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APR News and Media

March 28, 2017 - Plastics Recycling Update

APR in the News

Finding the Boost Beyond Bottles

The plastics recycling industry can better meet resin demands by capturing a wider variety of rigid plastics from the waste stream. Here’s a look at a developing set of tools that are helping stakeholders count on plastics other than Nos. 1 and 2.

BY KARA POCHIRO

Demand for recovered resin is increasing as more brand companies reiterate their commitment to sustainability. For instance, the Association of Plastic Recyclers’ 2016 Polypropylene Postconsumer Resin Demand Survey, which took the pulse of 21 major consumer brand companies, found that within three years, those brands will need a total of 280 million pounds of polypropylene post-consumer resin (PCR) annually for non-food contact applications.

Will the plastic recycling system be able to fulfill expanding end-user requirements for PP and other resin types?  That’s a critical question for the industry. And it’s one that is forcing stakeholders to think about how to efficiently recover and market plastics other than bottles made of PET and HDPE.

“We know that non-bottle rigid containers provide a source of polypropylene PCR,” said Scott Saunders, general manager of KW Plastics Recycling Division in Troy, Ala. and chairman of APR. “That is the most prevalent resin type in this material category.  The challenge remains separating and producing a sufficient amount of feedstock for recyclers to meet that demand.”

To help meet that challenge, the industry can turn to a recently released resource, APR’s Recycling Rigid Plastics Beyond Bottles Toolkits, which stakeholders can access through the APR website. 

Three toolkits have been developed to focus on distinct areas: non-bottle containers, residential bulky plastics, and the general promotion effort to encourage residents to recycle containers with the caps left on.  The toolkit information has been designed to help both materials recovery facilities (MRFs) and municipalities effectively manage additional material – and to help identify potential markets.

While collection is key to recycle more plastics, reliable markets and demand are also essential to successful and growing programs.  The toolkits aim to offer guidance to lift the entire system.

A GROWING STREAM

To fully understand the plastics recycling possibilities beyond bottles, it’s important to have a grasp on how plastics collection is evolving.  The number of communities expanding their collection practices to include plastics Nos. 1-7 continues to grow.

Evidence of that collection expansion can be seen in APR’s annual survey of plastics recycling in the country’s largest metropolitan areas. Each year, the organization studies which plastic types are accepted for residential recycling in the largest municipality in each of the 50 states, plus Washington, D.C.

According to survey data, 36 of those 51 cities now collect plastics Nos. 1-7, up from 16 in 2009. In that same time frame, the number of communities in the study collecting only plastics Nos. 1 and 2 has dropped from 18 to five.

The APR toolkits were launched to help harness the potential of this growth in plastics acceptance and to foster the relationship between materials collection and resin-maker demand. The toolkits are designed to encourage communities and companies to continue the trend to collect more material, increase revenue and support a growing industry.

The resources were also developed to help encourage state and local solid waste management and recycling officials to enhance their programs to include not only non-bottle rigid plastic containers, but also bottles and containers with caps on, and residential bulky rigid plastics.

Helpful Links

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Recycling Rigid Plastics Beyond Bottles Toolkits:

Containers

Caps On

Residential Bulky Rigids