Opinion holder entrepreneur Contributors are their own.
Consumers in 2022 are well aware of the importance of recycling. After all, they’ve been bombarding their products with a “recyclable” message since his 1970s. But even the most optimistic are frustrated by the lack of progress and accessible recycling processes. I’m here.
Without swift action, the estimated 11 million tonnes of plastic currently entering our oceans every year could triple in the next 20 years. Now is the time. Businesses urgently need to take steps to understand the reality of recycling, the opportunities to contribute to the circular economy and the need for consumer education.
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Recycle requires a reboot
This data clearly shows how confused consumers are about recyclability. There is an astonishing gap between perceptions and reality of recycling.
Of the 40 million tons of plastic waste generated in the United States last year, only 5% to 6% was recycled, according to a new report. In fact, glass, plastic, and liquid cartons all have far lower recycling rates than consumers realize.
The reality is that most materials labeled as “recyclable” are not recycled, or have been recycled only once or twice, and end up in landfills. So while labeling these materials may seem like an easy way to encourage recycling, it does little to protect the planet.
The good news is that consumers still want to be part of the long-term solution. According to Trivium Packaging’s 2022 Global Buying Green Report, more than half of consumers are “unlikely” to buy products with harmful packaging, and 44% are “not likely” to buy products with environmentally harmful packaging. increase.
But just because consumers prefer sustainable packaging doesn’t mean they’re taking the necessary steps to recycle it. This is why brands must do their part to encourage more recycling, including educating consumers about the huge gap between perception and reality. , communicate messages about sustainable materials, and find ways to encourage and encourage recycling of products and packaging.
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Transition to circularity
It’s time for leaders to dig deeper and look to materials that are permanently recycled and have a high recycling rate without loss of quality. These materials, such as metals and glasses, stay in the circulation loop forever, achieving a much higher level of circularity.
For example, 84% of European steel packaging is recycled. Once supplied, metal packaging is infinitely refillable and versatile, and ultimately its durability makes it much more economical and environmentally friendly.
Reducing waste and moving away from a throwaway culture is one of the most important changes in modern consumerism. Brands should participate. By moving away from materials that can be recycled a limited number of times and towards materials that can be recycled forever, companies large and small can not only meet their sustainability goals, but also contribute and support the circular economy. can. save the earth
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Investing in Infrastructure: Public and Private Responsibilities in a Circular Lifecycle
If companies believe government policies are helping them improve their environmental footprint, they will feel more confident in transforming their manufacturing processes to support infinitely recyclable materials. . Conversely, there is much that all brands can do to support a stronger recycling infrastructure.
In recent years, large consumer brands have banded together to invest in large-scale recycling infrastructure. Companies are also working directly with processing centers to invest in enhanced recycling machinery and partnering with recycling centers to facilitate new technologies that sort recycled materials more accurately and efficiently. .
No matter the size of your company, there are ways to get involved. There are many examples around the world of companies, government agencies and communities working together to keep trash out of landfills. Many companies offer take-back programs, even for difficult-to-recycle waste streams, and work with companies to strengthen circular supply chains, ultimately keeping materials circular.
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Implementation and education
In a recent survey, 88% of consumers said they want brands to help them become more sustainable and ethical in their daily lives. And there’s no better platform than packaging for communicating important messages to consumers.
The use of packaging language such as “metals are forever recyclable” and “100% recyclable, forever” on packaging and point-of-sale materials on digital platforms and social channels promotes green credentials and encourages action. Useful for conveying prompting phrases. End-user.
Recycling is far from the simple panacea that the past 30 years of advertising spots wanted us to believe. It’s complicated and time consuming. It’s time to tackle that complexity and take recycling to the next level: circularity. To do that, we need to review existing sustainability goals. Small businesses that understand how to leverage this new circular infrastructure will win, saving the planet in the process.