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The green column - Labels, packaging and sustainability

A group of US converters has diverted 8,000 tons of label waste from landfill

Nielsen data from 2018 shows that half of US consumers are highly likely to modify their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment; sustainably minded-shopper spend is directly impacting FMCG sales growth. Sales of products with sustainable attributes make up 22 percent of the total store in the US and have an average annual growth rate of 20 percent versus conventional products with a growth rate of 2 percent. By 2021, the market expects consumers to spend as much as 150bn USD on sustainable FMCG goods.

International awareness about plastic pollution and the drive for reduction in single-use plastic has forced governments into action. The European Parliament has approved a law banning single-use plastic items such as plates, cutlery, straws and cotton buds by 2021. The products covered by the law constitute 70 percent of marine litter items. It has also mandated that plastic bottles contain at least 25 percent recycled content by 2025.

Europe’s single-use plastic ban emphasizes the notion of ‘extended producer responsibility’ for plastics producers, or the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

India’s government, too, has adopted plastic waste management rules that mandate no single-use plastic by 2022, while the acceptance of multi-layer pouch materials is still under review. This year Constantia Flexibles, one of the top three flexible packaging companies in the country, made invested in a new facility in Ahmedabad dedicated to producing mono-PE laminated films, which have more opportunity for recycling in a growing number of collection streams.

Congressman John Shimkus of Illinois is the chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Environment and the Economy, and the co-chairman of the House Recycling Caucus with Frank Pallone. ‘Recycling is a vital part of our economy that creates tens of thousands of jobs for workers here in the United States,’ says Shimkus. ‘In order to increase recycling we must promote new markets for recycled materials, encourage manufacturers to design their products for recycling and eliminate unnecessary impediments that hinder recycling.’

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries says that scrap recycling generates 4bn USD in state and local revenues annually – approximately 200bn USD nationwide.

Brand targets and achievements
The biggest legacy brands are setting goals to make products and packaging that have less impact on the environment. Colgate-Palmolive touts impressive achievements: 43 percent of its packaging materials by weight globally come from recycled sources, and some 82 percent of its packaging is considered recyclable. The CPG has reduced the amount of waste per ton of production sent to landfills by nearly 41 percent since 2010.

Industry buyers are including sustainability goals and metrics in packaging RFQ documents and vendor contracts. Various brand stakeholders now include sustainability measurements in performance targets – engineering, procurement, operations. Customers are requesting help from their supply chains, including label vendors, to use a percentage of recycled plastic, recycling compatible materials and downgauged materials in the specifications purchased. APR is providing guidance to Walmart buyers, other leading retailers and national and regional CPGs.

The demand for labels that allow PET recyclers to maintain the highest value possible in rPET is accelerating rapidly with the widespread adoption of SPC’s How2Recycle logo program and the association’s education to brand decision-makers. Awareness has grown so rapidly, in fact, that stakeholders across label users are asking pertinent questions about label material selection and recycling compatibility.

Nestlé Waters North America has demonstrated its commitment to use rPET. It has three nationally distributed bottled water offerings on the market made using 100 percent recycled plastic. The bottled water producer works with a number of strategic suppliers to purchase recycled plastic and plans to expand its supplier roster. The company is committed to achieving 25 percent recycled plastic across its US domestic portfolio by 2021, and 50 percent by 2025.

The Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) named Nestlé Waters North America as its 2019 Design for Recycling (DFR) Award winner for the design of its 100 percent rPET Nestlé Pure Life 700ml bottle. The pressure-sensitive label uses an APR-approved structure to ensure the highest value of rPET to be resold to the market. The company has also launched its DC Collection water bottles using an APR-approved shrink sleeve material.


Danielle Jerschefske is Labels & Labeling's sustainability consultant.

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