A coalition of organizations devoted to waste and recycling, plastic pollution and resource conservation today launched the Make It, Take It Campaign, a collaborative effort to pressure consumer goods companies to take responsibility for packaging waste. Coordinated by UPSTREAM and backed by organizations including 5 Gyres, Clean Water Action, Green America and the National Resources Defense Council, the campaign aims to elevate the issue of packaging waste, put public pressure on consumer goods companies and educate and mobilize citizens to push for sustainable packaging policies.
“Companies often design packaging without thinking about what will happen when we’re finished with it. Many types of packaging, often plastic or multi-layered, are impossible to recycle or compost.” said Matt Prindiville, associate director for UPSTREAM and co-founder and coordinator of the campaign. “Because of this, the majority of packaging ends up being wasted in incinerators and landfills, or as roadside litter that eventually becomes marine debris that fouls oceans and harms wildlife.”
The campaign — whose partners also include Eureka Recycling, the Plastic Pollution Coalition, Sierra Club Extended Producer Responsibility Team, Texas Campaign for the Environment and the Waterkeeper Alliance — has also announced its first target: the Capri Sun juice pouch, a highly visible example of consumer packaging that can’t be readily reused, recycled or composted.
According to UPSTREAM, an estimated 1.4 billion Capri Sun pouches are landfilled or littered each year in the United States — stacked end to end, that’s enough pouches to wrap around the Earth almost five times (121,527 miles). The Make It, Take It Campaign is urging Kraft Foods to change its packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable and take responsibility for post-consumer collection and recycling. UPSTREAM says there are plenty of viable alternatives to Capri Sun’s trademark pouch, such as recyclable plastic or glass bottles or cans, as used by Minute Maid, Juicy Juice, Tropicana and other competitor beverage brands.
“Every year 60,000 tons of packaging passes through our Zero-Waste Lab. We witness firsthand the enormous waste from these pouches. The socially responsible thing to do is to change the packaging design for the betterment of our communities,” said Tim Brownell, CEO of Eureka Recycling.
“The increasing amount of packaging is a problem that must be addressed jointly by consumers and manufacturers. We look forward to innovative solutions that take into account extended producer responsibility,” said Daniella Dimitrova Russo, Co-founder and executive director of the Plastic Pollution Coalition.
“In this day and age it is irresponsible to design your products for the dump. Capri Sun packages are wasteful, irresponsible and polluting,” said Robin Schneider, Executive Director of Texas Campaign for the Environment. “It’s time for Kraft to make a change and take responsibility for their badly designed products.”
Background: Capri Sun
Capri Sun pouches are made by bonding aluminum and several layers of plastic together making them difficult to impossible to recycle. According to Terracycle, only an estimated 1-3 percent is collected nationwide, which means that nearly every Capri Sun pouch has been wasted or littered since the product was introduced in the 1970s.
They’re also a huge problem for the oceans: Food and beverage containers, including Capri Sun pouches, are among the top 5 items found on beaches and coastlines. Plastic packaging breaks down into small particles mistaken for food by fish, which harms marine life and transports toxic chemicals in the oceans. A recent study estimates that the state of California spends nearly $500 million annually preventing trash — much of it plastic packaging — from polluting beaches, rivers, lakes and the waterfront.
According to shareholder advocacy group As You Sow — which in September filed a shareholder resolution asking General Mills to take responsibility for recycling its post-consumer packaging waste, and earlier this month announced that Colgate-Palmolive has committed to making 100 percent of its packaging for three of four product categories completely recyclable (and developing a recyclable toothpaste tube or package, for the fourth category) by 2020 — the total value of wasted recyclable consumer packaging that’s landfilled, littered or incinerated is around $11.4 billion each year. Meanwhile, plastic pollution from packaging is clogging our beaches and oceans, killing wildlife, contaminating the marine food web and creating the massive garbage gyres around the world’s oceans.
A number of enterprising companies have set about upcycling marine plastic into everything from new packaging, skateboards and carpet tiles to fabric for jeans, swimsuits, etc, but the onus is on manufacturers to help proactively reduce the proliferation of pollution at its source.