Packaging Innovation
recyclable packaging
December 6, 2018

Consumer confusion: just how recyclable is your packaging?

Your packaging designs, labels especially, have loads to say. Literally. There’s the list of ingredients you’re obligated to include, of course, and perhaps you’ve even adopted the much talked-about traffic light system. If you’re smart, your packaging also tells consumers just how eco-friendly the product as well as the packaging materials are – Millennials, after all, like to know they’re doing their bit to help the environment. Chances are, though, you’re putting them on the wrong track without realizing it.

The myth of the Green Dot

“Yup, it’s 100% recyclable. It’s got that little circle with the green arrows on it.” You as a packaging designer may know the Green Dot doesn’t say anything about recyclability (it’s merely a trademark for companies who collect, sort and recycle household packaging in general) but most consumers assume it is a universal symbol for recyclable packaging and/or packaging made of recyclable materials. Food for thought! Must-read: What does it take to make pouch packaging truly sustainable?

Resin Identification Codes (RICs)

Another common misunderstanding among consumers – even shared by some in the packaging industry – has to do with Resin Identification Codes (RICs) being interpreted as ‘recycling numbers’. As their name suggests, these codes are in fact intended to help companies differentiate between various kinds of plastic resins. They make no claims about a package’s sustainability or recyclability whatsoever. Tip: if you do have to include one or several RICs on your packaging, make sure to use the latest version which does not have the chasing arrows consumers tend to associate with recycling.

Introducing: the How2Recycle label

To put a stop to consumer confusion and offer clear recycling instructions to anyone concerned with the environment, we recommend using the How2Recyle label developed by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. Also, next time you’re designing, be sure to check the FTC’s Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims! Inspired by Packaging Digest