How packaging redesigns could lead to more efficient recycling and waste management
- The complexity of the many varieties of plastics used in food and other industries prevents effective recycling efforts, with the result that approximately 30% of all plastic never gets recycled at all, The Guardian reported last week.
- If the current spotty recycling efforts continue, experts predict that the ocean could contain more plastic than fish by weight by the year 2050.
- Both Unilever and Marks &Spencer companies have committed to improving their plastics, either through a redesign effort to ensure all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025 (Unilever) or by limiting its use of plastic in packaging to a single recyclable formula (Marks &Spencer).
The Guardian report on recycling and the two retailers' new policies reveals just how much shifts in supply chain practices can help reduce waste downstream.
Among UK consumers, there exists extensive confusion about where and how to recycle specific items. Much of the confusion exists over poor labeling, wherein the consumer feels uncertain about which category within sorting bins their recycling belongs.Companies such as Wal-Mart have attempted to address this problem by including recycling instructions on some of their products, which correspond to their emphasis on design and source sustainability.
In addition, despite consumer uncertainty, many are optimistic about improvements in the waste management process. A survey undertaken by Viridor, revealed that many believe that in five years’ time, up to 64% of household waste can be recycled, compared with current recycling levels of around 44.3% in England. However, the survey also found 73% of respondents sought greater transparency about the results of their efforts to contribute to sustainability.
Establishing clear sustainability policies to reduce product waste, improving packaging materials and transparency in labeling may all help reach these goals. In particular, however, supply chain managers may benefit from a new emphasis on reverse logistics, as the tighter the closed-loop is, the more waste can be reduced.
- The Guardian M&S and Unilever promise plastic redesign to cut waste
- The Guardian British consumers admit confusion over recycling
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