Packaging Strategies spoke with Dow market manager Chris Gandy and associate marketing director Heather Turner about Dow’s Design for Recyclability platform and the evolution of recyclable pouches designed to fit the circular economy.

PACKAGING STRATEGIES: Let’s talk sustainability. What is “Designed for Recyclability?”

HEATHER TURNER: Our theme for Dow at Global Pouch is “Designed for Recyclability” which is something we have focused on for years, but of course, as technologies develop there's been a need to sharpen the focus. And even though a lot of our products— including films—are already recyclable, designing for recyclability is just so critical for consumers to understand. And that's where our focus is. One of the technologies, is a pouch called RecycleReady, which Chris has been working on.

CHRIS GANDY: Over the last five years we developed the technology that was basically an all PE solution that didn't have moisture or oxygen barrier and now this new evolution of this pouch has the moisture and oxygen barrier, is recyclable and it's also made on a form fill seal line and more automated. The machine fills, opens the pouch, closes it, and packs it at the facility.

How is Dow collaborating with convertors?

TURNER: Dow has a strong tradition of collaboration with members of the value chain. This is the very notion of the Pack Studios mindset. And while for many years sustainability has been our focus, our passion, we are now challenging the industry to take that focus further back in the innovation process, into the R&D labs. Dow is inspiring the industry to Design for Recyclability.

How does Dow help convertors qualify for the How2Recycle label?

GANDY: Dow works with converters and brands to create pouches that can qualify for the H2R label, and it’s usually the brand owner who is submitting structures for review. SPC requires sign off from key store drop off partners to ensure this structure will not impact the existing recycle stream. Today, an all-PE structure that contains EVOH and RETAIN™ Polymer Modifier from Dow is approved for the How2RecycleLabel.

Can you explain how RecycleReady works and how brands can educate consumers?

GANDY: Dow’s  RecycleReady Technology  can make PE-based flexible packaging recyclable, using modifiers and compatibilizers to move from a multi-material to a mono-material structure for recyclability in the SPC’s Store Drop-off grocery store drop-off program in North America. A traditional, non-recyclable pouch  may contain layers of various materials that are incompatible for existing recycling streams.

TURNER: Brands want to make recycling as simple as possible, which includes  clear, easy- to-understand on-pack recycling direct through the “How2Recycle”  label. We  continue  to  see brands working to increase recyclability, and to increase  consumer  education  about  recycling.

What brands are utilizing RecycleReady?

GANDY: Kellogg was our biggest brand launch that we've had this year. I think a key thing to highlight with Kellogg was everybody got to the table to define what the goal was and at every iteration to make sure everyone from Dow, Berry and Kellogg was partnering together.

TURNER: It's about putting the resources behind it. I think that's a key one that this industry is continuing to catch up to. That's very important that you have representatives that are likeminded and have a common goal.

GANDY: Prior to Kellogg, Dow did a key launch with Seventh Generation dishwasher pods. That was important to demonstrate the concept that you can eliminate different substrates that aren't recyclable. And then we've taken the evolution of that platform to continue to give the consumers the quality and premiumization that they want.

What are some of those technologies?

GANDY: Matte is a big trend right now in the food packaging space, especially when it comes to organic and natural products. OPULUX™ [Optical Finishes] is a luxurious matte finish that gives the packaging a soft touch. It’s an example of premium design that is recyclable. And its shelf appeal really grabs the consumer’s attention.

Do you see another category (outside the cereal category) that is switching to pouches?

GANDY: Candy has been a big one. Candy packaging went from a pillow to a stand up pouch. Ready to eat meals is another growing category. You see the trend of much smaller and younger households. Not many people are cooking for a family of five every night. The average family size is now 2.1, right? And that .1 the dog.

And dog food is another category that has embraced the flexible pouch.

TURNER: I think pouches are one of the fastest growing flexible packages that we've seen right in the industry. And that's why Dow has definitely been engaged here.