Flex Forward Pilot Program Brings Groundbreaking Recycling Solutions to the Pet Industry
Earth Animal, producer of award-winning, veterinary formulated products; Pet Food Experts (PFX), a whole distributor serving 4,500 independently owned retailers and the Pet Sustainability Coalition (PSC), a non-profit that advances business through environmental and social practices, has announced Flex Forward. The Flex Forward program is a 2020 return-to-retail packing pilot program aimed at reducing landfill waste and delivering sustainable packaging solutions to the pet industry.
For Michael Baker, Pet Food Experts’ CEO, the idea to partner with these organizations was a no-brainer. “With shared values and a commitment to sustainability, the idea to partner with Earth Animal and PSC came naturally. As leaders in sustainability, we owe it to the industry to be a beacon for others to follow on the journey to a more sustainable future.”
The results of the pilot are meant to inform and shape an industry-wide plastics recycling program whereby all consumers, retailers, brands and packing 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 thanks to sponsorship from Earth Animal who 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.
Stephanie Volo, CMO of Earth Animal said, “These efforts bring together what is best about our industry—passion, innovation and a commitment to helping all earth’s animals. This program is not designed for just one company or one brand, but for the good of the industry and the good of the earth. What we learn through this pilot program will shape how we move forward in the years to come.”
According to PSC’s research, it is estimated that 300 million pounds of plastic pet food and treat bags are generated in the US 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 more than 99 percent of all pet food bags in the US are disposed of in the landfill rather than recycled.
“As an industry, we’ve made great strides in terms of sourcing sustainable ingredients, though the packaging innovations are slow 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 landfills with more and more packaging waste. Our goal is to find an alternative avenue for those offscouring and eventually, to eliminate them altogether.”