So finding a solution to capture and recycle those bags would have a big impact.
The goal for S.C. Johnson is to be able to put a “please recycle” message on its Ziploc packaging bags. But to do that, the company first has to make sure enough communities — 5,400 — will accept the material, according to federal regulations.
And with limits in current sorting technology at material recovery facilities in the United States, that won't be easy. MRFs, essentially, want very little to do with plastic film because it gums up their sorting equipment, costing them time and money.
“We're looking for the technology. We're partnering with communities to see if we can prove in a community that this can be done with the right equipment,” Semrau said. And then comes education.
“It's a long process, but it's one that we successful did with aerosol recycling. We feel we are going to be successful with Ziploc recycling,” she said.
Plastics, overall, are an important raw material for S.C. Johnson, Semrau told the Re|focus crowd.
“We make a lot of great products. We source a lot of plastics,” she said. “Plastics are very important for our brands.”
The Racine, Wis.-based company has a stable of well-known brands, including Glade, Pledge, Raid and Off.
A recent switch to 100-percent recycled content for the packaging of its Windex brand glass cleaner, Semrau said, went off without a single consumer complaint.
Some in the company were concerned that the new packaging would not be as crystal clear as virgin resin, but that has not made a difference to the buying public, she said.
S.C. Johnson expects to journey down a similar path with Ziploc bags as it did with its previous aerosol can recycling efforts. There once was a time when those cans were not widely recycled, but the company worked to develop collection efforts that ultimately allowed it to put on a recycling label on the cans.
“We are going to do the same,” she said. “We know it's going to be a hard, uphill challenge.”
“The major hurdle right now is in the waste industry world. It's the MRFs that feel they will clog the machinery that they currently have. But we've got great new machinery in Europe we've looked at. And we a few MRFs here starting to look at that kind of machinery that would allow for plastic bags to be recycled,” Semrau said.
“I want you to know we are going to figure this out,” she said.