The Circular Economy
A. Packaging An AHAM-commissioned study by Burns and McDonnell analyzed appliance recycling. including products’ packaging material. Appliance packaging consists mostly of materials that are recyclable, such as corrugate, boxboard and paper laminates, and fully recyclable plastics such as expanded polystyrene and plastic films. For major appliances, recyclable materials make up close to 86% of the total packaging, where in portable and floor care appliances recyclable materials can comprise up to 92 percent of total packaging.
Breakdown of Appliance Packaging Materials
The primary purpose of appliance packaging is to protect products during storage, transport, and delivery. It does not provide information for marketing or other purposes and, therefore, has its own inherent financial incentive to prevent damage while lowering cost. This includes minimal material, maximum end-of-life value of the material used, low transportation cost and fewer freight miles to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, minimize damage and returns, and worker safety. The same packaging is used from when a product leaves the manufacturing facility to the time it is delivered to into the customer’s home. Our member companies vigorously test the packaging in laboratory settings using comprehensive test methods such as drop, compression and vibration tests to ensure that the products arrive to the customer’s home or to the store undamaged. Typically, the company delivering the unit would remove the packaging and take it away for recycling. The consumer typically does not see the packaging. AHAM has developed a set of principles to articulate and support the industry’s position when it works with legislators and regulators who are considering plastic packaging restrictions in the United States. These principles allowed AHAM to work positively and proactively to support a bill in California this past year that would have reduced plastic packaging waste. However, the bill did not pass. In Canada, provincial and territory governments regulate printed-paper and packaging recycling by requiring responsible parties to set up recycling stewardship programs to collect and process recyclable materials. Industry works with government to operate these programs, meeting annual recycling rate targets. Programs currently exist across six provinces and territories, which in most cases requires industry to be 100% responsible. Industry collective stewardship programs allow individual companies to meet their obligations. AHAM members participate in these stewardship programs.
B. Products Policymakers in Canada and Europe are emphasizing recycled plastic content in products. In 2018, Canada’s government championed the Ocean Plastics Charter, which commits to 100% reusable, recyclable, or, where viable alternatives do not exist, recoverable, plastics by 2030. The Charter also calls for working with industry towards increasing recycled content by at least 50% in plastic products where applicable by 2030. In October 2020, the Canadian government declared plastic as toxic and announced its plan for combating plastic pollution, which includes banning a small list of single-use plastic items and establishing recycled content requirements in both products and packaging. The home appliance industry faces a number of technical barriers to incorporating recycled plastic into its products. Safety is foremost among them, but there are companies working on incorporating recycled materials into their products. Proper recycling and disposal of appliances at the end of life is a key piece of achieving circularity in the industry. Since 2002, AHAM members have been participating in stewardship programs across 22 states in the U.S. and in twelve provinces in Canada.