Apr 15th 2024

Recyclability, Compostability and Reusability at Novolex

The Novolex commitment to sustainability doesn’t depend on the season, but during April, we take a particular interest in recognizing our efforts towards a more sustainable future with the annual celebration of Earth Day. We will recognize the day, the progress our diverse family of brands has made by creating recyclable, compostable, and reusable products -- all backed by researchers, production teams and others who are passionate about meeting and exceeding ambitious sustainability goals. How do we do it? By ensuring sustainability is a focus of each of our three sustainability pillars: our products, our operations, and our people and communities.

Advancing Sustainable Solutions at Every Step

Novolex packaging products are the most visible aspect of our commitment to sustainability. Many of our products are made with recycled or renewable materials. For example, half our business consists of products made with papers – bags, wraps, clamshells and so much more. And that paper comes from forests, a renewable resource. We deliver on sustainability as well when it comes to how we design our products to be disposed of after they are used. For our most recent sustainability report, we calculated that 78% of applicable products we make are made to be recycled, composted or reused.

“Our product sustainability fundamentals enable us to bring to market a rich selection of products,” explained Maria Hernandez, Senior Director of Marketing. “On top of those sustainability features, we then bring a mix of material and design choices that we can offer our customers. We do that one on one with our customers to understand what they need and how we can develop products that will serve them best.”

Steve Kapantais, Technical Director for Rigid Packaging operations, is instrumental in developing recyclable and reusable products for Novolex. Steve has built a career on recycling and is proud of the work Novolex brands do to support sustainability goals. “Our recent developments include a line of rigid food containers that you see in supermarket self-serve salad bars and bakery sections, for example,” explained Steve. “Those products can be made with a minimum of 10% recycled materials. And we also make plastic cups which can be successfully collected and reused in closed environments.

The Promise of Closed Systems

Novolex is partnering with other organizations to launch system solutions like arenas and concert venues. The approach uses compostable and reusable products but then goes further. “We work directly with venue operators starting, of course, with our products,” explained Wendell Simonson, Director of Marketing at the Eco-Products business of Novolex. “But in addition to our products, we work with venue operators to provide clear directions for audience members where to dispose of products for composting after the event. And then we take our role a vital step further by helping operators establish dedicated relationships with waste haulers and composters to ensure compostable packaging gets composted.”

Leading Through Consumer Labeling

Our ability to identify products as recyclable or compostable relies on certifications and participation industry labeling systems. Kyle Konczal, Product Manager at Eco-Products and responsible for obtaining certifications for Eco-Products’ compostable foodservice packaging, explained that ”The most apparent barrier to more effective composting is the lack of consumer information on how to compost correctly. In 2022, Novolex was among the first companies to launch a dual How2Recycle/ How2Compost label on our stock paper bag products. The use of the dual How2Recycle®/How2Compost® label is designed to increase proper waste disposal by including clear instructions that direct consumers to discard our products into the correct waste stream based on the condition of the product.

Sustainable Manufacturing

With 55 manufacturing plants, we focus on our commitment to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from operations 30% by 2030. To get there, we need to be smart about how we use energy by investing in energy-efficient equipment and processes.

A second important manufacturing goal is to reduce waste and ensure that whatever waste we do generate gets recycled rather than sent to landfill. In 2022, approximately 80% of our waste from operations was recycled.

Sustainability Is Everyone’s Job at Novolex

Ultimately, we know it’s not just the Novolex family members with “sustainability” in their job titles who value and will help us meet our sustainability goals. That’s why Novolex hosts annual training for teams working in New Product Development, Sales, and Marketing. Subjects cover a range of topics including the impacts that material choice can have on customer sustainability goals such as greenhouse gas emissions, the use of recycled or renewable content and producing products that can be recycled, composted or reused.

Bringing It Home

Outside of work, members of the Novolex family believe that supporting the goals of our customers starts from within. To that end, many Novolex product innovators and sustainability professionals live an environmentally conscious lifestyle. Ali Leist, Novolex Sustainability Manager, is proof of this. “I do what I can to live a lifestyle that reduces my environmental footprint,” explained Ali. “Having a career centered around sustainability – and work at a company that has environmental stewardship as one of its values - allows me to be my authentic self and do my part in making the world a better place.”