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Advancing and Financing Packaging Recycling in the United States: A Systems-Based Approach

Posted By Dan Felton, Monday, May 18, 2020

Advancing and Financing Packaging Recycling in the United States: A Systems-Based Approach

AMERIPEN recently authored an article in Packaging Digest about how the packaging value chain is likely to change because of the COVID-19 pandemic and how we can prepare to respond to that change and help create an even more robust future for our economy, packaging and the environment (4 Inevitable Packaging Changes After COVID-19). This includes a need that existed before the pandemic for additional coordinated investment and public policy strategies to expand innovative processes, research, technologies and end market development in the U.S. order to advance packaging recycling and material reuse. That need has become even more evident as our economy and recycling systems have become even more strained over the past two months.

AMERIPEN recognizes the need for the packaging value chain to help identify options to finance packaging recycling and what role all stakeholders, including consumers, government and industry, might play in that financing. Money does not solve all woes and we believe that financing solutions must have a coordinated and comprehensive strategy that maps out clear objectives with complementary public policies for the solutions we might support. We also believe a shared responsibility approach is key to ensuring that all parties involved in recycling are working collaboratively towards systematic efficiencies and success. This approach of mapping goals against stakeholder strengths, financial mechanisms and complementary policies is missing from the current public dialogue but is something we believe is essential to ensure we advance sustainable solutions. We also believe this approach is achievable.

After significant discussion and exploration with members and other stakeholders, AMERIPEN is pleased today to release our key principles and objectives for a systems-based financing policy framework to advance packaging recycling in the U.S. First and foremost, we believe a financing system for packaging recycling must be reliable, efficient and effective, and equitable and fair. Without these core principles, we believe the system will not be successful. Our underlying objectives are then focused on leveraging best practices and innovation to fill gaps and strengthen (not compete with or duplicate) current recycling processes and programs in order to increase packaging recovery. All forms of recycling – including mechanical, chemical and organic – should be considered when developing and implementing financing systems to assist with recycling system needs and goals.
Packaging is not waste, and our financing policy framework principles and objectives reinforce its value. It serves a critical function in delivering food and other products safely and intact – the ongoing pandemic crisis has amplified this fact. Discussions about packaging recycling should recognize this, address more than just single-source funding, and engage all stakeholders to leverage a variety of tools to help strengthen where the system is weak and advance where it is strong.

AMERIPEN recognizes that packaging has shifted significantly in the 30 years since curbside recycling programs were first established. Packaging production, use and recovery needs are likely to advance even more innovation as our societal behaviors change in response to COVID-19 and other circumstances. Designing a recycling system that embraces those changes and helps establish successful strategies for the recovery of packaging will be of tremendous value.

We’ve said it before – recycling is not a single act or entity. It is a portfolio of stakeholders, services, processes, public policies and funding mechanisms dependent in one way or another upon each other. To disconnect any of these from the others is to ignore the valuable role each play in challenging and advancing material recovery. We’ll need collective engagement of all stakeholders and resources to ensure we can anticipate and plan for a future of ongoing change intended to protect our people and our planet. We believe our principles and objectives to advance packaging recycling in the U.S. will help set the context to accomplish that.

The discussion and exploration cumulating in release of our principles and objectives today has just begun. In the upcoming months we anticipate the release of proposed financial mechanisms and complementary policies that we believe will help support our principles and objectives in order to develop a recycling system for the future. AMERIPEN looks forward to continuing to work with all partners and stakeholders across the value chain to advance packaging recycling in a fair and equitable manner, based on sound public policy and science for a more sustainable society, economy, and environment.

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