National Trade Collaborative Publishes MRF Material Flow Study

RRS leads efforts to study sortability and recyclability of variety of materials.

July 9, 2015, Ann Arbor, Michigan – Sustainability and recycling consultancy, Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), announced today the publishing of the MRF Material Flow Study.

The study focused on the flow of specific packaging forms through several types of material recovery facilities (MRFs) to commodity bales; to be sold to end market. The ultimate goal of the study was to identify pathways to improve recovery across the value chain – from residents and municipalities to packaging designers, MRF operators and engineers.

The MRF Material Flow Study was funded collectively by five national trade associations representing a wide range of packaging, including the American Chemistry Council (ACC), American National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers (APR), Carton Council of North America (CCNA) and the Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI).

The study was developed and completed by RRS, Reclay StewardEdge (RSE) and Moore Recycling Associates. The full report can be viewed at MRF Material Flow Study.

RRS, RSE and Moore Recycling Associates, developed a methodology for taking on this in-depth study. RRS led the coordination of material testing and on-site testing efforts – traveling to each MRF location, monitoring material flow, and examining bale content. Five U.S. MRF locations were selected based on their range of operations, size, and processing of different recycling streams. Materials tested and mixed with recycling material included paper cups, clamshells, containers, domes/trays, bottles, tubs, lids and gable-top and aseptic cartons.

Key findings include:

  • Size and Shape influence sortability in the MRF. Materials with similar size and shape tend to flow together. This implies that containers shouldn’t be flattened or crushed to avoid sorting with other flat materials like paper.
  • Package stiffness influences flow in the MRF. If containers hold their shape and are not flattened or crushed, they have a higher likelihood of making it to the container line.
  • Optical sorters can help identify packaging. Technology can help to identify and sort increasingly diverse and lightweight packaging into the correct bales.

“This study is a milestone in the evolution of the recovery system in the U.S.,” stated Jim Frey, CEO of RRS. “Five associations representing different materials and different interests collaborated for the same end goal – improving that recovery system. They are taking an active role in not only shining a light on the issue, but finding a solution.”

The MRF Material Flow Study highlights the increasing interest of stakeholders to better understand what happens to their materials when placed in curbside recycling bins and carts, as well as pathways to increase recovery and value in commodities affected by these packaging types.


About RRS

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.


Media Contact
Melissa Radiwon, Marketing Manager, RRS