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How to Ensure Your Recycled Packaging Actually Gets Recycled

Your recycled packaging may actually end up in a landfill. Here are tips to ensure your trash goes to the right place.

There have been a number of discouraging headlines over the past few years about recycling. In 2019, China stopped accepting our recycling waste, causing a drastic increase in the amount of waste in landfills. There’s also growing doubt about the paper and plastic thrown into your curbside recycling bins, raising questions on whether or not it will ultimately be processed for reuse.

The good news is, it’s not challenging to ensure your recycled packaging makes it back into the circular economy. Here are four easy steps to take:

 

Check With Your Local Government

Since 1994, the EU has introduced a number of programs designed to drive recycling across the union, but these rates still vary widely from country to country. Germany recycles 68 percent of their waste, but Serbia lags behind with a 0.3 percent recycling rate. According to data from 2017, 43 nations in the union are recycling more than half of their packaging waste.

Each country typically publishes their recycling policies online, detailing what kind of materials are accepted and what condition they must be in. On our webpage about sustainability you find links to regulations for recycling packaging per country.

 

Know If Recyclables Can Be Picked Up Curbside

Most curbside, city-run recycling programmes will accept paper, corrugated cardboard (including boxes), hard plastics, and aluminium. Some will also accept glass depending on their facility.

Case in point: Just because your local government is unable to process something through their recycle bin programme doesn’t mean it can’t be recycled.

In many cases, the same government website that provides details about your local recycling programme will also tell you where you can recycle items they don’t accept. If you’re having trouble finding the information online, call the phone number listed on the website.

Pregis paper products, such as Easypack and Quantum brands, are commonly accepted items in curbside recycling programmes.

Pregis’ Renew branded portfolio of products is also designed for the circular economy, providing additional sustainable benefits such as higher amounts of recycled content while maintaining performance, recyclability, and using less raw material.

What’s more, in 2019, to help consumers understand best recycling practises for different materials, Pregis joined the How2Recycling initiative, printing simplified recycling information straight on products, so consumers know exactly how to handle them after use.

 

Properly Clean Waste Before Putting It in the Bin

Every country will have variations of what kinds of recyclables they can pick up curbside, but one rule that is universal is items must be clean in order to be processed.

Here’s how to get started:

  • Thoroughly wash out all glass bottles and plastic containers before throwing them into the bin with soap and water, similar to washing dishes.
  • If you have a lot to recycle, it may be beneficial to run items through the dishwasher.
  • Don’t try to recycle soiled paper products. Used paper towels, napkins, coffee cups, and pizza boxes are never accepted by a processing facility.

It may be tempting to be a “wish cycler” who casually tosses all paper, plastics, and glass into your recycling bin and hopes it gets processed — but this is a surefire way to send even more waste to the landfill. Following local instructions, and the rule "when in doubt throw it out," can sometimes be the best way to ensure your recyclables get recycled.

 

For more information about helping customers reduce their environmental footprint, read our Pregis Purpose.