A new take-back recycling program could divert 4.5 million pounds of pet food and treat packaging from landfills.

According to a recent article on PetFoodProcessing.net, the Pet Sustainability Coalition (PSC) has shared the final results of Flex Forward, its return-to-retail pet food bag recycling program. The program was initially announced in February 2020, but COVID-19 delayed the launch. The problem it’s addressing is that the great majority of pet food containers cannot be recycled in the traditional consumer recycling system. Melissa Bauer, director of sustainability at PSC, was quoted in the article. “At the current moment, in North America specifically, 99 percent of pet food and treat bags are not recyclable. PSC estimates that is over 300 million pounds of packaging going into landfills today, which represents over $1 billion of the pet food proportion of the US flexible packaging market annually. This is a huge problem.”

Flex Forward allows pet owners to bring their used bags back to participating retail locations and drop them in branded collection bins. The organization’s goal was to collect 5,000 pounds of pet food packages over its first five-month period, but they exceeded that goal and collected 8,356 pounds. An average of 2.3 pounds of used pet food bags were collected from each store during each week of the program. According to PSC, nearly 96 percent of participating retailers surveyed after the program said they felt confident that the Flex Forward program added value to their business.

Bauer said that PSC has been working with several partners to assess chemical and mechanical recycling applications for the used packaging. Mechanical recycling, which is sometimes seen as a more traditional recycling method, is used to process used plastic into secondary raw materials without significantly altering chemical structures. Chemical recycling is an emerging and more advanced recycling method. It aims to convert plastic waste into chemicals such as monomers that can be used as raw materials in chemical processes.

Read all about the Flex Forward program here.

Innovation like the Flex Forward program is what is going to make real and lasting change in the realm of sustainability. As a packaging manufacturer, AMGRAPH is committed to developing state-of-the-art recyclable packages, but we have to work together to make recycling feasible for end-users, too. Congratulations to PSC on launching this great sustainability initiative!