June 14, 2017 - Waste 360
APR Member Highlight: KW Plastics
Developing a Polypropylene Recycling Infrastructure
Brands including Unilever and Procter & Gamble have ambitious goals for use of postconsumer recycled PP in packaging.
Recyclers have always been set up to accept a mix of material types and formats, but frequently struggle when the packaging stream evolves. To effectively recycle new material types, all materials need to be easily sorted in a MRF and they must have value and consistent demand in the market.
Polypropylene (PP) is a great example of a commodity that was rarely recycled just five years ago, but is now becoming a highly recyclable item through an organized effort to build secondary markets and encourage communities to accept it in residential recycling programs.
According to Scott Saunders general manager at KW Plastics, “The recycling of PP tubs and lids only began in 2012. In February of 2012, KW began meeting with MRF operators and offering a home for these materials if they met specifications. At first, the market grew slowly, but just five years later, KW is purchasing 70 million pounds annually and expects to grow that to 100 million pounds in the next few years.” KW and others want this material to be incorporated into durable goods.
Brands including Unilever and Procter & Gamble have ambitious goals for use of postconsumer recycled PP in packaging. And given the growth in the market, brands committed to zero waste including Keurig Green Mountain are shifting entire product lines to 100 percent PP packaging in order to ensure products are recyclable and have a strong end market.
“Our design for recyclability process includes rigorous testing with recyclers and has validated a strong pull for PP containers,” according to Monique Oxender, chief sustainability officer at Keurig Green Mountain. “That pull creates an incentive for better sortation of PP and effective recycling of our product as Keurig converts to white, PP K-Cup pods. Circular material use is at the heart of the design process, creating value for all across the product life cycle.”
But in order to fulfill that demand and keep PP out of the landfill, the supply chain needs more volume, high quality supply and additional end markets to accept varying types of polypropylene.
The Closed Loop Fund and its investors are investing in systemic solutions to recycling that help unlock bottlenecks like increasing volumes of high value PP and ensuring quality and consistency.