Recycling - The Carbon Footprint on Food and Packaging
This Earth Day, we wanted to get an environmental expert’s perspective on how each of us can help protect our planet. We talked with Susan Collins, President of the Container Recycling Institute. The CRI is a non-profit organization founded in 1991. Their mission is bringing about a rapid increase in recycling for a world where no material is wasted, and the environment is protected.
Rainbow Light: What are the worst offenders when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming?
Susan Collins: It’s interesting for each person to assess their own carbon footprint and how they might be contributing to global warming. For most people, the top four items to keep an eye on are heating and electricity for the home, car/transportation, our “stuff” (the products we use) and our food.
Most of us easily think how our homes and our cars use fossil fuel, but we don’t have that same awareness about our stuff and our food. Our food has a bigger overall impact on our personal carbon footprint than most people realize. For example, meat and dairy generally have a higher carbon footprint than plant-based meals. With regards to our “stuff,” we have to realize that, while it may be cheap and easy to buy “stuff” and packaging, there are so many resources that went into making every product we purchase.
Materials had to be mined, extracted or grown, and they had to be refined or manufactured in factories – perhaps chemicals were used to process them. The materials or products were then transported to retail outlets, and those retailers also use energy. All of these steps along the way create greenhouse gases and other toxic emissions. So, reducing consumption of various types of goods, or stuff, is a powerful way to reduce our personal carbon footprint.
RL: According to the CRI website, over 15 billion beverage cans and bottles have been landfilled, littered or burned so far in 2013. What can consumers do to help reduce this waste?
SC: Now we’re up to 26 billion for 2013, and climbing! You can keep count at www.container-recycling.org. Consumers should reduce usage whenever possible, by doing simple things on an individual level like carrying their own personal water bottle, and then recycling everything they possibly can. But the most important act is to work collectively with others to advocate for comprehensive recycling programs and policies. Individual actions are great, but when you join together to advocate for systemic change, you can multiply your individual efforts by thousands of times.
RL: Many people recycle in an effort to keep packaging waste out of landfills. What is the most important purpose of recycling?
SC: Most people don’t realize how powerful recycling is – even I didn’t realize it, even though I was working in the field for many years! Recycled materials are able to avoid the upstream mining, extraction, growing and manufacturing impacts, and these are so much larger than most people would imagine! I often ask people what they think the largest environmental impacts associated with packaging are, and many people mention transportation. Well, I thought that was the biggest impact too, until I saw the data. It turns out that the upstream impacts (mining, manufacturing, etc.) really dwarf the transportation impacts. And these huge upstream impacts are the ones we can avoid through recycling – so it is truly an effective activity!
RL: Why is using recycled content in packaging important?
SC: For a product manufacturer, using recycled content is one of the most effective ways they can reduce the carbon footprint of their products and packaging. When you use recycled content in place of virgin materials, you help reduce all of the emissions associated with mining, raw material extraction and primary material manufacturing. These savings are substantial – the carbon footprint of 100% recycled content plastic bottles is about 70-90% lower than that of bottles made from virgin materials.
RL: What is the impact of using 100% recycled packaging?
SC: Using 100% recycled content packaging maximizes the benefit of using recycled materials, and for plastics, it can reduce the carbon footprint of the containers by 70-90%.
At Rainbow Light, we are committed to maintaining a healthy environment, reducing carbon emissions and keeping plastic bottles from ending up in our oceans, natural habitats and landfills.
We are the first supplement brand to use EcoGuard® bottles made from 100% recycled, 100% recyclable material. These bottles are FDA-approved and BPA-free. EcoGuard bottles have reduced our bottle carbon footprint by 92% and keep millions of plastic bottles from landfills annually. Learn more about EcoGuard bottles at our sustainable ecoguard bottles.