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Target Vows to Use Its Power & Scale to See that All Packaging Is Recyclable

Target says it will use its “power and scale” as one of the country’s largest retailers to advance the idea that all packaging will be recyclable one day, and to help consumers understand how and why recycling is so important. With that in mind, the retailer has joined the Material Recovery Facility of the Future, a collaborative committed to seeing that flexible packaging is recycled and that the recovery community captures value from it. The announcement is one of Target’s five new sustainable packaging goals it released yesterday.

Target’s chief sustainability officer, Jennifer Silberman, says that by using Target’s power and scale as one of the country’s largest retailers, the company can be a catalyst for change in the industry.

One challenge the recycling industry currently faces is that of flexible plastic packaging. Flexible packaging is displacing many types of packaging formats, including those that are traditionally recycled – but currently, in North America, flexible packaging is not accepted in most recycling programs. With the Material Recovery Facility of the Future collaborative, retailers including Target have joined forces to advance the idea that all packaging must be recyclable.

 

The collaborative released research last fall showing that, with adequate screening and optical sorting capacity, flexible plastic packaging can be efficiently captured in a single-stream materials recovery facility. The research findings are important because, while flexible packaging is highly efficient and has a low environmental impact, recovery has been one of its weak points, says PepsiCo Food packaging research and development director Brad Rodgers.

Common forms of flexible plastic packaging include re-sealable food bags, pouches for laundry detergent pods, pet food bags, and snack bags.

Target’s 5 new sustainable packaging goals are:

  • Source all owned brand paper-based packaging from sustainably managed forests by 2022;
  • Work to eliminate expanded polystyrene from its owned brand packaging by 2022;
  • Add the How2Recycle label to all owned brand packaging by 2020 (where space allows);
  • Support the Recycling Partnership’s mission to improve how more than 25% of the US population recycles by 2020;
  • Create more demand for recycled packaging by creating three new end markets for recycled materials by 2020.

The retailer did not release any details on the “three new end markets” it plans to create.

Target has also joined Beyond 34, a project focused on raising the US recycling rate beyond the current rate of 34%.

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