Recycling Plastic Pouches Needs to Be Easier to Ensure Their Survival

After disposable coffee cups and plastic bottles, pouches could be the next target in the waste reduction landscape, due to the difficulty of recycling these packs, says GlobalData (globaldata.com), a leading data and analytics company.

Pouches have come into the spotlight recently as a result of confusion over the use of the Green Dot symbol on pouch packs. The Green Dot symbol on these packs is a mark to show that the supplier has made a financial contribution towards recycling them. However, many consumers believe it means that these packs can be recycled in household recycling systems. In fact, pouches disposed of in this way, end up being sent for incineration or landfill.

Valerie Lincoln-Stubbs Research Director at GlobalData comments, “Growing awareness of this issue is likely to turn consumers off this packaging format. This could particularly be the case in the baby food sector, where pouches have transformed the market over the last 10 years. In 2016 they accounted for the largest segment of total baby meal sales in the UK at 43 percent and in the US at 32 percent. Parents of small children are generally more environmentally concerned than many other consumer groups and may reject packaging that has the potential to outlast their children.’’

However, pouches do have some environmental advantages. They use fewer natural resources than many other pack types – both in raw materials and in the production process – while their light weight means transportation produces lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Moreover, plastic pouches can in fact be recycled and systems to do this do exist. One such example is the Hain Celestial subsidiary, Ella’s Kitchen, which has joined forces with specialist recycler TerraCycle to establish the EllaCycle system. Pouches can be left with participating charities or individuals who can then send them to TerraCycle.

Lincoln-Stubbs continues, ‘‘This system does require a degree of effort and organization by consumers which results in low recovery rates, and this in itself makes the recycling process more costly and less attractive to recyclers.’

It will require a concerted effort from food and beverage manufacturers, packaging suppliers, recycling companies and local governments to pool their resources to make the recycling of pouches easier, so that it becomes routine; just as the recycling of glass jars has become. Without this action, the future of the pouch format could be a bleak one”.

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