create less waste and increase the amount that they recycle.
Plastic packaging is remarkably eco-friendly when it is thoughtfully designed and responsibly manufactured. With a renewed focus on consumer education and a galvanized effort to manufacture using recyclable, everyday materials, plastic will remain the cornerstone of product packaging while becoming even more sustainable.