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Recyclable Pet Food Packaging: Myth or Future Legend?

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Sustainable pet food packaging is a top priority for eight of ten pet owners.1 As pet foods and snacks battle for market share and expand into new markets, recyclability is still significantly undervalued by brands when making packaging decisions. Today, shoppers worldwide are shifting towards mindful consumption and actively choosing brands that reduce their impact on the environment.

Zero-waste pet food packaging is a worthy aspiration, and policies to ensure sustainability are growing in popularity around the world. Legislative directives on single-use plastics and taxes on non-reusable plastic packaging are already being introduced throughout Europe. Major international brands have responded by pledging to reduce packaging waste, ensuring materials are recyclable or made with recycled content.

But will it be recycled? Unfortunately, even in some developed markets, massive amounts of waste end up at the dump or incinerated. The Pet Sustainability Coalition (PSC) estimates that over 99% of all pet food bags in the U.S. are disposed of in a landfill rather than recycled.2 Without legislation, the cost of recycling might outweigh the value of recovering plastic packaging materials, so even packaging designed for recycling can go to waste.

Initiatives like TerraCycle’s Pet Food Packaging Zero Waste BoxTM offers a return-to-retail program to recycle empty pouches, bags, boxes, or containers. The waste is then sorted and undergoes extrusion to be transformed into pellets to create new products. Social enterprises are also helping transform recycling and reuse – a unique opportunity for brands to collaborate with recyclers in regions with low recycling rates and establish their pet food as a leading sustainable champion.

Source: “Premium Pet Food Packaging Survey” Mondi Dow Study. 2019.

DESIGNED FOR RECYCLING

Results from a Mondi Dow study on premium pet foods confirms that recyclability is the most significant factor in pet food packaging sustainability: 81% of pet owners surveyed desire 100% recyclable pet food packaging.1 But what makes packaging fully recyclable? It really comes down to eliminating the multiple layers of materials. While multi-layers with co-extrusions or adhesive lamination offer brightly printed labels and extra sturdiness, the inseparable nature of the packaging makes it impractical to recycle.

Circular design, a design made for endless recycling and circular economy, eliminates unnecessary waste throughout the lifecycle of packaging materials. When the post-consumer waste is collected, some packaging materials can be recovered by automated mechanical sorting systems, washed, deodorised, and transformed into recycled content that can be used in new packaging.

Especially younger consumers are receptive to circular design: 65% of pet owners ages 18-28 desire pet food packaging made from 100% recycled post-consumer waste.1 Without a doubt, the future of pet food includes packaging designed for recycling. Mondi is a pioneer in fully recyclable packaging and offers mono-material pet food bags and pouches with reclosable zippers for numerous premium pet brands.

PERFORMANCE PROPERTIES, WITHOUT COMPROMISE

Making the shift to sustainable packaging doesn’t necessarily mean moving away from plastics – especially since polymer-based materials offer excellent barrier protection of pet foods and treats. Responsible packaging solutions can include plastic materials that are actively collected and sorted for recycling programmes. What’s more, once these materials enter the circular economy, the recycled content helps to significantly reduce the world’s dependency on primary resources.

Barrier protection is a must-have for any pet food brand, as it protects against unwanted transmission of moisture, oxygen, and odours – a critical issue for premium wet pet foods. There are also creative solutions to achieve maximum aesthetics too. The leading pet food online retailer, zooplus AG, chose Mondi’s mono-material, recyclable pet food bag and was still able to keep its iconic look with metallised highlights in the eyes of the wolf featured on the package.

References

(1) “Premium Pet Food Packaging Survey.” Mondi Dow Study. 2019.

(2) www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/10008-psc-announces-the-completion-of-phase-i-of-flex-forward

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