The past couple of weeks, it seemed like every time I looked at my email inbox I had a news release from a materials supplier announcing a new recycled-content product.
Resin distributor Chase Plastic Services Inc. said it was expanding its CP Pryme product line to include CP Pryme ECO resins. The new materials are made from reprocessed materials and can help customers meet sustainability initiatives.
Aspect Co., another distributor, announced a partnership with plastics recycler Tide Ocean SA of Switzerland to use plastic waste found near waterways and in order to incorporate ocean-bound plastics into its sustainable materials portfolio.
M. Holland Co., another leading distributor, announced a new line of commodity and engineering compounds containing up to 100 percent recycled content. The line, dubbed Mfinity, is aimed at markets including automotive, consumer goods, electronics and packaging.
Westlake Corp., a virgin resin supplier, announced the launch of Pivotal recycled polyethylene resins for flexible packaging applications. The company said customers can use up to 45 percent post-consumer content while maintaining performance levels.
Finally, Teknor Apex Co. announced it was relaunching its Terraloy line of sustainable polymers, compounds and masterbatches, which cover a broad range of sustainable attributes such as recycled, bioderived and biodegradable content.
That isn't meant to be a comprehensive list; it's just a sample of the announcements I've seen in the past few weeks. At one point I joked that I felt like my email inbox was recycling announcements from the 1990s, when it seemed like all the virgin resin suppliers were introducing products with post-consumer content.
"Free acid-washed jeans with every purchase," Frank Esposito joked.
"And a Michael Bolton CD," I added.
I do feel like the announcements these days are serious and that the suppliers are making these moves in response to real demand from their customers.
The other "this is serious" vibe is that the suppliers are working on making sure the claims they make about the recycled content are verifiable, that the products are easy to process, and that they're going to come with life cycle and carbon footprint data.
This is encouraging, although the timing is a little awkward. We've had multiple stories this summer about how demand for recycled plastics is slumping. Processors that have the choice are going with low-cost, wide-spec resin instead of post-consumer materials.
I'm interested to see whether the post-consumer materials being offered by the well-established distributors, compounders and resin suppliers are going to take a big slice of the market.
Are they targeting companies that already use a lot of recycled resin, like big packaging companies? Or are they after business from processors that mostly buy virgin resins, and are just starting to get their feet wet in recycled materials?
Looking at it in the big picture, this is about more than meeting recycled-content mandates and goals; it's about sustainability becoming a mainstream part of the plastics industry. Plastics recycling isn't dead, my friends. We're actually on the verge of recycling winning a foothold in new markets and applications. The end result should be that plastics will help many end markets reduce their carbon footprints and become more circular.
Don Loepp is the editor of Plastics News and author of the Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.