How Your Business Can Unpack and Prioritize Sustainability Through Recycling
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Consumers in 2022 are well aware of the importance of recycling. After all, they have been bombarded with “recyclable” messaging on their products since the 1970s. Even the most optimistic people are frustrated by the lack of progress and access to recycling processes. These efforts are becoming more urgent as climate change has a greater impact on our daily lives.
Without swift action, the estimated 11 million metric tons of plastic currently entering the ocean annually will triple in the next 20 years. The time is now — and businesses must take immediate steps to understand the realities of recycling, the opportunity to contribute to a circular economy and the necessity to educate consumers.
Recycling needs a reboot
The data clearly shows just how confused consumers are about recyclability. There is a huge gap between recycling perceptions and reality.
One new report found that out of the 40 million tons of plastic waste generated in the United States last year, only 5% to 6% was recycled. In fact, glass, plastic and liquid cartons all have a much lower rate of recycling than perceived by the consumer. The truth is that most materials labeled as “recyclable” do not recycle or are recycled only once or twice before they end up in the landfill. Although labeling these materials may seem like a simple way to encourage recycling, it does little to protect the planet.
The good news is that consumers still want to be a part of the long-term solution. More than half of consumers are “less likely” to buy products in harmful packaging, and 44% said they “won’t buy” products in packaging that is harmful to the environment, according to Trivium Packaging’s 2022 Global Buying Green Report. But just because consumers want to buy sustainable packaging, doesn’t mean that they are actually recycling it. This is why brands must do their part to encourage more recycling, including educating consumers on the large gap between perception and reality. Every business must have a hand in changing consumer behavior by creating recycling content across brand channels, communicating messaging about sustainable materials and finding ways to encourage and incentivize the recycling of their products and packaging.
The switch to circularity
It’s time for leaders to dig deeper and look at materials that recycle forever without degrading in quality and that have high recycling rates. These materials, like metal and glass, stay in the circular loop forever, achieving much higher levels of circularity.
For example, 84% of steel packaging in Europe is recycled. Metal packaging is durable and infinitely reusable once it’s sourced.
Reducing waste is a key shift in modern-day consumerism. Brands need to get on board. By moving away from materials that have a limit to the number of times they can be recycled and towards materials that can be recycled forever, companies large and small can not only move the needle in their own sustainability goals but contribute to a circular economy and help save our planet.
Investing in the infrastructure: Public and private responsibility in the circular life cycle
If businesses believe government policies are supportive of improving their environmental footprint, they’ll be more confident in transforming their manufacturing process to support infinitely recyclable materials. There are many things that every brand can do for a stronger recycling infrastructure.
In recent years, large consumer brands have banded together for major recycling infrastructure investments. Companies have also worked directly with processing centers to invest in enhanced recycling machinery or partnered with recycling centers to promote new technologies that more accurately and efficiently sort recycled materials.
There are many ways to get involved, regardless of your company’s size. There are many examples of communities, governments and businesses working together to keep trash out the landfills. Many businesses offer recycling programs for difficult-to-recycle waste streams and work with businesses to improve their circular supply chain, thereby preserving circularity.
Implementation and education
In a recent study, 88% of consumers said they wanted brands to help them be more sustainable and ethical in their day-to-day lives. Packaging is the best platform to communicate important messages with your customers.
Featuring language on packaging such as “metal recycles forever” and “100% Recyclable, Forever” across packaging or point-of-sale materials on digital platforms and social channels will help to both promote eco-friendly credentials and communicate the call to action to the end user.
Recycling is far from the simple panacea that the advertising spots from the past 30 years wanted us to believe. It’s complicated and requires work. It’s time to take on that complexity and take recycling to the next level — which is circularity. This requires a review of the existing sustainability goals. Small businesses that understand how to take advantage of this new circular infrastructure will win — and help save the planet in the process.
Frederick has been an active trader for over since 1991. After successfully navigating the market for so long, he’s finally bringing his wisdom to the masses.