ZION, ILL. (Sept. 8, 1:25 p.m. ET) — Lower electricity costs and different work rules mean that there will be several new wrinkles to the recycling program at NPE 2012 as the plastics industry's triennial show moves to Orlando from its longtime home in Chicago.
For starters, different union work rules in Orlando will permit Maine Plastics Inc., which has been the official recycler for the show since 2000, to process and bale some of the plastics scrap for the first time, and maybe even do some grinding.
In addition, both Maine Plastics and plastics industry association and show organizer, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., expect more plastics to be recycled because of the anticipated lower electrical costs.
“Electrical costs to exhibitors will be cheaper, so more equipment will be on power at the show, and exhibitors are going to generate more material and more plastics scrap,” said Robert Render, the longtime president and one of the two co-founders of Maine Plastics. Render now is CEO of the company's environmental and managing consulting business, A Greener Solution LLC.
However, it is likely that the volume of scrap material generated at NPE 2012 would have gone up from three years ago even if the show had remained in Chicago. The reason: the amount of plastics scrap generated at NPE 2009 dropped by more than 50 percent from 2006 as the economy prompted many exhibitors to bring less equipment to the show to cut costs.
Render said the recycling infrastructure already in place at the Orange County Convention Center, where the show will be held April 1-5, also will help Maine, which is based in Zion, Ill.
“We are going to be able to build on the systems that are already in operation there for recycling,” Render said in a phone interview earlier this month.
Among other things, the infrastructure will give a boost to recycling film from carpets that are laid down for the show, and recycling PET water and soft drink bottles from the show's expected 60,000 visitors, he said.
Maine did not estimate how much more plastics waste will be generated, or how much more material will be recycled in 2012.
“We'll have a clearer idea of the volume as we get a better understanding from show folks [exhibitors] as to who is going to be operating what equipment,” said Maine President David Spitulnik.
Spitulnik also expects there will more plastics recycled in 2012 because of the greater awareness and growing importance of recycling and sustainability in the industry.
One recycling initiative that will be a new twist is that visitors who take the shuttle buses to the show in the morning will receive a free PET water bottle, and there will be PET bottle collection bins inside the convention center near the bus drop-off points.
“Our goal is to equal or surpass” both the percentage of material and the amount of material recycled at NPE 2009, Spitulnik said. Maine collected and recycled 95 percent of “the recoverable materials,” or 125,000 pounds of plastics, in 2009, he said.
That 95 percent recovery rate was a dramatic improvement from Maine's first show as the official recycler, NPE 2000, when the recycling rate was 50 percent. In 2006, the company recovered 90 percent of the scrap.
But the volume of plastics scrap collected at NPE 2009 was significantly lower than the three previous shows. More than 400,000 pounds of scrap was recycled at NPE 2006, 335,000 pounds at NPE 2003 and 378,840 pounds at NPE 2000.
However, with the economy in better shape than 2009 and electrical costs lower for exhibitors, SPI expects more machines and larger machines to be operating on the show floor in Orlando.
“We expect to see a lot more scrap [as] the result of a substantial increase in the number of machines ... in full operation ... yielding everything from caps and closures to blown film to automotive components,” said Gene Sanders, senior vice president of trade shows and conferences for SPI.
In addition, SPI will have a PET recycling demonstration area and exhibit at the show to educate attendees and increase the awareness of recycling.
“Working with Maine Plastics, we will sponsor a live reprocessing demonstration, plus an exhibit of products manufactured from recovered PET bottles, such as fibers and clothing, strapping, and, of course, more bottles,” Sanders said.
“There will be people with equipment filling the bottles and showing the other steps in the recycling process and what products are made from recycled PET,” added Render. “There will be equipment from grinding companies to process the PET bottles, and blow molding machines to process them into finished goods” to show the different products that can be made from recycled PET
The switch of NPE from Chicago to Orlando will only mean slight logistical changes for Maine.
Both the staging area where the collected scrap is brought from the show floor, and the marshalling yard outside for trailers, will be similar in size, Spitulnik said.
The biggest change is that the plastics scrap will need to be hauled 300 miles, to Maine's plant in Apex, N.C., as to opposed to the 60-mile trip from Chicago to Zion.
“We are just going to make sure the trailers are loaded as heavy as possible to minimize our freight costs,” Spitulnik said.
Orlando work rules will help, because they will allow Maine to process and bale plastics scrap to make the material more compact, Render said.
Maine knows what kind of balers it will use, but it won't know how many it will need until closer to the actual show dates, when it can calculate the expected volume based on conversations with exhibitors.
“We are not going to use a standard vertical 16-inch baler,” Render said. “Instead we will use mini-balers made by Orwak because they are portable and operate on 110-power,” he said. “We can move them around to where we need them.”
As the official show recycler, Maine Plastics collects, separates, transports and reprocesses plastics scrap from all the equipment that operates on the show floor, and also recycles PET bottles after they are discarded by show visitors
The industrial plastics recycler processes more than 140 million pounds of plastics scrap annually at its 10 existing plants, and plans to open a new plant in Utah later this year. It is the 12th largest company, in terms of pounds of plastic processed and recycled annually, on the Plastics News' rankings of North American plastics recyclers and brokers.