Who’s responsible for making plastic packaging more recyclable?

In the ongoing discussion about whether manufacturers, material recovery facilities (MRFs) or recyclers should be responsible for the sustainability of plastic packaging, the answer still seems to be all of the above.

MRFs have always had to keep up with an evolving waste stream by adapting to the various shapes and sizes of consumer packaging that end up on their tipping floors. When it comes to plastic packaging — some of which has become lighter and more complex — players from all sides of the supply chain have their own ideas about how to best manage it. The work of reconciling these opinions, while keeping consumer communication as simple as possible, looks to be even more visible in the year ahead.

“We continue to see more and more products in the marketplace that in fact are difficult, if not impossible, to recycle so they become a contaminant in the recycling stream,” said Steve Alexander, executive director of the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR).

APR doesn’t believe that brands intentionally design products with inherent recycling challenges, but says it still happens too often. Alexander said that by releasing an updated design guide last year, APR hopes to become more involved in the “embryonic” stage rather than having to find solutions after the fact. He compared retrofitting a package to renovating a house rather than building features in from the start — unintended consequences are sure to come up along the way.

One of the more common examples of this type of retrofitting is what has happened with full bottle or shrink sleeve labels. The labels had been sinking in the plastic recycling process and in many cases this was creating sediment and contaminating material during washing.

Research and engineering company Plastics Forming Enterprise consults with APR, brands and recyclers to sort out the finer details of their packaging challenges through testing. Kristina Hansen, their technical director, has worked on a wide range of adhesives, labels, additives and fillers, and the factors involved in these areas vary. Many of them come back to the need for a cleaner material stream to ensure that recyclers can offer a better product and manufacturers can have higher percentages of post-consumer recycled (PCR) content in their packaging.

 

Full article: http://www.wastedive.com/news/whos-responsible-for-making-plastic-packaging-more-recyclable/433851/

Source: Waste Dive