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Recycling innovations honored

November 15, 2012

WASHINGTON (UPDATED Nov. 16, 2:10 p.m. ET) — KW Plastics, Safeplay Systems Inc. and Sony Electronics Inc. are the winners of this year’s Innovation in Plastics Recycling awards, sponsored by the American Chemistry Council. ACC announced the honors Nov. 15 — America Recycles Day — in Washington.

The companies were selected for developing innovative proc­esses and/or products using post-consumer plastics.

• Troy, Ala.-based KW Plastics was awarded for its pioneering approaches to recycling post-consumer polypropylene, including yogurt cups, butter tubs, ketchup bottles, juice boxes and corrugated yard signs. The company also claims to be the first domestic reprocessor to collect and recycle woven and non-woven flexible PP.

In May, KW added a new PP wash line that has the annual capacity to recycle 75 million pounds of woven and non-woven PP super sacks, agricultural bags and bale wrap. It also is completing the installation of a new $5 million wash line that will have the capacity to recycle 10 million to 12 million pounds per month of bulky rigid high density polyethylene plastics products such as carts, crates, buckets, totes, baskets, toys and lawn furniture.

“We made a huge investment in those lines,” said Stephanie Baker, market development director for the KW Plastics Recycling division, in a telephone conference call. “The award validates that our investments are helping to advance plastic recycling.”

“The innovations we have implemented, together with cooperative efforts with our partners and suppliers, are making plastics recycling easier than ever before,” she said in a news release from Washington-based ACC.

The new HDPE and PP wash lines will give KW the capacity to reprocess 450 million pounds of HDPE and 300 million pounds of PP annually.

• Safeplay Systems won for EcoPlay Playgrounds for schools, churches, daycare centers and parks. The majority of the line’s components are made from 95 percent post-consumer HDPE.

Playsets made by Safeplay cost $10,000 to $100,000.

“The only things we do not manufacture in-house are the rotomolded parts — slides and roofs — which we get from one of our suppliers” and which are manufactured from virgin materials, said Eric Torrey, marketing director.

“We make the play panels that go onto our playground structures” in-house from virgin materials. “What we’d like to see in the future is the play panels also made from recycled HDPE, but to date, we are having problems getting a consistent color from batch to batch.”

The Marietta, Ga.-based company said its average playground structure keeps 35,000 milk jugs out of landfills. The support posts, decks, stairs and bridges are made from recycled HDPE.

Safeplay also has its own recycling program, accepting its products to be recycled again at the end of their useful lives, at the market price of the weight of the structure. However, because of the durability of its playground equipment, according to Torrey, the company has only recycled a handful of sets from closed daycare centers.

“Environmental stewardship is an integral part of Safeplay Systems’ business, and we are honored to be recognized for our innovations in plastics recycling,” said Torrey.

The company designs, manufactures, extrudes and installs the EcoPlay Playground equipment.

“There is a lot of potential growth in this market,” said Torrey. “We would like to extend our product offerings to outdoor classrooms, raised planter beds for school gardens and weather stations.”

In addition, he said Safeplay is in discussions with the Environmental Protection Agency to have air-quality monitors incorporated into items such as benches made from recycled plastic.

• San Diego-based Sony Electronics Inc. won for its development of SoRPlas, a material made from 99 percent recycled polycarbonate that is used in the housings of some of Sony’s consumer products, particularly in high-end cameras.

SoRPlas uses 50 percent post-industrial scrap from optical disc manufacturing and 50 percent post-consumer PC.

Sony said it uses more than 17,000 tons of recycled plastics annually, including SoRPlas, in various products.

“Sony is dedicated to protecting and improving the environment in all parts of our business,” said Doug Smith, director of corporate environmental affairs, in the release. “We are excited to be recognized for developing SoRPlas … [which] helps to conserve resources and reduce emissions in the manufacturing process, and we are committed to expanding the use of recycled plastics in our products as research continues.”

Steve Russell, ACC’s vice president of plastics, said the three firms being honored have come up with creative ways to keep plastics out of landfills.

“Used plastics are too valuable to waste and can be recycled to make high-quality, innovative products, such as furniture, car parts, home-building products, fashion and packaging,” he said.