When sustainability was in its infancy, there was only one way for packaging to be "green" -- through recycling. It was easy to tell packaging was recycled because of its visible fibres or a brown colour. For shoppers, this colour and those fibres "proved" the packaging was recycled and therefore the company was considered "green."
If a company had a green image, then this type of packaging worked well. But if a brand promised an alluring, sharp, refined or glamorous image then this kind of recycled packaging is exactly what they didn't want. Companies that spent years working to create sophisticated or modern images and brands of beauty or luxury revolted against the use of this boring material.
Flash forward to present day: State-of-the-art production facilities and efficiencies in production have dramatically lowered the price of recycled packaging while safe bleaching processes and environmentally-friendly colour additives mean the greenness of packaging truly can't be determined by appearance alone.
In fact new technologies are giving companies more innovative recycling options, greater choice in packaging surface and grades as well as coated, uncoated, or even FDA-approved packaging. This is an important new development for the future of food packaging options.
Asian mills have built multi-layer machines equipped with the latest technology and best economies of scale. This means manufacturers have flexibility and can use more post-consumer waste, all while ensuring the outer packaging appearance is aesthetically pleasing.
It is possible now to offer packaging that is up to 50 per cent recycled content, completely without a recycled look. Entire production lines are specifically designed to produce high-quality, beautiful packaging with a high percentage of post-consumer content. The result: brands can enjoy more environmentally-friendly packaging, without compromising their carefully-honed images.
These new paper mills offer another critical advantage.Their state-of-the-art production facilities and production efficiencies have dramatically lowered the cost of recycled packaging.This means recycled packaging can adhere to a brand's image, align with consumer demand for responsible packaging and save companies money too.
Unlike almost 80 per cent of the packaging market worldwide however, North America is still undergoing change and currently uses the highest ratio of virgin fibre per box (or per tonne of board) as compared to rest of the world -- offering products with only 10 per cent post-consumer waste.The changes need to come faster -- our planet needs us to do better.
Since going green no longer means having to forfeit beautiful packaging to sell a product in a way that is consistent with any brand's image, there is simply no longer any excuse for offering products in unsustainable packaging.
In the new age of green packaging, sustainability and brand promise can now go hand in hand and beautiful packaging doesn't have to be ugly for the environment.
Ian Lifshitz is North American director of sustainability & stakeholder relations at Asia Pulp and Paper Group (APP), the third largest pulp & paper company in the world. To learn more about APP's community initiatives, sustainability efforts and to take part in conversations about the rainforest, visit Rainforest Realities.
Americans use billions of aluminum beverage cans every year. The good news is that aluminum can be <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/metal/aluminum-can/facts-about-aluminum-recycling/">infinitely recycled</a> back into new cans, and a great deal of energy and other resources can be saved by recycling it. Last year, Americans recycled 61 billion aluminum cans, saving the energy equivalent of <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2012/08/31/aluminum-can-65-percent-recycling-rate/">17 million barrels</a> of crude oil. That's a whole lot of recovered resources! So, how was all that energy saved? To put it simply, manufacturing cans from recycled aluminum consumes <a href="95 percent">95 percent</a> less energy than using virgin materials. To put those figures in perspective, <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/metal/aluminum-can/facts-about-aluminum-recycling/">recycling one aluminum can</a> saves enough energy to keep a 100-watt bulb burning for almost four hours or run your television for three hours. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2009/11/23/8-ways-to-reuse-your-cans/">Reuse Before Recycling: 8 Ways to Reuse Your Cans </a> <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/metal/aluminum-can/facts-about-aluminum-recycling/">Learn more facts</a> about aluminum can recycling from Earth911.
Producing new plastic from recycled material uses only two-thirds of the energy required to manufacture it from raw materials, meaning we can save a whole lot of energy by recycling plastic. The energy conserved by tossing just one plastic bottle in the blue bin can light a 60-watt light bulb for six hours or power a computer for 25 minutes, <a href="http://www.epa.gov/osw/education/pdfs/toolkit/tools-m.pdf">according to the EPA</a>. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2009/08/31/8-ways-whys-to-reuse-plastic/">Reuse Before Recycling: 8 Ways & Whys to Reuse Plastic</a> <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/plastic/">Find out more</a> about plastic recycling from Earth911.
