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May 05, 2014
Public Interest Groups Launch Campaign Targeting Non-Recyclable Packaging
    by Robert Kropp

The Make It, Take It Campaign calls on Kraft Foods to take responsibility for its packaging waste and package Capri Sun and other products in reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging.


“Respect the pouch,” Kraft Foods has stated in an advertising campaign for its Capri Sun product. But it may well be that the Capri Sun pouch would be more worthy of respect from the generation targeted by Kraft's commercials if the product packaging were recyclable.

According to the Make It, Take It Campaign, “Capri Sun pouches are made by bonding aluminum and several layers of plastic together making them difficult to impossible to recycle.” No more than three percent of Capri Sun pouches are successfully recycled, meaning that an estimated 1.4 billion are landfilled or littered.

“The lesson for Capri Sun's target market of elementary school children seems to be that it's all right to throw things away after one use. Five minutes to finish the drink and then 100 years in a landfill,” Conrad MacKerron of As You Sow wrote recently at GreenBiz.com. “If Capri Sun came in a PET or glass bottle or aluminum can, there would be many opportunities to conserve resources and recycle materials as part of a developing circular economy.”

The Make It, Take It Campaign consists of a coalition of nonprofit public interest groups, including UPSTREAM, 5 Gyres, Clean Water Action, Green America, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Plastic Pollution Coalition, the Sierra Club, the Texas Campaign for the Environment, and the Waterkeeper Alliance. The aim of the campaign is “to educate and motivate consumers to put pressure on companies to design packaging to be reusable, recyclable, or compostable, and take responsibility for post-consumer collection and recycling.”

The campaign asks Kraft to package Capri Sun and all other products in reusable, recyclable, or compostable packaging, and to support public policies such as those that ensure producer responsibility for post-consumer packaging.

The Make It, Take It Campaign is a new initiative, but MacKerron and As You Sow have been engaging with corporations for years on the issue of consumer packaging. Recent agreements won by the organization include Colgate Palmolive, which has agreed to make all packaging in three of its four product groups recyclable by 2020; and Green Mountain Coffee, which has agreed to make its previously non-recyclable Keurig K-cups fully recyclable by 2020.

As You Sow has also filed a shareowner resolution with Kraft, requesting that the company set goals and a timeline to phase out non-recyclable packaging. “Making all packaging recyclable, if possible, is the first step to reduce the threat posed by ocean debris,” the resolution states. “Companies who aspire to corporate sustainability yet use these risky materials need to explain why they market non-recyclable packaging instead of recyclable packaging.”

Both As You Sow and the Make It, Take It Campaign warn of the danger of packaging such as that of Capri Sun to the world's oceans and subsequently to human health. “Food and beverage containers, like Capri Sun pouches, are among the top five items found on beaches and coastlines,” the campaign states. “Plastic packaging breaks down into small particles mistaken for food by fish which harms marine life and transports toxic chemicals in the oceans.”

And As You Sow states, “There is evidence that plastic particles from wasted packaging in the marine environment can absorb and spread toxics through the marine food web and possibly to humans.”

As You Sow advocates for an extended producer responsibility (EPR) policy, which, it states, “will incentivize producers to reduce the amount of packaging they create, substantially increase recycling rates, provide much needed revenue to improve efficiency of recycling systems, reduce carbon footprint and energy use, and reclaim billions of dollars of embedded value now buried in landfills.”

“With the technological prowess available to packaging designers, why should any package be non-recyclable in the 21st century?” MacKerrron wrote. “We believe design for sustainability in packaging should mean that materials used are recyclable whenever possible.”

Thus far, As You Sow reports, “no major consumer products company has yet embraced extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging in the United States.”

 

 
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