The Future of Plastics Recycling is at Risk: THERE IS A SOLUTION.
In 2017 there was a perfect storm for the plastics recycling industry in the United States.
With China's National Sword policy, U.S. recyclers suddenly lost a market for 65% of curbside-collected polypropylene, including nearly all bulky rigids. At the same time, a tsunami of virgin resin hit the marketplace, with over 50 million pounds (260 railcars) per month of new wide‐spec virgin resin competing directly with post-consumer recycled resin (PCR). Lastly, a lack of long-term contracts for reclaimers resulted in overnight evaporation of sales. For example, one major US plastic recycler noted their "standing order for 20 trailer loads of PCR/month was canceled last week because the converter switched to wide-spec virgin resin."
APR recognizes that consistent, reliable demand is critical for plastics recycling to be mature, vibrant and sustainable, and that a strong demand-pull for recycled plastics is needed to ensure a robust recycling supply chain. Simply put, demand creates value and value drives recycling.
The APR Recycling Demand Champions Program was born from this philosophy. In a nutshell, the APR Recycling Demand Champions Program celebrates companies who purchase more products that contain PCR and/or who incorporate more PCR into their products.
APR Demand Champion companies sign a commitment letter stating their intent to purchase/use more PCR than they already are purchasing/using, and then later report to APR the weight and type of PCR purchased/used. This Program isn't simply a recognition of how much PCR a company is purchasing/using overall, but rather a celebration of how their increased purchasing/usage of PCR positively impacts demand for PCR.
The more products that rely on PCR, the stronger the demand will be. APR maintains a growing directory of vendors whose products contain PCR to make purchasing easy.
In the Program's first year, 10 Demand Champion companies increased their PCR usage by 6.8 million pounds. The following year, 20 Demand Champion companies increased their PCR use by a whopping 25.9 million pounds. Through their involvement in the APR Recycling Demand Champions Program, these companies helped strengthen the domestic demand for residential mixed plastics and mitigated reliance on export markets.
Though the APR Recycling Demand Champions Program was originally designed with private sector companies in mind, it has since expanded. Because government is the biggest purchaser of products in the United States, the NERC-APR Government Recycling Demand Champions Program was created in 2020
What the government buys impacts the marketplace in a very real way, and governmental commitment to purchasing products with PCR sends a strong message to brands, citizens, and constituents.
This new Program includes a helpful roadmap to guide purchasing decisions as well as two levels of participation: Champions and Advocates.Champions are full Program participants who commit to purchasing products made with PCR. Advocates intend to purchase products made with PCR but their organization is not yet ready to act (but will within a year of joining the Program).