Solving Today’s Plastic Recycling Problems


How One Packaging Company is Working to Solve The Problems With Today’s Plastic Recycling Practices

Avery Dennison Label and Packaging Materials is Working With Partners to Develop Sustainable Solutions

Can a packaging company – especially one that manufactures labels for plastic containers – help lead the way in solving our issues with plastic recycling?

In 2015, 448 million tons of plastic were produced for the consumer, industrial, transportation, building and construction, and packaging industries. If it continues at the current rate, creation of new plastics will require as much as 20 percent of petroleum production within the next 35 years, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EAF) — a significant jump from the 6 percent used in 2014. And, more than 80 percent of that plastic ends up in landfills, incinerators or sensitive environments. In fact, 8 million tons of plastic waste enters the ocean each year, according to the United Nations. By 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish, by weight.

The Association of Plastics Recyclers (APR), whose members collectively represent more than 90% of North American postconsumer plastics recycling capacity, recently named 14 organizations to its group of Demand Champion Companies. These companies have volunteered to improve plastic recycling in North America — specifically in driving plastic recycling and growing the supply of post-consumer resin (PCR), the more environmentally-friendly packaging option now being used by manufacturers. APR has asked each of its Demand Champions to purchase or manufacture items with PCR, and report their progress to APR within a year.

Avery Dennison, a manufacturer of label and packaging solutions, is one of these 14 companies. It has spent much of the last decade growing its sustainability platform, and engagement with the APR is part of a comprehensive strategy to acknowledge the demand for more sustainable products and options from its customer base, and to embrace the opportunity to lead the industry.

Avery Dennison is committed to helping its customers and brands deliver products that are more sustainable – products that use less raw material and greater amounts of recycled material, that produce less waste, and that enable recycling. It developed its ClearIntent Portfolio to make it easier than ever for its customers to select sustainable materials. To earn a place in this portfolio, a product must demonstrably reduce environmental impact by meeting one of more of these criteria:

  • Reduce: Use less material.
  • Recycled Content: Give a second life to what’s already been used.
  • Enables Recycling: Make packaging recyclable, with what’s been used can be used again.
  • Responsibly Sourced: Choose from materials that are certified and made from renewable resources.

One product in the portfolio is Avery Dennison’s CleanFlake™ adhesive technology, which enables recycling of food grade polyethylene terephthalate plastic (PET) containers back to foodgrade recycled PET (rPET). Its adhesive separates cleanly from PET during recycling, resulting in pure rPET flakes, conservation of virgin PET resources and decreased landfill waste – one potential solution for the plastics problem. The CleanFlake portfolio passes the highest form of testing available from the APR for films that conform with the PET recycling process.

Beyond developing sustainable products, Avery Dennison has also deepened its involvement with various industry groups, from APR to Sustainable Brands to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC). SPC is a membership organization that includes more than 175 leading consumer goods and packaging industry companies that leverage information and tools provided by SPC to build resilient, circular packaging programs that today’s consumer expects.  Avery Dennison can contribute to this through its knowledge of best practices in sustainable labeling and packaging as it in turn learns from the member brands within SPC, offering a true give-and-take atmosphere.

Avery Dennison Sustainability Manager Sarah Sanzo believes that in order to lead the industry, they must acknowledge the upward pressure coming from consumer-oriented brands like those involved with SPC. And the sensitivity that those brands have toward their end-user base is of tremendous value.

Customers are asking suppliers and manufacturers for packaging and other product solutions, and Sanzo recognizes that brands will push harder than others in the supply chain because of their exposure to the values and priorities of consumers.

Sanzo said that Avery Dennison must turn vision into reality, helping consumers reduce their carbon footprint and reducing post-consumer waste. Improving the yield from PET recycling is just a start.

Customers want more than buzzwords – they’re looking for evidence of commitment to their value system. They have demanded solutions. Avery Dennison has found value in tracking those demands as it develops sustainable business practices and standards. The company’s challenge is to take the lead in developing and sharing those solutions.

To learn more about Avery Dennison and its commitment to sustainable packaging, visit

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