The Association of Plastic Recyclers

Progress and Success Despite Ongoing Challenges: An Overview of the Past Year at APR

2021 saw both positive developments and continued challenges for plastic recycling. Design and supply hurdles; legislative and regulatory proposals; transportation and hiring issues along with increased state legislative activities all combined to require even greater levels of engagement from APR's expert staff. Thanks to the continued support of APR members, we have been able to direct additional technical, media and advocacy resources to ensure the issues of importance to plastic recyclers are addressed.

2022 promises to bring more opportunities, particularly related to legislative and regulatory activity. APR has enhanced our platform to ensure your voice is heard in these debates.

We look forward to this year's Plastics Recycling Conference, which will be our first in person event since February 2020. As we approach this turning point, we would like to highlight some of the accomplishments that APR and our members achieved in the past year despite the ongoing challenges we all faced.

APR Membership Growth

APR's membership continues to grow each year. We welcomed 73 new members since January 1, 2021!

Launched the new membership platform. APR Members can log in to access exclusive member benefits and manage their membership more efficiently.

Held 3 virtual meetings in 2021 due to the challenges of the ongoing pandemic. Despite the virtual format, we saw record attendance.

Legislative and Regulatory Activity

Working to ensure the needs of the plastics recycling industry were addressed on Capitol Hill, APR provided technical expertise and counsel to Congressional staff throughout the year. Review the 2021 Federal Legislative Activity Report.

Representing the best interests of plastic recyclers and expanding the voice of plastics recycling in the advocacy space across the United States and Canada, APR actively engaged in state legislative efforts. Review the 2021 State Legislative Activity Report.

Updated and streamlined existing APR position statements and developed new position statements. View APR position statements.

Provided active engagement, drafting of comment letters, data provision and related support for the California Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets and Curbside Recycling, California labeling and recycled content legislation, and the Washington state Stakeholder Advisory Committee, which completed its legislatively-mandated recycled content recommendations report on 12/8/21.

APR Design® Guide Progress, Expanded Recognition and Training Opportunities

Launched the Meets Preferred Guidance (MPG) Recognition Program and approved 3 recipients for recyclable dispensers in 2021.

For the second consecutive year, we awarded Critical Guidance Recognition to a record number of companies. This year, 34 companies received Critical Guidance for new recyclable innovations.

Published phase one of the APR Global Design Catalog, a comprehensive resource to access the most current plastic packaging recyclability guidelines for countries and regions around the world. APR members receive a free all access pass to this comprehensive resource.Additional countries and features will be added in the coming months.

Elevating the exposure of the APR Design® Guide to the brand community to reduce contamination, increase supply, and help companies meet sustainability goals, APR conducted 5 virtual full day APR Design® Guide Training Programs, 2 in person full day sessions, 2 virtual lunch and learns, and a special virtual all day training session for Michigan State University. 

The PET Technical Committee developed "Ten to Tackle" design guidance priorities focused on sources of color impact when PET is recycled and opportunities to improve the productivity of PET recycling. This effort will guide committee efforts in 2022 and 2023. 

As a founding Activator and Advisory Council member of the U.S. Plastics Pact, APR was pleased that the APR Design® Guide was chosen by both the U.S. Pact and the Pathway to Circularity to accurately assess and measure progress against major brands' design for recycling goals.

APR co-chairs the U.S. Pact's Design for Recyclability workstream, supported the development of the U.S. Pact's Problematic and Unnecessary Materials List, and represents plastic recyclers on the On-Pack Labeling workstream within the U.S. Pact. A Baseline Report was published today highlighting key actions the U.S. Pact and its Activators have taken in the first year, including data and case studies that illustrate the starting point toward achieving the organization's ambitious 2025 targets.

Ensuring the APR Design® Guide for Plastics Recyclability remains the most comprehensive and current resource outlining the plastics recycling industry's recommendations in the today's marketplace, recent updates and improvements include:

  • Preliminary Evaluation of the Near Infrared (NIR) Sorting Potential of a Whole Plastic Article (SORT-S-01)
  • Evaluation of the Color Sorting Potential of a Clear PET Article with Label Coverage Greater than APR Design® Guidance (SORT-B-04)
  • After multiple delays due to the ongoing pandemic, the verification test for 2d/3d Sorting Potential was conducted.The final protocol will be released soon.
  • Design guidance for label surface coverage of a PET container with respect to clear vs. color sortation at a PET reclaimer
  • Revised and published updated PE film design guidance
  • Made significant headway in determining the effects of metallization on the recyclability of PE film

APR Technical Working Groups Break New Ground

The Labels Work Group developed new guidance for inks and labels, and updated test methods for labels.

The Oxygen Scavenger Work Group detailed the impact of oxygen scavenger additives on PET recycling.

The Virgin PET Resin Oxidative Stability Work Group conducted an extensive study to document the performance of 17 different commercial PET resins after five melt heat histories.

The APR Design® Guide Continuous Improvement Working Group led efforts to improve design guidance for dispensers, closures, and barrier materials.

The new Chemical Recycling Research Working Group kicked off in December 2021 with 17 members from representative sectors of recycling chain, including chemical recyclers, mechanical reclaimers, brands and converters.

Boosting Market Demand

The APR PCR Certification Program saw continued growth with 17 reclaimers with APR Certified PCR since this Program's inception.

29 companies recommitted to the APR Recycling Demand Champion Campaign to purchase even more PCR than in previous years.

APR published a report of the impacts from the 2020 Recycling Demand Champion Campaign. This transition year featured 12 companies who increased demand for PCR by 37.3 million pounds.

In collaboration with the Michigan Recycling Coalition, APR launched a special campaign to recruit Michigan companies who want to use their purchasing power to increase demand for PCR.

The Government Recycling Demand Champion Campaign, which is overseen by NERC and focuses on public sector purchasing, concluded its first year with an increased demand of 12.7 million pounds of PCR.

In collaboration with The Recycling Partnership's Film & Flexibles Coalition, APR launched a new campaign focusing on improving demand for PCR Film and Flexibles, which includes a "Residential Film Champions Option" that is specifically focused on supporting the development of a market for residential film PCR.

All Demand Champion campaigns continue to grow and are accepting new Champions on a rolling basis.

Expanding the Voice of Plastics Recycling®

APR published press releases, blog posts, and media statements that received broad coverage across industry publications and beyond.

Providing educational opportunities for the plastics recycling industry, APR held well attended webinars, and published multiple episodes of the Recycled Content Podcast.

All of APR's social media channels grew this year, and LinkedIn remains our most popular channel. APR's influence on this professional social media platform continues to grow. In 2021, we surpassed an astonishing 12,000 followers, ranking APR as not only the #1 most followed organization in our field, but also the fastest growing and most engaged with recycling organization in North America.

With input from our members, we released a new APR Membership Brochure to present the benefits of membership and how to become an APR member for companies looking to up their sustainability game.

On behalf of all of us at APR, we thank you for your continued support and your commitment to the success of plastics recycling.

The year ahead is ripe with opportunities to expand our industry's horizons. At the same time, we know that the many ongoing challenges will not simply disappear. We are always at the service of our membership – please reach out to us at any time as this year unfolds for you.

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