Growth Without Waste

How recycling can help make landfills a thing of the past.

By Rebecca Heaton

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What if we could live in a world where all or almost all of our trash could be reused? That is a goal of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC). A project of GreenBlue, a nonprofit that helps businesses employ more sustainable practices, the SPC strives to help its members create packaging systems that encourage economic prosperity and are “made to be made again” as part of a circular economy. GreenBlue executive director and SPC director Nina Goodrich explains.

What is a circular economy?

It’s about keeping items in motion instead of dumping them in a landfill. For example, food waste can be composted and put back into the soil to grow more food. Plastics can be reused in other plastic products, construction materials, even clothing. A circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. I believe in the power of the circular economy to provide economic growth without waste. Recycling is a piece of this because your waste can be someone else’s starting material.

One of SPC’s flagship programs is called How2Recycle. Tell us more about it.

How2Recycle is an iconic label that clearly communicates recycling instructions to consumers. Knowing how to recycle a package or knowing if it’s even recyclable can be confusing to consumers, so this labeling system makes it easy to understand. We are excited to see that a growing number of big-name brands like Kellogg’s, General Mills and Pepsi are starting to use the How2Recycle label on their packaging. Companies like UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service are also using it; they deliver a lot of packaging!

What can consumers do to get more companies to use sustainable packaging?

Contact and encourage your favorite brands to use sustainable, recyclable packaging and to include the How2Recycle label. There is nothing better than a consumer saying, “I like this; this label makes it easy for me to understand how to recycle.” We want to see the How2Recycle label on all packaging; that’s our push over the next year. Here in the U.S., we have low overall recycling rates, about 34 percent. But things like corrugate, paperboard, PET bottles, aluminum cans, washing-liquid jugs—these are super-easy to recycle.

For more on the SPC and its How2Recycle program, visit

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