Available Markets for Non-Bottle Rigid Containers
Fortunately for MRFs and cities, there are multiple strong markets for non-bottle containers. North America is home to both experienced reprocessors and plastic recycling facilities (PRFs) that have established purchasing specifications and consistently procure these bales to recycle domestically.
According to the APR Buyers and Sellers Information for Polyethylene and Polypropylene, there are multiple APR members that purchase one or more bale types containing non-bottle containers. This resource contains company names with links to member profiles with additional information.
APR Model Bale Specifications for Non-Bottle Rigid Containers
In recent years there has been a significant increase in the collection of plastic non-bottle containers. According to an APR Survey on Residential Plastic Collection Programs, almost twice as many of each state’s largest cities now accept non-bottle containers than did five years ago. This rapidly growing collection has resulted in the need for market definition of non-bottle bales.
To facilitate communications between bale producers (MRFs) and purchasers (PRFs and plastic reclaimers) APR, in collaboration with ISRI, has developed non-bottle containers model bale specifications.
APR’s Model Bale Specifications have seven standard components:
- Bale Content Overview
- Acceptable Levels of Contaminants
- Contaminants not Acceptable at any Level
- Bale Size/Minimum Shipping Weight
- Bale Wire
The following APR Model Bale Specifications contain non-bottle containers:
What is the future of non-bottle rigid container recycling?
There is incredible demand for the largest component of the non-bottle container stream - polypropylene postconsumer resin (PP PCR), which is used for applications ranging from personal care, household items, automotive, recreation, and agricultural products. Consumer Brand Companies are actively seeking PP PCR to incorporate into their packaging and seeking opportunities to grow the supply chain to support their increasing demand and commitment to sustainability. The 2015 APR Polypropylene PCR Demand Survey indicated that 21 North American manufacturers reported a demand for over 275 million pounds of polypropylene recycled resin. This results in a “demand pull” and strengthens the marketplace for non-bottle containers. Below are quotes from two brand name companies, which validates this trend.
“Unilever recognizes that recycling is one of the most effective ways to sustain the environment. As part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we are committed to increasing recycling rates and improving the availability of post-consumer materials, such as polypropylene. Recycled polypropylene is an important material with massive opportunity in a circular economy. Working in partnership with industry we aim to increase the recycling of polypropylene and increase the recycled material content in our packaging to maximum possible levels, catalyzing the industry and further reducing our impact on the environment.”
- Julie Zaniewski, Packaging Sustainability Manager, Unilever
“P&G has a vision to make all of our products with 100% renewable or recyclable materials. As part of that vision, one of our goals is to double the amount of PCR in our plastic packaging by 2020. We see great value and need in collaborating with others (including APR, ACC, TRP, and CLF) to advance recycling systems that can generate more materials. We have been a consistent user of recycled HDPE and recycled PET for over 25 years and look forward to expanding our use of recycled PP. We are seeing advances in PP recycling, but we have much work ahead of us to increase both the quantity and quality of recycled PP. We see many end markets for recycled PP including multiple P&G applications.”
- Steve Sikra, Section Head-Global R&D, Materials Science & Technology, The Procter & Gamble Company
How should non-bottle rigid plastic containers be marketed?
Sort For Value: Determining the right level of sorting for your program
The Sort for Value Online Calculator, developed by APR and Moore Recycling Associates, is an analysis tool to determine the value of various plastic sorting options and help understand the benefits of increased sortation. The results are impacted by the price for various commodities at any given time and the percent breakdown of the rigid plastic (bottles, non-bottle containers and bulky rigid plastic) processed at the MRF.
Interpreting the Sort For Value Graphic:
The first column represents a one ton unsorted All Rigid Plastic Bale (1-7). The remaining columns demonstrate increased levels of sorting of that same ton of material. The breakdown of material provides an average level of bulky rigid material at 10% of the total material collected from the curbside stream. An update of the material breakdown will be complete in the Fall 2016.
- When plastic is not sorted, the value of the material is lower and there are fewer markets for the material. Sometimes this is the only option, due to infrastructure constraints.
- Sorting PET and HDPE bottles provides the largest increase in value, therefore this is very common.
- Keeping the bulky rigid separate from bottles and containers provides more value and demand for each of the commodities.
- Additional sorting (e.g., separation of PP rigid plastic and HD injection bulky plastics) may result in higher revenue for the sorted materials, but it will also increase sorting costs and residual disposal costs.
Decision to Sort PP
The Decision to Sort: PP sorted vs. PP with Pre-Picked Bales Worksheet can also assist MRF operators or other stakeholders to determine which of the following options fits their needs:
- Separate PP and market it as a source separated Polypropylene bale.
- Include the PP with the non-bottle plastic containers as a Pre-picked bale.
The table assumes:
- If PP is removed from the non-bottle stream, then the remaining non-bottle material will be residual to be disposed of at a cost (there are no, or very limited, markets for mixed resin bales without HDPE, PET and PP)
- The same bale values and disposal cost as the “Sort for Value” calculator.
- Amount of daily residual that the sort line is producing: 16 tons per day.
- Estimation of daily PP lbs. if separated: 0.75 tons per day
- Estimated percentage of Pre-Picked bale material in residual: 30%
Questions about Sorting for Value or The Decision to Sort: PP sorted vs. PP with Pre-Picked Bales?
APR members can help:
Contact Patty Moore, Moore Recycling Associates or Greg Janson, QRS.