Americans are in the dark about the recyclability of food and beverage packaging, and it’s up to brands, retailers, and policymakers to address the issue. So finds a report by the National Consumers League (NCL), which is now calling for changes to sustainability in food and beverage packaging. The report explores the recycling enterprise in the United States, marketing and labeling practices, and packaging options that contribute to sustainability.
“Consumers have no idea what is recyclable and what isn’t,” says Sally Greenberg, executive director of NCL. “More effective and transparent labeling is necessary to advance sustainability goals for the benefit of consumers and the environment.”
The report finds that common symbols, especially the Mobius Loop triangle, misleads consumers about the recyclability of products, especially plastic. NCL notes that plastic is not endlessly recyclable and usually ends up in a landfill or in the natural environment. While some companies are leading the way on packaging sustainability, switching to endlessly recyclable glass bottles or metal cans, others are making short-term cost calculations without taking into account the long-term damage, the organization adds.
“Companies can, and should, employ packaging choices to promote sustainability,” Greenberg says. “Manufacturers and retailers alike should offer the most sustainable options wherever possible, whether it’s beverage containers or single-serving food packaging. We hope our report will help raise awareness about sustainability and ensure that consumers have better information and a greater selection of sustainably packaged food and drinks.”