The Pet Sustainability Coalition (PSC) is moving on to phase II of Flex Forward, a return-to-retail packaging pilot program that is aimed at reducing landfill waste and delivering sustainable packaging solutions to the pet industry. Officials in early February reported the completion of phase I, which exceeded the collection goal of 5,000 pounds of post-consumer pet food and treats packaging collected at 120 independent retail stores.
“Together, pet wellness brand sponsor Earth Animal, pet food distributor Pet Food Experts and the PSC launched the Flex Forward pilot program in August 2020 to test the success of an all-inclusive recycling program for the pet industry,” officials said in a statement. “All types of flexible plastic pet food and treat bags were collected from pet parents in retail stores where these products are sold. Phase 2 of the pilot project involves testing the recyclability of the collected materials, with a goal of creating recycled plastic material that can then be used for manufacturing other goods for the pet industry or donated to pet rescues across the country such as dog beds, toys or other hard goods.”
According to PSC’s research, an estimated 300 million pounds of flexible pet food and treats bags are generated in the United States each year. Currently, almost all of these bags are made by co-extruding and laminating multiple layers of film plastics that are nearly impossible to separate for recycling, according to officials. Furthermore, the cost of recycling is more than the value of the plastic materials in the package, officials said. As a result, PSC estimates that more than 99 percent of all pet food bags in the United States are disposed of in a landfill rather than recycled.
“While PSC encourages companies to move toward higher-value and more easily recycled packaging materials, Flex Forward is an important solution for the 300 million pounds of packaging on the shelf today,” officials said. “And an important step toward understanding the potential participation rates of consumers and pet retailers.”
The Flex Forward pilot program provided retailers the opportunity to participate at no cost and included collection vessels, retail store associate training, digital content and incentives to encourage pet owners to bring back their packaging to the store. More than 120 independent pet food retail stores in the pilot program states of Oregon and Washington participated, with many experiencing increased store traffic as an added benefit, officials said.
“The results of the pilot are meant to inform and shape an industry-wide plastics recycling program whereby all consumers, retailers, brands and packaging suppliers can collaborate to reduce the environmental footprint of pet food and treat packaging,” officials said.
PSC officials are encouraging the community to join UnPacked21, a virtual sustainable packaging event, to learn more about the program. Details can be found here.
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