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Harrison: “Target Tackles ‘Branded Trash'”

This op-ed by Partnership CEO Keefe Harrison originally appeared in TriplePundit on July 7, 2017.

Target Tackles “Branded Trash” With New Recycling Initiatives

As the U.S. government pulls back from environmental advances, as evidenced by withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, corporations are moving forward together to achieve sustainability goals by funding local and national recycling improvements.

Wise companies are hip to the reality that packaging that cannot be easily recycled becomes branded trash. Large retailers are tuning into the concept of a circular economy, which calls for companies to ensure that what they manufacture can be reused, renewed, or recycled. Recycling efforts are being made – company by company – across the country, which is a win-win for American manufacturing and the environment.

They are also aware that sustainable brands are growing quickly because the public is interested in companies that engage in more than just earning a profit. According to a GlobeScan sustainability survey, 65 percent of the public wants to support companies that exhibit a strong purpose, but only 45 percent are able to name such a company. Reportedly, it’s the integration of a company’s sustainability values into their operations that people cite as the top reason a company is seen as an industry leader.

Target is such a company – it has created and is committed to meaningful sustainability goals.

According to these goals, by the year 2022, Target will: source its own brand paper-based packaging from sustainably managed forests, eliminate expanded polystyrene from its brand packaging, add the How2Recycle label to its packaging, and create more demand for recycled packaging. Additionally, Target has partnered with The Recycling Partnership to fund improved recycling operations and education in cities and towns across the country. To date, more than 30 companies are behind The Recycling Partnership’s work to improve recycling in more than 250 communities. Target is the organization’s first retail partner.

Good recycling is not just turning used materials into new, reusable materials; it is also about creating packaging from materials that can be recycled in the first place. Creating recyclable packaging is good for business and brand perception. Sustainable companies do not want to produce packaging that reminds the public that their company is contributing to the landfill and litter problem. Packaging can be a brand asset or a brand liability. On the flip side, sustainable packaging ensures that papers, cans, boxes and containers are called back into duty, which is well aligned with American values. When companies prioritize recycling, it enables them to become a part of the solution, rather than remain part of the problem.

Corporations like Target are intelligent. They know their customers want to be proud of the products they buy and proud of the companies from which they purchase.

Recycling is among the many environmental issues that the government, the public, and business are working on together. It’s easy to assume that recycling is everywhere. After all, 94 percent of the population says they want to recycle, but our recent research shows that only 47 percent of the U.S. population has recycling automatically provided at their home. Of those homes, only 44 percent are served by recycling carts, which is the most effective way of recycling. This is a huge miss for the environment because recycling is one of the most efficient ways to reduce climate change-creating greenhouse gas emissions.

Recycling also has enormous economic benefits that can be identified on a large scale, like preserving resources for future generations, and creating new U.S. jobs in the recycling and manufacturing industries. Target is focused on recycling and sustainable packaging because it wants to support local communities. Communities find strength and unity in their town- and city-wide recycling efforts.  It’s good to see large corporations are working on the community level to take the place of government leadership and support.

Keefe Harrison is the CEO of The Recycling Partnership, a national nonprofit organization that is transforming recycling in towns all across America. A 19-year veteran of the waste reduction and recycling field, her experience includes firms, governments, and organizations such as Booz Allen, NC Dept. of Environment, Association of Plastics Recyclers, Southeast Recycling Development Council, and Resource Recycling Systems. She is an active national speaker and published author on recycling and environmental issues.

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