Sustainable packaging is environmentally responsible and adds brand value by appealing to conscientious consumers. Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion surrounding end-of-life options for many types of packaging. Inconsistency in labeling and lack of regulation has made it too easy for companies to label their packaging as “sustainable” or “green” when it is not any better for the environment than a plastic bag.

When companies advertise “green” initiatives or products without evidence or action to back them up, it is commonly known as “green-washing.” Green-washing is far too common in the packaging industry, and consumers should be aware of how to spot it. For instance, just because a package says it is made from recycled materials does not mean it is recyclable itself or even that most of the content that makes up the packaging is recycled. Parts of a package may be recyclable, while others aren’t, making it difficult for consumers to know where to put it.

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition is on a mission to help consumers identify legitimate sustainable packaging and better understand how to dispose of all packaging responsibly. With its How2Recycle program, the organization is working with top brands across the country to standardize labeling with a logo and instructions that indicate whether or not a package is indeed sustainable and how to dispose of it properly.

The How2Recycle program was designed to comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s Guidelines for Environmental Marketing Claims. Consumers should look for the How2Recycle logo on the packaging for confirmation that manufacturers are actually living up to their sustainable packaging marketing claims.

Pouches, envelopes and mailers, in particular, are often constructed from multiple layers of different types of material that are bonded together. Consumers should pay attention to packaging that is advertised as having compostable materials or made partially with recycled content without giving any other information. If the package has a How2Recycle label, the consumer will be able to quickly and clearly identify if it is recyclable everywhere, may be recyclable depending on the location, or is not recyclable anywhere at all. The labels also break down the packaging parts to inform consumers how to separate recyclable parts of a package from landfill items.

PAC is a proud member of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. Our sustainable packaging products carry the How2Recycle logo because we want to make it clear to consumers that they are getting a certified sustainable package from a brand they can trust. For more information on PAC’s sustainable packaging solutions or the How2Recycle program, please Contact Us.