Currently most consumer brands are making a great effort to achieve sustainability and the packaging of their products is one of the areas where more changes are being seen today. We see many improvements in the eco-design of its packaging, in the elements that facilitate its recyclability, in the use of materials with less environmental impact, etc.

It is a very necessary change and that recycl3R promotes and supports in all its aspects. However, when it comes to publicly communicating the effort that is being made, we must be careful when using ambiguous or little-known sustainability concepts. If we do not do it, we can generate confusion among consumers and even achieve the opposite effect to that desired. A clear example that we regularly see is the use of the concept ‘biodegradability’ in plastic packaging, a concept that is generating a lot of confusion and negative impacts.

It is increasingly common to see plastic containers on the market that include messages such as Biodegradable or 100% Biodegradable. These packages are visually identical to conventional ones, but include additives that cause the plastic to break down and fragment faster than usual under certain conditions. The problem is that consumers are generally unaware of what this concept really implies and how we should manage this packaging when it has become a waste item.

It can be perceived as an organic material

It is common for a consumer to assume that it is a container that is going to degrade naturally, as an organic product (such as an apple) would, and the consumer stops considering it as a plastic material. In this case, this consumer could erroneously deposit this waste in the organic waste fraction, which would increase the amount of improper content (waste that should not be in that fraction) and could even cause that separate organic waste collection to be discarded because it is not adequate.

Given the great effort that is being made to increase the selective collection of organic material in many countries, it is more pressing to provide a solution for citizens to avoid this type of confusion.

How should we manage it at the end of its life?

Generally speaking, we can say that this type of packaging must be deposited in the regular waste fraction since, due to the additives they contain, they are not suitable for depositing in the plastic material fraction. The degradability provided by the additives would cause the quality of the material resulting from the recycling process to decrease when mixed with the rest of the materials.

How can we help consumers?

One option would be to ban the use of such materials or the use of the concept of biodegradability, as has been done in countries such as France or Belgium. A punitive path that can compromise innovation efforts on materials biodegradability.

Another option would be to continue innovating in this regard, but to help provide clear and simple information to the consumer so that they understand what material they have in their hands and how to properly manage it.

At recycl3R we are committed to digital solutions that allow us to offer precise information on the sustainability of the product that the consumer has and inform in a clear and simple way how each component should be properly recycled wherever the consumer is. Thus, we allow brand owners to easily and directly interact with their consumers and help them understand how this biodegradable container is different from a conventional plastic container.