Companies, eager to show off their sustainability bona fides to the general public, seek out guidance from plastics recycling organizations to make sure they are creating packaging and products that can easily be reclaimed.
But there are multiple plastics recycling groups in different parts of the world, and they have their own approaches developed over time.
So the Association of Plastic Recyclers, based in the United States, is joining with Plastics Recyclers Europe and the European PET Bottle Platform to create a new group with the aim of harmonizing design guidelines and testing protocols.
Called the Global Plastics Outreach Alliance, the group wants to “serve as a coordinated industry voice to create a global plastics protocol,” organizers said.
“This is really just about trying to get testing protocols for PET and polyolefins harmonized with across the pond, if you will, so that a company that wants to make a recyclability claim here in the United States vs. Europe, they don't have to do two different tests,” said Steve Alexander, executive director of APR.
“That's really what this is all about.”
The plan, he said, is to clarify differences between the groups and align testing protocols.
“It's really about the three of us sitting down, putting everything on paper and working through how the approval process works,” Alexander said.
Differences between the groups revolve more around the review and approval process and not so much on the technology that is used.
“This is more about getting three organizations together and just aligning them. So it's more of a nuance thing,” Alexander said.
While groups from the United States and Europe are involved with the alliance, Alexander believes the work actually will be recognized in other parts of the world as well. He pointed to the translation of APR guidelines into Spanish and their use in Latin America as an example of how other areas can piggyback off the new group's work. “That's our hope,” he said.
With the alliance involving three organizations, and the time difference between the United States and Europe, Alexander said he is not sure how long the process will take to complete. He hopes to have the project finished mid-February.
“In an ever-changing global economy, the last thing we need in the plastics world is to make it more difficult for packaging engineers and designers to understand what protocol the innovation should address in order to assure recyclability,” said Andreas Christel, a representative of the European PET Bottle Platform, in a statement.
“This effort will go a long way toward creating a truly global plastics recycling industry standard for certain resins,” Christel continued.
The European PET Bottle Platform is a voluntary initiative that evaluates PET bottle packaging and technologies and helps determine what impact they could have on recycling.
PRE represents plastic recyclers in Europe, and members have 80 percent of the recycling capacity there. Those members reprocess more than 3.3 million tons (3 million tonnes) of plastics each year.