By Jason Pelz
On April 22, 1970 we celebrated the first Earth Day. Since then, it has evolved into a day recognized by a wide variety of entities. From federal, state and local governments and non-government organizations to corporate America and consumers, Earth Day has become an annual anticipated event. Regardless of the role between government and industry on environmental policies, and even the science behind climate change, one thing is clear. Everyone has a role in progress.
The Carton Council’s role may appear small but is certainly not insignificant. We’ve been working hard with local governments, MRFs, haulers and paper mills to improve the infrastructure so that cartons can more easily be recycled. We’re delighted that 54% of all U.S. households can recycle cartons through their residential programs. This is up from 18% when our efforts first began in 2009.
Of course, it can’t stop there. While we continue to increase access to carton recycling, it’s also important that consumers actually recycle their cartons, in addition to other materials. Recycling is one of the easiest ways for Americans to be green—yet as a nation, we do not universally have a culture of recycling like many other countries. Some neighborhoods may, perhaps even some entire towns and communities, but generally speaking there are still a lot of recyclable materials ending up in landfills.
Companies and industries at large are continuing to do other things to help the environment and Earth Day has become a natural celebration of these efforts. Two examples of these efforts are reducing packaging and continuing to investigate ways to make materials with less energy and resources. We applaud these efforts. As carton manufacturers, Carton Council member companies are always looking for ways to make our own packaging more environmentally friendly. But let’s not forget that while these are important efforts, recycling is an equally important effort. Industries rely on the content coming from these commodities and we still have a lot of room for improvement. The national average recycling rate is estimated at being fewer than 35%, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. With the majority of communities providing residential recycling programs, it’s typically as easy to recycle something as it is throw it in the trash.
This Earth Day (and everyday), remind your residents, consumers and employees to recycle all they can—including cartons! (You can find out if cartons are accepted in your local recycling program by using the zip code locator on CartonOpportunities.org.)