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October 22, 2014
Procter & Gamble Agrees to 90% Recyclable Packaging by 2020
    by Robert Kropp

But the personal products company inserts caveat into agreement by saying that it will either ensure that 90% of its packaging is recyclable or that “that programs are in place to recycle it" by then.

Corporate externalization of the cost of product waste takes many forms, and efforts to internalize it have met with varied success. Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is one such effort, focusing on the production and recycling of consumer products and packaging. EPR has been widely adopted in the European Union (EU), but has met with considerable resistance from manufacturers in the US. A leading proponent for EPR in the US is the California-based advocacy group As You Sow.

Through its Consumer Packaging initiative, As You Sow has engaged with many consumer products companies and won commitments from several of them on the issue of EPR. “Companies need to take a leadership role in ending the destructive and outdated 19th century 'make-take-waste' model of production and replace it with a 21st century circular 'closed loop' model that will conserve our increasingly scarce natural resources,” the organization states.

As You Sow reported another victory, albeit a somewhat provisional one, this week when it announced that in response to a shareowner resolution filed with Procter & Gamble, the personal products company has issued updated sustainability goals.

One of the goals announced by P&G was a commitment to ensuring that 90% of its product packaging would be recyclable by 2020. “Crest toothpaste in laminate tubes and Tide detergent pods in laminate pouches are examples of popular P&G brand products that that cannot be conventionally recycled,” As You Sow noted, and making those and other popular consumer products recyclable would have a beneficial impact on reducing the nation's waste stream.

However, P&G did qualify its commitment somewhat, stating that if “programs are in place to recycle” its products and packaging, its commitment would be met. “The company appears to qualify its commitment by implying that it may instead work on improving local recycling programs,” said Conrad MacKerron, Senior Vice President of As You Sow. “The company should make an unqualified commitment to both actions rather than saying it will do one or the other. Often, these qualified commitments mean a company will pursue whichever option is least expensive.”

As You Sow has engaged with P&G on the issue of product packaging and EPR since 2011. This year's resolution gained 25% of shareowner support at the company's annual general meeting.


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