Get ready for another new recycling label system

SPC Packaging Recovery Recycling LabelSustainability nonprofit GreenBlue just released details on its 2012 national pilot for a new Packaging Recovery Label System (above), a voluntary label developed by the group’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) to tell consumers how to recycle a package after its use. Major CPGs and retailers ConAgra Foods, Costco Wholesale, Microsoft, REI and Seventh Generation will implement the label on selected packaging nationwide starting in a few months.

The goals of the labeling system: 1) Reduce consumer confusion with clear instructions on how to recycle a package after use, and 2) Develop a consistent, accurate labeling system for companies that adheres to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “Green Guides” using nationally accurate recyclability data. Because recycling systems can vary radically from town to town across the US, each package component is labeled as “widely recycled,” “not yet recycled,” or “limited recycling” with instructions for consumers on how to check what to do about it locally.

To provide a lot more info than three chasing arrows can, GreenBlue also launched a Website for consumers as part of the labeling system: The site gives help on how to check on recycling locally, as well as data for local governments and packagers interested in getting involved. After the pilot phase, the label will be available to any interested companies to use, GreenBlue says.

My Thoughts:  After reporting on developments in the world of packaging (and its recycling) for nearly three decades now, all I can say is “FINALLY.” Finally, a recycling symbol that  just might work. Why? Because it’s based on past success with a similar system in the UK and created with the help of three years of research and consumer testing. I know from past trips to the UK and seeing their OPRL symbol on every package I can remember that it’s just about inescapable. Of course, it takes more than a printed symbol to get people to actually DO the recycling, but the right mix of education and information goes a long way.

This entry was posted in flexible packaging, labels, package printing, paper/paperboard/cartons, sustainability and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Get ready for another new recycling label system

  1. Pingback: Get ready for another new recycling label system | Converting Guide

  2. If the new labeling aids in recycling, I am all for it! Thanks for the recycling update. Keep up the Green Work! –Scotty

  3. Jay Kean says:

    The biggest roadblock is the container providers choose to make the image so small that you cannot read it with old, tired eyes (i’m 50 and have trouble at times). Please consider our tired eyes, and if you make them big, you shout “We want you to recycle.” The smaller recycle image makes us think you don’t either care or are hiding a unrecyclable container.

  4. LindaG says:

    At least they will be easy to see. However, what we really need are more places that take everything that is recyclable.

  5. sally says:

    In the UK, they don’t always put these labels on every container. In a pack of six, the label might be on one, for example. As I said to the man in consumer services, “That is no good to someone in a recycling centre trying to work out what sort of plastic this container is, and therefore which bin it should go in.”

    So yes, good, but every plastic object should have these markings with the type of plastic (a number in the middle) and there should be somewhere to take them all to very nearby.

  6. T. Caine says:

    I agree with Linda. I’m all for an evolution of the system–after all, this has been cruising along for about +/- 20 years now depending on where you hail from–and there are plenty of municipalities that have made great progress in recycling )New York City, for instance, has made fantastic strides and continues to improve).

    However, the real problem is getting more municipalities on board in a more complete way. We need more coordination with producers to stimulate a demand for more recycled materials, especially the higher number plastic components. As someone that has grown up in the Northeast, it’s often surprising to me that there are large parts of the country that don’t recycle at all. As a nation, our paper recycling rates are rising while consumption rates are falling. Plastics are still increasing in number and do far more damage for much longer. Making the process clearer to more people is a good step, but we really need more places that take more things for more companies that want the resource.

  7. Anne Bedarf says:

    Thank you Mark and commenters for your helpful insights. Please do follow our progress at! -Anne Bedarf, Project Manager

  8. Pingback: Get ready for another new recycling label system « Crunchy & Chic

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