“The issue is not about sustainable packaging, but about the role of packaging in sustainability. There is no such thing as inherently sustainable packaging. There can only ever be a more sustainable way of manufacturing a certain product,” said Sheryl Ozinsky of POLYCO. She opened the joint workshop between the PET Recycling Company (Pty) Ltd (PETCO) and the Polyolefin Recycling Company’s (POLYCO) entitled ‘Smart Design for Recycling.’
The workshop was attended by a host of knowledgeable speakers representing the plastics recycling industry, as well as over 50 delegates. This workshop followed on from the highly successful series hosted by PETCO over the last few years looking at sustainable packaging and the journey to recyclability by design.
Some of the key thoughts and challenges that emerged from the workshop were:
- The challenge to packaging designers is to evaluate the entire life cycle of a container promoting a cradle-to-cradle approach.
- The importance of the move towards correct and visible marking of packaging, indicating the correct polymer codes.
- The use of polymer identification codes in consumer based messaging was questioned.
- The need for increased brandowner/ consumer dialogue around packaging expectations.
- The need for smart labelling indicating what packaging type can be recycled and where.
- The need for information sharing with residents on separation at source.
The workshop also raised issues including minimising the number of different plastics used in a container for ease of recycling; material identification (via correct labelling) to facilitate the visual identification of plastic types during manual separation; avoiding the use of composite materials and barrier layers, coloured plastic material, materials that have the same density, shrink wrap labels, chemical additives as well as direct printing onto PET bottles; promotion of the use of PP/HDPE closures, closure liners, cap sleeves and seals and the use of water soluble or hot melt alkali soluble adhesives; and finally closing the loop by considering the possibility of including a percentage of recycled plastics back into the container itself.
Both PETCO and POLYCO aim to minimise the environmental impact of post-consumer plastic on the South African landscape by achieving sustainable growth in plastic recycling, supporting existing and encouraging new collection and recycling networks and promoting consumer education and awareness programmes.
“We recognize the need for plastic bottle innovators, designers, manufacturers, and packaging decision-makers to understand how packaging design decisions can affect container recyclability and to design packages to be compatible with the broadest range of recycling operations and technologies,” said Cheri Scholtz, CEO of PETCO.
“Plastic packaging recycling does not begin with collection but with design. By incorporating design for recyclability criteria in package design we increase the potential for well-designed packaging to be reused and remanufactured into new products which have value to the consumer and enhance the economic viability of plastic bottle recycling, helping us meet industry recycling targets. It is important for the economic feasibility and efficiency of recycling. If products are not compliant they should be clearly marked. This workshop is our way of sharing information and challenging the industry to ensure that packaging is not only recyclable, but is truly recycled,” Cheri added.
PETCO has developed Plastics Packaging Recyclability by Design Guidelines, which aid packaging designers to innovate and push the boundaries of conscious design that meets the needs of all stakeholders in the supply chain. PETCO encourages its stakeholders to rise to the challenge and continue to innovate with the design of their containers, providing feedback on challenges and lessons learnt, by way of case studies that can be presented to stakeholders.
PETCO has made great strides in promoting the collection of post-consumer PET for recycling. 2012 saw 45% of all post consumer PET being recycled, that’s 50 280 tonnes of PET plastic beverage bottles or approximately 1.7 million bottles. This has helped to create over 26 000 jobs, save 75 420 tonnes in carbon emissions,reduced the volume of post-consumer PET plastic in the waste stream and saved 311 736 cubic metres of landfill space in 2012 alone. Further to this, by increasing the recycling rate of post-consumer PET beverage bottles, PETCO, its shareholders, partners and associates are ensuring that PET packaging is not only “recyclable,” but a truly “recycled” material.
Our modern lifestyles with more emphasis on convenience, safety and health, have created extra demands on packaging and in many cases more packaging. It should be accepted that in meeting fit for purpose requirements, not all packaging will be recyclable. The trade offs are complex and in this regard, The Recovery Action Group (RAG), a division of PACSA, is currently working on Design for Recycling guidelines for the packaging industry. The next Smart Design for Recycling workshop will be held in Johannesburg on 23 May 2013 in partnership with PlasticsISA.