Celebrating Earth Day and Sustainable Packaging

This month, sustainability is a key priority as we celebrate Earth Day. Recognized each April, Earth Day was adopted by the response to a series of environmental disasters and public concerns about single-use packaging, litter, and pollution. 

Now we celebrate Earth Day each year to honor the progress that has been made since its first adoption in 1970 and to raise awareness on the importance of protecting our planet. And, to celebrate, it’s a great time to recognize the progress that has been made to recycle and recover plastics, along with the development of more sustainable packaging options. 

So, let’s look at where we started, and how far we’ve come in recycling and recovery efforts for plastics and the development of more sustainable packaging options. 

  • 1980s: Cities in the U.S adopt curbside collection programs for plastics and other recyclables. Four years later, plastics recycling topped 100 million pounds.
  • 1991: Coca-Cola introduces the first-ever plastic bottle made with recycled content after blending recycled plastics into its beverage bottles.  
  • Mid 90s: Major grocery and retail stores began the in-store collection of plastic bags for recycling, and many later add flexible plastic wraps from items such as paper towels, diapers, cases of water, dry-cleaning, etc., to the list of plastics collected in-store.
  • 2011: Recycling of plastic bags and flexible product wraps topped one billion pounds in the U.S., reaching a 55% growth since 2005.
  • 2013: The Wrap Recycling Action Program (WRAP) initiative launched to educate consumers about what types of plastic films are recyclable, and how and where to recycle them. Visit their website to see the progress they’ve continued to make. 
  • 2013: The number of drop-off locations at major retail and grocery stores for plastic bags and wraps reached over 17,500. Americans’ access to plastic bottle recycling reached 94%. 
  • 2014: The Hefty® EnergyBag® Program launched a three-month pilot project in Citrus Heights, CA, that converted the collected plastics into synthetic oil. The pilot project collected 8,000 EnergyBags®, diverted 6,000 pounds of plastics from landfills, and created 512 gallons of synthetic crude oil.
  • 2016: The Hefty® EnergyBag® Program launched in Omaha, Nebraska, allowing non-recycled plastics to be collected curbside and converted into energy to produce cement. In mid-January 2016, the program had collected more than 3,200 Hefty® EnergyBags® and diverted over 3,500 pounds of non-recycled plastics from landfills. Visit their website here to see how they’ve expanded the program.
  • 2018: Fully compostable flexible packaging that breaks down entirely into compost in the same biodegradation process as organic waste is developed and introduced to the market. 
  • 2020: The first BPI Certified compostable adhesive label for packaging is released. Visit our recent blog post to learn more about compostable flexible packaging. 

As you can see, the improved recycling and recovery options for plastics and the development of sustainable packaging options have both allowed us to make a ton of progress. Earth Day serves as a reminder to appreciate the environment and to make better choices to help protect it, you can do your part by recycling and by choosing sustainable packaging. 

For additional recycling resources, visit the recycling partnership’s website here. To learn more about the sustainable benefits of flexible packaging, visit our resources page here

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