The plastics recycling industry's recommendation that consumers replace caps and lids on bottles and containers they recycle is part of a continuing effort to boost the amount of material collected and to avoid sending consumers conflicting messages.
The consensus of our membership was that it was far better for APR to have more volume of material, said Scott Saunders, chairman of the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, whose members hold more than 90 percent of the post-consumer plastics recycling capacity in North America. Saunders also is general manager of KW Plastics Recycling in Troy, Ala.
APR issued a June 24 news release explaining the group's recent decision.
This was the most-asked question by municipalities whenever we conduct our outreach programs, and our members told us they have the ability to handle bottles and containers with caps on, Saunders said. We didn't want to confuse consumers by telling them we want their polypropylene and high density polyethylene containers, but not the PP lids.
Most PET soft drink bottles have PP closures. PET water bottles typically have either PP or HDPE caps, while PET juice and energy drink containers typically have PP caps.
The National Association for PET Container Resources in Sonoma, Calif., supports the stance taken by Washington-based APR.
I am sure we will follow their lead. This is the reclaimer's call, said NAPCOR technical director Mike Schedler.
The reality is that leaving closures on the bottle does not add costs, he said. Having more caps doesn't alter the removal and retrieval systems. They are going to operate the same.
Saunders said APR felt the need to clarify the issue for consumers.
There is a lot of interest in our beyond-the-bottle initiative, Saunders said. We felt telling people to leave caps on when they recycle would generate more pounds and be a better message to tell the communities and people who recycle. We want to assure recycling coordinators, [material recovery facility] operators and other collectors of recyclables that plastics recyclers will process these bottles and recover the caps for recycling purposes.
The issue of keeping lids on or taking them off PET and HDPE bottles has been a back-and-forth issue within the plastic recycling community for years. But the consensus approval from members drove the APR decision to ask people to place caps and lids back on bottles and containers, Saunders said.
Still, the most ideal situation, in most cases, said Saunders would be if beverage companies used the same resin for bottles and lids, and if HDPE container manufacturers switched to HDPE caps and spouts, rather than the PP caps and spouts commonly used on HDPE containers today.
APR is working with bottle manufacturers and designers to bring that discussion to the forefront so that as designs are being made for new products, the question of using a single resin is taken into consideration, Saunders said. When resins are mixed, it degrades the recycling stream.
APR also strongly recommended that packaging manufacturers and brand owners be consistent with its design-for-recyclability guidelines. The APR guidelines recommend that PET and PP bottles such as beverage containers use PP caps, and that HDPE bottles such as detergent containers, use HDPE caps.
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