SPI-NAPCOR Recycling Grant Program Concludes with Positive Results

October 30, 2014

Jacob Barron

Organizations’ Actions Lead to Overall Increased Recovery Rates of PET Thermoforms in U.S. and Canada

WASHINGTON—As part of its mission to pursue zero waste through education and recycling programs, SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association and partner, the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), today announced favorable results of a pilot grant program designed to increase and promote the recovery of PET (polyethylene terephthalate, #1) thermoforms.

SPI’s Rigid Plastic Packaging Group (RPPG), which managed the $100,000 grant program, said the three grantee organizations collectively recovered and sold more than 300 tons of PET thermoforms throughout the life of the two-year grant and achieved the program’s goal to create sustainable PET thermoform recycling models that could be replicated in other markets.

“The success of the pilot grant program demonstrates that there’s a growing, viable market for PET thermoforms, and that consumers are amenable to recycling these valuable resources,” said Dan Mohs, RPPG chairman and Placon Corp. CEO. “While SPI members are committed to pursuing zero waste on the factory floor, the cooperation of materials recovery facilities (MRFs), consumers and worldwide markets are necessary to drive successful recycling programs.”

RPPG said the pilot grant program contributed to the 25 percent increased PET thermoform recovery cited in NAPCOR’s report, “Postconsumer PET Container Recycling Activity in 2013.” PET thermoform material collected in the U.S. and Canada in 2013 totaled 60 million pounds compared to 47.8 million pounds in 2012, according to the report.  Moreover, when the program was initiated in 2010 NAPCOR studies showed no recordable thermoform recycling.

Each grantee successfully collected, sorted and sold PET thermoforms to domestic markets through curbside or drop-off programs. All plan to continue these programs, and to potentially expand them over time.

The program grantees were:

  • Montgomery County, Maryland, Department of Environmental Protection – Received $63,000. Located in central Maryland, adjacent to Washington, D.C., Montgomery County, Md., owns, manages and operates comprehensive recycling programs and facilities, including its award-winning 57,000-square-foot publicly owned and operated Recycling Center, serving more than 1.5 million county residents, employees and visitors. Montgomery County’s programs encompass single-family and multi-family residential, commercial, government and other away-from-home opportunities, including private and public school education, local and regional events and festivals. With a strong focus on community education and a multi-phased approach to collecting and marketing PET thermoforms, Montgomery County’s program provided a solid urban / suburban model, offering both an immediate and a long-term impact on the recycling of PET thermoforms. http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/recycling
  • Firstar Fiber, Inc. – Received $10,000. Serving approximately 1 million residents in central and northeastern communities of Nebraska; and western Iowa, Firstar Fiber is a privately owned recycling operation with a diverse customer base and collection stream. Firstar built a strong collaborative PET thermoform recycling program support team that included the city of Omaha’s recycling office, local collegiate sports venues, and regional retail grocery stores. Its PET thermoform collection efforts were focused on residential and away-from home programs, including sporting event education and collection at Creighton University and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. http://www.firstarrecycling.com
  • Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center, Inc. – Received $25,000. A non-profit 501c(3) corporation, the RMC develops and expands recycling markets in Pennsylvania. Their program served the 165,000 residents of Elk and Lebanon counties, and focused on reverse supply chain dynamics, primarily end market development, intermediate processing for material quality beneficiation, and modeling of rural PET thermoform collection. http://www.parmc.org/

The grant winners incorporated strong community outreach and education components, utilizing a variety of promotional vehicles to teach communities how to identify PET thermoforms, and how to include them in recycling bins or drop-off programs.

PET thermoformed packages are the fastest growing segment of the rigid plastic packaging market. These packages are defined as PET (resin identification code #1), other than bottles and jars, made from a PET sheet of .008 inch thickness or greater. They include, but are not exclusively limited to, clamshells, cups, trays, boxes and lids. It is estimated that by 2015, approximately 3 billion pounds of PET thermoforms will be introduced into the marketplace annually in the United States and Canada, making PET thermoformed packaging one of the largest potential contributors to the plastic recycling stream.

Grants were funded by SPI, with NAPCOR serving as grant manager; Placon, Plastic Ingenuity and Solo Cup provided additional funding. The grants were awarded in March 2012. A full report on the pilot can be found here. Read the executive summary here.


Founded in 1937, SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association promotes growth in the $427 billion U.S. plastics industry. Representing nearly one million American workers in the third largest U.S. manufacturing industry, SPI delivers legislative and regulatory advocacy, market research, industry promotion and the fostering of business relationships and zero waste strategies. SPI also owns and produces the international NPE trade show. All profits from NPE are reinvested into SPI’s industry services. Find SPI online at www.plasticsindustry.org and www.inthehopper.org.

"From resin suppliers and equipment makers to processors and brand owners, SPI is proud to represent all facets of the U.S. plastics industry," said William R. Carteaux, president and CEO, SPI. "Our most recent economic reports show that the plastics industry as a whole is resilient, and has come through the recession significantly better than other U.S. manufacturing sectors."

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