Last year at this time, we participated in the annual Hudson River RiverKeeper event in early May. Riverkeeper’s mission is to “protect the environmental, recreational and commercial integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries and safeguard drinking water of 9 million New York City and Hudson Valley residents.” The event coordinates clean-up efforts all along the Hudson from the Adirondack Mountains to New York City. Over 50 clean-up efforts are organized all with the same goal of removing litter from the river banks and in the river itself. While this year’s May event was cancelled due to the coronavirus, the spirit of the event continues.
We recognize the existence of plastics in our environment. According to the World Economic Forum “The New Plastics Economy”, the use of plastics is expected to double in the next 20 years. We need to continue to look at packaging at the end of life as a valuable resource and pursue outreach efforts to clean-up things that have leaked out of waste collection system process.
Any trash in the environment could wind up in the river water. Our manufacturing facility sits 4 to 5 miles from the Hudson River and most of us live within 10 miles of the river which flows through Albany towards New York City. We did two things to keep the cleanup effort alive in spring of 2020 in the wake of the events cancellation.
First, we did some neighborhood sweeps. My son and I did a neighborhood sweep around our home on Earth Day April 22nd 2020. An hour walk netted a bag full or aluminum cans, glass bottles, boxes, paper scraps and plastic packaging. We took a video of what my 10 year old thought after our clean-up effort.
Second, we organized a cleanup effort on the grounds of our facility. Our staff cleaned up garbage that escaped collection and planted some new plants in the front of the building.
The experience of cleaning up the environment serves as a powerful reminder of our impact on nature. Any material will breakdown over time. Smaller pieces are more easily mistaken as food by wildlife, and are more likely to be part of the soil and/or ground water for long periods of time.
If waste is viewed as a feed-stock for another item, we will see less of it in the natural environment. Supporting this vision is what we aim to do. We will continue to seek materials that support this goal. As of today, we are stocking 3 materials with a more circular life-cycle.
- Post-Consumer recycled content (PCR). 40% of the material is made from post-consumer waste. The 002 mil material is clear with some imperfections due to the PCR. The film is FDA approved and is recyclable at the end of life.
- The clear 002 mil certified compostable material we stock is 30% bio-based and is compostable at the end of life.
- The clear 002 and 004 mil LDPE we stock is 50% made from plants. It is clear and recyclable at the end of life.
25 percent of inquiries we now receive ask for more sustainable options. These materials serve as the foundation for the requests. Water based inks, domestic manufacturing, scrutiny of pack-outs, recycling construction components, and sampling to provide the thinnest materials possible are some other means to create more sustainable packages.
Our hope is there does not have to be a Riverkeeper event down the road as there will be nothing to clean up after full immersion in a circular economy. Every action taken helps.
Thanks for reading!