Seventh Generation is committed to achieving zero waste by 2020, and sustainable packaging is a key element in its strategy. Most recently, the company switched to a packaging design for dishwasher-detergent pods that offers all the functionality of conventional flexible packaging—and is also 100% recyclable.
The new package for Seventh Generation Natural Dishwasher Detergent Packs is a resealable stand-up pouch made entirely from polyethylene. Accredo Packaging Inc. makes the pouches using existing pouch-making equipment and decorates them using reverse-print flexography. Resin and the RecycleReady Technology for the packaging was developed by Dow Chemical Co.
The film for the pouches comprises “multiple layers of polyethylene,” explains Stacy Fields, North American director for packaging solutions at Dow. “There’s a combination of high-density, low-density or linear low.”
By combining HDPE, LDPE or LLDPE in the package structure, Seventh Generation Inc. and its partners achieved the sealability, toughness, stiffness and aesthetics required for the pouch—plus recyclability.
The back of each pouch is printed with the How2Recycle Store Drop-off label from GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC). This graphic explains to consumers that clean, dry pouches can be recycled at plastic-bag and -film drop-off locations at supermarkets and other retail stores.
The recyclable pouch, now in national distribution, launched in September 2015 in a 20-count format. A 45-count pouch is rolling out currently.
“Before we launched this pack, about 8% of our consumer complaints were around non-recyclability of the pack, so this addresses a good portion of our consumer complaints” about the product, says Derrick Lawrence, director of packaging development for Seventh Generation. He adds that the old package “was a PET/LLDPE adhesive laminate structure, a more typical stand-up pouch structure.”
Malcolm Cohn, director of sustainability at Accredo, explains, “The significance of that is a polyester/polyethylene lamination, as a co-mingled structure, or a multimaterial structure, cannot be recycled. It has to go to landfill.” In contrast, “the new structures used by Seventh Generation can be recycled through store drop-off.”
And yet, seen from the front, the old and new pouches look nearly identical. Polyethylene is ordinarily hazier than polyester, which could have affected the transparency of the pouch’s window and dulled its print finish.
To overcome that challenge, “Accredo did a lot of work with Dow to get the resin mix right—to get it as bright and shiny as possible so it would be less noticeable to the consumer that we made a change,” Lawrence says.
The next phase of the project, a redesign of the pouch’s graphics, is expected to roll out in March. When that happens, Seventh Generation will add educational information to its website to get consumers up to speed on the pouch’s recyclability. SPC is expected to add consumer-facing info about the package to its site, as well.
Seventh Generation had previously communicated to its consumers the various sustainability benefits of stand-up pouches. But until now, the company could not tout the package’s recyclability. “We spent lots of time educating consumers on why we were in that pack,” Lawrence says. The addition of recyclability “helps us button up the story on the end of life for that pack, as well.”