Miranda is the senior director of TC Transcontinental's ASTRA research and development center, having just moved into that job after being director of innovation platforms and sustainability for the flexible packaging company. He has seen firsthand the problems inconsistent recycled resin streams can have for packaging converters.
TC Transcontinental Packaging is based in Chicago and is a unit of TC Transcontinental of Montreal, a business that also includes significant printing operations in Canada.
On the plastics packaging side, converters do not like to be surprised by recycled resin that arrives differently from what has been specified or used before. Variation can lead to many problems in manufacturing, printing and film performance. Miranda would rather a recycler be clear about any changes caused by material availability.
"It's the inconsistency that gives the most problems," Miranda said at the recent Baerlocher Recycling Summit held in Cincinnati. "Consistency is the key."
Baerlocher, a plastics additives maker, hosted people from around the country for the company's second annual recycling conference Aug. 22-23.
Miranda would rather a recycler let his company know in advance whether they are having problems securing enough feedstock to satisfy an order than make substitutions.
He also said that if a recycler has to provide some recycled resin that's not consistent with the norm, then it's best to segregate and identify that material.
Letting the company know in advance helps TC Transcontinental account for any variations that occur within the supply. "You are not doing me a favor if you are inconsistent," Miranda said.
Problems can happen when recyclers buy material off the spot market, instead of their regular suppliers, in order to fulfill orders.
"I know it's tempting to buy film off the spot market. Sometimes you don't always get the incoming sources that you want. You've got an order to fulfill from TC — what are you going to do?" he asked.
Recyclers make money by recycling, Miranda said, and that means keeping equipment running. He understands a desire to source material from the spot market when supplies from regular channels run low.
"The more uptime you have, the more your equipment is not sitting around and doing nothing," he said.
But inconsistent supply can create inconsistent results for TC Transcontinental, he said. Recycled plastics with inconsistent color, melt flows or additives, for example, ultimately impact both production and end-product quality and performance.
Miranda said he also understands there is going to be some level of inconsistency at times with recycled resins, but they have to be within certain ranges. "I get it, that there is going to be some variation. But the variation has to be at least around those targets."
TC Transcontinental Packaging includes four plants in Canada, 17 in the United States, two in Ecuador, and one each in Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
The company's ASTRA center — short for Art, Science and Technology Research and Applications Center — opened in 2021 in Menasha, Wis.
TC Transcontinental was No. 37 in the most recent Plastics News ranking of film and sheet makers in North America, with an estimated $240 million in annual sales.