The trade association for post-consumer plastics recyclers has issued the first two of seven bale specifications for non-bottle rigid plastics specifications that it hopes will help increase recycling of those materials.
The lack of bale specifications leads to non-bottle rigid plastic material being exported rather than being used by domestic plastic markets, said Elizabeth Bedard, director of the rigid plastics recycling program for the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers at the group's spring meeting and the Plastics Recycling Conference, held March 1-3 in New Orleans.
We need to get this information out so that [materials recovery facilities] know what should be in bales of tubs and lids, and bales of bulky rigid plastics, she said.
We plan to promote these specifications nationwide through webinars and website promotion. Our goal is to increase the supply of non-bottle rigid plastics.
In 2009, the volume of post-consumer non-bottle rigid plastics recycled increased by 32.8 percent to 479.2 million pounds, according to data in a report issued Feb. 16 by the American Chemistry Council in Washington.
That increase did not translate into much more material for U.S. and Canadian recyclers. Recyclers only had access to 19.5 million more pounds of non-bottle rigid plastics in 2009 than in 2008, because 49 percent of the material collected was exported.
The specifications for bulky rigid plastics and for tubs and lids were approved by the APR board just prior to its spring meeting in New Orleans. Specifications for five other types of rigid plastic bales are still under development. Those are categorized as all-rigid bales, olefin bales, household containers, bottles and containers, and pre-picked rigid bales.
APR said the specifications are not meant to replace those of individual buyers.
For bale purposes, APR defined tubs and lids as non-bottle items made from polypropylene, high and low density polyethylene; and it defined containers as products that have a neck or mouth similar in size to the base, and lids as caps for tubs that have a fastening feature other than threads.
Typical bulky rigid plastics include carts, crates, buckets, baskets, toys and lawn furniture made from HPDE, PP and LDPE but with metals (usually handles) removed, when possible. APR said construction or demolition waste, siding and electronic scrap, like computer or printer housings, cannot be included in bulky rigid plastic bales.
Both types of bales need to be free of contents or free-flowing liquids. Bales of bulky rigids also need to be free of organic residue, and bales of tubs and lids must be rinsed and dried and free from metal.
Bales of tubs and lids, and of bulky rigid plastics, cannot contain contamination from products with degradable additives, wood, glass, electronics scrap, paint, oils and grease, rocks, stones, mud and dirt, medical and hazardous waste, plastic bags, sheet or film made from any resin, or from toys or other items that have circuit boards or battery packs.
For both types of bales, the amount of contamination from other materials should not exceed a total of 10 percent of the bale, as calculated by weight.
Both types also can have no more than 2 percent contamination each from paper/cardboard and liquids or other residues. There can be no more than 2 percent contamination from metals in bulky rigid plastic bales.
By individual resin, APR said bales of tubs and lids should not have contamination of more than 1 percent from PET bottles; a maximum of 6 percent from injection molded HDPE pails, buckets, milk jugs and bottles; and no more than 2 percent from containers or packaging made from PET, PVC, polystyrene, or other non-PP, HDPE or LDPE materials.
For bulky rigid plastic bales, the level of contamination from any plastic items or packaging, including those made from PET, PVC, PS or other non-PP, HDPE or LDPE materials should not exceed 4 percent, APR said.
Bedard pointed to several encouraging signs for non-bottle rigid plastics recycling.
There is more demand because consumer product brand-name companies are interested in using recycled resin, there is more curbside collection, the amount of material recycled in 2009 showed an increase of more than 30 percent from 2008, and we are starting to put in some structure through bale specifications, she said.