In a US study jointly produced by As You Sow (AYS) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the flexible pouch is targeted as “the biggest challenge to increasing recyclability of beverage packaging." The authors claim that there is “no apparent strategy by companies that produce it or brands that use it to make it recyclable."
The report focuses on “recyclability," but to balance things a little:
- Pouches reduce the weight of packaging waste when compared to rigid alternatives. They are cheaper to produce and transport around the country. While efforts are being made to find better ways of recycling them, current programs lack scale as recovery rates are currently very low in the US. As a result, most pouches end up in landfills or are used in energy from waste (EfW) or pyrolysis energy-recovery plants.
- Undoubtedly, the schemes set up to recycle PET bottles and aluminum cans are well established, and programs for cartons are growing in number. Using these forms of packaging will ensure a greater proportion of material used will be recycled.
PCI believes that flexible-packaging use will continue to grow in the drinks industry. Pouches have enormous environmental and energy-savings benefits, but there is little doubt that they often replace recyclable and recycled-content rigid packages.
Their waste-reduction benefits will force environmentalists to decide which is more important: waste reduction or recycling?
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