Flexible packaging can be a nightmare for some material recovery facilities. The material can tangle in sortation equipment and contaminate paper fiber separation.
But one group is looking to change all of that and is looking for a MRF and its community partners in the United States willing to partner on continuing research.
MRFs, depending on their age and types of equipment used, typically have been set up to sort paper, metal containers, rigid plastic packaging, and even glass in some cases. But the explosive use of flexible plastic packaging, and the growing popularity of single-stream recycling, has created angst for many sorting locations not designed to handle so much flexible plastic.
The Materials Recovery for the Future (MRFF) research program is working to find a solution.
"We aim to demonstrate the potential to capture flexible film packaging and use the material as a feedstock for U.S. manufacturing while improving the quality of other recycling streams processed at MRFs," said Steve Sikra, section head of Global Research and Development at Procter & Gamble Co. P&G is one of several companies and associations sponsoring the research.
Those interested in participating in the project — either communities or MRF managers — can contact Susan Graff, vice president of Resource Recycling Systems at [email protected] by April 7 for more information. Her Ann Arbor, Mich.-based consulting firm is conducting the research.
Candidate MRFs must process at least 20 tons of material per hour and are subject to additional criteria.
Along with seeking a MRF and its communities, RRS is conducting what is being described as "advanced optical sorter testing" to help create a solution. Researchers also are examining end markets to help create recycled film bale specifications.
"The intent of the pilot is to help communities that want to recover potentially valuable materials instead of landfilling them and partner with innovators in the MRF industry to recycle this material," said Jeff Wooster, chairman of the MRFF project, in a statement. He also is global sustainability director at Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics, a unit of Dow Chemical Co.
MRFF grew out of the Foundation for Chemistry Research and Initiatives, a non-profit established by the American Chemistry Council.