New Labels Work to Make Recycling Easier | Seventh Generation
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New Labels Work to Make Recycling Easier

Author: Packaging Pete

Has recycling got you down? Do you find yourself standing in the kitchen with an empty plastic bottle in your hand wondering if you should chuck it in the trash or flip it in the recycling bin?  Take heart, help is on the way!

Seventh Generation is now part of a program sponsored by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) that is designing a recycling labeling system aimed at reducing confusion for consumers. The program offers clear instructions on how to recycle a package after its use. The SPC program will also develop a consistent, accurate labeling standard for companies that follows the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) "Green Guides."

So how does the system work? Since recycling systems vary significantly across the country, each package or package component is labeled using one of four categories as shown below:

  • "Widely Recycled" (60% or more of the population has access to recycling the component)
  • "Check Locally" (20% to 60% of the population has access to recycling it)
  • "Not Yet Recycled" (less than 20% of the population has access to recycling)
  • "Store Drop-Off" (plastic bags and films widely recycled at retail locations, like supermarkets)

Look for the new recycling label on two new Seventh Generation products, our 22 oz Prewash Spray and our 180 oz Liquid Laundry Detergent.

You might be surprised by the instructions to leave the cap on the bottles when you recycle them. This is a new direction that the recycling industry has adopted as facilities that turn the bottles into plastic resin have learned how to process the caps as well. Be sure to check out the website referenced on the label, for  information on this new recycling system and on your local recycling system.


michealwaugh picture
I really appreciate you for sharing this post here. Recycling labels should be eco-friendly and waterproof. I am using self laminating labels to label my products because these labels not only protects the items against smudging but also makes the items to remain safe in rains, winds etc.
sustainable_utopia picture
what horrid chemicals is the recycling industry using to remove the mold from the now-re-lidded bottles they receive for the production of resin? i'd rather remove the caps for drying...
ferski picture
Glad to hear work is being done to improve and simplify recycling. Commending you and encouraging you, I just wanted to chime in on a couple points made: -I agree with moscowrecycling's comment - it would be sooo smart to standardize what types of plastics the consumer ends up with for recycling! In my area - it becomes excessively challenging to recycle any plastic that is NOT a #1 or #2 which is allowing tons of plastics to lay around in the dumps. (so if you and SPC have any pull in this area - please use it) -the QR code concept for direct advice on where/how to best recycle a product sounds like an excellent idea. (can't be the only way, though, because not everyone is packin' a smart phone. -just FYI I want to recommend Press Proof Studio, Inc. (914-937-1412 - Bill) When you want some positive prototypes created.
Jude113 picture
I hope the numbers will stay on plastics that contain food. Otherwise, how will I know if a food product is packaged in a food safe plastic? I don't buy much processed food, but I'd like to know that my kids natural peanut butter is safe to eat.
moscowrecycling picture
I manage a small town recycling facility. The only 'real' way to make plastic recycling easier is to standardize what plastics get into consumers' hands. If companies were required to use only 3 of 4 types of plastics for their products, the ones most widely used and recycled, it would make recycling of these containers easier, leading to more of them getting recycled, creating a larger supply of recycled materials for mills to use. I guess that's pie in the sky thinking, but maybe someday...
Danielle.Peacock picture
Hi Pete and Commenters, My name is Danielle Peacock, and I'm a staff member with the SPC. We are so excited for Seventh Generation's participation in the labeling pilot! Geekchick, it's great to hear that you're actively involved in checking locally. We hope that this label will encourage others to do the same. Since RIC numbers were never intended to be a consumer communication tool, they can create a lot of misdirection. Consumers think they mean everything from how popular the plastic is to how many times the item has been recycled. tstandiford - thanks for your ideas. QR codes, barcode scanners, and web devices are something we are definitely talking about during this pilot period.
Packaging Pete picture
Packaging Pete
No this will not replace the numbers on the bottom of the bottles.
tstandiford picture
I approve of this idea. Now if only they would make use of QR codes instead of that URL, and make the website mobile-friendly we would be good to go. Picture this: You have a bottle you wish to recycle. There is a QR code on the bottle. You scan the QR code with your phone, and a mobile-friendly webpage opens that tells you a little bit about how this bottle is recycled, and gives you the nearest recycling center that can properly dispose of it. Just a thought.
geekchick picture
I hope the recycle numbers will still appear on bottles with these guidelines. While I love that these tell you what part of packaging is recyclable, I don't think it will be very useful if the numbers disappear. I have a recycle bin that I got through my city's recycling department. On the bin and on the calendar they mail every year with pick up dates, it says the numbers they accept and describe all the items they accept. It is very clear. If the numbers are gone, I'll still be confused. Knowing that something isn't widely recycled and is recycled in 20% to 60% of communities does not tell me if mine is one of them. Maybe the lids are now recyclable, but are they in my community? I like that this new process has a lot more detail, but to me it is more confusing since I don't know what if is acceptable in my community, before I did. I think more people in my community are likely to read the directions on the lid of our recycle bins that to call and check locally to see what products are accepted.
karen picture
Thanks for the info on the new packaging guidelines. It will make it so much easier.