I Want To Be Recycled

Plastic Packaging Perspectives

Bench_I want to be recycled

This is a guest blog post written by Christina Kiernan, Manager, Marketing Communications at Keep America Beautiful.

Imagine a water bottle that dreams of becoming a pair of jeans, a steel can that hopes to
someday be transformed into a bicycle, or a plastic shampoo bottle that believes that, one day, it could become a park bench. These are some of the many destinies that could be fulfilled if more Americans took time to do one thing: recycle their plastic packaging and other materials.

A public service advertising (PSA) campaign introduced by the Ad Council and Keep America Beautiful (KAB) aims to inspire the nearly two in three Americans* who do not recycle regularly to make recycling a part of their daily lives. Despite increased visibility of public recycling receptacles and increased curbside programs, levels of recycling have plateaued at less than 35 percent.[1]

The I Want To Be Recycled campaign aims to motivate Americans to recycle every day.
Created by San Francisco-based ad agency Pereira & O’Dell, the campaign artfully shows that recyclable materials can be given another life when someone chooses to recycle. Showing that a plastic bottle, metal can or other recyclable item has dreams to become something new is a very powerful yet simple way to deliver the message.

The I Want To Be Recycled campaign made its public debut in July 2013 and includes TV, radio, outdoor, online, social and mobile PSAs.  The American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division is a founding sponsor of the campaign.

TV spots include both English and Spanish language versions. The English-language campaign directs audiences to IWantToBeRecycled.org, while the new Spanish PSAs drive to Quieroserreciclado.org.

In its first year, the recycling campaign secured more than $50 million in donated media. It gained the most donated media amongst all Ad Council campaigns in Q1 of 2014. Cities are also joining in on the campaign. These include Austin, Chicago, Akron, and Madison, among others. Waste haulers are wrapping their trucks with the campaign graphics. Grocery outlets are putting our I Want To Be Recycled logos on their cardboard boxes.

Visit IWantToBeRecycled.org to get a behind-the-scenes look at how trash can be
transformed through recycling. While you are there, learn about common recycling myths, and get details about recycling locations near you. Then, share it with everyone you know.  Post it to your Facebook page, tweet it to your followers.  Urge your company to post links to it on the organization’s website.

Follow our recycling conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #berecycled or like Keep America Beautiful on Facebook.

[1] United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) 2012 Municipal Solid Waste Report http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/2012_msw_fs.pdf

*38% or respondents to Ad Council survey, prior to campaign launch, said they were “avid recyclers”, recycling as much as possible and willing to go out of their way to do so.


Christina Kiernan joined the communications department at Keep America Beautiful in September 2012. Christina has key accountabilities for the successful “I Want To Be Recycled” campaign as well as for the development and execution of comprehensive KAB strategies & messaging for various social media platforms.

Plastic Recovery and Recycling: An Essential Solution to Halting Marine Debris Buildup

Rachael Miller

If plastic bags were made of gold, we certainly wouldn’t throw them away. We wouldn’t watch them drift down the street and into storm drains. We wouldn’t let them float into harbors and, from there, into the ocean.

Of course, plastic bags aren’t gold.  And yet, they also have value. Plastic packaging of all sorts can be recycled into new materials and products. They are too valuable to waste, but that’s what we often do, discard them mindlessly and starting them on journeys that end in vast fields of marine debris.

The packaging and recycling communities can play a key role in keeping plastic packaging out of the marine environment. Active plastic recycling and recovery, particularly near coastal areas, is critical to keeping valuable resources out of the ocean. At Rozalia Project, we are dedicated to promoting a clean, protected, and thriving ocean, and my recent presentation at TEDxLowell, “We Can Clean the Ocean,” which you can watch now at the link, shared our findings on the glut of marine debris and how plastic recovery and recycling can help minimize the devastation.

When we think of marine debris, many of us picture the oft-reported and consistently hyperbolized garbage patches spinning in the giant oceanic surface currents known as gyres. But as you’ll see in the TEDxLowell video, the problem begins at the shore, in harbors and waterways cluttered with a stream of trash that amasses in almost unfathomable quantities. Once ocean debris reaches the water, two factors complicate clean-up – the need to separate out organic matter, and the degradation of plastics into smaller and smaller pieces that we just can’t collect.

