Findings Announced for Flexible Packaging Recycling Study
September 22, 2016, Ann Arbor, Mich. – Sustainability and recycling consultancy, Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), announced the release of results from an industry collaborative study on the ability to recover flexible plastic packaging using existing sortation technology. The study was commissioned by Materials Recovery for the Future (MRFF), an initiative of the Foundation for Chemistry Research and Initiatives, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization established by the American Chemistry Council.
The study sought to understand the flow of flexible plastic packaging in a materials recovery facility (MRF), utilizing existing sortation technologies such as screens and optical scanners. RRS developed the test methodology and conducted the research including baseline testing, equipment testing and MRF trials.
The findings, documented in the RRS research report Flexible Packaging Sortation at Materials Recovery Facilities, demonstrates that with adequate screening and optical sorting capacity, flexible plastic packaging can be efficiently captured in a single-stream MRF.
The prevalence of flexible plastic packaging has been increasing due to its strength, light weight, and custom performance attributes such as product protection and portion sizing. Common forms include resealable food storage bags and pouches, detergent pouches, pet food bags and snack bags.
“We now know how flexibles flow through a materials recovery facility, and that the technology already exists for separating flexibles out of the materials streams,” said Larry Baner, senior packaging research scientist, global packaging and design for Nestlé Purina Petcare.
“With the completion of this research we have established the first proof points towards our vision of being able to recycle flexible packaging,” said Jeff Wooster, global sustainability director for Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics. “Dow is pleased to have been a part of this groundbreaking research. The results show us that existing technology found in more automated MRFs can separate flexible plastic packaging from other recyclable materials. Consumers want to recycle all their packaging, and the Materials Recovery for the Future collaborative project is developing solutions that will eventually make that a reality.”
Susan Graff, RRS Principal and MRFF Project Director stated, “This research provides evidence that it’s possible to sort flexibles into a bale, with positive implications for the quality of other MRF product bales. More work is needed to address the additional proof points that will influence the decision of MRF operators and communities to accept flexibles in their recycling programs. Additional equipment testing to determine the costs and feasibility of required MRF upgrades, secondary processing and end market uses are critical to success.”
MRFF members include The Dow Chemical Company, LyondellBasell Industries, Nestlé Purina PetCare and Nestlé USA, PepsiCo, Plum Organics, Procter & Gamble, SC Johnson, Sealed Air, and Target as well as the Association for Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR), the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA), SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association (SPI), and the American Chemistry Council .
The study’s findings on the flexible plastic packaging recycling can be found at: Flexible Packaging Sortation at Materials Recovery Facilities
To learn how your company can join MRFF, please contact Emily Tipaldo 202-249-6127.
Founded in 1986 and headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, RRS is a sustainability and recycling consulting firm that strives to create a world where resources are managed to maximize economic and social benefit while minimizing environmental harm. The firm has cutting-edge industry professionals, engineers, economists, technical analysts, and communication specialists who share this vision and possess core strengths in materials and recovery, life cycle management, applied sustainable design, and collaborative action development. RRS serves both the public and private sectors to manage change in a resource-constrained world. www.recycle.com
Melissa Radiwon, Marketing Manager, RRS