The Association of Plastic Recyclers
  • PLA

    PLA

PREFERRED

PLA closures

Since these are the same material as the target polymer, they will be recycled with it and add to the material yield.

Closures without liners, made from polymers with density < 1.0 that float in water; specifically PE and PP
Closures plus liners made from polymers with density < 1.0 that float in water (specifically PE & PP closures; PE foam, EVA, TPE liners)
Shrink film safety sleeves of polymers with density < 1.0 that float in water

Because these polymers float, they are most easily separated from the container in conventional separation systems. Additionally, the PLA recycling process may capture floatable polyethylene and polypropylene to create an ancillary stream of marketable material. Care must be taken when modifying the polyethylene or polypropylene to ensure the modifier does not increase the overall density to the point that it sinks.

Shrink film safety sleeves that are designed to be completely removed before the package can be opened

Regardless of material, designs that require complete removal by the consumer of the safety sleeve are Preferred, as the material will not be introduced into the recycling stream.

DETRIMENTAL

Closures and shrink film safety sleeves made of polymers with density >1.0 that sink in water (specifically PS, silicone, nylon, acetal, thermosets)

These materials are heavier than water and sink in the float-sink tank with PLA. They are extremely difficult to separate from the recycled polymer flake, requiring a costly and inexact polymer flake sorter currently not envisioned in the PLA reclaiming operation.

Also see "Requires Test Results" Section

RENDERS NON-RECYCLABLE

PET and PVC

PET and PVC sink in the float-sink tank with the PLA and are difficult to remove with other methods, thereby causing contamination in the final product. The recycled PLA process is very intolerable to even minute amounts of PET or PVC.

REQUIRES TEST RESULTS

Closures or lidding with metal components

Sortation testing for metal components will result in either a Detrimental or a Renders Non-Recyclable ruling. Metal components cannot be Preferred at this time.

Metal contamination is highly undesirable in recycled PLA. Metals create wear in process machinery, increase operation costs and yield loss, and are a primary source of defects in products made with recycled PLA. MRFs and PLA reclaimers use magnets and metal detectors to keep packages with metal components out of the process stream. Metal components such as closures or lidding that trigger metal detectors will cause the entire plastic item to be removed from the stream and not recycled. At best, sortation testing will classify such an item as Detrimental to Recycling.

BENCHMARK TEST

Shrink film safety sleeves that are NOT designed to be completely removed before the package can be opened

If a shrink film safety sleeve is designed such that pieces of it may not detach from the package when opened, the material must be tested to determine its compatibility with PLA recycling. Specifically, such materials should either float and be separated from the PLA, or if they sink, they must be compatible with PLA. Companies that are considering such sleeves and are unsure of their compatibility with recycling should ask their suppliers to provide APR test results.

No test methods currently exist for PLA. However, PET Package Component Sink/Float Evaluation (PET-S-05) may be adapted substituting PLA for PET.

SCREENING TEST

Closure valves containing silicone (density and floatability will vary)

Check valves in spray dispensers or pumps may be made of silicone as an alternative to metals. While polymers are generally preferable to metals, the composition of a silicone part may cause it to be incompatible with PLA recycling. It should float in the sink/float system. Companies that are considering such components and are unsure of their compatibility with recycling should ask their suppliers to provide APR test results.

No test methods currently exist for PLA. However, PET Package Component Sink/Float Evaluation (PET-S-05) may be adapted substituting PLA for PET.

SCREENING TEST

Closures, dispenser valves, or springs made of metal

Sortation testing for metal components will result in either a Detrimental or a Renders Non-Recyclable ruling. Metal components cannot be Preferred at this time.

Metal is difficult to separate from PLA compared to the preferred closure systems (polypropylene and polyethylene) and adds both capital and operating costs to conventional reclamation processes. Even a small amount of metal left in the recycled polymer stream will block extruder screens in remanufacturing. Large metal items attached to PLA packages may cause the package to be directed to the metal or waste stream in the recycling process, causing yield loss. Small metal components such as spray dispenser springs unravel in the recycling process and blind screens, adding significant cost for removal at the end of the process.

BENCHMARK TEST

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