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Finding Treasure in Trash
By Holly Testa, Director, Shareowner Engagement

What’s in your garbage? Chances are you will find a spent toothpaste tube, a Capri-Sun juice pack or perhaps a single serve coffee K-cup. These products share the same problem—they cannot be recycled.

The Rise of the Laminate Pouch

The primary source for the rise in unrecyclable packaging is the laminate pouch. According to industry source Best in Packaging, laminate pouches, composed of a sandwich of materials such as aluminum and plastic held together with adhesive, have rapidly replaced traditional packaging—cardboard boxes, glass, and single plastic containers—due to its low weight, durability, cost effectiveness, and flexibility of design. Some laminate pouch packages have up to nine different layers.

While these packages may be touted as environmentally friendly due to the light weight that reduces CO2 emissions from shipping, their ultimate destination is the landfill, or worse, littering our landscapes and oceans. This packaging is showing up everywhere, even at natural foods retailer Whole Foods, as natural and organic products manufacturers are not immune to this trend.

Win-Win Solutions

As You Sow is leading a campaign to convince companies to clean up. In a recent blog, As You Sow estimates that $11 billion in recyclable materials are wasted every year, and according to MacKerron: "These resources should be generating profits and green jobs. Instead they play a role in poisoning our environment and generate risk for the companies that produce them"

Colgate-Palmolive recently committed to make packaging for its home, pet, and personal care products recyclable by 2020.

A Wasteful Caffeine Delivery System

The invention of the single serve coffee “K cups” changed the way many people serve coffee. Many consumers apparently find the convenience worth the extra money they pay for each cup, but they may not be aware of the high environmental price. All of those single serve containers are piling up in landfills. Fortunately, the company dishing out all of these single serve cups, Keurig Green Mountain, has also agreed to a path of full recyclability by 2020.

Profiting from the Discards

There is one company successfully converting discarded laminate packaging into something of value. TerraCycle is an “upcycling and recycling” company. They collect difficult-to-recycle packaging and products and convert the material into usable products.

 

First Affirmative has co-filed resolutions this year with As You Sow addressing recycling and recyclable packaging at Procter & Gamble and Kroger.

 

Mention of specific companies or securities should not be considered a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Posted: May 14, 2014