Jennifer Perr is the Sustainability Director of Hi-Cone Worldwide, a leading manufacturer of beverage multi-packaging solutions. She is responsible for developing and leading strategies that drive the company’s sustainability vision.

As part of a collective effort to end plastic waste and promote sustainability in manufacturing, production and consumption, recycling initiatives have a good foundation to build on. To accelerate towards the next stage of progress, education and infrastructure must support good intentions around recycling and in this, consumers, policy makers and manufacturers all have a role to play. 

According to recent findings, nine out of ten (91%) of adults surveyed in the UK, USA, Spain and Mexico believe recycling plastic is beneficial to the environment, while 75% of those surveys worldwide reported regularly recycling at home. In the UK, over 90% of adults reported regularly recycling at home. This is incredibly encouraging – a strong foundation to build on – and a clear demonstration that society is moving away from a single-use outlook in which products are created, used and disposed of, in favour of sustainability. 

This appetite for recycling creates the right conditions for industry to work with communities and consumers to meet the goal of minimising the impact of plastics on our environment, while maximising plastic recycling. 

Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

While there is still work to be done, over a third (34%) of global participants in our survey – and almost half (45%) of UK adults –  thought that they recycle all the plastic waste they possibly could. That, of course, still leaves considerable room for improvement but a clue as to why this figure isn’t higher is found from 80% of those worldwide who don’t recycle all plastic, who said they would do so more frequently if they had more facilities and/or guidance.

Clear and simple guidance is essential for consumers to be able to have confidence in recycling processes and to recycle to the extent they want to. Through education, consumers can more fully understand which plastics can be recycled and where, something which will not only help increase recycling rates but also ensure the right type of waste enters recycling processes to reduce inefficiency and maximise output. 

Education around the suitability of different materials for recycling will also equip consumers to make informed decisions on the products they buy, consume and dispose of.  

Manufacturers in turn must continue to ensure they prioritise sustainability and environmental measures.They can seek to do this in a number of ways, including through an increase in the percentage of recycled materials in their products and by introducing programmes for materials excluded from community recycling initiatives. 

Manufacturers should also commit to regularly assessing the lifecycle of their materials – from ‘cradle-to-grave’. There is an environmental consideration for all materials, not just in how they are disposed of but also in how they are manufactured, with carbon emissions and energy consumption all contributing to total impact. Lifecycle assessments should therefore inform decisions around not only the sustainability of materials used in the manufacturing process, but also the use of resources (water, fuels etc.) and production of emissions. 

Continuing efforts by governments and local authorities can improve recycling infrastructure to support community recycling. This is aided by initiatives from waste management companies like TerraCycle® to collect waste not currently recycled and turn it into a valuable resource. 

To find out how to recycle plastic ring carriers RingRecycleMe, an international recycling programme. 

Jennifer Perr

Author Jennifer Perr

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