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A Word About Recycling with Ollie Maier

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Last week we started covering a recent article in a Resource Recycling newsletter talking about single-use plastic packaging. Today we will cover more on the subject.

While last week we spoke about companies that have started using containers you could return at drop-off places so they could be reused, today we will talk about buyers using a container they get initially to use again — much like taking your cloth bag when shopping to hold the items you buy instead of using the store’s plastic or paper bags.

An example is a company in the U.K. which sells nuts, grains, pastas and other food products out of dispensers. There, the customers take their own containers to fill up, weigh and label while shopping. A study determined these reuse models could reduce packaging costs by at least $8 billion a year.

Another company, Terra-Cycle, started at the beginning of this year working with brand named products to offer take-back initiatives for hard-to-recycle products and packaging. The trial program is called Loop.

It will allow consumers in select markets to buy Unilever, Nestle and Procter & Gamble products in refillable metal and glass containers instead of single-use packaging. The consumers order goods online to have them delivered like traditional products ordered online. When the containers are empty, TerraCycle picks them up, cleans them and then delivers refilled containers back to consumers.

One of the problems customers face is the lack of standardized container they could use, thus many containers would be needed for the different products/brand names. Why not have just a few types of reusable packaging?

This could be similar to some other items we use. Different makes and models of vehicles use commonly available tires and batteries, oil and gas, etc. Many of our electronic items use the same types of household batteries rather than having a special battery just for it. I’ll be happy when the same is true for the different brands of battery-powered drills, saws, weedeaters and leafblowers.

Having such standardized, interchangeable containers, which could be used by a number of brands, would minimize the number needed thus also helping make logistics more efficient through maximizing storage and distribution space.

Efforts towards this are currently taking place in three reusable packaging sectors: consumer packaging (bottles, bags, cups, bowls), transport packaging (crates, totes, pallets), and industrial packaging (barrels and IBCs). These efforts are material-neutral, meaning the solutions can be wood, plastic, metal, glass and fiber.

Whatever material is used, it must be of high-quality so it doesn’t break-down in circulation. Additionally, the reusable items should be recyclable when they are no longer suitable. Let’s hope these efforts are successful and the amount of single packaging is reduced to a minimum.

The article ended with “Those that seize the opportunity now could benefit from a head start.”

Till next week, do have a great one...

--Ollie is a local citizen concerned with the environment and helping others. A retired Air Force fighter and instructor pilot, he is a graduate of Leadership San Marcos and received his degrees at Texas State University where he worked on staff before totally retiring. For questions or comments, he invites you to call him at 512-353-7432 or email omaier@txstate.edu.

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