How Does a Green Business Find Green Packaging Materials that Will Recycle Well?
The terms green company and green packaging in recent times have been very much used and often abused. Our definition of a green company is an enterprise whose primary criteria for all decisions is a simple question: how will this impact the environment? All other considerations are secondary. This is the criteria we used when creating and bringing Skin of Gold™ face cream to market.
The term “green packaging” is too often used to describe packaging that a small portion of the materials can theoretically be recycled after the consumer puts forth more effort than they probably will. Our definition of Green packaging is a product container that is entirely recyclable, made out of one material, requires no disassembly or effort on the consumer’s part other than dropping it in the recycling bin. Ideally, the label would be made out of the same material as the container. We have achieved all of this and it wasn’t easy.
Like most tasks you set out to do, if you had to do it over, it could be done much better for a fraction of the time. For this reason we’re sharing our experience with you so you may benefit from it.
The first lesson that we learned is that the entire packaging industry, including bottle manufacturers, lies and distorts the truth about how well their products recycle. As an example, a cosmetic pump bottle designed with a dip tube that sucks product up to the dispenser (which has metal parts and springs in it) is described as recyclable. The bottle itself is easy to recycle; the dip tube (made of another plastic) may or may not be recyclable and must be disassembled in order to recycle. The pump component, comprised of 2 or 3 different plastics and/or metal springs, etc., doesn’t really recycle well as is.
If one were to demolish the pump with a hammer and sort out the parts, they theoretically could be recycled if you could identify the types of plastics and metal used. As you can see, it’s just not going to happen. To even complicate things more, the American and European manufacturers have ALL of their products “knocked off” by Asian manufacturers, who as a group seem TOTALLY uninterested in recycling anything but money, and that’s their definition of a “green business.”
As a truly green business, we shudder at the thought of a landfill with our name on it. This image motivated us to spend hundreds of hours combing the Internet, attending trade expos (HBA expo, EastPack, etc.) interviewing sales reps via telephone. What we learned is that our product, Skin of Gold™ (a natural luxury face cream), is not compatible with all plastics that are readily recyclable. We also learned that the Europeans are the leaders in manufacturing single-material, readily recyclable packaging (www.megaplast.de/). What accounts for their head start is a well-educated consumer base and strict regulation on recyclability of products and packaging uniformly being phased in across the Eurozone.
If you are looking for complex packaging like airless cosmetic pumps, look first to Europe. The airless pump bottle we chose is competitively priced with the Asian knock-offs, so you don’t have to pay more to do it right. We feel very good that MeadWestvaco, which has acquired Calmar (a European company), now has a New Jersey plant that produces the bottles we use. All of our packaging and labels are made of same number 5 plastic, and they are also made in the U.S.A.
We are sure that our responsibilities as a green business are more comprehensive than green packaging for the actual product. Shipping materials that pad and protect products, by their very nature are bulky; these can fill up a landfill fast. Unfortunately the material used in bubble wrap varies from one manufacturer to the next. The bubble wrap must be separated from the envelope (Tyvek or paper) to be recycled. Most people won’t do this. The best price we could find on padded envelopes (http://www.uline.com) coincidently has the highest percentage of recycled material: 62% post-consumer, 77% recycled fibers. We have designed a graphic using the recycling symbol and the information about the recycled fiber content of the envelope, with an appeal urging them to reuse and recycle. We had a rubber stamp made of the graphic and imprint every envelope with this message.
We have done what we can, and hope that our customers do their part, if for no other reason than they have more room in their recycling bin than they do in their trash can.
Steven Douglas has decades of experience in clinical nutrition and supplement formulation. This experience is culminated in the formulation of Skin of Gold™ face cream, which is designed to address the causes of all common skin problems, skin aging, acne and sun damage, as well as beautify and impart a radiance to the skin. He is available for guest blogging.