The waste hierarchy is a set of priorities for the efficient use of resources. The image above is from the EPA’s page on sustainable materials management and shows the various management strategies from most to least environmentally preferred. The hierarchy prioritizes the “3 Rs” (reduction, reuse, and recycling) as essential to sustainable materials management. This framework advocates for behavior and decision-making that treats disposal (landfill) as a last resort that is only exercised after all other options have been exhausted. BPI supports this approach through its Certification, Education, and Advocacy programs.
Reduction and Reuse
BPI views its partnerships with companies who make single-use products and packaging as directly supportive of the waste hierarchy. The reason that “Recycle” is one of the 3 R’s is that single-use packaging cannot be eliminated overnight. Recycling can be part of the broader solution, so long as the material is actually being kept out of landfills and the environment and is getting authentically recycled or composted.
Reducing the amount of packaging generated to recycle or compost in the first place has an outsized environmental benefit, even though a lot more attention is given to recyclable and compostable alternatives. An emphasis on efficiency and source reduction is needed, but new alternatives to traditional solutions are also necessary: recyclable or compostable single-use products that provide a much-needed and meaningful bridge to a zero waste future.
Recycling and Composting
Composting Food Scraps and Packaging Together
Photo by Doug Pinkerton, courtesy BioCycle.net