Recycling has been around since 1690 and it certainly has come a long way since. Gone are the days when finding a recycling center was next to impossible and getting there was a chore. Recycling has become a natural habit and in most area across the U.S. today, a recycling bin is no farther away than the front door, curb, driveway, or alley behind the dwelling.
Most major cities are packed with conveniently placed recycling bins for public use. What’s even better is, if a consumer decides to take her bottles, cans, or other recyclables to any recycling center or automated recycling machine, she will likely walk away with cash in hand and a clear conscience.
Simply put, one of the easiest things for consumers to do these days is recycle. However, if it’s this easy, and in some cases profitable for consumers to recycle on their own, why would someone want to pass the responsibility on to the packaging manufacturer or other company? An even bigger question is—
Why would a packaging manufacturer or companytake on the recycling responsibility?
A few prominent food and beverage companies (Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Stonyfield Farm) have already begun taking on the responsibility of recapturing their own used packaging for the same reasons many consumers recycle on their own—
To save the earth and money.
Just think, it actually costs less for manufacturers to recycle and reuse materials than it does to manufacture products and packaging from virgin material. In a NYTimes article titled "Companies Pick Up Used Packaging, and Recycling’s Cost" Beth Schmitt, director of recycling at Alcoa said, “shredding, melting, recasting and rerolling used aluminum beverage cans into new aluminum can sheet saves 95 percent of the energy that it takes to make can sheet from raw ore”.
The money savings is just the tip if the iceberg. It also takes less energy to use recyclable materials and companies can even donate materials to other manufacturers to make everything from napkins to toothbrushes.
The ease and benefits of recycling are plentiful for both manufacturers and consumers, so it’s not surprising that packaging manufacturers and other companies operating in the U.S. are not required to pick up used packaging and recycling costs. This is not the case in Europe, and parts of Asia, Latin America, and Canada where the responsibility to recycle packaging lies with packaged goods companies. Still, many U.S. companies make it easy to return packaging for recycling or it takes just minutes to learn about recycling everything from cardboard and plastic to wood and scrap metal—on your own.