Columns 15.10.2019

Recyclable or eco-friendly?

Aaro Mäkimattila

When we talk about recycling, we’re not just talking about the present and the near future, but also about long-term changes.

We know the current situation, and we can predict the situation in the near future. News reports keep telling us that recycling volumes are rising; people are clearly willing to recycle. This is a great thing, but it is not enough in the long run.

Consideration for the environment must guide everything we do. Circular economy, however, only has instrumental value, not intrinsic value. People seem to forget sometimes that efforts must be made to combat climate change and to create a carbon-neutral society, not just to increase recycling.

Efforts must be made to combat climate change and to create a carbon-neutral society, not just to increase recycling.

All businesses, however, want to listen to consumers, which is risky as progress may not be straightforward. Recyclability is not always a guarantee that a particular type of packaging reduces carbon footprint.

Plastic seems to be the material that strikes a chord with most people.

Plastic must be recycled, no question about it. The biggest question, however, is not whether the packaging is mechanically recyclable or what the technical details are at different stages of the process, but that the system is constantly developed and that consumers can rely on the ability of experts and technologies to solve potential problems related to recycling.

The worst possible scenario is consumers not seeing the point of sorting and recycling.

If consumers receive conflicting or distorted information, the debate can easily be directed to the wrong track. The worst possible scenario is consumers not seeing the point of sorting and recycling. All parties should therefore focus on consumer communications that encourage sorting and recycling materials separately.

Consumers already want to know if packaging is recyclable. Unfortunately, this is not always a guarantee that it is eco-friendly. In addition, consumers will not choose packaging that is lower in quality than the old one and that does not have properties such as protecting food from going off.

Token eco-friendly gestures are never a good thing. If the amount of material used in packaging increases, the environmental impact may actually become negative. When it comes to food, there is no room for compromise. The longer a product stays fresh in a packaging, the better for the environment.

The longer a product stays fresh in a packaging, the better for the environment.

Choosing recyclable products and avoiding food waste must not be a lifestyle choice of the few; they must become everyday choices for all of us. A marginal solution that requires a total change of lifestyle will not help the environment. Legislation must also steer producers towards reducing the carbon footprint of packaging.

It is biowaste that ultimately counts: the emptier the packaging, the better it is for the environment. Then the packaging has also done its job.

Aaro Mäkimattila

Product Development Director

Atria