By Heather Nortz
PLASTICS Manager, Sustainability and Materials
November 14 through 18 of 2022 marked the first official Plastic Recycling Week social media campaign. Piloted around the same time last year, the initiative’s purpose is to provide education about the current rate of plastic recycling and the efforts being made to increase it.
The members of the Plastics Industry Association’s (PLASTICS) Recycling Committee gathered earlier this year to identify 5 main topic areas to post about throughout the week on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. This year’s goal was to rally plastic equipment and material suppliers, processors, brands, and consumers to share what they are currently doing to help achieve progress in plastic recycling.
From the content we saw throughout the week, it was apparent that each industry segment holds a very different, but nonetheless vitally important, responsibility in keeping plastic within the circular economy and out of the environment or landfill.
It has become uncommon for a brand not to have plastic sustainability goals. Of the top 50 Consumer Goods Companies of 2022, 49 of them have sustainability goals relating to plastic.
In the vein of recycling, brands have the responsibility of using recycled content in their products and designing products so they can be recycled at the end of use. Since 2006, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI) has been awarding brands that expertly design their products to be easily and cost effectively recycled within existing recycling infrastructure.
While consumers ultimately hold the responsibility of disposing of products in the proper way, brands are uniquely positioned to influence the market demand of recycled content, which can strongly impact recycling rates. In 2021 alone, NextWave Plastics worked with 14 brands to incentivize the collection and recycling of 959 metric tons of plastic by purchasing this material to be used in 337 premium products such as electronics and furniture.
While the circular economy encompasses all players–from consumers to brands and back again– Wednesday of #PlasticRecyclingWeek focused on those within the plastics industry who have a role in manufacturing plastic products. Equipment suppliers, material suppliers, and processor/convertors have the responsibility of reprocessing a greater volume of used plastic material, integrating more recycled content into new products, and ensuring that their post-industrial scrap is recycled as well.
We had the pleasure of highlighting several industry players and the work they are doing to improve recycling capabilities through technology advancements, expanding recycling capacity, increasing recycled content use, coordinating with supply chain partners, and more. A few examples: Novolex, MAAG Group, Eastman, Coperion, DME Company, Milliken Chemical.
Consumers, similar to brands, have the power to influence market demand of recycled content based on what they purchase. During #PlasticRecyclingWeek, though, we focused more on what consumers can do to recycle more effectively once they have finished using a plastic product. The main advice provided by our experts was:
Recycle MORE. Keep your plastic product with you until you find a recycle bin.
Learn what products are deemed acceptable to be sent to the Material Recovery Facility (MRF) in your area.
Be confident that recycling does work! Look up where your recyclables are being sent to be sorted and made into new products. Many times, MRFs will even offer tours for local residents to see how the process works.
We look forward to continued collaboration on the improvement of collection, sortation, reprocessing, and market demand of and for recycled plastic. If you want to get more engaged in making these improvements, no matter which segment you fall under, reach out to us at PLASTICS at [email protected]!