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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Industry Leaders Co-Creating Groundbreaking Framework to Evolve Packaging Recyclability

Designing a package to be recyclable is currently complex and ambiguous, with no transparent national framework or guidelines in place. The Pathway to Circularity Recyclability Framework will be open for comment for 30 days, beginning August 19.

The Recycling Partnership has opened up its Pathway to Circularity Recyclability Framework for public comment — a first-of-its-kind opportunity for brands, designers, materials manufacturers, NGOs, retailers and other stakeholders representing the entire recycling value chain to shape the future of packaging recyclability.

The Framework is being developed in collaboration with the Pathway to Circularity Industry Council, 35 industry leaders spanning the packaging value chain — including senior sustainability, product and packaging leaders from companies including Amazon, Ball, Closed Loop Partners, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Starbucks and Walmart, to name a few. It defines a clear set of criteria to help companies determine if their packaging can navigate the recycling system and to provide them with the necessary actions to put forth truly recyclable packaging options and meet their sustainability goals.

In June, the US Plastics Pact — a consortium launched in August by The Recycling Partnership and World Wildlife Fund, as part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Plastics Pact Networkunveiled an aggressive national strategy to ensure all plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. The Pathway to Circularity Recyclability Framework will be key to the feasibility of the strategy.

“This is the beginning of a massive, system-changing initiative to advance package design and system innovation in tandem, to drive us toward a more sustainable and circular economy for all materials,” explains Sarah Dearman, SVP of Circular Ventures at The Recycling Partnership. “Never has more urgent action been demanded to protect our planet’s resources and reduce greenhouse gases, as evidenced in the most recent United Nations report. We look forward to open dialogue with stakeholders to whom this matters most.”

The Framework defines five building blocks critical to progressing packaging design for recyclability — design for circularity, recyclability prevalence, access and adoption, capture journey, and packaging fate — along with key requirements within each block. The Framework is a catalytic tool for transforming the US recycling system by aligning stakeholders behind the steps needed to evolve the packaging that is going into it.

Designing a package to be recyclable is currently complex and ambiguous, with no transparent national framework or guidelines in place. Clear, data-driven solutions are needed to assist producers and to instill public trust and drive consistent recycling behaviors. The Framework will be open for comment for 30 days, beginning August 19. The final Framework will play a critical role in advancing package design, affecting community access, helping policymakers define what is recyclable, informing recyclability claims, and driving new innovations.

“The Recycling Partnership is committed to its mission to transform the US recycling system and activate a circular economy. The Pathway to Circularity Framework is a vital tool in our journey to deliver both,” Dearman says. “Through our work on the ground with thousands of communities to improve underperforming recycling programs, we’ve learned that you can’t transform the system without improving the nature of the packaging going into it.

“The Circularity Council’s leadership helped us develop the Framework and set the course for transparency, and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to share what we’ve built together and engage with a broader group of stakeholders for feedback.”

The stakeholder engagement period will remain open until September 17, after which feedback and alterations to the Framework will be compiled and released. In conjunction with this engagement period, The Recycling Partnership will host two introductory webinars on August 19 and September 2 to explain the Pathway to Circularity in more detail.

Learn more about Pathway to Circularity and the Recyclability Framework here.