Four years into its existence in the marketplace, the How2Recycle program experienced the most exciting growth to date in 2016.
From January to December, our membership increased by an entire third. The number of products carrying the label has exponentially grown, and the complexity of packaging that we analyze has increased.
One reason we grew so much was the tremendous amount of support from two influential How2Recycle member companies in the retail space, Walmart and Target. Their encouragement of brands they work with to adopt the label, and their commitment to labeling more of their private label packaging, created a ripple effect along the supply chain. From brandowners overall, we sensed more urgency, more curiosity around recycling claims in 2016 than we did in 2015.
We expanded our collection of dual U.S./Canada How2Recycle labels, that provides our members with another option for messaging recyclability across North America. We've made our Guidelines for Use for our members more precise, easier to understand.
Key relationships and new information strengthens How2Recycle
In an effort to continually improve the form and substance of what we offer, How2Recycle was able to positively evolve in other ways. Our relationships with Association of Plastic Recyclers and Recycled Paperboard Alliance allowed us to expand our technical knowledge about packaging recyclability and pass along effective packaging design feedback to our members. With the SPC Centralized Availability of Recycling study, we now have a newer, stronger backbone of data to base our recyclability assessments on. Based on the study, polypropylene and PET thermoforms were now able to receive the Widely Recycled label, so we also saw interest around How2Recycle grow from those materials demonstrating greater market share.
We also improved how we share information this year with our website redesign at How2Recycle.info. The user experience for consumers is now more fluid than before, and the site now does a better job of communicating the value of the program to prospective members. This year, the volume of users coming to our website has jumped by 25%, and our social media impact has grown by roughly 50%.
How2Recycle moves to new spots in the store
With Nestle Purina joining the program, we've broken into the pet care space; with Hasbro and Disney joining, we've broken into the toy space; and with Happy Family Organics and Gerber, we've expanded our influence in the baby aisle along with longtime member Plum Organics. Our presence in food and beverage will continue to deepen, as new members Nestle, PepsiCo and Kraft-Heinz begin rolling out How2Recycle labels across a variety of their brands.
The How2Recycle label is poised for deeper impact in 2017
We expect many of the themes from packaging and recycling in 2016 to continue into 2017: the economics of recycling, Millennials’ influence, the importance of building trust in consumers and in the recycling system, and the importance of packaging design for recyclability. As a part of Sustainable Packaging Coalition, this means we're sensitive to trends on the edge of industry’s wave, and always scan for opportunities to leverage those learnings for How2Recycle improvement.
We're optimistic that 2017 will be bright for How2Recycle. Due to such tremendous growth in the last year, we're turning towards automation to help make the How2Recycle process easier and faster for our members. We'd like our packaging design feedback to members to become more detailed, more formalized. We anticipate the personal care category and apparel to grow in 2017, and we're also likely to see increased interest from retailers. We are confident that the How2Recycle label will continue to influence behavior change so that more materials get recycled, and recycled more accurately.
Looking towards the future, How2Recycle is eager to evolve within a culture growing in complexity, size, and abstraction. As choices, consumption, and the notions of suggestion and discovery change around us, How2Recycle will seize every opportunity to become more interconnected and more intuitive around the systems and people our label touches. We thank How2Recycle members and the general public for their support as we shape the future of materials recovery together.