It’s no secret that large volumes of packaging wastes are sent to the dump each year. In such scenario, recycling and composting seems to offer practical solutions to the problem of packaging waste.
Though recycling and composting both keeps waste out of the landfills, recycling offers a more sustainable approach. Composting is a biological decomposition process that takes time to degrade the complex materials and convert them into organic matter. On the other hand, recycling help relieve pressure on environmental fronts instantly.
A study conducted by the Sustainable Packaging Study revealed that 57% of brand owners and packaging suppliers prefer recyclability. However, this does not imply that companies manufacturing packaging solutions from biodegradable or compostable methods will see a total downfall. It is only that recycling offers a total economic system. With recycling it is possible to setup an infrastructure that can collect, sort and create products that are new or different.
However, recycled materials have their own challenges. Different substrates require different adjustments to maintain or improve the performance. The recycled versions might pose a risk after coming in contact with food. Hence, recycling of packaged materials considering food safety is equally important.
Recycling of Packaging Materials:
Presently, a majority of recycling stations reprocess cardboard boxes, paper and clear plastic cases. Paper is the leading recycled material, followed by metal, plastic and glass. The market for recycled plastic has grown in recent years. It is expected to reach a CAGR of 10% till 2018. However, there is a need to create reprocessing centers that can recycle soft plastic films, which are commonly used across the packaging industry.
In the United Kingdom, the government has set a target of recycling all plastics in circulation by 2017. Foodservice Packaging Recovery Institute and The National Restaurant Association (NRA) in the US has also recently released a recovery toolkit that provides free resources on successful recovery of foodservice packaging and related materials.
It is essential that firms and research Institutes in India too start achieving similar targets to make long-term changes. In Gujarat, marginalized workers (from SEWA) are presently engaged in collection, sorting and processing of discarded Tetra Pack cartons from about 42 Amul Diary Parlors. The collected waste is segregated, washed and sent to Daman Ganga for recycling, which yields paper pulp, plastic aggregate and aluminium.
To sum up, resorting to recycling as a sustainable approach is a collective effort. Packaging materials’ manufacturers need to focus on creating end products using recycled products. Likewise, food packaging industry too should buy recycled products as these products will not only help reduce the environmental concerns but also encourage impressive economic growth for businesses in the long run!
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- Denver knows how to recycle foam foodservice packaging. Maybe it can teach NYC? (2015, May). Retrieved from http://www.plasticstoday.com/