In recent years, consumers have continued to demand more sustainable packaging solutions, and the media is amplifying the impact this conversation is having on the industry and the world. At Sustainability in Packaging, Pack Expo, NatureWorks' ''Innovation Takes Root', and many other industry events Mica employees attended in 2018, we saw that viable solutions are in development, and in some cases, starting to make their way to the grocery store aisles. If these bio-based, compostable, and/or non-virgin packages continue to take off, it will be a massive help in reducing the amount of material in our municipal solid waste stream. But what can we do collectively as industry experts now to get rid of the waste that is washing up on our shores and overflowing our landfills?
1. Implement and Use Better Recycling Programs
Plastic packaging offers convenience and cost-effectiveness for consumers, which is why the flexible packaging industry is growing so rapidly. The problem is, most municipal recycling programs are not equipped to recycle multilayer packaging. However, there are a few new initiatives and programs that are being implemented in the U.S. to help properly recycle plastic waste that can't usually be put into the regular recycling stream. The Hefty Energy Bag Program is a thriving initiative that collects candy wrappers, potato chip bags, juice pouches, toothpaste tubes and other plastics that usually end up in landfills. There are similar programs, such as TerraCycle, that work with businesses and schools to ensure that all types of locally non-recyclable materials are properly and efficiently recycled. The biggest issue with these programs and initiatives is that there aren't enough of them, and they aren't offered in many areas...yet. If we can request, implement, and utilize better recycling programs globally, our oceans and landfills would be in much better shape.
2. Support Waste-to-Energy Facilities
Over the summer, a group of Mica employees took a tour of our local Wheelabrator Waste-to-Energy facility, just a few towns away from our headquarters. Wheelabrator collects non-recycled waste (everything from mattresses to flexible packaging) and incinerates it. The burning waste is converted into energy that helps power 65,000 homes in Connecticut each year. In our community, burning solid waste provides a cheap source of power and reduces waste that ends up in landfills and our oceans. Supporting the creation and maintenance of waste-to-energy facilities around the world could significantly decrease the amount of waste we typically wouldn't be able to get rid of, while simultaneously generating energy.
3. Educate the Public
Trying to imagine a world completely void of plastic is like trying to imagine a world without oxygen. Plastic is everywhere and used by nearly everyone on the planet in some capacity or another, yet in recent years, it has been portrayed as public enemy number one. Educating consumers about the benefits and convenience of plastic and encouraging the implementation of programs and initiatives to properly recycle or repurpose existing waste, is our responsibility as experts in the packaging industry.
About Mica Corporation
Mica Corporation manufactures and supplies water-based, environmentally responsible products that offer adhesion or other properties to plastic, metal, and paper surfaces in continuous web applications.