There's a lot of demand for recycled bags and film from industries like plastic lumber, but getting the word out to companies, consumers and governments that could collect them remains a challenge.
That's the goal of an 8-month-old, industry-funded effort to expand film recycling in California. While it's too soon to quantify how it's working, the manager of the project told a plastics industry environmental conference that since both interest and resin prices remain high, the plan holds promise.
In mid-2004, the American Plastics Council launched a Web site, www.plasticbagrecycling.org, and industry officials have been working on expanding the program in grocery stores and among commercial users of film, said Nina Bellucci, project manager with Moore Recycling Associates in Sonoma, Calif., which is operating the program for APC.
The key challenge is ``education about the value of the material and that it can be recycled,'' Bellucci said. The success of the effort depends on getting industry groups, companies and governments to work together, she said.
California state officials estimate that only about 5 percent of plastic film and bags are recycled now. But Bellucci, speaking at the Global Plastics Environmental Conference, held Feb. 24 in Atlanta, said about 65 percent of all plastic film could be recycled readily. About half the film collected in California is exported, she estimated.
The APC Web site tries to link people and companies that want to recycle plastic film with recyclers and consolidation points, such as grocery stores or municipal drop-off sites, where the film is collected. The Web site also includes a calculator for businesses to figure out if they should recycle their film in-house or send it elsewhere.
There are about 1,000 consolidation points in the state, but that number needs to grow, Bellucci said.
The APC effort is targeting low-hanging fruit such as commercial film, and it is not focusing as much on agricultural film, which is harder to clean, she said.
Another challenge is the lack of a washing line for film on the West Coast, she said.
The effort for now is focused on California, where the industry faces a lot of political pressure, but Bellucci said she receives a lot of inquiries from the rest of the country as well.
In a related presentation at the conference, which was sponsored by the Society of Plastics Engineers, an official with the California Integrated Waste Management Board said the agency has developed quality guidelines for identifying recycled resin grades.
Waste board staffer Edgar Rojas said the guidelines are designed to help the companies buying recycled resin, many of which said they were having a difficult time finding a good supply. But he said it is not clear how they will be used, in part because recyclers have said the guidelines are impractical and expensive to meet.