Flex Forward Pilot Program Intents to Bring Recycling Solutions to the Pet Industry



Earth Animal, Petfood Experts (PFX) and the Pet Sustainability Coalition (PSC) reveal Flex Forward, a 2020 return-to-retail packaging pilot program aimed at reducing landfill waste and delivering sustainable packaging solutions to the pet industry. 

The results of the pilot are meant to inform and shape an industry-wide plastics recycling program whereby all consumers, retailers, brands and packaging suppliers can collaborate to reduce the environmental footprint of packaging. Flex Forward’s target is to collect 5,000 total pounds of post-consumer plastic packaging over a total collection period of three to four months in select independent retail locations this spring. 

The pilot will be offered to hundreds of independent retailers served by PFX who will collect and transport the collected bags using reverse logistics to minimize carbon impact. Participation for retailers will be zero-cost due to sponsorship from Earth Animal, which will provide retailers with everything they need including a collection vessel, retail associate training, digital content, incentives and consumer support to ensure they bring their packaging back to the store. 

After collection ends, the packaging will be shipped from a PRX distribution center to a recycler where the packaging will be ground into pellets and upcycled into new pet products intended for donation at animal shelters and rescues nationwide. 

According to PSC’s research, it is estimated that 300 million pounds of plastic pet food and treats bags are generated in the United States each year. Currently, nearly all of these bags are made by co-extruding and laminating multiple layers of film plastics that are nearly impossible to separate for recycling. Furthermore, the cost of recycling is more than the value of the plastic materials in the package. As a result, PSC estimates that over 99 percent of all pet food bags in the United States are disposed of in a landfill rather than recycled. 

“As an industry we’ve made great strides in terms of sourcing sustainable ingredients, though the packaging innovations are slower to come,” said Caitlyn Dudas, executive director at PSC. “We know that fully recyclable packaging is on the horizon but in the meantime, we are clogging our landfills with more and more packaging waste. Our goal is to find an alternative avenue for those offscourings and eventually, to eliminate them altogether.” 

More information on Flex Forward can be found here.


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