A great deal of effort to resolve this issue has concentrated on the gyres, but the more Rachael Miller_Marine Debrisattainable solution is here at the land-sea interface. We can make measurable strides by keeping debris out of coastal harbors and waterways in the first place. Through recovery and recycling of plastic packaging here on land, we can heighten our impact considerably by capturing the materials before they break up out at sea – and just as importantly, keep many of those materials in an active, useful loop rather than sending them to landfills.

How the value chain can help

The recycling and packaging industries can play a key role through several steps:

  • Responsibly reduce the amount of packaging used in the first place. Innovations in plastic are facilitating the creation of more efficient packaging, requiring less packaging material. The industry can create 100% recyclable packaging out of 100% recycled material and encourage recycling of products at the end of their lifecycles.
  • Invest in more waste-to-energy solutions. Huge advances are being made by diverting material from non-recycled plastics into valuable energy.
  • Help communities provide easy access to trash and recycling bins, and make sure they’re emptied faster than they’re filled. We’ve all seen those public trash cans and plastic recycling bins filled to overflowing. When recyclables spill onto the ground, that’s not recycling anymore.
  • Support educational programs to boost awareness about recycling and recovery of packaging and keeping it out of the marine environment.
  • Sponsor local clean-ups to recover material along beaches, waterways and coastal harbors.

It’s time to highlight these conversations among key audiences – consumers, the packaging value chain, and the recycling community – that will drive changes in behavior. My TEDxLowell video lays out the issue, including images that illustrate the vast scope of the problem.. A solution is where the land meets the sea, and every bit matters.

Healthcare plastics and glass aggregate breakthroughs win Recycling Innovators Forum prizes

Plastic Packaging Perspectives

Two winners emerged from the groundbreaking ideas presented at the second annual Recycling Innovators Forum – a plan to scale healthcare plastics recycling to a regional level, and a color-coded, multi-purpose glass aggregate.

healthcare plastics recycling innovators

Forum finalists

The Recycling Innovators Forum was held in New Orleans on Sept. 15, 2014, co-located with the 2014 Resource Recycling Conference. Eight finalists selected from more than 60 entries competed for the top $20,000 prize awarded in each of two categories.

Ruby Lake Glass LLC won the garage innovator prize for its manufacture of color-coated recycled glass useful for road demarcation, mulch, flooring, tile and countertops, pools, and crafts and artwork.

The Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council won the enterprise/institution prize for its Regional Healthcare Plastics Recycling Demonstration Project. By mid-2015, the project will convene several hospitals and a recycler in one region to demonstrate large-scale opportunities for recovering and recycling non-infectious healthcare plastics.

“Being able to communicate and articulate this opportunity to the recycling community through the Recycling Innovators Forum is part of our goal,” said Peylina Chu, senior consultant at environmental consultancy Antea Group, who gave HPRC’s presentation. “This can be a model for how to build a healthcare recycling program in any major metropolitan area.”

Learn more about the Regional Healthcare Plastics Recycling Demonstration Project, its goals, and lessons learned from local pilot studies in our previous post.

Plastic Packaging: The Silent Hero Behind Your Fresh Cup of Coffee

Plastic Packaging Perspectives

coffee plastic packagingSeptember 29th is National Coffee Day. But let’s face it, for many Americans, no national day is needed to validate the importance of the brew. According to the National Coffee Association, Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee each day.   Some of us don’t even consider the day as officially starting, until we’ve had that first cup of Joe. Whether your preference is espresso, latte, frappe, or just plain old coffee, it’s a beverage at the very heart of many people’s daily lives.  40% of 18-24 year olds said they drink coffee daily, while 54% of 25-39 year olds said they drink coffee daily. [1] If you grab your coffee on the go, chances are, its staying hot while your hand stays cool thanks to a polystyrene foam cup—like the kind you get at most fast food restaurants. In celebration of National Coffee Day, and the foam cup’s role in delivering so much of the java we love, our good friends at the Polystyrene Foam Food Service Group posted a very cool blog with info on polystyrene foam food packaging. Check it out. And, want to see more cool coffee packaging? Check out our new coffee packaging Pinterest board, celebrating coffee– fresh to you, with a little help from plastic packaging!


[1] Specialty Coffee Association of America, Facts and Figures, 2012

Exciting Opportunities Emerging from Innovations in Healthcare Plastics Recycling

Plastic Packaging Perspectives

The Recycling Innovators Forum, held in conjunction with the Resource Recycling Conference in New Orleans on September 15, 2014, showcases groundbreaking initiatives that are moving recycling forward. One of the forum finalists is the Regional Healthcare Plastics Recycling Demonstration Project, designed to address the one million tons of non-infectious, high-quality medical plastic now streaming into landfills. Since 2010, the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council has conducted small local studies of healthcare plastics recycling. Now, the effort has expanded into the Regional Healthcare Plastics Recycling Demonstration Project, ready to demonstrate on a larger scale the enormous potential for packaging manufacturers and designers, recyclers, hospitals, and communities.

