The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers hopes to boost the recycling of rigid plastics beyond PET and high density polyethylene bottles by working with grocery stores to identify obstacles to capturing the huge volume of material that today is largely untapped.
Large grocery stores are generating roughly 350 million pounds [per year] of material, Elizabeth Bedard, director of the APR's Rigid Plastics Recycling program, said at APR's spring meeting March 4 in Austin.
They already recycle film [pallet wrap] and corrugated paper, and they are eager to dig deeper into the dumpster to recycle this additional material, much of which is generated in seafood, bakery and pharmaceutical departments.
She said the APR committee is working with grocery store groups to get a better grasp of the obstacles and the mix of resins in that supermarket segment, and hopes to have more detailed information by the end of June.
We want to expand recycling beyond No. 1 [PET] and No. 2 [HDPE] bottles, she said. We want to increase the supply and reduce the contamination. And we need to develop design protocols for greater recyclability so we don't have packages that make it more difficult to recycle.
The most recent report from the plastics division of the American Chemistry Council in Arlington, Va., found that the amount of non-bottle rigid plastics collected in 2008 increased by slightly more than 35 million pounds to 360.8 million pounds a 10.8 increase over 2007. About 38 percent of the material collected was HDPE and about 25 percent was polypropylene.
To gain additional insight, the committee recently surveyed homes and materials recovery facilities, Bedard said.
The home survey found that the majority of the material consumers are recycling at curbside, in addition to PET and HDPE bottles, is PP containers.
The survey of 112 materials recovery facilities found that 94 of them or 84 percent recycle all bottles or all plastics labeled with the 1-7 resin identification code. We found that MRFs would like help in finding markets for the material and learning where they can turn to sell it, Bedard said.
The committee which is a little more than a year old has 29 members, including processors such as Berry Plastics Corp., product manufacturers and brand owners such as Procter & Gamble Co. and Kraft Foods, resin manufacturers, reclaimers, government officials and representatives from MRFs.
She said the group began its work by looking at basic questions, including what is meant by rigid plastics, the current state of rigid plastics recycling, what is required to move forward and the concerns, issues and goals of all the individual stakeholders.
We have begun to answer some of the questions about what we need to know to move rigid plastics recycling forward, Bedard sat at the Plastics Recycling Conference, held March 2-3 in Austin.
As she explained, different MRFs have different definitions of bottles with recycling codes 3-7, and some people think of rigid plastics as only oversized containers labeled 3-7.
She said that committee's current definition is that rigid plastics are containers ranging from 6 ounces to 6 gallons that are not made from film, and are not PET or HDPE bottles.
Bedard also said the subcommittee had identified a number of common concerns and goals.
We all want to develop a program that is sustainable, Bedard said. We all want increased recycling. We all felt that somehow the public is wrapped up in the resin identification code and is very frustrated over its inability to recycle some things.
Bedard said a subcommittee of brand owners, resin producers and companies that use recycled content in their products is looking at recycling terminology and bale specification so that all stakeholders are working from the same definitions.
We know that an adequate supply, enough good raw materials, proven technology, good demand and profitable end products are needed to make rigid plastic recycling successful, she said.
We need to have rigid separation technology to help MRFs separate the material, she said. Our plans for 2010 are to acquire a better understanding of the supply, get a better understanding of rigid plastics and what that mix is, and determine what's needed to generate investment in rigid plastics recycling and in developing products.
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