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March 3, 2019 - The Mercury

APR in the News

J.P. Mascaro’s Exeter recycling facility part of pilot program to accept flexible plastic packaging

J.P Mascaro & Sons and its TotalRecycle facility in Exeter, Berks County are on the front lines of an evolving recycling industry.

Over the next two years, the company will pilot single-stream curbside recycling of flexible plastic packaging (FPP) at its TotalRecycle materials recovery facility (MRF).

Once testing is complete and the company begins accepting the material, J.P. Mascaro’s TotalRecycle plant will be the only company in the nation recycling the material.

“Currently, there is no program in our nation that accepts flexible packaging in a curbside single-stream program,” said Joseph Mascaro, Sr., director of sustainability for J.P. Mascaro & Sons and director of the TotalRecycle facility.

The pilot program was outlined Feb. 22 at J.P. Mascaro & Sons’ Lower Providence headquarters for Mascaro municipal customers from across the region. It was the official launch of the company’s involvement in the pilot that was announced in June by the Materials Recovery for the Future (MRFF) program.

It is the first pilot to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of recycling household flexible plastic packaging from municipal residential single-stream recycling programs.

Flexible plastic packaging — which includes clear storage bags, bread bags, grocery store carry bags, pet food bags, granola pouches, tee-shirt bags, spouted baby food pouches, chip bags, product overwrap and pouches — is not currently widely recycled and typically ends up in landfills.

Yet, it is the fastest growing segment of consumer packaging today, introducing 12 billion pounds of the material into the market for consumer use every year, according to Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), which conducts the Materials Recovery for the Future research program.

According to Susan Graff, vice president of Global Corporate Sustainability at Resource Recycling Systems, there are benefits to the material that contribute to the growth of its use.

“The carbon profile is lower, it’s lighter in weight, there are transportation efficiencies and there are consumer savings because of that,” she said.

Specialized optical sorters have been added to the TotalRecycle facility, and are being tested. The sorters will target flexible plastic packaging and remove it from the single-stream flow, storing it in an area designated for the material.

“The team is onsite to complete the upgrade; and we expect to have it completed very soon,” Mascaro said, adding that the optical sorters “make a decision in a millionth of a second if it should recover a product.”

Mascaro stressed that the initiative is not live yet, and implementation will happen in phases over the next two years.

Once initial testing of the equipment is complete, the program will roll out first to one municipality that is serviced by J.P. Mascaro & Sons’ Berks Service District, and that already uses the covered receptacles that will be required. Mascaro said he anticipates that happening this summer. The selected municipality — in Berks or Montgomery County — has not yet been publicly identified.

“We want to be able to control as much of this project as possible. Control means picking it up off the street with a rear end truck and delivering it directly to the our facility — it means no transfer stations,” Mascaro said.

Once that process works smoothly, additional municipalities will be added: starting with those municipalities that get picked up by the Berks Hauling Division or that deliver directly to TotalRecycle, followed by those with their own transfer stations.

“The final and most exciting one we intend to get to within in the next two years is to put this program out to all of our customers,” he added.

Resource Recycling Systems estimates TotalRecycle will produce 3,100 tons per year of the material — dubbed R-Flex — suitable for various end market uses that are currently being tested.

“This is a national project. We are trying to change the game of recycling. R-flex is a new commodity and we’re excited to introduce it to the world,” Mascaro said.

“This is a journey and this is the first part. This is the bridging solution along that journey,” said Steve Sikra, Materials Recovery for the Future chairman and associate director of global research and development for Procter & Gamble.

Some of the members of the Materials Recovery for the Future include The Procter & Gamble Company, Target, The Dow Chemical Company, PepsiCo, Nestlé USA, the American Chemistry Council, the Flexible Packaging Association, The Plastics Industry Association, and the Association of Plastic Recyclers, among others.

Read the full article from The Mercury here.