By Andy Frampton, NOW Research & Development
A group of NOW employees recently visited one of the largest recycling centers in the state of Illinois. The purpose of this visit was to learn more about what’s involved in recycling packaging materials; most notably, which materials are environmentally acceptable and which are not.
The majority of packaging used by NOW is Polytheylene Terephthalate (PETE #1) and High Density Polyethylene (HDPE #2) plastic; the most abundantly recycled plastics in the United States. This was not groundbreaking news to the majority of those in attendance. Interestingly enough, many were surprised to learn that, in order for the packaging to be completely recycled, all bottles should be emptied and rinsed out prior to recycling. Most recycling centers will not (and are not obligated to) recycle bottles that contain excessive amounts of product, as this could potentially contaminate the finished product. Additionally, all lids and/or closures should first be removed and recycled separately.
One of the ways in which NOW ensures absolute protection from light, oxygen, and moisture is through the use of recyclable glass bottles for certain products. Clear and amber glass bottles provide greater protection for NOW’s liquid concentrates, essential oils, and shelf-stable probiotic formulas. Based on the distinctive structure of glass bottles, different stoppers are used, as well. The most popular of these include rubber eye droppers, LDPE lids, metal lids, and the EuroDrop™. Compared to traditional eye droppers, the EuroDrop™ is an engineering marvel that delivers precise amounts, while requiring less plastic resin during the design and manufacturing process. NOW utilizes these closures whenever possible, depending on the liquids’ unique physical properties. The EuroDrop™ as well as LDPE lids and metal lids are all recyclable. They should be removed from glass bottles prior to being sent to a recycling center. Incidentally, for many other products NOW is able to replicate the qualities of glass packaging by utilizing recyclable plastics combined with appropriate freshness packets, which achieves lower cost and less breakage without sacrificing product quality or shelf life.
In addition to using more recyclable materials, NOW is also switching several packaging components to post-consumer recycled (PCR) material. NOW uses PCR corrugated boxes to store bulk capsules and tablets. These durable, yet eco-friendly boxes can be used multiple times before requiring a trip to the recycling center. NOW is currently testing PCR cartons for use with Stevia and Xylitol packets, as well as with Tea and Effer-C™ products. The use of PCR reduces “virgin” pulp from being used, which ultimately saves trees and carbon emissions.
Another form of reducing waste involves decreasing the amount of packaging materials altogether. Items such as dry beverage mixes and powders require volumetric dosages (measuring volume). Where applicable, rather than include a plastic scoop NOW provides information on how to prepare a serving by using household measurement tools (i.e. tablespoon, teaspoon, etc…). To help reduce the excessive use of shrink wrap or additional plastics, NOW seeks out packaging with interlocking, tamper-safe mechanisms.
Finally, NOW is making a concerted effort to reduce headspace in new and existing products. If your next NOW purchase looks smaller, you can rest assured that the only thing that will change is the size of the container; not the volume, and certainly not the quality, of the product inside.
NOW has consistently worked to reduce the amount of packaging coming in to our facility, and has dramatically reduced the amount of waste that we send to landfills. As verification of NOW’s commitment to environmental concerns, we have received these recent environmental awards:
• Earth Flag for Business (DuPage County Board)
• 2008 Illinois Governor’s Pollution Prevention Award (The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center at the University of Illinois)