Lower electricity costs and different work rules mean there will be several new wrinkles to the recycling program at NPE 2012, as the plastics industry's triennial show moves to Orlando, Fla., 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 the show's organizer, the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., expect more plastics to be recycled.
“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, longtime president and one of 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 Plastics, which is based in Zion, Ill.
“We are going to be able to build on [those] systems,” he 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 Plastics 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 [exhibitors] as to who is going to be operating what equipment,” said Maine President David Spitulnik.
Spitulnik also expects there to be 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 NPE2009, Spitulnik said. Maine Plastics 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 Plastics' 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 NPE2009 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.
In addition, SPI will have a PET recycling demonstration area and exhibit at the show to educate attendees and increase 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,” said Gene Sanders, senior vice president of trade shows and conferences for SPI.
Also, Render said, “There will be equipment from grinding companies to process the PET bottles, and blow molding machines to process them into finished goods.”
The switch of NPE from Chicago to Orlando will only mean slight logistical changes for Maine Plastics.
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 Plastics' plant in Apex, N.C., as 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 Plastics to process and bale plastics scrap to make the material more compact, according to Render.
Maine Plastics 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 plants. It plans to open a new plant in Utah later this year. Maine Plastics is the 12th-largest company, in terms of pounds of plastic processed and recycled annually, on Plastics News' ranking of North American plastics recyclers and brokers.