PLASTICS recently hosted a compelling annual, open-to-the-public virtual event—the PLASTICS Recycling Open House. This year, eight organizations joined PLASTICS in sharing their latest initiatives and innovations to improve recycling and recycling rates.
Andy Brewer, Associate Director of Sustainability and Materials for PLASTICS, opened the proceeding with words of welcome and an update on the association’s recycling-related efforts. Brewer’s report focused on projects from PLASTICS’ New End Market Opportunities (NEMO) initiative:
End-of-Life Vehicle Bumper Program: Working in partnership with Ultra-Poly Corp., PLASTICS demonstrated the viability of collecting and recycling thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) bumpers, recovered directly from autobody shops. Brewer reported that the project could eventually be expanded to include a broader range of resins and parts.
Plastic to Asphalt: This project with the National Center for Asphalt Technology furthered the exploration of using post-consumer recycled PE films (such as grocery bags) as polymer additives in asphalt. The formulation developed is comparable in most performance areas to traditional, virgin polymers used in asphalt today and could reduce both the cost of polymer modified asphalt and CO2 emissions, while helping to improve the performance, environmental impact, and lifespan of asphalt applications.
Food Contact Polypropylene: The amount of discarded plastic that comes from packaging being a growing concern, PLASTICS is undertaking an initiative to increase polypropylene (PP) recovery for food contact applications. Rigorous research, reporting and pilot projects are planned with the goal of returning recycled PP back into food grade applications.
Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR)
Brewer was followed by Kara Pochiro from the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR), an international trade association representing the plastics recycling industry. Among the initiatives Pochiro discussed:
APR Design® Guide for Plastics Recyclability: This comprehensive and detailed resource helps package designers measure each aspect of a package design against industry-accepted criteria to ensure that it is truly recycling compatible.
APR PCR Certification Program: To support a reliable and robust PCR market, businesses involved in reclaiming plastics can choose from multiple APR-endorsed certification companies to conduct an independent audit and, upon successful completion, issue PCR certification.
APR Recycling Demand Champions Campaign: This is a voluntary program designed to drive end-market demand for PCR and recognize companies for their increased investment in PCR-containing products.
Resource Recycling Systems (RRS)
Resa Dimino, Managing Principal at Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), was next on the agenda, and spoke about her company’s support work with brands, manufacturers, processors, haulers, municipalities, government, material recovery facilities, trade associations, non-profits, and private investors—all of which enables RRS to see the circular economy possibilities for all organizations. Among the projects Dimino addressed:
PET Thermoform Potential Pathways to Increased Recovery: RRS and project partners conducted research into material volumes in the marketplace, current recovery pathways, relative costs and trade-offs for the potential pathways to increased recovery.
Requirements for Plastic Goods and Packaging: Working with Ocean Conservancy, RRS produced a report reviewing the current plastic recycling landscape and evaluating several policy scenarios and their implications.
US & Canada Recycling Infrastructure and Plastic Waste Map: RRS was a supporter of Closed Loop Partners’ interactive, data visualization tool that breaks down the volumes of plastics by type and the flows by country, state and province.
The Recycling Partnership
The Recycling Partnership mobilizes people, data, and solutions across the value chain to realize the incredible potential of recycling and a circular economy. They shared entries from a robust list of projects:
Center for Sustainable Behavior and Impact: Designed to drive measurable improvement in residential recycling behaviors, improve recycling for all, empower recycling leaders to bolster programs, and advance circularity.
Circular Economy Accelerator: 30-company problem-solving task force informing and advocating for attainable policy and legislative solutions that rapidly advance the circular economy.
Circular Packaging Assessment Tool: Step-by-step instructions for understanding and evaluating packaging, identifying challenges to achieving the circular system of the future.
Plastic IQ: A cutting-edge free digital resource for developing an effective plastic packaging strategy; leverages industry guidance and data to help turn plastic packaging strategy into measurable actions.
Film & Flexibles Recycling Coalition: Works collaboratively to identify and scale recovery methods for film and flexible packaging.
PET Recycling Coalition: Seeks to improve the circularity of PET packaging through a stronger and more robust recycling system, increasing PET capture rates and optimizing the flow of recycled PET.
Polypropylene Recycling Coalition: Focused on increasing access to curbside polypropylene recycling, ensuring more recycling processing facilities can sort the material successfully.
Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE)
Conor Carlin represented the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE), which seeks to help plastics professionals succeed and to strengthen their skills. Carlin’s presentation included:
In-person Learning: SPE hosts an annual technical conference, ANTEC, for industry professionals, academics, and college-level students.
Publications: SPE publishes several academic journals, Plastics Engineering magazine, and maintains an online technical library with over 13,000 entries.
SPE Foundation: The Foundation funds educational programs, grants and scholarships emphasizing science, engineering, sustainability, and manufacturing; works to create inclusive opportunities for students worldwide.
American Chemistry Council
Secondary Sortation: As the Northeast region considers a range of options, including policies, to increase recovery and close the loop on plastics, the American Chemistry Council sought to answer the question of how secondary sorting of MRF residuals might help accomplish these goals. In the soon to be released report, the findings of a sample of 6 MRFs in the region highlights how recovery of existing program materials might be enhanced, as well as where there might be opportunity to grow the accepted materials list if residuals were sent for Secondary Sortation.
Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC)
Chemical Recycling Collaborative: A stakeholder group exploring the landscape of chemical recycling technologies and how they fit into the circular economy.
Flexible Packaging Recovery Collaborative: Addresses challenges in the design, collection, sortation, processing, and end markets for flexible packaging.
Next Markets Collaborative: Works to identify and expand markets for hard-to-recycle plastics.
Recycled Materials Standard (GreenBlue initiative): Voluntary, market-based chain-of-custody tool to advance the use of recycled material.
How2Recycle (GreenBlue initiative): Standardized labeling system that clearly communicates recycling instructions to the public.
Vinyl Sustainability Council
Jay Thomas, Executive Director of the Vinyl Sustainability Council (VSC) spoke on behalf of his organization. VSC’s recycling initiatives include:
+Vantage Vinyl Sustainability Standard: Allows participating companies to verify the sustainability of their operations by complying with guiding principles aligned with Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria.
Construction Recycling: VSC has partnered with the CFFA Vinyl Roofing Division and the Vinyl Siding Institute to implement pilot post-consumer recycling programs, taking an important step toward increasing the volume of post-consumer vinyl being recycled and demonstrating the viability of a recycling program on a regional scale.
Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council (HPRC)
Represented at the Recycling Open House by Peylina Chu, Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council (HPRC) is a private technical coalition of industry peers across healthcare, recycling, and waste management industries seeking to improve recyclability of plastic products within healthcare. Ms. Chu reviewed the following projects:
Advanced Recycling of Healthcare Plastics: An Opportunity for Circularity – Overview of the advanced recycling industry, presenting insights on opportunities for healthcare plastics.
HPRC HospiCycle Tool Kit: Step-by-step guide for hospitals looking to start or expand a plastics recycling program.
Design Guidance: Best practices for manufacturers in designing products and packaging to enable recycling.
Healthcare Plastics Guidance for Recyclers: Provides recyclers with technical specifications for common healthcare plastics and guidance on partnering with hospitals for a successful program.
Learn more about PLASTICS’ work in the recycling field by visiting the Recycling Committee page on our website.