By The Board of Directors,
STEPPING BACK TO SEE THE BIG PICTURE
There has been much debate and discussion lately regarding the state of recycling. Packaging recovery has a significant role to play in reducing environmental impacts by improving resource efficiency and reducing waste. There are also challenges to the current state of recycling which require discussion, collaboration, and new ways of thinking.
But, recycling is only one part of a much larger material management system. AMERIPEN believes that in order to create effective change in recovery, we need to explore the entire system.
Reframed within the language of resource efficiency, the G-7, United Nations and OECD countries—including our own EPA — all support sustainable material management (SMM) as an effective policy framework under which we can examine consumption challenges such as waste management.
AMERIPEN believes this framework offers the new vision we need to enact systemic change.
SMM requires a systemic approach to using and reusing materials more productively over their entire lifecycles. The EPA tagline is “use less, reduce toxicity, recover more.” Recycling is key to this approach, but it also includes material and design innovation, green chemistry, natural resource conservation and studying the material flows within those systems.
Why do we suggest reframing the debate on recovery so as to explore resource efficiency via a materials management framework? According to the G7, “Data indicates that global raw material use rose during the 20th century at about twice the rate of population growth. For every 1% increase in GDP, raw material use has risen by 0.4%….” Our demand for resources is exceeding what we can recover—even if we were to achieve an unrealistic goal of 100% recycling!
From a packaging perspective, focus on recovery alone would fail to take into account the value of packaging in protecting food waste, or that the inherent energy consumption involved in recycling certain materials might make alternative recovery methods more environmentally preferable. Thus, the discussion needs to be expanded to look at how we can design for recovery, add in other waste management tools, consider best use, and determine on a case-by-case basis the ability of packaging to reduce product-related waste.
AMERIPEN works closely with policy makers to ensure that packaging is maximally resource efficient. We do so in a scientifically based and material neutral manner. We invite you to join us in these efforts.