Make It, Take It Campaign Launches Second Push to Pressure KRAFT to Take Responsibility for Packaging Waste

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Campaigns: Make It, Take It Campaign, Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

April 29, 2015

Contact: Matt Prindiville, UPSTREAM, matt@upstreampolicy.org, 207-902-0054

Make It, Take It Campaign: Public Interest Organizations Launch Second Push to Pressure KRAFT to Take Responsibility for Packaging Waste

UpStream_CapriSun_FINCapri Sun juice pouches are the target – 1.4 billion Capri Sun pouches end up as trash each year in the United States.

TODAY, a coalition of national and state public interest groups launched a second push through theMake It, Take It Campaign – www.makeittakeit.net to pressure KRAFT foods to take responsibility for the impacts of their packaging waste.

The focus – KRAFT Foods’ Capri Sun pouches that are made by bonding aluminum and several layers of plastic together making them difficult to impossible to recycle. Only 2% are estimated to be collected nationwide, which means that nearly every Capri Sun pouch has been wasted or littered since they were introduced in the 1970s.

While there are environmental benefits to pouches due to their light weight, which yields material reduction and saves energy, they are essentially “designed for the dump.” Pouches and other flexible packaging don’t currently follow industry sustainability standards around design for recycling or composting. These single use products have to be constantly manufactured from scratch requiring the extraction of virgin natural resources. They’re also a huge problem for the oceans. Food and beverage containers like Capri Sun pouches are among the top 5 items found on beaches and coastlines.
“If companies like KRAFT are going to use pouches and other flexible packaging, then they need to get serious about recycling and ensure they don’t end up as trash,” said Matt Prindiville, Associate Director for UPSTREAM and Coordinator for the Make It, Take It Campaign. “We need KRAFT to work with their supply chain and the recycling industry to keep these materials out of the garbage, out of our oceans and instead put them back into service in our economy.”
Capri Sun pouches are a highly visible example of consumer packaging that can’t be readily reused, recycled or composted. An estimated 1.4 billion Capri Sun pouches are landfilled or littered each year in the United States. Stacked end to end, that’s enough pouches to wrap around the Earth almost five times (121,527 miles). The Make It Take It Campaign is urging Kraft Foods to design their packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable and take responsibility for post-consumer collection and recycling.

“What we do with flexible packaging is at the center of a core debate around who defines the future of sustainability,” said Prindiville. “It comes down to whether or not you believe that sustainable business practices should lead to the development of a circular economy, so that all of our stuff eventually goes to feed the creation of technical products like computers or to goes to feed bacteria as compost for farms or the creation of bio-based products. Right now, flexible packaging ends up as garbage and does neither.”

Why is this an issue?
Americans generate more waste per person than any other country in the world. Packaging comprises 30% of the U.S. solid waste stream, greater than any other category, and less than half is recycled.[1]  Packaging materials are made from natural resources – trees, minerals, natural gas and oil – and require tremendous amounts of energy to produce from virgin feedstock.  Mining, clear-cutting and drilling these resources leaves a wake of ecological destruction behind. Recycling in the United States has not met its potential. National recycling rates have not exceeded 34 percent,[2] while other industrialized countries recycle twice that percentage.

Plastic pollution from packaging fouls our beaches, kills wildlife, contaminates the marine food web and leads to the massive garbage gyres around the world’s oceans. Plastic packaging breaks down into small particles mistaken for food by fish which harms marine life and transports toxic chemicals in the oceans. A recent study estimates that the state of California spends nearly $500 million annually preventing trash – much of it plastic packaging – from polluting beaches, rivers, lakes and the waterfront.[3]  

The total value of wasted recyclable consumer packaging that’s landfilled, littered or incinerated is around $11.4 billion dollars each year.[4] And Capri Sun pouches are just the tip of the iceberg. KRAFT and many other companies package their products in unrecyclable and non-compostable plastic packaging that is basically “designed for the dump.”  

Flexible packaging is the major growth material for consumer goods
According to the Flexible Packaging Association, about 80 billion single-material and multi-layer pouches are used every year in the U.S. And about half of them are multi-layer pouches composed of multiple laminated materials, usually different polymers and coatings. Pouches are the growth packaging material for food, beverages and household products such as detergents. And pouches for non-food applications – such as consumer goods – are expected to grow even more rapidly that the food and beverage sector; 6.5% as opposed to 4%.

By 2018, the number of pouches used annually in the U.S. is expected to reach 92 billion units with a value of $9.4 billion and over 9 billion pounds of materials, which unless something changes – all of which will end up as garbage or litter.

To put that into perspective, there were roughly 50 billion water bottles and around 90 billion aluminum cans consumed in the U.S. last year.  So pouches are on track to exceed the consumption of aluminum cans in this country in a few years. If you lined up all those pouches end to end, they would wrap around the equator 321 times!

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition is clear about what comprises sustainable packaging, and states that it should be “effectively recovered and utilized in biological and/or industrial closed-loop cycles.” In addition, the Circular Economy 100, which is global partnership “bringing together businesses and innovators to accelerate the transition to a circular economy,” and includes corporations like Coca-Cola, Unilever, Apple, H&M, HP, IKEA, Phillips, is also clear  – “A circular economy is one that is restorative by design… which distinguishes between and separates technical and biological materials… and aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times.” Flexible packaging does not currently fit with either of these goals.

About Make It, Take It
The Make It, Take It Campaign is a collaborative effort to pressure consumer goods companies to take responsibility for packaging waste. We represent a diverse group of organizations working on waste and recycling, plastic pollution and resource conservation. We have come together to elevate the issue of packaging waste, put public pressure on consumer goods companies and educate and mobilize citizens for sustainable packaging policies.

The campaign’s primary goals are to:

  • Pressure companies to change packaging design to safe, sustainable materials that can be reused, recycled or composted, while reducing packaging overall;
  • Pressure companies to support extended producer responsibility policies that make consumer brands responsible for ensuring their packaging gets reused, recycled, or composted, and doesn’t become litter when consumers are finished with it.
  • Engage the American people broadly on packaging issues and persuade them that these are problems worth investing their time and attention in.

The strength of the campaign comes from the coordination of partner efforts toward realizing the campaign vision of an economy where consumer goods and food and beverage companies are responsible for reducing and mitigating the environmental impacts of their packaging:

  • UPSTREAM (Coordinator)
  • 5 Gyres
  • Clean Water Action
  • Dogwood Alliance
  • Eureka Recycling
  • GAIA
  • Green America
  • Greenpeace
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Plastic Pollution Coalition
  • Sierra Club Extended Producer Responsibility Team
  • Texas Campaign for the Environment
  • The Story of Stuff
  • Waterkeeper Alliance

 About UPSTREAM
UPSTREAM is a US-based environmental organization dedicated to creating a healthy, just and sustainable society by addressing the root causes of environmental harm. Our mission is to advance sustainability, end plastic pollution and reduce climate disruption through product-focused environmental policies.

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[1] Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: Facts and Figures, 2013. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: 2014.

[2] Ibid.

[3] http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_24008869/study-ca-spends-500m-waterway-trash-fighting

[4] Unfinished Business: The Case for Extended Producer Responsibility for Post-Consumer Packaging. As You Sow: 2012.

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