Recycling converted into new products, which will

 Recycling and reducing waste can help to
reduce the production of ash and gas and help save the world’s resources.

Recycling is when materials are converted into new products, which will reduce
the need to use natural resources. It also helps conserve raw materials and
protects natural habitats. “By using recycled materials in the manufacturing
process, less energy is used for making new products from raw materials”
(“Benefits”). Mining, logging, refining, and processing raw materials all
create air and water pollution, so recycling will reduce the cause of
pollution. “Greenhouse gas emission is one of the causes of climate change, but
recycling will save energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions” (“Recycling”).

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Some other benefits of recycling are that it “reduces the amount of waste sent
to landfills and incinerators, conserves natural resources, prevents pollution,
saves energy, and helps create jobs in the recycling and manufacturing
industries in the United States” (“Benefits”).

There are
three steps, which create a loop, for recycling. The first step is collection
and processing. The collection of recyclables includes: curbside collection,
drop-off centers, and deposit or refund programs. “After the recyclables are
collected, it is sent to a recovery facility, where it will be sorted, cleaned
and processed into materials that can be used in manufacturing” (“Recycling”).

Like raw materials, recyclables are also bought and sold. The second step is
manufacturing. Many of the products today are being manufactured with recycled
content. Some common household items that have recycled materials are
newspapers and paper towels, aluminum, plastic, steel cans, and plastic laundry
detergent bottles. The third step is buying new products made from recycled
materials. It is helpful to look for “products that can be easily recycled and
contain recycled content because there are thousands of products contain
recycled content” (“Recycled”). Some products that contain recycled content
include: cereal boxes, egg cartons, glass containers, newspapers, paper towels,
trash bags, aluminum cans, etc.

Recycling
can also create jobs for people in the United States. The EPA showed some
findings on the economic benefits of the recycling industry from 2016. “There
was a study that analyzed the numbers of jobs, wages and tax revenues
attributed to recycling. The study showed that in one year, recycling and reuse
activities in the United States accounted for: 757,000 jobs, $36.6 billion in
wages, and $6.7 billion in tax revenues” (“Benefits”).

 Companies need to use materials for consumer
packaging that is not bad for the environment and can be recycled. “Raw
material sources are limited, and companies waste materials with significant
economic value, which is an inefficient use of those limited resources”
(MacKerron). One advantage of companies recycling is the environmental
benefits. The environmental benefit is that recycling business waste will have
less disposal to landfill and less overall harm to the environment. Another
advantage is that it will reduce waste costs. “This means that managing and
handling waste is expensive, so if companies reduced the amount of waste sent
directly to the landfills, they would save a lot on landfill tax” (“Benefits”).

Instead of wasting the resources, it is better to place packaging into commerce
need to take more responsibility for its life cycle impact. Packaging materials
and practices used by leading companies in the three sectors were looked at
closely to assess environmentally preferable characteristics. In this case
study, current packaging practices of three sectors were examined: fast food
restaurants, beverages, and consumer goods/grocery. If companies focused more
on “packaging source reduction, recyclability, compostability, recycled content,
and recycling policies, there would be more efficient utilization of
postconsumer packaging, higher U.S. recycling rates, reduced ocean plastic
pollution, new green recycling jobs, and a development of a circular materials
economy ensuring a stable supply of postconsumer materials for new feedstock”
(MacKerron). According to this case study, less than 14 percent of plastic
packaging is recycled. “Recyclable postconsumer packaging with an estimated
market value of $11.4 billion is wasted annually” (MacKerron). In the past five
years, poor packaging recycling rates have come up as important public policy
issue. States and municipalities have control over “local solid waste
management, but many face financial difficulties in funding or expanding
recycling programs to include new kinds of packaging due to budget cuts”
(MacKerron). If packaging recycling rates start to decline, it should be a
warning signal to the society as a system dysfunction. Landfilling recyclables
results in wasted resources and lost revenue and can represent market failure
in the inefficient use of valuable raw materials.

The fast
food sector was chosen as part of this case study because it was visible that
there was a lot of waste, and that there was a growing concern of plastic packaging
to plastic pollution in the oceans and other aquatic environments. This sector
was chosen as the strongest focus in the case study because there is so much
waste in this sector for when food is taken out of the restaurant in single-use
containers. Plastic cups, plates, and straws that are thrown into the ocean end
up harming and demeaning marine life. In the fast food sector, the most
commonly used consumer packaging materials are paper, polypropylene, and
polyethylene terephthalate, which are recyclable. In 2008, “Starbucks committed
to serve 25 percent of all beverages in its stores in reusable mugs or tumblers
by 2015 for source reduction” (MacKerron). Panera has reusable diningware for
customers who dine-in, and KFC uses reusable containers for their side dishes.

