Packaging Waste

Packaging recycling - who is really responsible?

3 mins

As packaging producers responsibly ensuring that our packages are able to be recycled or re-purposed is only part of the solution.

When it comes to the issue of recycling, aside from the fact that we should all be doing more of it, little is certain. And now it turns out that the jury is out on just whose shoulders the ultimate responsibility of packaging recycling lays. Today we ask the question, as a packaged product passes down the line from manufacturer to customer, who is really responsible for ensuring as much material as possible is recycled?

It’s a sobering thought that no matter how hard we as packaging producers try to ensure that our packages are able to be recycled or repurposed, they might never even be given the chance. That’s the thing about recycling packaging; while it’s all good to use materials that can be easily repurposed, if the customer isn’t that way inclined or educated then that amounts to nought.

There are hazy lines as to where the true responsibility really lays. While it is not exactly the same thing, recent research in reference to food contaminated cardboard by the Confederation of Paper Industries looked at who is respondents believed is most responsible for ensuring that recyclable packaging from the home is good enough quality to be recycled. 45% said the household, 38% said the packaging manufacturers or repurposing of recyclable material, and 8% said local authorities.

Now, while we may not be referring to food-contaminated cardboard, this study nevertheless showed us that people have conflicting views about who is responsible for recycling in general. Customers see reports of big ecommerce sites irresponsibly packing items, and think it’s their fault - while neglecting to realise that the onus is also on them to ensure that material gets put back into the system.

Manufacturers and distributors certainly have a responsibility towards education

This doesn’t mean for one minute that because customers have the ultimate responsibility at the end of the line that manufacturers and distributors haven’t got to think about it. On the contrary, they have a legal necessity as a packaging producer to ensure that consumers are properly educated about the repurposing possibilities for their packaging.

How can you ensure that your material stands the best chance of being recycled?

Well, firstly, if you have done your legwork into the education aspect of recycling then you are on your way to ensuring your material stands the greatest chance of being recycled. Other than that, you can make a recyclable, sustainable ethic an important part of your brand. In today’s industry climate that could never be a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination. It will also have the added effect of increasing audience awareness.

Ultimately, the more weight you as a company put on the importance of recycling for yourselves, the more likely that your customers will catch-on and help you out. Of course, you aren’t always going to strike gold, but you put your packaging in the best possible position by doing so.