The recycling industry announced a bold new undertaking to help solve the ongoing confusion in the marketplace over what products are or are not truly recyclable. ISRI is developing a recyclability protocol and certification system for paper-based packaging products entering into the recycling stream. Once developed, the protocol will be expanded to other products made from recyclable commodities.
“Under the current system, there is no standard to determine a product’s recyclability from beginning to end, which is an obstacle for increasing packaging recycling rates,” said Robin Wiener, president of ISRI. “Products are labeled recyclable that are not, consumers are confused, and the residential recycling stream is weakened by excessive amounts of products and materials that do not belong. Having one, universal determination for recyclability created by the recyclers that collect and process the material, in coordination with the mills that consume it, will be an enormous step forward in the evolution of recycling.”
The protocol and certification will be phased in over the course of the next year. Working with Moore & Associates as a third-party consultant, ISRI is currently undergoing a thorough review of existing certifications and standards to aid in the integration of the protocol with any applicable programs. This will be followed by a survey of Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) nationwide to gain an inventory of packaging that is recycled from the standpoint of materials and shape/size as well as regional variances in technology and capacity. With the data, the certification protocol, including testing methodologies and procedures and the application process for obtaining certification, will be developed. The process for obtaining certification by brands will be fully documented and transparent.
“Once in place, the recyclability protocol will assist packaging manufacturers in understanding what is and what is not recyclable, especially in the design stage,” said Wiener. “This will lead to a revolution in design innovation as more brands seek ways to not only use recyclable content in production, but meet consumer demands for easy-to-recycle goods. As more products are developed with recycling in mind, consumers will rediscover recycling and the vast benefits it provides.”
As part of this comprehensive undertaking, among the many things that will be taken into consideration are industry expertise on material supply, processing, and demand challenges and needs; ISRI’s Design for RecyclingTM initiative, which encourages manufactures to factor in a product’s recyclability in the design stage; and the role of the ISRI Specifications, which are used globally to buy and sell recyclable commodities. ISRI will consult with the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), the Foodservice Packaging Institute, The Recycling Partnership, and other stakeholders during the development of the protocol and certification.
“This protocol is just the start of an effort that has the potential to really change the world,” concluded Wiener. “Additional customizable protocols can be developed for packaging made from other materials, including aluminum and other metals. When put together we can expand the benefits of recycling and see further reduction in greenhouse gases, improved environmental conservation, and an economic boost. We encourage all paper and packaging brands to join in these efforts to make it easier for all to recycle.”