National Harbor, Md. — Plastics recycling really does not start, or stop, with plastics recyclers.
For recovery and reuse of plastics to ultimately advance, it will need help from people all along the life cycle of products, including plastic processors, brand owners, consumers and the recyclers themselves, a group close to the issue believes.
Plastics recyclers, said President Steve Alexander of the Association of Plastic Recyclers trade group, can handle any type of resin. But, he said, there has to be an end market for the output.
"If there's no demand for that material, if there's no financing going back the other way, what are we doing? We're collecting, we're sorting, we're processing trash. Who the hell would build a business model based on that?
"So we all have a vested interest in increasing demand for the material that's out there," he said during a panel discussion at the recent Plastics Recycling Conference and Trade Show in National Harbor near Washington, D.C.
As sustainability director for Berry Global Group Inc., Rob Flores said his company is fielding an ever-increasing number of inquiries regarding recycled content in its products.
And he does not mind the added attention one bit.
"As a packaging and plastic parts manufacturer, we want to partner with our customers to see how we can help them," Flores said. "When I think about our customers, where they spend their time, I'm actually glad that all of this attention has come up around packaging waste recently because our customers really weren't thinking about us too much."
But now they are. And they are asking questions.
This engagement by consumer brand companies is helping tie the entire supply chain together when it comes to finding ways to increase plastics recycling and use of recycled plastics in new products.
This, Flores said, is allowing Berry to work more closely with its customers to help them meet their environmental goals.
"It's all about the end markets. It's demand. Demand creates the pull. So how do we as Berry contribute the solution? It's by using more recycled content," he said.
The company, for example, recently introduced a new line of packaging called Verdant that uses 100 percent recycled content.