Do you recycle?
Let's assume you do -- the majority of the U.S. population has access to at least some curbside recycling services, and recycling has become an ingrained habit, at least for some materials. So let's rephrase the question.
Are you recycling everything you're able to? Are you recycling too much, or recycling the wrong items? Do you even know what types of plastic you can recycle?
And lastly, are you recycling the caps of your plastic bottles?
Those questions -- and many more like them -- are among the reasons that recycling has become a thorny issue, and serve as obstacles to getting recycling of plastic above its currently anemic 28 percent recovery rate.
"The consumer is stuck in the middle," says Anne Bedarf, a project manager at the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. "There are too many labels and not enough clarity about what they should do."
To overcome those challenges, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a project of GreenBlue today is announcing a pilot program and educational website that will put a new generation of recycling label on packaging at major retailers, and in the process educate shoppers and manufacturers alike about just how recyclable their packaging is.
Starting in January 2012, five retailers from a broad swath of categories will begin putting the new label on products. ConAgra Foods, Costco Wholesale, Microsoft, REI, and Seventh Generation have all signed on to the pilot project.
"The SPC's labels provide radical transparency to us," explained REI's Eric Abraham during a press briefing yesterday. "The label is also an excellent opportunity for us to rethink our packaging designs and materials. [For example,] we get a lot of feedback from our customers about the RICs [resin identification codes, better known as the numbers on plastic bottles]."
The label design comes in three flavors, pictured below:
Any given package will contain one of those squares; the left side in the picture above is the "widely recycled" category, representing a material that's recyclable in 60 percent or more of the U.S. The right segment is "check locally," which means they're accepted in 20 to 50 percent of communities. The middle segment is "not yet recycled," for materials that are recycled in 20 percent or fewer communities.
Next page: Four requirements for a successful eco-label