How2Recycle® Roadmap

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Navigating the Challenging Path to Sustainability

Fundamentals, Smart Packaging

Navigating the Challenging Path to Sustainability


The increasing pressure on brands to provide sustainable packaging solutions is very real. Both consumers and retailers are focused on recycling as an indicator of a brand’s sustainability profile. Yet, recycling is complex and challenging as many lack the basic understanding of the regulations and available recycling streams. It’s not surprising that:

94% of the US population has access to municipal recycling, yet the actual recycling adoption rate is only around 30%.1

How can CPGs help reduce complexity and increase adoption rate for recyclability? The first step is to educate and inform in a way that is easily understood by the consumer. How2Recycle® is a program intended to do just that.

What is How2Recycle®?

How2Recycle® is an on-package standardized labeling system designed to easily teach consumers about proper packaging disposal. It offers four consistent disposal options for all packaging components with specific and simple instructions on what to do with packaging after use.

Widely Recycled: Recycle this package at curbside recycling or drop-off recycling.
  • Applicable materials for this recycling stream include: Clear, transparent blue, and transparent green PET bottles; LDPE, HDPE, PP bottles and containers; some PET thermoforms; steel cans and aerosols; aluminum cans and aerosols; aseptic/gable top coated paper cartons; glass bottles and containers; uncoated paper packaging; clay coated paper packaging; certain -‘repulpable’- coatings on paper packaging; molded fiber packaging

Limited Recycling: Check your local program to see if you can recycle this package at curbside recycling or drop-off recycling.
  • Applicable materials for this recycling stream include: Non-expanded polystyrene (PS); single-sided poly coating on paper packaging; aluminum trays; some PET thermoforms; colored and opaque PET packaging; black PET, PP, and PE packaging

Not Yet Recycled: Packages that are currently not recycled or that could cause a problem in a recycling facility.
  • Applicable materials for this recycling stream include: Multi-layer packaging; double-sided poly coating on paper packaging; seals; tubes; PVC; expanded polystyrene (EPS), all other packaging not mentioned

Store Drop-Off: Anyone who lives near a store that accepts plastic bags and wraps for recycling can take this packaging to that store and recycle it there.
  • Applicable materials for this recycling stream include: Pure polyethylene bags, wraps and films; close to pure polyethylene packaging that has passed testing with Trex; certain barrier polyethylene packaging with compatibilizer technology

Recycling streams have mainly been structured around rigid materials. Traction is gaining on flexibles with a stream in place for materials compatible with polyethylene, the only U.S. flexible plastic stream to date. The “Store Drop-Off” option in How2Recycle® is now available to help direct these materials into this stream.

Want to know more? Are you ready to get started?

More and more retailers are embracing How2Recycle® labeling. Bemis can help you work with the How2Recycle® coalition to determine the correct label for your packaging and incorporate it into your graphics - Contact us today.

How2Recycle® recycling stream descriptions provided by, GreenBlue Institute.
How2Recycle® is a registered trademark of GreenBlue Institute.
Source: 1., 2015-2016 Centralized Study on Availability of Recycling.


Rebecca Mick, Ph.D
Technical Sustainability Lead