Printpack converts new "store drop-off recyclable" wrapper for Nature Valley

Atlanta, GA-based flexible-packaging converting giant Printpack has partnered with General Mills to develop the first plastic-film wrapper for the snack-food industry designated as "Store Drop-Off Recyclable" by How2Recycle®. The wrapper, made from polyethylene film (PE), was created for the iconic Nature ValleyCrunchy line of granola bars. The newly packaged bars will be on shelves this spring helping to bring Nature Valley closer to achieving its commitment to 100% recyclable packaging by 2025.

“It’s so exciting to see something that has been in the works for years to be launched on the store shelf. From working with film makers, to our plant folks in Rhinelander (WI) and at General Mills, all the way through the supply chain to recyclers, this has truly been a team effort," says Wil Goetsch, product development engineer dedicated to General Mills for Printpack.

How2Recycle is the preferred label for recyclable packaging, and the most widely used format for recycling currently. In the US, there are over 18,000 store drop-off recycle locations collecting plastic film with the How2Recycle logo. Many of these recyclable structures were made commercially feasible with oriented polyethylene film.

“Oriented polyethylene film will be a key tool in Printpack’s toolbox going forward since it retains many of the physical properties our customers are accustomed to like clarity, stiffness, and heat resistance while still being compatible with the PE-recycling stream,” adds Daniel Cluskey, product stewardship engineer at Printpack. 

By purposefully not patenting this wrapper, Nature Valley is welcoming other food brands to apply the technology to their product portfolios.

“This advancement demonstrates that big, innovative thinking can empower and enable consumers to take small steps, like recycling a wrapper through Store Drop-Off, to make a significant difference in the health of our planet,” says Mary Jane Melendez, chief sustainability and social impact officer at General Mills.

With this new packaging, Nature Valley plans to educate consumers about the Store Drop-Off recycling system, re-engage their interest in reducing landfilled material and stimulate recycling. According to the Hartman Group’s "Sustainability 2019" report, 70% of the US population wants to decrease plastic waste but doesn't know how, yet over 90% of Americans are within 10 miles of a Store Drop-Off recycling location. That is a potential 295 million people who could participate in Store Drop-Off recycling.

Developed in collaboration with Nature Valley R&D scientists and Printpack, the wrapper uses advanced film processing with proprietary PE polymers. Once recycled, the materials can be used to create new products such as synthetic lumber and decking equipment. This new packaging offers the barrier needed to preserve the product’s freshness and does not compromise product shelf life. The goal is to implement the wrapper technology across the brand’s entire portfolio of snacks by 2025 and extend to other General Mills brands and products.

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