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There was a renewed emphasis placed on the collection of polyethylene films when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and American Chemistry Council (ACC) signed a joint memorandum of understanding to increase the recovery of PE films to 2 billion lbs. by 2020.  This would be accomplished through the expansion of the ACC-backed WRAP return-to-retail program for PE films.  This goal represents a near doubling of collection through the WRAP program, which was estimated at 1.2 billion lbs. in 2015.

However, with challenging market conditions and limited end markets that are showing signs of exhausted demand, new concern arose about where those new pounds of PE film would go.  With very little control over changing these external export and market factors, the industry is challenged to find new end markets in an innovative cost-competitive way. Not only will the films need to be processed in a less expensive fashion that will likely yield slightly diminished quality to the PCR PE film pellets currently available on the market, the performance of that PE film blend needs to be paired to the right end market application.  Accomplishing this requires a fully collaborative and open source approach to material processing, testing and evaluation. 

Read the literature review of the (NEMO) Film Project | here

Based on the success of previous a demonstration model developed by PLASTICS, the association was approached to develop a similar effort for PE film.  The PLASTICS Flexible Film and Bag Division agreed to support this effort and a formal demonstration project was launched in January 2017.  The goal of this effort would be to secure various return-to-retail samples, understand the range of contamination and various processing methods that would not require substantial processing, perform a standard set of tests on those processed samples to understand the mechanical and physical properties of the blended PE streams, and identify potential end markets, as well as the size of the opportunities, for the processed retail film.

View Phase 1 of the Technology Package | here

The NEMO workgroup is also exploring the opportunity to blend the Pelletier PE films into asphalt.  Preliminary testing showed potential improved performance when the PE is used. The findings of the first phase of research can be found in the Phase I report.

NEW! View Phase 2 of the Technology Package | here

Phase II took that technical data, and physical samples created in Phase I and created real-world testing opportunities for the materials across a wide range of industry sectors and product applications.

View the Phase I Asphalt Testing Report | here

The next stage of research focused on storage stability and maintaining even dispersion of the PE blends in the binder. NCAT performed two rounds of testing, evaluating multiple compatibilizers and PE concentration levels.  Promising formulations, which met storage stability requirements, were identified in the second round of evaluation.

View the first NCAT Storage Stability Testing Report | here

View the second NCAT Storage Stability Testing Report | here

View the presentations from the NEMO meeting in March 2019 | here