According to the <a href="http://www.api.org/">American Petroleum Institute</a>, more than <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/automotive/motor-oil/the-importance-of-used-motor-oil-recycling/">600 million gallons</a> of motor oil is purchased in the U.S. each year. Most auto shops recycle used motor oil, but about half of all motor oil sold is to "do-it-yourself" car owners. If you change your own oil, don't forget to recycle the leftovers when you're finished. Recycling a mere <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/automotive/motor-oil/the-importance-of-used-motor-oil-recycling/">2 gallons</a> of used motor oil can: <ul> <li>Power an average home for one day</li> <li>Cook 48 meals in a microwave oven</li> <li>Blow dry a person’s hair at least 216 times</li> <li>Vacuum a house for 15 months</li> <li>Power a television for more than seven days straight</li> </ul> Not sure how to collect and recycle your motor oil during a DIY oil change? Earth911 will <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/automotive/motor-oil/how-to-collect-and-recycle-your-motor-oil/">show you how</a>. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2012/03/22/gas-saving-tips/">Drive Smart: Save $1,347 on Gas This Year</a>
The environmental footprint of clothing and textiles is substantial. Americans throw away a whopping 68 pounds of clothes on average each year, and we only buy 10 pounds of recycled clothes annually. But on the brighter side of things, reclaiming clothing and textiles for reuse and recycling saves staggering amount of energy and natural resources. Remanufacturing or reusing textiles can save up to 85 percent of the energy required to produce the same product from virgin materials, according to a <a href="http://web.mit.edu/ebm/www/Publications/MITEI-1-g-2010.pdf">study</a> conducted by the <a href="http://mit.edu/">Massachusetts Institute of Technology</a>. Ideally, clothing that is still wearable should be <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2012/01/12/sustainu-helps-college-students-recycle-clothes/">donated</a> or "freecycled" to a friend so the product can achieve the longest life-cycle possible. For clothing and textiles that are too worn-out to be used again, <a href="http://search.earth911.com/?what=Clothing">use Earth911</a> to find a recycling solution near you. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2011/10/14/guide-to-swapping-and-selling-clothes-online/">Make Cash for Your Old Clothes: Guide to Swapping and Selling Clothes Online</a> <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/household/clothing-and-textile/">Find out more</a> about clothing and textile recycling at Earth911.
On average, each person in the U.S. discards <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/hazardous/single-use-batteries/single-use-batteries-101/">eight dry-cell batteries per year</a>. Recycling both rechargeable and single-use batteries saves water, energy and natural resources. But the No. 1 reason to avoid tossing batteries in the trash is to prevent potentially toxic metals from contaminating local ecosystems. Batteries that are thrown in the trash produce most of the heavy metals that are found in household waste, including lead, arsenic, zinc, cadmium, copper and mercury. If discarded batteries end up in landfills, these metals can seep into the ground water and harm local plants, animals and even humans. For this reason, both rechargeable and single-use batteries should be taken to your local household hazardous waste (HHW) facility or recycled through available mail-in and take-back programs. <a href="http://search.earth911.com/?what=Other+Batteries">Use Earth911</a> to find a solution near you. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2009/04/27/recycling-mysteries-batteries/">Learn More: Recycling Mystery: Batteries</a> Want More Tips? Check out Earth911's run-down on recycling <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/hazardous/rechargeable-batteries/tips-on-recycling-rechargable-batteries/">rechargeable</a> and <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/hazardous/single-use-batteries/tips-on-recycling-single-use-batteries/">single-use</a> batteries.
Like aluminum, glass can be infinitely recycled back into new containers. An estimated <a href="http://www.gpi.org/recycle-glass/environment/glass-recycling-fast-facts.html">80 percent</a> of reclaimed glass is processed through bottle-to-bottle recycling, and it can take as little as <a href="http://www.gpi.org/recycle-glass/environment/glass-recycling-fast-facts.html">30 days</a> for a glass bottle to go from the recycling bin to a supermarket shelf. Recycled glass is substituted for up to <a href="http://www.gpi.org/recycle-glass/environment/glass-recycling-fast-facts.html">70 percent</a> of raw materials in manufacturing. Bottle-makers benefit from recycling in several ways - it reduces emissions and consumption of raw materials, extends the life of plant equipment, such as furnaces, and saves energy. Recycling just one glass bottle saves enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for four hours, power a computer for 30 minutes or a television for 20 minutes, according to the <a href="http://www.gpi.org/recycle-glass/environment/glass-recycling-fast-facts.html">Glass Packaging Institute</a>. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2012/07/09/photos-stunning-mason-jar-crafts/">Reuse Your Jars First: PHOTOS: Stunning Mason Jar Crafts </a> <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/glass/">Learn more</a> about glass recycling at Earth911.
