DALLAS — This certainly isn't Iowa. And this isn't “Field of Dreams.”
But members of the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers have their own vision for what can be, and it involves a much more aggressive approach to spreading the word about their recycling guidelines.
While James Earl Jones told Kevin Costner, all those years ago, people will come, Steve Alexander is under no such illusion.
“”It's not like if we build it, they will come,” Alexander said. “We've got to flip that. We've built it and now we've got to bring it.”
So APR is getting more aggressive in promotion of its design guidelines with an eye towards heading off problems before they are even created.
“I'm fond of saying that it's our job to try and get the recycling community from the bottom of the food chain to the top of the food chain in terms of packaging design,” Alexander said at APR's recent membership meeting in Dallas.
APR, during the past year, has established a training program to reach out to folks like packaging engineers, product developers, brand managers, those in sustainability and even procurement people to explain the decisions they make have a direct impact on plastic recycling.
“We shouldn't be surprised, but when you go in and you talk to some of these packaging engineers, the impact of their design on the recyclability of the product is not always at the top of mind,” Alexander said. “Just, hopefully, with some of the information we can provide, we can start to move up that food chain.”
With even more APR outreach, the trade group hopes to change that through direct contact with those who can make a difference. “I think the difficulty for us is getting that information into the right hands,” he said about the association's more direct approach toward design-for-recycling education.
APR is open to a variety of ways to communicate its design message, including webinars and on-site visits.
“It's something we feel we need to do very aggressively as we go forward,” Alexander said. As a result, APR Technical Director John Standish will be devoting more of his time to this outreach effort.
Prior to the past year or so, APR's approach toward engaging companies that produced difficult-to-recycle packaging was very methodical, the executive director said.
“We need to do a much more aggressive job in dealing with brands and container manufactures who are putting out problem containers in the marketplace. We've had the most success with our protocol when we have personal communication, live communication,” he said.
APR believes it provides the best technical information in the marketplace when it comes to plastics recycling, Alexander said, “but we need to do a better job to try and get it accepted in the marketplace.”
“If you follow the APR guidelines, contamination is not an issue. So as contamination continues to be problematic to recyclers, it's important for us to bring the message of what are our design guidelines and bring them to packaging engineers and the companies that are making the packaging,” he said.
“It's an information and education activity. We firmly believe that the more you get the design guidelines out there, the more people will incorporate that process into the design of the packaging and incorporate the recyclability of that into the packaging,” Alexander said.