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How the Industry is Improving Recycling for Flexible Plastic Packaging

Recycling options for flexible plastic packaging are constantly growing! In fact, a ton of industry efforts have formed to improve both the recycling and the sustainability of flexible packaging, many of which have already made tremendous progress. 

How to recycle flexible plastic packaging 

Currently, here in the United States, about 50% of flexible packaging can easily be recycled through in-store drop-off programs such as the Wrap Recycling Action Program (WRAP), which is available to more than 90% of Americans at over 18,000 major grocery and retail stores. You can also find nearby drop-off locations that allow you to recycle flexible plastic packaging by using the TerraCycle database, and you can find additional recycling instructions through How2Recycle.

The Hefty® EnergyBag® Program is another active program in select counties of Georgia, Nebraska, and Idaho that aims to provide an easy solution for hard to recycle plastics. Their EnergyBag® orange bags make it easy to collect otherwise hard-to-recycle plastics at curbside and convert them into valued resources. Visit this link to see how it works! 

How the industry is further improving recycling options

Recently, the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) joined other industry leaders and created a research report that explores the future of sustainability and flexible packaging through 2030. Check out some of the great takeaways included in the report: 

  • Sustainability with a circular economy focus is real and a top priority for the majority of the packaging value chain driving toward recyclability.
  • The new MRFF (Materials Recovery for the Future) pilot research in Pennsylvania met 4 of 5 goals showing that flexible packaging can be collected, sorted, and made into rFlex bales for a variety of end markets. Meaning it can be recycled and processed at material recovery facilities.
  • Flexible packaging is currently well aligned with the principles of sustainable materials management (SMM) where resource efficiency and the use of fewer materials are important.
  • The challenges for integrating flexible packaging into the circular economy are extensive but can be done with pervasive collaboration and designing for recyclability.

Additionally, the Recycling Leadership Council (RLC), which was formed by the Consumer Brands Association to unite a diverse group of stakeholders, from consumer-facing industries and the packaging and recycling ecosystem, just released their Blueprint for America’s Recycling System. This blueprint is the RLC’s vision for ambitious federal policy action and recommends scalable solutions for a modern and standardized recycling system across the country. Check out their Blueprint for America’s Recycling system by visiting this link.

It’s an exciting time for the flexible packaging industry as it constantly evolves toward a more circular economy and discovers new ways to recycle. From the growth of drop-off locations to new recycling technologies, we can expect to see even more recycling options for flexible plastic packaging in the future. To learn more about the sustainability benefits of flexible packaging, visit our resources page here!

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