Recyclable medical plastics: A broad range of packaging

The regional project is meant to drive, inspire, and enable the recycling potential of certain healthcare and medical plastics. Many hospitals are recovering and recycling their cafeteria plastics, but a huge amount of non-infectious materials from operating rooms and clinical and patient care areas remains destined for landfills:

blue wrap healthcare plastics packaging

Blue wrap

  • These products are made from low-density polyethylene (LDPE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polypropylene (PP), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and polystyrene (PS).
  • Flexible plastics, constituting about 75 percent of this noninfectious healthcare waste stream, include easily identifiable sterilization wrap, or blue wrap. They can also include secondary and tertiary packaging, such as plastic shrink wrap and outer wrap.
  • Rigid plastics form the remaining 25 percent or so. This segment includes polypropylene basins, trays, and bottles for such items as medical instruments or saline solution.

Pilot-test lessons: Identifying and collecting recyclable healthcare plastics

Healthcare Plastic Recycling Council’s pilot studies with three individual hospitals have yielded best practices that can be scaled up for maximum impact:


At the Stanford pilot study, bag color signals waste stream in procedural areas.

  • Cleveland Clinic: Working with operating room “green teams,” the project identified medical plastics for recycling along with safe collection methods.
  • Stanford University Medical Center: This pilot study identified recyclable plastics in nine hospital areas and found that operating rooms generated 40 percent of its total noninfectious healthcare plastics waste. Based on data to date it is expected that the hospital will collect 70 tons of plastics over a year.
  • Kaiser Permanente: Still underway as of September 2014, this pilot is mapping plastics throughout Kaiser’s Los Angeles medical facility – identifying plastics to recycle, tracking their entry into and movement through the hospital, and determining recovery and transfer methods.

The pilot studies resulted in a plastics-recycling toolkit for hospitals, known as HospiCycle. This toolkit explains the economic, regulatory, resourcing and infrastructure nuances of recycling and helps hospitals integrate recycling practices into patient care settings.

Regionalization: Enormous impact for medical systems, recycling community, and packaging industry

Putting healthcare plastics under the microscope at the local level has revealed the huge potential for recovery and recycling. The larger regional project will convene four to six large hospitals and a single interested recycler, identified through the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI), in a major Midwest or Southwest city. Success of this regional project, slated to begin collecting materials by the second quarter of 2015, relies on close partnerships among the participating recycler and hospitals. Together, they will address such challenges as segregating or single-streaming recyclables, minimizing contamination, and developing contingency plans in case of contamination. The regional goal is to develop a business case for the economic and technical feasibility of implementation, with a focus on two central questions: What are the critical numbers needed to achieve viable expansion? And how do we develop the model that gets us there? By engaging the entire value chain, the regional project expects to produce major benefits for several players:

  • Health systems: The project is identifying recyclable medical plastics, detailing their financial value, and facilitating their entry into the recycling stream. Spotlighting health systems as good community partners committed to diverting plastics away from landfills is an important side benefit.
  • Recycling community: Working with the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) and SPI, the regional project has discovered tremendous interest among recyclers. These recyclers envision a new source of materials to feed rising demand for products made from recycled content. To help them keep pace, the regional project hopes to create an additional toolkit, similar to HospiCycle, offering best practices in healthcare recycling for recyclers.
  • Packaging industry: The project has yielded design guidance to help medical packaging makers employ design decisions that enhance recycling potential and value.

At the Recycling Innovators Forum: Raising awareness and building partnerships

The Recycling Innovators Forum is a prominent venue for inventors and organizations sharing their game-changing ideas with industry leaders.

The Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council hopes its appearance at the forum will attract new partners and sponsors. Perhaps more importantly, presenting as a forum finalist will allow the council to articulate its vision to the entire recycling community. The Regional Healthcare Plastics Recycling Demonstration Project is planning to capitalize on a huge source of recyclable plastics and fuel further plastic innovations to benefit health systems, the recycling and packaging industries, and communities across the nation. To learn more or get involved in the Regional Healthcare Plastics Recycling Demonstration Project, contact Peylina Chu, the Operations Director at the HPRC.