Black Friday is almost here! Over the next week, millions of boxes and bags will be delivered to people’s homes. However, with Black Friday deliveries comes the dilemma of what to do with the packaging your goodies are shipped in. Recycling packaging is not as simple as it should be…
Could recycling packaging be easier?
Recycling at home isn’t always straightforward.
Our recent unboxing survey said that while 97% of people wanted to recycle packaging, not everyone was sure they could. 14% of people were uncertain about the recyclability of the packaging they received, because it wasn’t clearly labelled.
So, what should you think about first?
Check local rules on recycling packaging
The recycling rules you need to follow will depend on where you live. Each city, town and village will have recycling guidelines decided by the local council. As a result, you’re best to check locally what you can and can’t recycle at home.
You can also check on websites like Recycle Now for local recycling centres and collection points to dispose of your packaging waste responsibly.
Recycling packaging made from different materials
There are lots of different types of packaging but the most common packaging materials you’ll come across at home are probably cardboard, paper and plastic.
Cardboard and paper
But, did you know you should remove plastic tape before packaging is sent for recycling?
When a box reaches a recycling plant, it is usually soaked in water. This allows most plastic tape to be skimmed off, but it can cause blockages in machinery, leading to difficulty in recycling.
A great way online retailers can remove this issue is to swap from plastic tape to gummed paper tape. As it’s made from paper this type of tape can be recycled easily with boxes and doesn’t have to be removed. This is much easier for end-users and helps makes recycling packaging more efficient.
There are so many different types of modern plastic that recycling plastic at home can be tricky. The most common types are:
PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) and HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) – these are often used for food packaging and drinks bottles. They’re widely recyclable at kerbside and by industrial recyclers.
LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene) – common items made from this soft plastic are carrier bags, food packets for bread and crisps, as well as stretch films. Packaging made from this kind of plastic accounts for almost a quarter of packaging used in the UK.
Whilst LDPE can be recycled, it’s not often accepted in kerbside collections, so it’s much harder to recycle at home. This is perhaps why only 6% of LDPE plastics are recycled each year.
However, LDPE materials can be accepted at local carrier bag collection points at supermarkets. You can check on the Recycle Now website for your nearest point that will accept it. Through initiatives like this, supermarkets can cut the impact soft plastics have on the environment. Take Tesco, they found they were able to recycle 80% of the material returned by customers to collection points.
Recycling packaging effectively requires clear labelling
Clear communication about what we can all recycle is critical. At the moment, it’s not always obvious how to recycle your packaging because instructions aren’t always included on packaging materials.
There are programmes in place that encourage clear labelling, like OPRL – the On Pack Recycling Label scheme. You’ll see OPRL marks appear mainly on food packaging – but it can be used by any business that joins the scheme. The labelling helps highlight to consumers which material their packaging is made from and if the item is widely recyclable.
Ultimately, to help end-users recycle more (for Black Friday and year-round), retailers need to provide clear recycling instructions on their packaging. Plus, making sustainable, recycled content and recyclable packaging a priority is a must.
So, if you’re waiting for your Black Friday deliveries and want to recycle, remember:
1. Check the labels on the packaging for instructions
2. Next, check locally to see what you can put in at-home collections or drop at local points, and then recycle your packaging
3. If you’re unsure about what to do, check with Recycle Now what do to with your packaging
If you’re an internet retailer who wants to improve the recyclability of your packaging, ask us how Macfarlane Packaging can help.