H2R in Action

For How2Recycle, 2017 was a year of acceleration

Over the last year, How2Recycle rose in prominence in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) space. New members like Amazon, Campbell’s, Colgate Palmolive, Lidl, People Against Dirty, Unilever and Walgreens contributed to 37% growth of the program in 2017 as compared to the year prior.

In 2017, How2Recycle became a part of a publicly stated corporate sustainability goal for the first time: Target announced that it aims to add the How2Recycle label to all their owned brand packaging, where space allows, by 2020. Likewise, How2Recycle was featured prominently in Walmart’s ambitious global greenhouse gas reduction strategy, Project Gigaton. Walmart encouraged brands who are not yet members of How2Recycle to join the program under the project’s packaging pillar.

The new How2Recycle Member Platform brings use of the label and customized packaging recyclability feedback to true scale.

Last October, How2Recycle launched a first-of-its-kind platform so that our members can track, measure and improve the recyclability of their packaging portfolio. The tool enables easier and faster How2Recycle label requests for members to make adding the label to packaging straightforward, and organizes this information in a simple, dynamic place. Importantly, members receive packaging recyclability insights about their product packaging, and in turn, get specific recommendations for packaging design changes, so companies can effectively meet their recyclability goals. In the last 4 months, the How2Recycle team has made over 2,600 specific design improvement recommendations to its members (some packages having more than one recommendation that applies).

How2Recycle motivates and inspires change for good inside corporate culture

How2Recycle is now used as a tool to measure employee performance to motivate specific employees  to implement design changes needed to meet corporate recyclability goals. Specifically, some How2Recycle members tell us that the analytics available on the Member Platform allow sustainability leaders to tie progress in recyclability of their overall packaging portfolio to employee performance, and that it generates positive competition between teams internally. Layered information and straightforward recommendations on the Member Platform arm packaging professionals with custom feedback about their designs.

Similarly, members such as Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, and Walmart shared publicly that How2Recycle serves as a conversation piece inside their company, making design for recyclability easy to understand across many departments such as procurement, R&D, and marketing. The elegant simplicity of the label design, combined with the careful analysis and data that sits behind each label, makes the complexity of packaging recyclability tangible for anyone to grasp.

How2Recycle will see growth in retailer support, and more embedding of the label in corporate recyclability strategies.

A growing number of prospective How2Recycle members are retailers, so we expect to see an increase in activity on private label packaging (also known as store brand packaging). There are 4 retailers currently in the pipeline to be announced as new How2Recycle members, which means 17% of our membership is retailers, and that segment is growing.

This year and beyond, we anticipate that more members will embed How2Recycle into their corporate recyclability strategies, in potentially a couple different ways: first, by placing the How2Recycle label on more packaging to get materials recycled to support a circular economy and avoid greenhouse gas emissions. Second, by leveraging the Member Platform to unlock actionable information about their own packaging portfolios.

Coca-Cola has recently explained how their support of How2Recycle will help the company achieve its new recycling goals in North America. “[Helping] remind people that our packages can and should be recycled” by rolling out the How2Recycle label on much of its packaging will help the company work towards a true circular economy, said Bruce Karas, U.S. leader for environmental stewardship at Coca-Cola.

How2Recycle receives recognition for shifting attitudes and behavior around climate change.

In 2017, How2Recycle was an MIT Climate Colab Finalist in the competition Shifting Attitudes and Behaviors Around Climate Change. Additionally, How2Recycle was recognized with a DuPont Packaging Award for its success in collaboration and for providing an effective solution that addresses the needs of consumers.

We continue to see data that the How2Recycle label works; based on our consumer survey analysis, 54% of consumers change their behavior as a direct result of the How2Recycle label, with a 12% increase in the last six months compared to  years prior. Because the How2Recycle label helps people recycle more, and recycle better, more valuable packaging is getting sent to the recycling stream. At the same time, the label helps people understand what should go in the trash bin; this protects against wishcycling to help fight contamination in the recycling stream. For example, a consumer told us recently, “Even though the packaging was not recyclable, I appreciated that [the How2Recycle label] was clear this was the case.”

On How2Recycle.info, our audience grew by 38% in 2017; our most prominent demographic is Millennials (30% of website visitors). As Millennials care disproportionately about sustainability, we are optimistic that behavior will continue to shift as a result of the program, and that the consumer demand for brands to use the How2Recycle label will rise.

In 2018, global megatrends around sustainability will continue to draw brands and consumers to How2Recycle.

For 2018, we anticipate global megatrends like circular economy, ethical living, and transparency to continue to attract more brands and consumers to How2Recycle. For brands and retailers, How2Recycle provides a turn-key solution to make progress in circular economy goals, and to embrace transparency to build better relationships with consumers. For consumers, the How2Recycle label enables them to make meaningful purchases that align with their values, based on the products they see featuring the label. In the next year we will contemplate how How2Recycle can continue to empower people with better insights to help them live easier, more meaningful lives. We will also encourage our members to continue to build transparency by getting the label on all of their brands. On a related note, How2Recycle will continue to expand its audience in Canada, as more and more members are choosing to use dual US/Canada or Canadian How2Recycle labels. 

More attention should be given to building demand for recycled materials in the U.S. in 2018.

Another global shift presents a risk to recycling in the coming year and beyond: the uncertainty around the future of U.S. recycling vis a vis the China import ban. The variables and complexities that stem from that change are something How2Recycle will closely watch.

Taking this into account, in order to build a truly resilient recycling system in North America, brands should commit to increasing their use of recycled content in packaging and beyond. We recommend that How2Recycle members consider joining the Association of Plastics Recyclers Recycling Demand Champions program and/or think creatively on how they can use their pull and influence in the supply chain to create more robust or entirely new end markets for these materials in the face of this challenge. Companies may also wish to become engaged in Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s End Markets Industry Leadership Committee.

Onward: we still have a lot of hard work to do

Now that How2Recycle has arguably reached scale as a valuable tool for its members to be transparent and increase recyclability, our intent in the next year is to keep our heads down, work hard, and help our members execute on all the great goals they have set. We currently issue around 30 How2Recycle labels to our members per day, out of our library of over 1100 custom labels for different packaging formats. However, there are still many, many products that do not yet feature the How2Recycle label. We will work with our members to take advantage of every opportunity to build the How2Recycle movement to empower people to recycle more, and recycle better.

Kelly Cramer

Kelly Cramer
Senior Manager

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