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

Bioplastics maker wins government funding

July 25, 2014 12:13 pm ET

Canadian bioplastics maker Solegear Bioplastics Inc. has won $1.6 million in funding from the government-sponsored Western Innovation Initiative...    More

Image

Report: biodegradeable plastics use in Europe to grow 12 percent

July 25, 2014 10:25 am ET

The biodegradable plastics market in Europe is forecast to witness 12 percent compound growth during 2014-19, according to TechSci Research's...    More

Image

Prices trending up for some recycled resins

July 24, 2014 1:27 pm ET

Plastics News is correcting prices for recycled grades of several commodity resins on this week's resin pricing chart.    More

PetStar doubles capacity at Mexico recycling facility

July 24, 2014 2:10 pm ET

Mexican recycling giant PetStar SAPI de CV, owned by the System of Coca-Cola Bottlers in Mexico, has doubled the capacity of its facility to 130...    More

Meredian merging with Danimer Scientific

July 24, 2014 1:59 pm ET

Bioplastics maker Meredian Inc. is merging with its sister firm, Danimer Scientific LLC.    More

Market Reports

Injection Molders Market Report & Ranking 2014

This special package contains our 132-page 2014 Market Report on the Injection Molding segment and our exclusive 2014 RANKINGS database of 500+ Injection Molders for a discounted package price.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Market Review & Outlook 2014

This special report from Plastics News examines the North American plastics recycling industry and provides insight into indicators that impact market viability, including Resin pricing trends for virgin and recycled market material and historical Resin production trends for post- consumer and industrial waste.

Learn more

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

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

More Events