How2Recycle celebrates milestone

The labeling system announces that it has more than 200 brand-owner and retail members, representing more than 2,600 individual brands.

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December 6, 2019

How2Recycle, the labeling system developed by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a project of environmental nonprofit GreenBlue, Charlottesville, Virginia, to provide clear, consistent and accurate messaging on packaging to help consumers recycle more and better, launched as a pilot program in 2012 with 12 companies. It has now announced its 200th member.

These 200 brand-owner and retailer members collectively own more than 2,600 individual brands and bring in $680 billion in annual sales in North America (not including retailers), the program says. The How2Recycle label is on more than 70,000 products in the marketplace as of early December—more than 175 new How2Recycle labels are issued to brands every day. Product categories featuring the How2Recycle label include food, beverage, toys, personal care, electronics and more.

The number of How2Recycle members grew by 45 percent throughout 2018. Since the beginning of 2019, How2Recycle says it has welcomed a greater number of members to the program than in the previous year. Growth of How2Recycle is forecasted to continue as the demand for transparent labeling and packaging sustainability becomes an increasingly prominent consumer concern, according to the program. 

Recycling has big problems that need to be solved, including increasing the quantity of valuable materials getting into the recycling cart and reducing contamination from nonrecyclable packaging, the program says. How2Recycle says it helps in these by bringing more clarity to end-of-life packaging instructions than any other system in North America.

Packaging design is extremely diverse and complex; therefore, more than 3,200 unique How2Recycle labels are available in the program’s library.

“How2Recycle is an exciting success story with significant impact,” says Nina Goodrich, executive director of GreenBlue. “Not only does it help consumers, but it helps brands and converters understand how to improve their packaging. On the How2Recycle Member Platform, How2Recycle has issued over 85,000 specific recommendations for packaging design improvement to its members since late 2017. The platform also allows brands to test new package designs to ensure recyclability before they are launched. This helps close the loop between package design and recovery. The ability to track, measure and improve recyclability will be critical in helping brands reach their new recyclability targets.”

“Every new sustainability initiative has naysayers—change is hard,” says Kelly Cramer, lead of How2Recycle at Sustainable Packaging Coalition and director of program management at GreenBlue.

“When How2Recycle launched in 2012, many in the recycling and packaging industries were skeptical that brands would voluntarily label their packaging in a standardized way along with their competitors, including ‘giving up precious on-pack real estate’ and admitting when their packaging wasn’t recyclable,” she continues.

“Many also believed that managing and operating a program of such scale and complexity within the retail and consumer packaged goods space was beyond the capabilities of a small environmental nonprofit and that the persuasive abilities of a handful of passionate packaging professionals inside a few companies couldn’t turn the tide,” Cramer says. “Years later the How2Recycle movement proves those status quo adherents wrong.

“While labeling packaging for recyclability certainly won’t solve all our problems in how we use, value and manage materials in society, telling people how to actually recycle is frankly the least we can do,” she adds. “We are thrilled that so many companies share this belief and together we can empower people to recycle more accurately.”

How2Recycle’s recent Consumer Survey Report shows that 61 percent of people may be changing their recycling behavior as a direct result of How2Recycle and also feel overwhelming positivity for the label on a package. Specifically, 77 percent of respondents claim they like a company more for having the How2Recycle label on the pack, and 85 percent claim they might be more likely to purchase a product because of the label.

How2Recycle sys it also engages within the packaging supply chain to further better design for recyclability.

Because How2Recycle issues recyclability feedback at scale to its brand members, packaging producers need to be brought into the conversation to ensure that packaging innovations are designed with recycling in mind. For this reason, How2Recycle works with material manufacturer and packaging converters to prequalify certain packaging innovations for How2Recycle labels. These additional 65 material manufacturers and packaging converters are How2Recycle members, bringing the total How2Recycle member count to 265.  

Given this breadth of membership, the How2Recycle team says it has touchpoints with more than 3,000 packaging or sustainability professionals per month.

Brands or retailers interested in joining the How2Recycle program should email how2recycle@greenblue.org.