According to the EPA, approximately <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/paper/">33 percent</a> of the municipal solid waste stream is paper and paperboard products. Paper makes up the largest portion of the municipal waste stream and is also one of the most recovered materials in the nation. Producing recycled paper requires about <a href="http://www.epa.gov/osw/education/quest/pdfs/sections/u2_chap2.pdf">60 percent</a> of the energy used to make paper from virgin wood pulp, but energy isn't the only thing we save through paper recycling. By recycling <a href="http://www.epa.gov/osw/education/quest/pdfs/sections/u2_chap2.pdf">1 ton of paper</a>, we save: 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 463 gallons of oil, 3 cubic yards of landfill space and enough energy to heat an average home for 6 months. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2010/02/22/the-best-diy-paper-projects/">Reuse It First: The Best DIY Paper Projects </a> <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/paper/">Learn more</a> about the ins and outs of recycling paper from Earth911.
Americans dispose of more than <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/automotive/tires/benefits-of-recycling-tires/">200 million</a> tires every year, adding up to a whole lot of trashed rubber - not to mention wasted energy. But we can change all that simply by recycling. On average, <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/automotive/tires/benefits-of-recycling-tires/">22 gallons</a> of oil are required to create one new truck tire. However, to retread a tire (a process in which a new tread is applied to a used tire casing), only seven gallons of oil are required. Retreading a tire also costs anywhere from <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/automotive/tires/benefits-of-recycling-tires/">30 to 70 percent</a> less than manufacturing a new tire, reducing the cost to the consumer. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2012/08/15/photos-reused-planter-ideas/">Reuse Your Old Tires: Tire Planters and Other Reused Garden Ideas</a> Not sure how to recycle your tires? <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/automotive/tires/tips-on-recycling-tires/">Learn how at Earth911</a>.
Americans use <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/metal/steel/facts-about-steel-recycling/">100 million</a> steel cans every day, amounting to a whole lot of potential landfill waste. Luckily, steel is one of the nation's most recycled materials, with more than <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/metal/steel/facts-about-steel-recycling/">65 percent</a> of steel produced in the states recycled into new steel each year. Recycling steel saves 75 percent of the energy that would be used to create steel from raw materials, meaning the steel we recycle saves enough energy to power <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/metal/steel/facts-about-steel-recycling/">18 million</a> homes annually. <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/metal/steel/facts-about-steel-recycling/">Recycling 1 ton of steel</a> also saves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal and 120 pounds of limestone. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2012/10/02/golden-gate-bridge-furniture-company/">Recycled Steel in Action: Golden Gate Bridge Remnants Upcycled into Furniture</a> <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/metal/steel/facts-about-steel-recycling/%20target=">Find out more</a> about steel recycling from Earth911.
Electronics are made from valuable natural resources, including metals, plastics and glass - all of which require loads of energy to mine and manufacture. For example, if the 100 million cell phones ready for end-of-life management in 2006 were recycled, we would have saved enough energy to power approximately <a href="http://www.ohioewaste.com/faqs.html">194,000 U.S. households</a> for a year. Like batteries, electronics also contain heavy metals that are potentially hazardous if leached into the environment. Although e-waste only accounts for about 4 percent of municipal waste, it may be responsible for as much as <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/electronics/e-waste-a-recyclable-resource/">70 percent</a> of the heavy metals in landfills, including 40 percent of all lead. To save energy and natural resources - and prevent potentially hazardous metals from entering local ecosystems - be sure to donate, reuse or recycle your unwanted electronics every time. For more information on e-waste recycling, check out <a href="http://earth911.com/recycling/electronics/proper-disposal-and-recycling-of-e-waste/">these tips from Earth911</a>. <a href="http://earth911.com/news/2011/04/04/how-much-your-green-habits-really-save/">Want More Facts?: Find Out How Much Your Other Green Habits Save</a>
In this video, the recycling program manager for the Commonwealth of Virginia explains recycling and offers information on the benefits of recycling both to the environment. Topics include the Basics of Recycling, Recycling Management, Recycling at Home and the Office, and a discussion of special materials recycling such as electronics. This segment deals with recycling at home and in the office.