Many fast food restaurants have gone in the right direction in using
significant levels of recycled content for packaging materials. For example,
McDonald’s uses “33 percent postconsumer recycled content in paperboard
sandwich boxes” (MacKerron). Although most packaging that is used by fast food
restaurants are mechanically recyclable, there are many challenges to
increasing recycling rates due to concerns about food-soiled and plastic-coated
materials and lack of corporate prioritization of package recycling. To reduce
ocean plastic pollution, companies need to find different options to plastic
straws and cutlery, which is used mostly in takeout orders. For example,
plastic straws could be switched to paper material. Plastic utensils could be
switched to fiber-based materials, which are recyclable or compatible with
commercial composting systems. Plastic wrapping around the plastic utensils is
also a problem because it is easy to becoming airborne and making its way into
waterways. A solution to that is replacing the plastic wrapper with paper
covers for the plastic utensils. One way to reduce the overall volume of
packaging materials used is for the “food packaging material to be reused,
although it is hard to adopt this because today’s society provides meals that
are consumed mostly on the go and packaged in single-use, disposable materials”
(MacKerron). Another way to reduce the overall volume of packaging materials is
for the customers to eat in the restaurant and use reusable tableware. According
to the case study, “the overall leader for packaging sustainability in the QSR
sector is Starbucks, followed by McDonald’s” (MacKerron).

For
decades, “beverage companies have been pressured by anti-litter and activist
groups to do more recycling” (MacKerron). The pressure from these activist
groups have caused the beverage companies to focus more on recycling to a
greater extent. Glass, plastic, and aluminum are the main materials used for
beverage containers. In the beverage sector, flexible packaging used for
children’s drinks is a concern because it cannot currently be recycled. For
example, instead of Capri Sun using pouches, they should use a more recyclable
form of packaging. Coca-Cola had produced a “biologically sourced form of PET
from sugarcane bagasse, which is a fibrous by-product generated after juice is
extracted from the cane” (MacKerron). The company has produced more than “25
billion bottles made with plant-based material in more than 37 countries”
(MacKerron). If packaging materials can be reduced, it can have a huge effect
on energy use and the carbon footprint of beverage companies. This means that
using less material costs less and requires less energy in the production
process. Aluminum has the highest recycling rate and recycled content of all
beverage containers. Many companies have made progress on reducing the weight
of materials used in their packaging, but “now they need to focus on packaging
sustainability like the rates of materials recycling” (MacKerron). The main
materials used for beverage containers can all be recycled through curbside
pickup. Things that can affect the recyclability of different packaging
materials and can pose different degrees of threats to the postconsumer
material’s potential for reuse are labels and coatings. For beverage packaging,
the biggest challenge is to increase recyclability in the use of laminated
pouches and other flexible plastic packaging for children’s beverages that
cannot be recycled. Many other companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are taking “actions
to boost bottle and can recycling” (MacKerron). The case study states that the
overall leaders in the beverage sector are New Belgium Brewing, Nestle Waters
NA, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo (MacKerron). Grocery companies and consumer-packaged
goods fall behind beverage companies in policy development, responsibility for
postconsumer packaging, and demonstrable commitments to increase recycling of
packaging.

The
consumer packaged goods/grocery sector generates far more packaging than the
beverage sector. Paper and glass, which are recyclable, are losing market share
to plastic packaging like pouches used to package things from drinks to dog
food to detergent. Plastic may have benefits in food packaging and may also
have “environmental benefits like reduced breakage and lighter weight, but it
can also be bad for the environment” (MacKerron). Plastic litter, harm to ocean
wildlife, and loss of valuable resources when plastic waste is sent to
landfills rather than recycled are things that cause risks in the environment. In
this sector, the materials used vary within the companies and the products
marketed. For example, companies that sell cereal use a lot of paper packaging.

