What will you find in a mixed rigid plastic bale?

By Anne Marie Mohan, Senior Editor, Packaging World A recently released study designed to determine the type of plastic material contained in mixed rigid bales will serve as the basis for the continued expansion of plastics recycling beyond traditional containers and packaging. Commissioned by The Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers (APR) and conducted by Moore Recycling, the study follows up on an initial survey conducted in 2011, which was the first such effort to determine the composition of various types of mixed rigid plastic bales in North America. “As recycling rates continue to grow, understanding the type and tonnage available for recycling in North America will strengthen and advance investment in non-bottle rigid recycling,” says J. Scott Saunders, General Manager of KW Plastics and Chairman of APR. “The 2015 National Mixed Rigid Bale Composition Study” focuses on material being generated in non-traditional bales of plastic. It was designed to demonstrate the types of plastic containers in the bales, demonstrate the value of separating the material, and encourage the continued expansion of plastics recycling to include non-bottle rigid material. “This project is part of APR’s continued efforts to improve bale quality,” says Liz Bedard, Director of the APR Rigids Program. “In order to justify an investment to expand processing capacity, we must understand the different types of material available for reclamation.” A total of 23 bales were sorted by resin and product type at four different North American facilities. A handheld resin ID unit was used to spot check for items that were not easily identified by sight, feel, or sound. Once the sorts were complete, each resin/product category was...

Plastics Recycling is Working: Here’s Why

Steve Alexander is executive director of the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, Steve Russell is vice president of the American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division and Steve Sikra is section head for corporate R&D at The Procter & Gamble Company. The authors contributed this article to Live Science’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights. As a nation, the United States is making strong and steady progress in recycling our most common plastics — Americans have recycled more plastics each year than the prior year for the last two and a half decades. Take plastic bottles: In 2014, U.S. consumers recycled a record high of more than 3 billion pounds of plastic bottles — generating an estimated $730 million in revenue from selling bales of plastic material — and the recycling rate climbed to an all-time high of 32 percent . And unlike the early days, consumers today are advised to twist caps on before tossing their empty bottles in the bin, because recyclers want the caps too. That’s all good news, but some of the most dramatic gains are happening in flexible polyethylene packaging and with other plastic containers. Between 2005 and 2013, the recycling of flexible plastic film (bags and wraps) jumped nearly 75 percent to reach more than 1 billion pounds, and the recycling rate grew to 17 percent. To achieve these increases, groups like ours came together to come up with innovative solutions. Boosting recycling Today, more than 18,000 stores across the country collect used plastic wraps and bags to be recycled near each store’s main entrance, but not everyone is aware of this opportunity to recycle. Working...

Recycling plastics: A win-win scenario for automakers

As automakers turn to plastics and composites to trim weight and increase the safety of their vehicles, they’re also taking advantage of plastics recycling in the manufacturing process. Plastics recycling comes with many advantages, among them a reduction in resources needed to produce new plastics and less reliance on landfills. Estimates state that recycling one ton of plastics saves 22 cubic meters of landfill space and conserves 80-90 percent of the energy used when making new items from plastics. Recycled plastics can be high quality Experience has shown that auto parts made from recycled plastics can have the same level of quality as those made with original materials. Though recycled plastics often have a different use in their next life, such as when plastics recycled from bumpers are made into mudguards, plastic car parts are sometimes recycled to make the same types of parts. For example, Ford reported that in Europe it is recycling bumpers that have been damaged into new bumpers and other plastic parts. What are plastics being recycled into? Recycling of plastics is not limited to what has been retrieved from obsolete automobiles, however. Manufacturers also use recycled plastics from bottles, containers, and other plastic items to make anything from seat cushions to dashboards to bumpers in their new vehicles. Wheel liners: Chrysler has used recycled plastics in wheel liners for the Jeep Wrangler and Chrysler 200. Seat cushions: Ford is the first automaker to use REPREVE®, a fiber made with recycled plastic water bottles, for seating fabric, introducing it in several 2013 and 2014 models including its Focus, Fusion, Edge, Mustang, and F-150. Ford needs...