On April 20, 2020, The Guardian published an article discussing the challenges of recycling products made of multiple layers and multiple materials. Introduced by Heidi Sanborn from the National Stewardship Action Council as “horrible hybrids,” these can include products such as plastic pouches made of multiple thin layers of different plastic resins as well as plastic labels that are placed onto packaging. The article notes that “US municipalities and recyclers are scrambling to increase the amount of recycling they can do domestically,” however “these new formulations of hybrid packaging – items mixing materials like foil, paper and sometimes multiple types of plastics – stymie recycling solutions and mostly just end up in the trash.”

Multilayer plastic pouches are described as “increasingly used to hold everything from laundry detergent pods to cereals and juices,” however “recyclers say they are pretty much impossible to recycle.” Instead, consumers are recommended to look for products placed in unlined boxes or delivered in alternative formulations such as detergent strips for washing clothes that require no plastic packaging.

Regarding plastic labels, “consumers must find a way to pry off the brightly-colored, printed plastic wraps that packagers are increasingly wrapping around bottles to make the labeling more attractive.” Sanborn argues “we’ve made recycling too complicated. Who has the time to read a manual for everything they get rid of?” Instead, consumers are advised to look for clear-colored or white bottles with labeling printed directly onto the bottle. Sanborn advocates for product manufacturers to invest in product design for better recyclability and to be required “to have an end-of-life system for all their products.” That she says, is real producer responsibility.

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Erin McCormick (April 20, 2020). “‘Horrible hybrids’: the plastic products that give recyclers nightmares.” The Guardian