At the PACK EXPO show last October in Chicago I listened to a speaker from UPS say, in essence, that the most sustainable packaging is typically that which best prevents product damage and the heavy carbon footprint associated with it, rather than how readily the packaging is recycled. With a priority towards product protection we see designer packaging materials and custom applications like specialized plastic film laminated onto paper, for example. Design for recycling may play second fiddle, and as a result we have packaging complexity.
We also have recycling fragmentation and complexity, with so many local authorities calling the shots, with their own perspective on how recycling should work. There are 3,143 counties in the U.S., according to AF&PS. We have a black bin and a blue bin, but the sticky question is about what goes where?
Recycling indecision is a big problem, according a report in the Los Angeles Times.
One suggestion proposed to help confused consumers toss the packaging into the correct bin is to color code packaging - a blue dot to recycle and a black dot for trash.
This is an idea that makes sense, to the extent that someone can be deputized to harmonize all of those local recycling programs so as to agree on those categories. Cat herding experience is a job requirement.