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(Last Updated On: June 21, 2021)

This post is sponsored by the The Flexible Packaging Association. All opinions are my own.

Tips on recycling on the road. Products and companies to put your money behind! Conscious Consumerism on the road with flexible packaging.

All photos in collaboration with Johnathon DeSoto.

Recycling was something I grew up doing. Michigan had 10 cent deposits on cans and bottles after-all. I never really thought much about why or what happens to the items I tossed in the recycling bin, but it is SO important to understand the impact one item can have on our environment and how we can do our part.

For me, the awareness of “waste” came when I started backpacking and road tripping. On the trail, you pack everything you need, and pack out the waste when you leave. On the road, you easily see how quickly trash accumulates; those snack wrappers and containers add up quick.

According to Keep America Beautiful (berecycled.org), “The average American generates 4.48 pounds of trash per day, adding to the grand total of about 262 million tons of trash the United States accumulates per year.” That number really puts it into perspective.

I find it is easy to disassociate ourselves from what we consume. It is convenient to simply throw something that has the recycle icon in a bin and feel you’ve done your part. But what I’m learning is what matters more – the packaging on the items you’re purchasing in the first place, the companies you’re putting your money behind, and recycling properly!

Let me tell you about Flexible Packaging

What is it?

You are most likely using flexible packing on products and didn’t know it! Flexible Packaging is packaging whose shape changes during use or when filled. It can be seen in forms of bags, pouches, liners, wraps and more and is produced from materials such as paper, plastic, film or foil. Think a resealable bag of granola or a bag of coffee vs a tin or rigid container.

So why does this matter? Everything that goes through manufacturing and, ultimately ends up in a landfill, has an environmental impact.

The Flexible Packaging Industry’s packaging often has the lowest environmental impact on our environment in that process of creation to landfill.

What Impact Does Flexible Packaging Make?

Food waste in landfills is a huge contributor to methane gases. This is something I only recently learned. Flexible packaging is researched and designed to create packaging that has a low environmental impact. One of the ways flexible packaging impacts the environment is by reducing food waste that ends up in the landfills by increasing shelf life.

So many brands that I already use and love use flexible packaging. Being aware of what companies and company standards you are supporting is so important!

Some of my favorites:

  • Clif Bar
  • Patagonia Provisions
  • Bear Naked Granola
  • Justin’s

Read about some of the studies they have done to inform you on what packaging to purchase and what to steer clear of HERE.

Sustainability with Flexible Packaging

flexible packaging reduces environmental impact!

To reduce environmental impact, flexible packaging looks at these factors:

  • Using fewer raw materials
  • Using less water, less energy
  • Lightweight, less space to reduce shipping costs
  • Extends product life, reduces waste
  • Recycling options
  • Less ending up in the landfills

Be an Informed Recycler

So much of what we recycle is not recycled properly or is not taken to the proper facility to recycle it. It is an extra step, but an important one, to inform yourself on how to best dispose of something. If you are unable to find a way to reuse the item or package, the next best thing is at least making sure you find out how to properly recycle it.

Tools like Earth911 make it really easy to find facilities and drop offs by zipcode for specific items!

Earth911 Website

Also, be sure to check out websites like berecycled.org where they break down what you need to know about recycling items.


Recycling on the Road

flexible packaging reduces food waste in landfills - a major methane contributor

So, as you can see, what products you purchase make a massive impact on the environment. Factors I have never considered before like shelf life to prevent food waste, energy used to create the package, and even weight and size of products for shipping efficiency to reduce energy, all add up.

As I start my van life journey I’m going to be spending a lot more time researching companies and looking for flexible packaging options on the road. It will definitely take some initial work, but once I do the research and have my favorite brands locked in, it will be easy to replace items and know I’m doing the best I can for the environment by being an informed consumer.

I LOVE the Earth911 recycling tool, as it will allow me to find drop off locations by zipcode while traveling to properly recycle my trash. I’m also looking forward to getting creative with reusing and upcycling items on the road.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments!

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