APR Defined Testing Methods
Innovation in plastics and packaging is necessary to maintain a healthy and competitive industry. To support innovators, the APR has developed a variety of laboratory test method documents that can be used to assess the impact of a plastic design feature or component on recycling. APR test methods combine laboratory practices and measurements developed specifically by and for plastic recyclers with standard ASTM tests. The objective of testing is to determine the impact of a design feature on the processability of a package item as well as the ability of post-consumer resin (PCR) derived from such feedstocks to meet quality specifications for end-use applications.
APR’s test method library offers a diversity of test methods from basic screening tests to complex Critical Guidance tests.
These relatively simple test methods typically evaluate a narrow aspect of an innovation or a package component on recycling. For example, a screening test might evaluate how well a closure or label floats in water, or measure discoloration in PET flake from an extrusion or injection molding heat history. Many of these tests use commonly available equipment and can be employed in a variety of laboratories.
These test methods assess the recycle performance of an innovation against certain known variables or conditions, but may not include all critical variables or conditions because they are not currently known or completely understood.
Critical Guidance Tests
The “gold standard” of APR testing protocols, Critical Guidance tests are used to confirm that an innovation is fully compatible with the appropriate plastic recycling stream. The testing plan purposely uses a high level of the innovation in each assessment to reveal potential for a negative impact. The tests and measurements made are intended to reflect conditions appropriate to the diversity of processing technologies and customer requirements found in the plastics recycling industry. These more complex test methods typically use specialized practices and equipment found in full-service testing laboratories.Critical Guidance test protocols performed by independent labs on behalf of innovators are required for APR’s Design® Recognition Program. Any APR member company may perform Critical Guidance tests in their own labs to determine the compatibility of their own technologies or materials with recycling systems.
Application Guidance Tests
These documents provide a comprehensive recycling test and test result evaluation criteria for recycling a complete package innovation back into a finished article, instead of a molded plaque as in Critical Guidance. Applications Guidance for HDPE calls for innovations to be recycled back into new HDPE bottles. For PET, Applications Guidance provides for recycling an innovation back into new bottles, sheet, fibers, or strapping. The purpose is to test specific shelf-ready packages for technical compatibility with recycling, including all components of the package.
In-Plant Production Scale Evaluations
These evaluations are employed when laboratory tests are not yet available or may not be able to predict recycling performance of a package component or innovation. In these cases, it may be desirable to test under regular production scale conditions. APR members are often willing to make their MRF and reclaiming facilities available for such evaluations.
Specialized Equipment Evaluations
Both packaging technology and recycling technology are constantly evolving. There may be times when it is helpful to understand the performance of a plastic article when treated with new technology, or to understand the performance of a new technology vis a vis the current recyclable stream. For example, companies are interested in optimizing the ability of NIR sortation machines to handle flexible packaging constructions. APR’s membership includes many equipment suppliers who may be willing to provide their test facilities for technology evaluations.