New Packaging Design Guidelines Help Close the Loop on Recycling

This article appears in Sustainable Life Media
By: Bart King

July 12, 2011—A lack of coordination between packaging design and packaging recovery is a major obstacle in creating closed loop recycling systems for materials.

The non-profit organization GreenBlue has released a suite of reports that provide technical guidance on designing packaging to be compatible with common recovery methods.

Design for Recovery Guidelines for Aluminum, Steel, Glass, and Paper Packaging detail common recovery challenges and barriers for these four major packaging materials, as well as providing practical instructions on how attachments, inks, coatings, and colorants affect recyclability and compostability.

The guidelines (available here) were inspired by the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers Design for Recyclability Guidelines, which outline which plastic bottles are compatible with today’s recycling technologies. GreenBlue initiated this project to provide similar guidance for all packaging material types.

The guidelines are the result of two years of research into various end-of-life infrastructures and technologies.

The “Closing the Loop” research project was funded through a grant awarded to GreenBlue by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery and additional support from GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition – which promotes more effective material recovery systems by connecting packaging designers with available recovery options.

“One of the challenges we see in creating closed loop systems for packaging is the lack of coordination between packaging design and packaging recovery,” says GreenBlue Project Manager Liz Shoch, who led the GreenBlue research and authored the guidelines. “The most important leverage point in a package’s recyclability is during the design phase. These guidelines help packaging designers understand the various end-of-life options so they can design accordingly.”

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) also is working to introduce a new set of labels that will provide greater clarity on the actual recycling rates of various materials.