“Companies like Kroger and Wal-Mart generate a huge amount of packaging and
have rarely been studied with regards to recyclability” (MacKerron). In the
consumer packaged goods/grocery sector, companies have made commitments to “reducing
the use of packaging materials and increasing the use of reusable containers for
transporting and stocking items at stores” (MacKerron). Between 2006 and 2013,
Wal-Mart reduced packaging by 5 percent. By 2020, Wal-Mart wants to increase
the use of recycled plastic content in packaging and products by 3 billion
pounds (MacKerron). This action could have huge impact in creating new markets
for post-consumer plastics, creating green jobs, and reducing greenhouse gas
emissions and other pollutants. Companies often set reduction goals based on
actions that are easiest and cheapest to achieve. For example, “if goals are
based on weight reduction as opposed to product-package ration or volume
reduction, the companies will switch from using metal and glass to plastic
packaging” (MacKerron). If plastic packaging is used, this will reduce the overall
weight without reducing the number of containers used and discarded. The EPA
estimates that “3.8 million tons of plastic bags and wraps are generated
annually in the U.S. but only 11.5 percent are collected for recycling”
(MacKerron). These plastic bags that are not recycled can clog drains, crowd
landfills, and harm wildlife if washed into oceans or waterways. One way to
prevent this is to use reusable shopping bags when grocery shopping. In the CPG
sector as well as the beverage sector, “the use of flexible composite plastic
packaging like multi-laminate pouches is being used more for different types of
food, laundry detergent, and children’s beverages” (MacKerron). None of the
flexible packaging materials are being collected for curbside recycling. Many
companies use life cycle assessment to guide them on packaging sustainability
but have focused their actions mostly on product light weighting, material-use
reduction, and elimination of manufacturing waste. There are materials that are
“designed for the dump”, and this gives the consumers a message that it is okay
to throw away materials that can be recycled. Designing packaging for
sustainability should prioritize recycling whenever possible. Packaging
companies should be researching ways to come up with simpler packaging that
could be recycled and still keep many of the attributes that make flexible
packaging popular.

The fast
food, beverage, and consumer packaged goods/grocery sectors need to increase
engagement on recycling of postconsumer packaging. The “businesses that place
substantial amounts of packaging on the U.S. market should take a strong
measure of responsibility for collecting and recycling postconsumer packaging”
(MacKerron). Companies should develop sustainability agendas with fully developed
packaging policies. Not many companies have policies on recyclability and
recycled content. Policies need to be increased for the collection of materials
for recycling. For example, people should not know about recycling from only
two companies in the QSR sector and three large companies in the beverage
sector. “Packaging should be manufactured from recycled content and recyclable
materials whenever possible and should utilize standardized, large-type
labeling symbols to indicate recyclability” (MacKerron). Companies should set
high recycling goals and strong recycled content goals for each kind of
packaging they produce or distribute. Brands using compostable plastics could
help expand the composting infrastructure for these products. Plastic packaging
is a big component of marine litter, which harms marine life and poses a threat
to human health. One way that companies can prevent marine littler is to
redesign the packaging and do more to prevent the packaging from getting into
waterways. “Companies should also prioritize end-of-life disposal and reduction
of materials in design decisions, including creating more reusable packaging
options” (MacKerron). Flexible packaging manufacturers need to be researching
different ways to come up with simpler packaging that can be recycled and would
still keep many of the attributes that make flexible packaging popular
(MacKerron). The goal of this case study was to help companies understand the
risks and opportunities of plastic use and to build a business case for
improved management.

Recycling
has been shown to save energy and water and reduce emissions that contribute to
global climate change. Recycling also helps create new, well-paying jobs in the
recycling and manufacturing industries. Sometimes, people won’t recycle because
they feel like it is too much of a hassle or because they do not know what can
be recycled and what cannot be recycled. Not only should people and companies
be comfortable to recycle, but they should also use products that are recyclable.

It is better for today’s society to recycle more because it can also be a great
way to preserve the environment. According to the case study, containers and
packaging make up 30 percent of U.S. municipal solid waste (MacKerron). The
overall U.S. recycling rate is only 34.5 percent, and the U.S.

packaging-recycling rate of 51 percent lags behind other developed countries
(MacKerron). According to the EPA, only 13.8 percent of all plastic packaging,
which is the fastest-growing form of packaging, is recycled in the United
States (MacKerron). Millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions can be avoided
by recycling packaging. Billions of cans made from aluminum are still dumped
annually into landfills in the U.S. Improving the recycling and recyclability
of consumer packaging can help boost lagging U.S. packaging recycling rates.