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Recycling Availability in the Bigger Recovery Puzzle

Today, FPI sent its members the long-awaited "2015-16 Centralized Study on Availability of Recycling for Foodservice Packaging." This was part of a larger effort spearheaded by GreenBlue's Sustainable Packaging Coalition to gather information on the current state of recycling availability in the U.S., as well as detailed data on what percent of the U.S. population has the ability to recycle nearly 50 different products, including foodservice packaging, aerosol containers, beverage packaging, cans, etc. FPI was one of a dozen different organizations to help fund this important research.

While the higher level information on recycling in the U.S. is of interest to many (those results may be found here), it may be the detailed "availability to recycle" data that companies in the packaging supply chain are most curious about. This data can be used in part to help substantiate recycling claims per the Federal Trade Commissionís Green Guides, but everyone should keep in mind that claims should not be based on this study alone.

A consumer's availability to recycle a product is just one piece of the recovery puzzle. The other critical pieces are whether the product is accepted by and successfully processed in a material recovery facility, and whether there are end markets for those recovered materials. Otherwise, products included in a recycling bin will just end up in a landfill, and thatís what weíre trying to avoid. 

Since 2011, FPI and its members (through the Paper Recovery Alliance, Plastics Recovery Group and Foam Recycling Coalition) have voluntarily spent over $1.7 million on activities to increase the recovery of foodservice packaging. These include:

  • Understanding the barriers to increased recovery and developing solutions to overcome those barriers.
  • Conducting numerous studies to provide valuable data, such as: 
    • comparing food residue on foodservice packaging compared to other commonly recycled food packaging items; 
    • benchmarking acceptance of foodservice packaging by material recovery facilities;
    • understanding the flow of foodservice packaging in a material recovery facility leading to higher recovery, not just acceptance, of these materials;
    • estimating the impact of foodservice packaging on existing bales of recovered material sold to end markets; 
  • Sharing high-level results of the above studies and learnings with key stakeholders through online tools like and; webinars; and presentations. 
  • Developing tools for recycling coordinators to add foodservice packaging to their residential programs.
  • Providing equipment grants.  

For FPI, supporting this availability to recycle study is just part of our larger effort to get more foodservice packaging recovered. Itís not just about the numbers, but the information behind the data. With the results of this study, weíll be able to:

  • Shape the strategic direction of FPIís recovery groups. For example, weíll be able to compare cities not yet accepting foodservice packaging, but that have local recycling facilities known to accept these products and have end markets for the material.
  • Identify specific communities where foodservice packaging is not already recycled. We can target those communities to add foodservice packaging to their residential recycling programs by:
    • Working with their recycling facilities to answer questions related to foodservice packaging;
    • Connecting recycling facilities to end markets; and
    • Providing communications support for their residents.
  • Populate a soon-to-be developed database to track availability to recycle information on an ongoing basis.
This report is the culmination of a lot of work at SPC, the contractors (Resource Recycling Systems and Moore Recycling) and funders. But it's also the start of the next chapter for FPIís recovery work, and we couldn't be more excited.

Posted By Lynn M. Dyer (President) | 7/26/2016 2:13:51 PM