Figuring out what’s suitable for the recycling bin isn’t always straightforward. The iconic recycling symbol might be there, but some recyclable items can’t just be tossed into a bin. And if a package is made up of different materials, it’s not always clear as to which parts are recyclable or how to handle them. If you sorted through your building’s recycling bins today, chances are high that tenants and occupants have placed non-recyclable items inside.
To improve the recycling process, a new, voluntary recycling label developed by GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition is rolling out. You’ll start to see customized package labels, designed to offer simple recycling information, on all kinds of products.
Tailored to the packaging it’s printed on, the label features information about the material used in the packaging, any special directions (like rinsing or cleaning prior to recycling), and one of four different icons that shows how widely recycled the material is:
- Widely Recycled. More than 60% of the U.S. population is located in an area where the packaging can be recycled.
- Limited Recycling/Check Locally. Between 20% and 60% of the U.S. population is located in an area where the packaging can be recycled. (Check http://www.how2recycle.info/ to see if the item is recycled in your area.)
- Not Yet Recycled. Less than 20% of the U.S. population is located in an area where the packaging can be recycled, or it’s considered a contaminant to common recycling systems.
- Store Drop-Off. This item can be recycled, but it most likely has to be taken to a drop-off location. At least 60% of the U.S. population has access to drop-off locations for this packaging.
With clear on-package recycling instructions and the four icon options available, the program’s goal is to achieve cleaner recycling streams starting at the source (in addition to raising recycling rates). When consumers know which items are recyclable, the hope is that fewer non-recyclable items will be tossed into recycling bins in offices, hotels, homes, stores, etc. Although it may not seem like a big deal, putting a few non-recyclable items into a recycling bin can slow down the entire recycling process, damage sorting machines, or even ruin the entire batch.
You can already find the label on products from companies like Microsoft, Costco, REI, ConAgra Foods, Ampac, Yoplait, and Estée Lauder.
What do you think about these new labels? Have you seen them on any products? Will they help streamline recycling in your facility?