In April, the How2Recycle Label Program released its’ 2014 Annual Report, marking three successful years on-package. How2Recycle is a voluntary program that provides clear recycling instructions to consumers with the goal to increase the quantity and quality of recycled materials. The program boasts more than 40 members from across product sectors, including food, beverage, beauty, cleaning products, foodservice and electronics, as well as for retailers with private label product lines. How2Recycle is the labeling program that makes a difference.
One of the most significant changes to How2Recycle in 2014 was development of a new artwork delivery system. How2Recycle uses a comprehensive searchable library, hosted through a brand asset management system called Brandfolder. The site allows companies to search and download artwork files. The site is an invaluable tool to scaling up adoption of How2Recycle. GreenBlue staff populated the library, with input from members. The resource is a living library, with staff adding new artwork as needed. The resource now has 115+ users.
In three years, How2Recycle has grown from 11 member companies to more than 40. Adoption on package has grown exponentially as companies increase their use of the label. How2Recycle is now found on thousands of stock-keeping units (SKUs) on dozens of brands. Additional information can be found in the 2014 Annual Report.
Consumer feedback continues to support the clarity and positive public support of How2Recycle. Consumers find How2Recycle easy to understand and think positively of companies using the label.
The program makes a difference in more than just recycling claims. How2Recycle also sparks employee engagement in companies. At the SustPack conference in Orlando, FL, this spring, attendees heard experiences from three member companies: Target, Annie’s Inc. and ConAgra Foods. The speakers shared personal experiences championing the program, engaging co-workers and creating opportunities to assess the recyclability of their packaging choices.
How2Recycle also makes a difference in offering a new method to evaluate packaging choices. To create an accurate on-package recycling claim, companies must be aware of each packages’ materials. This is an opportunity to review format and material type. Companies become cognizant of the impact of their design choices and, on occasion, re-evaluate their choices. Even if design changes are not immediately made, How2Recycle clarifies recyclability to both internal and external audiences.
One major takeaway from scaling up How2Recycle is understanding the impact of packaging refresh and production timelines. Adding new artwork is a rolling process that must consider artwork refresh timelines, product production and inventory. How2Recycle members are all in different parts of their labeling journey, from new members applying their first artwork to long standing members applying artwork on a rolling basis.
As Bob Lilienfeld pointed out in a recent Packaging Digest article, one area for growth is ensuring both national brand and private label products carry recycling information. The popularity of private label products continues to grow, taking on a brand identity of their own. Retailer members of How2Recycle, such as Target, are keeping up pace with their national brand counterparts. Target currently has more than 270 SKUs labeled with How2Recycle, and their implementation is growing.
Lilienfeld’s article also highlighted the impact of packaging refreshes and production timelines in practice. Though How2Recycle boasts an impressive list of members, consumers may not immediately see a How2Recycle label on every single package. Both private label and national brand products are on the path to more meaningful recycling claims. Our desire for growth spreads across both categories. How2Recycle is a pre-competitive program that grows in both prevalence and strength as more companies adopt the system.
GreenBlue has great plans for How2Recycle in 2015. A new How2Recycle.info website is underway, with more resources for consumers, new graphics and integrated social media. The program is set to pass its’ membership goal of 50 companies by the end of the year. Staff and members continue to highlight the program in articles, conference presentations and outreach partnerships. The program is also exploring ways to expand through key partnerships with other organizations.
Finally, the conclusion of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s Access to Recycling project will provide a fuller picture into recycling across the United States. This project pulls together the SPC, trade associations and the recycling industry. How2Recycle will leverage their results in the future.
How2Recycle is only possible through the collaborative support of the packaging and recycling industry. We look forward to all that we will accomplish in 2015 and beyond.
Danielle Peacock is a project manager at GreenBlue's Sustainable Packaging Coalition. For more information about the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, visit www.sustainablepackaging.org.