Paris — Recycling companies came to the plastics treaty talks looking for policy changes to bring investment and press their point that they see recycling working, despite its challenges.
For the U.S.-based Association of Plastic Recyclers, that includes wanting the treaty to include robust extended producer responsibility rules to collect more plastic and push for global standards to design packaging for better recyclability.
APR attended the talks, held May 29 to June 2 at United Nations offices in Paris, for the first time after not attending the treaty's opening session in Uruguay in November.
Kate Bailey, the group's chief policy officer, said treaty language can improve U.S. plastics recycling and bring clarity to investment in plastics recycling.
"In the U.S. in particular, we lag behind in the amount of recycled plastic we are collecting," she said in an interview at the talks. "Our members could recycle 50 percent more bottles if we had access to them using existing infrastructure. We have plants that are not running at 100 percent capacity. Collection is the key for us."
Bailey said the treaty will also drive discussions that could narrow the big gaps among different U.S. states in recycling rates.
"I would say that the U.S. recycling system is abysmal in some places and it's working incredibly well in some places," she said. "We have states like Oregon with a very strong bottle bill recycling 80 percent, possibly more, of their PET bottles.
"We know other states are 5-10 percent," Bailey said. "The difference between states is tremendous. And so one of the key messages I think for the U.S. is we know how to do better and we know that recycling can scale and it can scale relatively quickly based on proven solutions."
The group also supports bottle deposits and recycled-content mandates, she said.