Las Vegas — Market conditions have not been kind to many plastic recyclers in recent times.
But there is one area where folks can dive in and still make a go of it, according to an official at Trex Co. Inc., the composite wood deck maker.
Dave Heglas, senior director of material resources at Trex, believes film can be a jumping off point for folks in other recycling industries such as paper and metal who are interested in entering the plastics recycling market.
But not just any plastic film, he said, but post-commercial stretch film.
“If you look at all of the various films out there, the one that's still in high demand. There's a lot of supply out there. It's one of the easiest. There's relatively little contamination, and it's relatively a homopolymer. So linear low density (polyethylene) stretch film would be a good commercial stream for a new recycler,” he said.
Stretch film, he said at the plastics summit at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. conference in Las Vegas, is widely used, but not widely recycled.
“It's available in a lot of different operations. Distribution of foods and beverages and materials and just general goods are wrapped in stretch film. So it's out there,” Heglas said. “There's export and domestic markets for that material.”
Lower market prices for the material means that there is lower risk jumping into the business, he told the crowd.
“This is the perfect time for someone to get into plastics recycling because you've got low risk. From a price standpoint, you can afford to make a mistake. Because it's not like you are going to be risking a lot if you try to develop a program,” Heglas said about stretch film.
“There's plenty of supply out there. The challenge is to find the right material in the right market,” he said. “It's not a low quality material. It retains its value even in an up or down market. And there's low risk for somebody to start getting involved in stretch film.”
While Heglas said there is opportunity in stretch film, he also told audience members to do their homework before entering the market.
“Know your market, know your material,” he said.
That means having a clear understanding of where the used stretch film is coming from as well as its quality. Recyclers also need to know where they will be able to sell the film once it's been gathered and processed.
Heglas should know what he's talking about when it comes to film recycling. Trex, based in Winchester, Va., is one of the largest recyclers, reprocessors and end-users of PE film in the country.
“Because of the cycle, if you are into scrap material, there's always ups. There's always downs. There's always oversupply. There's always undersupply. You have high prices. You got low prices. Currently, right now, there's low demand, lower prices than we've seen in the past, and there is an abundant supply. So a lot of people might think this is not a good time to get into plastic recycling. But I would say the opposite,” he said.