ORLANDO, FLA. — Being an executive for a global plastics recycling equipment company, it helps that Anthony Georges is fluent in three different languages.
But whether he's speaking English, German or French, his message is the same when it comes to plastics recycling in the United States.
Things have to change in order for recycling rates to increase and contamination to decrease, said the president of Amut North America during NPE 2015 in Orlando.
Georges believes a greater emphasis needs to be given to a new recycling approach that relies more on plastic recycling facilities, or PRFs.
The existing materials recycling facilities, or MRFs, are designed to handle a wide variety of recyclables, plastics included. But their historical emphasis on paper has come at a cost to plastics, which can be contaminated by other recyclables as well as by mixing multiple resins.
But by adding what Georges calls mini-PRFs at MRF locations — or sending plastic bundles from MRFs to stand-alone PRFs for further processing — the yield from the plastics recycling stream can be enhanced, he said.
MRFs, the company president said, are designed to push a lot of material through the system each and every day and then do it all again the next day: Paper, plastics, metal and glass.
“The main thing is in the MRF situation, what they are is looking at [is a] huge volume on a single-shift operation, so the trash gets collected in the morning and it has to be cleaned up in a very few hours so it can be ready for the next day of the same amount of trash coming in,” he said. “So it's processing that becomes a critical mass issue.
“Get it in, get it out as fast as you can,” he said. “Worry about the quality, but that's really not the priority. The priority is getting everything done.”
Providing a supplemental recycling system for the plastics certainly would add to the cost of processing, but Georges said it becomes economical thanks to a better sort of the plastics and removal of contaminants through the added PRF.
“You're getting a much more high quality bale,” he said.
And that bale is more valuable.
Georges works for Amut, which provides plastics recycling equipment as part of its business. So it's no surprise that he's advocating an approach emphasizing PRFs that he said is taking place elsewhere in the world, including Europe.
“We have to start developing MRFs for the new generation of technology that's out there,” he said to increase the yield of usable recyclables from bales.
“We're talking about yield and what we have to do to gain that, because yield loss is a cost. And the only way we can improve that is by improving the sortation,” Georges said.
Single-stream recycling has overtaken many parts of the United States with its ease for consumers, who only have to worry about throwing all of their recyclables into a large rolling cart. No more carrying those individual 18-gallon bins out to the curb.
But with that convenience, there has come a quality cost with different recyclables contaminating different recycling streams. It's not just an issue for plastics recyclers.
And that's where the increased use of PRFs can help, the company president said. “There's no such thing as waste, there's only cash.”