Earth Animal, the trusted choice in award-winning, veterinary formulated products, Petfood Experts, a wholesale distributor serving 4500 independently owned retailers and the Pet Sustainability Coalition (PSC), a nonprofit that advances business through environmental and social practices, announces Flex Forward - a 2020 return-to-retail packaging 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 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 3-4 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 generous 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, Chief Marketing Officer at Earth Animal says of the program: “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 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.  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.”

-Says Caitlyn Dudas, Executive Director at PSC.

For more information on Flex Forward visit www.earthanimal.org/flexforward. If you will be in Orlando next week stop by a 2:00pm information session on Wednesday, March 26th at Earth Animal Global Pet Expo Booth #1219 or register for a Pet Sustainability Coalition launch webinar on March 31.