Shopping malls recycling more plastic packaging

Published: April 17, 2013 12:46 pm ET
Updated: April 17, 2013 12:49 pm ET

Related to this story

Topics Sustainability, Recycling

CONCORD, N.C. — Before hanging on a rack, your average ensemble arrives at the store wrapped in individual plastic bags packaged inside cardboard boxes. It ensures clothing stays clean and preserved. It also ensures that stores have pounds of flexible plastic packaging waste to deal with.

Most stores take the linear low and high density polyethylene and other film materials, shove them in garbage bags and throw them away. But a recycling program launched by Indianapolis-based real estate giant Simon Property Group Inc. is hoping to change that.

Concord Mills in Concord, N.C., is the latest Simon-owned outlet mall to start collecting and baling clear plastic packaging materials. The mall's "Plastic Room" has a hydraulic baler that compresses shrink wrap, garment bags and other plastic shipping materials into bales — each one equivalent to 160 pounds of plastic — that are collected for recycling.

Nearly 140 of the mall's 200 retailers are participating in the program and have collected nearly 2,000 pounds of clean plastic since September.

Plastic is a big portion of waste generated by the typical shopping mall, but it's a material nobody really knows how to deal with, said George Caraghiaur, senior vice president of sustainability for Simon. There are infrastructure issues both nationally — recycling programs and profitability vary across the U.S. — and in the mall itself, because malls, by nature, have limited space to store large amounts of plastic, he said.

"Plastic is a big nut for us to crack. It's something we need to deal with as a company," he said by phone. "We're looking for solutions — trying to be a bit creative and not leave any stone unturned. That's how we came up with the idea for the baling operation."

Three Simon-owned malls have a plastic baling program. A handful of other sites are compacting cardboard and plastics together in a mixed recycling operation.

The malls sell the baled material to regional businesses; Caraghiaur declined to name them.

The malls are testing various recycling models. In some locations shops bring their plastic waste to the baler, while in others, the waste is taken to a central collection location or picked up at the shop. Labor costs of the models vary. "The secret here is finding a solution that makes sense economically," he said.

The baling program is probably the first of its kind and there are still some hurdles. "It's a challenge. It's not easy, but we're up to the challenge and the results are very interesting," he said.

For example, the malls need to find enough buyers of the material for the program to make economic sense. And very few mall employees know the difference between HDPE, LLDPE and stretch film, but if you're selling that material as a feedstock, you need to know what it is, he said.

Transporting the material has also posed "an interesting challenge." Ideally, the trucks that deliver goods to the mall would take the plastic bales with them on the return trip and bring them to the recycler, he said.

Simon has worked with various firms and industry trade groups, including the American Chemistry Council, to identify potential buyers, evaluate the malls' plastic waste and figure out logistics.

"It's definitely a new process. … It's a tough issue to address, but we know we have to address it," he said. "Ultimately, we have to be creative and find partners that are atypical in the waste industry to find that solution."


Comments

Shopping malls recycling more plastic packaging

Published: April 17, 2013 12:46 pm ET
Updated: April 17, 2013 12:49 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Soy-based foam improves window performance, sustainability

December 18, 2014 12:51 pm ET

Launched in April 2013, Madison, Wis.-based WFI Global LLC is making a name in the fenestration market with what it says is a distinct product...    More

Image

Europe puts its 'Circular Economy' recycling effort on hold, for now

December 18, 2014 12:28 pm ET

The European Commission has withdrawn its Circular Economy initiative from its 2015 work program, and will instead replace it with “a new, more ...    More

Image

New extruders, repelletizer to improve production for InterGroup

December 17, 2014 6:00 am ET

InterGroup International Ltd. will install new, larger extruders and repelletizers at all three of its plastic scrap recycling locations in 2015.    More

Image

Investments allow UK's Jayplas to keep recycling supply chain at home

December 17, 2014 9:32 am ET

Corby, England-based plastics recycler Jayplas has announced the completion of a new extrusion and printing plant, together with a new packaging...    More

Image

Ecojug trims HDPE from milk jugs

December 17, 2014 8:57 am ET

United Diary Inc. has saved 1.7 million pounds of high density polythylene during the production of 80 million of its new Ecojug milk jug design since...    More

Market Reports

Flexible Packaging Trends in North America

Our latest RESEARCH report examines trends in FLEXIBLE PACKAGING impacting the North American market including a review of economic conditions, key drivers of growth, materials pricing, M&A activity, sustainability challenges and the outlook for 2015.

Learn more

Plastics in Brazil - State of the Industry Report

This in-depth report examines the Brazilian plastics industry from a historical and geographical context. Our analysts provide insight on economic trends and forecasts, growing manufacturing sectors that utilize plastics, private investment opportunities, market environment challenges, and innovations in R&D.

Data tables and charts on producer prices, trade, plastics production and end market indicators is also included.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

October 27, 2015 - October 29, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - New York - 2015

More Events