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More Major Companies Embrace New Recycling Label

REI Label

Clorox (NYSE:CLX) has become the latest company to join a new and growing labeling scheme that seeks to help U.S. consumers understand how to properly recycle or dispose of all elements in a product’s packaging.

Beginning next month, “How2Recycle” labels will be affixed to four Clorox products: Fresh Step and Scoop Away kitty litter cartons, Green Works laundry detergent and dishwashing liquid, and Oxi stain remover.

A dozen major U.S. companies, including General Mills (NYSE:GIS), Kellogg’s (NYSE:K), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and REI, have already joined the labeling scheme. Since launching last January, How2Recycle has established itself as the only labeling system that convey recyclability across all material types and provides explicit directions to consumers to influence their recycling behavior.

Since the ubiquitous three arrow recycling symbol was introduced in 1970, U.S. recycling rates have increased dramatically – from around 6 percent in 1970 to more than 34 percent in 2010, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Still, more than 160 million tons of municipal solid waste wound up in a landfill in 2010, and less than half of all plastic bottles and aluminum cans were recycled.

“Consumers are faced with a confusing landscape of material and recycling messages that are often inconsistent or misleading. We believe this label will help consumers and companies more effectively communicate recyclability and contribute to more successful resource recovery,” said Anne Bedarf, who led the development of the label, at a launch ceremony for How2Recycle last year.

In the 15 months that it has adorned product packaging, the label has proven remarkably effective. A recent online survey [PDF] conducted by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition found that a high percentage of consumers who have encountered How2Recycle logos changed their recycling behavior.

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition is currently working on expanding the labeling system to Canada and has received interest from Australia. The organization hopes another 15 companies will adopt the labeling system by year’s end.

“Our goal is to be on the majority of consumer products in the next three years – which will really help consumers!” Bedarf told Justmeans in an email. “We soon will have sponsorships available to subsidize the License Fees for plastic film labeling through a partnership with the Flexible Film Recycling Group of the American Chemistry Council.”

Companies participating in the labeling system have remarked that it has helped consumers understand the specific recyclability of their packaging.

“Consumers understand the concept of recycling but are frequently confused on what packages can or can’t be recycled. They want the process to be easier and we think the recovery label does just that,” said Gwen Lorio, who develops sustainable packaging for Clorox.

“As we enable consumers to recycle correctly, we ensure more quality recycled material is available for us to use, our consumers send less waste to landfill, and we can reduce the energy needed to create new packages,” added Lorio, whose company was recently named one of the “Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World” by Corporate Knights.

Melissa Craig, manager of packaging engineering for Kellogg, which joined the labeling scheme last month, echoed Lorio’s observation.

“We continually look for ways to educate consumers on the recyclability of our packaging materials,” said Craig. “Consumers need clear, concise communication when it comes to recycling, so materials that can be reclaimed don’t accidentally end up in landfills.”

More information on the How2Recycle label can be found at www.how2recycle.info.

Guest blogger Harry Stevens
Written by Guest blogger Harry Stevens

Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter covering climate change, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, and sustainable finance. Harry has contributed to several media outlets, including Justmeans, GreenBiz, SocialEarth, and Sustainablog. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens

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