publicado em 30/06/2022 13:26

It is not enough to be recyclable: it has to be recycled

It is not enough to be recyclable: it has to be recycled Diego Gracia, Ibema's Strategy and Marketing Manager, presents in his article for the Embalagem Marca portal the reasons that make paper an effective option for the circular economy.

It is very common for consumer goods brands to disclose their ESG commitments (relating to good environmental, social and governance practices), and among them, state that their packaging is or will be recyclable. The problem is that this does not necessarily mean a gain for the planet. Sustainability goes beyond that.

In this article, I want to explain why you need to go further. My intention is also to show that paper is an effective option for the circular economy – in addition to having a higher recyclability rate than other materials, it is compostable and biodegradable, which is a strong argument for consumers who think about the future of the planet. . In short, even if we are not efficient as a society in ensuring the recycling of paper, at worst it will decompose.

When I say that it is not enough to be recyclable, I mean that, even if a product is made of recyclable material, and that packaging is properly disposed of in the proper waste, there are no guarantees that it will be reinserted into the production chain. According to the Brazilian Association of Public Cleaning and Special Waste Companies (Abrelpe), only 3% of all waste in Brazil is effectively recycled, that is, very little. In view of this, I see that a greater effort and commitment is needed from all the agents involved: consumer, industry and recycling cooperatives so that recyclables are actually recycled.

It is clear that designing packaging with recyclable material is already a first step for manufacturers, but then it is necessary to make the circular economy work effectively. From maintaining a portfolio of products made with recycled materials, which proves the brand's effective reverse logistics, to the reinsertion of the material into the production process.

It is necessary to influence the next links in the chain, which includes consumer awareness. One way is to encourage society to return these packages, as is already the case in several European countries – in exchange for some monetary reward.

But that alone is not enough either. Remuneration needs to go hand in hand with environmental education. Today, only a third of Brazilians know how to properly dispose of waste, and it is necessary to know the items that can be recycled, their prior cleaning and proper separation, so that there is no contamination with organic waste. We won't get better if we don't learn and teach how to discard.

Although there are still doubts about what is recyclable or not, we can already see a behavioral change in European consumers opting for products with recycled and recyclable packaging. Strengthening the education pillar is essential to ensure that a greater number of inputs reach a very important link in the chain: waste pickers and cooperatives. They are the ones who generate income from recycling and whose work is essential to keep the gear running. The selective collection associations today represent an asset for the industry, both in cities that have public collection and in those that have not yet implemented it.

Thanks to the sweat of these workers, the packaging returns to the processing industry to be recycled. In the last two years, we have seen an increase in the transit of reverse logistics via processes with blockchain technology – because it is not enough to transport the garbage for a new use, it is necessary to certify its origin and its new destination, with the weighing of the quantity and issuance of reliable documents.

If it may seem complicated to create solutions in a structuring way to promote and guarantee the reuse of waste, an effective and safe first step to break the inertia is to migrate the material with which the packaging is made to solutions that already offer a high rate of recyclability, like paper.

After that, it is important to understand the importance of at least a part of the brands packaging portfolio having recycled content. This forces the company to develop alternatives to implement circular economy processes, and as a consequence create a differential for the brand by meeting the desires of the final consumer and the planet.

If everyone does their part, recycling numbers in Brazil will rise and, soon, the expression ″I am recyclable″ will be accompanied and strengthened by ″I am recycled″.