We recognize that no packaging today - including ours - is truly sustainable. All packaging, even the most eco-friendly options, still has a net negative impact on the planet. We firmly believe that this does not have to be true.
What will it look like when packaging is truly sustainable?
Our north star for sustainable packaging is circularity. We envision a future in which packaging is endlessly recycled or reused, and virgin materials are made from regenerative resources whose production strengthens soils, waterways, habitats, air quality, and local communities. In this future, every piece of packaging can be and is recycled, so no materials and resources are wasted, and no packaging ends up as litter in the oceans. In this future, the energy fueling the manufacturing and distribution of packaging is from endlessly renewable sources.
There are two main drivers of our north star - materials circularity and regenerative source materials.
Packaging is made from packaging and becomes packaging again
The average American goes through 4.5 lbs of waste daily, of which 30% is packaging. In 2019, the rate of post-consumer waste in packaging among the largest brands in the US was just 6.2%. After being used just once, about 50% of this packaging is then landfilled, causing these raw materials to be wasted forever.
Our envisioned future is drastically different. In this future:
Packaging is constantly reused as often as possible before being recycled into new packaging materials. Packaging is recycled to be turned back into packaging when it reaches the end of its true useful life. Packaging is never landfilled, never littered, and only composted when composting is the preferred and optimal end-of-life scenario. New packaging is made from recycled packaging. Plastic bags are made from recycled plastic bags. Corrugated boxes are made from recycled corrugated boxes. Glass bottles are made from glass bottles. This means new packaging is made from high levels of post-consumer waste derived from the same material versus downcycled materials.
This long-term vision depends on a robust recycling and remanufacturing supply chain. In this vision:
Manufacturers in the US have invested in the capabilities, equipment, and capacity that enable them to fully use recycled content, particularly post-consumer content, in their manufacturing of raw packaging materials. Plastic manufacturers can take in used plastic and convert it into high-quality plastic pellets and, eventually, plastic film. Glass manufacturers can effectively take in cullets to be converted into high-quality glass. Paper pulpers and mills can produce high-strength paper from the same type of recycled paper. Because of these capabilities, manufacturers highly demand recycled content, preferring recycled over virgin inputs.
Because the above is true and recycled content has such tremendous manufacturing value, there is a significant effort to ensure all packaging is successfully recycled. Consumers are fully educated on how to recycle effectively and are incentivized to recycle all their waste. Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) and other single-stream recyclers have equipment, people, and processes to take in all recyclable materials and achieve a clean stream. MRFs can successfully sell all of their clean bales due to the massive nationwide demand for recycled content.
Finally, all packaging is designed for recyclability. Materials that can never technically and efficiently be recycled back into themselves are no longer used in packaging.
While the deep commitment of brands, consumers, packaging companies, and manufacturers is essential to achieving this vision, we also recognize the importance of legislative action, community investments, and consumer advocacy.
EcoEnclose’s mission is to achieve a nation in which packaging is made from packaging. We do this by:
Increasing the circularity of our packaging solutions with deep and constant investment. Constantly looking for ways to increase the post-consumer waste levels of our packaging. Seeking opportunities to move downcycled inputs to truly recycled ones.
Bringing reusable alternatives to our brands and helping them determine when reusable is a more ecologically and operationally preferred option.
Designing our packaging for recyclability and working with our brands to ensure their entire packaging strategy is designed the same. Labeling our packaging in straightforward, accurate ways to promote effective recycling by end consumers.
Supporting and encouraging our EcoAlly community to increase recycled content rates in all their products and supplies.
Working with public agencies and other community organizations to increase recycling infrastructure investments.
Regenerative Source Materials
Source materials that restore the planet
While we envision a future in which packaging is made from packaging and becomes packaging again, we also recognize that virgin inputs will enter the materials stream.
Most of the world’s packaging today is made with fossil fuels, chemical-intensive crops, mined metals, sand, and unsustainably logged trees. The production and extraction of these materials destroy lands, communities, water quality, and air quality and emits significant amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.
Our vision for circularity is a future in which all virgin raw materials going into the packaging stream are regenerative and restorative to the planet.
For EcoEnclose, regenerative goes many, many steps beyond “renewable.” The vast majority of “renewable” materials today are not regenerative, and many renewable alternatives are more destructive to the planet than the non-renewable solutions they are replacing.
We define regenerative materials as ones whose production improves the environment and strengthens local communities - through long-term carbon sequestration, an empowered and well-paid workforce, improved soil health, improved water health, and more.
EcoEnclose’s primary role in achieving this long-term vision is constantly exploring and evaluating emerging packaging materials. When we find technologies that are true leaps forward in their ability to be restorative, we work to convert them into viable packaging solutions and catalyze their market adoption.
We also engage with industry associations and community organizations, and legislative action can drive innovative regenerative production methods.
We are far from our vision. Today, EcoEnclose and other environmentally progressive businesses and citizens primarily focus on reducing the negative, not necessarily aiming for positive ecological and humanitarian impact.
Our vision for the future can become a reality as more individuals, businesses, communities, and governments move from a disposable culture to one where people make holistic, thoughtful decisions and investments. These investments are rooted in respect for the human and natural resources that go into how something is created and used and where something ends up after its initial use.
Our Sustainable Packaging Framework helps drive our decisions to ensure that our actions, big and small, gradually move us towards this long-term vision.