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Biodegradable Packaging

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The Recycling Conundrum

Biodegradable Packaging Patent Forecast®

April 3, 2019

More and more people are expressing their concerns for the environment, as indicated by the worldwide consumer movement pressuring companies to "go green." However, perhaps it is time for the companies to pressure, or rather educate, their consumers and share the burden. Many of the items that fill landfills, such as chip bags, straws, and plastic bags are actually recyclable. 

The issue is twofold. One problem is that from a recycling facility's perspective, it is simply not worth the effort and cost to recycle certain items. Plastic items have to be collected and processed before they are actually recycled, and small plastics such as straws can fall between the cracks of machinery or jam it. It is also sometimes financially insensible to recycle plastics such as polypropylene since they are so cheap to manufacture. The other problem is that the recycling process requires a great deal of effort on the consumers' part. Walkers, a British snack food manufacturer, for example, responded to a petition by establishing recycling collection points across the UK and offering a free courier service. Plastic bags face a similar problem as they cannot be recycled if they are disposed of in curbside recycling bins, but only in specialized recycling bins that can be found in retail stores. What these have in common is that consumers must actively cooperate, and many businesses are aware that educating consumers is expensive and time-consuming. The good news is that if it succeeds, it can help solve the first problem as a bonus. For example, people can dispose of plastic straws in containers, such as take-out containers or margarine tubs, made of the same material: polypropylene. 

As of December 2017, Europe recycled 30% of its plastics, compared to just 9% in the United States. Perhaps one solution for the US is for the government to enact policies that not only encourage a habit of recycling, but also make it easier to do. The countries that recycle the most all have such policies, and recycling is just a part of their citizens' daily lives.


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Walkers


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