Pilot study takes on curbside recycling of flexible plastics packaging

MRFF Curbside recycling FPPMaterials Recovery for the Future (MRFF), an industry collaborative a research program of brand owners, retailers, plastic providers and associations whose members include Procter & Gamble, Target Stores and more, announced on June 20 a new partnership with solid waste and recycling services provider J.P. Mascaro & Sons Inc. (Audubon, PA). The agreement is a pilot for single-stream curbside recycling of flexible plastic packaging (FPP) at its TotalRecycle materials recovery facility (MRF) in Berks County, PA. This will be the first pilot to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of recycling household FPP from municipal residential single-stream recycling programs.

“Our MRFF collaborative is excited to partner with J.P. Mascaro and demonstrate the recyclability of flexible plastic packaging,” said Steve Sikra (right in above photo, along with Michael Timpane of RRS at left and Larry Baner of Nestlé Purina), MRFF chairperson and associate director of global research and development for Procter & Gamble (Cincinnati). “We are all committed to the success of this program and look forward to adding recycled flexible packaging into the circular economy. As a side benefit, we expect to see the quality of J.P.’s other recycling streams improve as the flexible plastics are processed.” ACC-Curbside-FPP-Steve Sikra quote graphic

FPP, which includes films, wraps, bags and pouches, is not widely recycled today. However, as these lightweight materials that also provide enhanced product performance and protection become a larger part of the packaging waste stream, the need for scalable recycling collection strategies is critical to their sustainability. The pilot is expected to generate data to help inform municipalities and the recycling industry on the most efficient and economical ways to recycle FPP. This will turn used FPP materials, typically destined for disposal, into a bale that can be sold to a variety of end markets.

According to Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), a recycling system consultancy which conducts the MRFF research program, 12 billion pounds of the material is introduced into the market for consumer use yearly, and it is the fastest-growing form of packaging. RRS estimates TotalRecycle will produce 3,100 tons/year of high-quality post-consumer FPP feedstock for various end market uses that are being tested.

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Mascaro director of sustainability and TotalRecycle general manager, Joseph P. Mascaro, said, “Our company is thrilled to partner with the MRFF partners on this project. MRFF Curbside recycling FPP PQ1We are confident that the pilot will be successful and will generate industry data to show FPP generators, municipalities and the recycling industry that FPP can be efficiently and economically recycled and marketed instead of being landfilled.”

Van Dyk Recycling Solutions (Stamford, CT) will add sophisticated sorting equipment to Mascaro’s TotalRecycle facility that will target FPP out of the single stream flow. The FPP will be identified and separated by advanced optical sorters, resulting in a new generation bale of FPP.

The pilot program will begin in late 2018 with the installation of the sorting equipment. After an internal testing period, TotalRecycle will begin accepting FPP for recycling from the municipal residents it serves. From equipment order to acceptance of FPP in curbside carts, the pilot program is expected to last two years time.

A PDF of comprehensive FAQs about the project can be found here.

MRFF members include The Procter & Gamble Company, Target, The Dow Chemical Company, PepsiCo, Nestlé USA, Nestlé Purina PetCare, Amcor, and the American Chemistry Council. Other members include the Flexible Packaging Association, LyondellBasell Industries, The Plastics Industry Association, Sealed Air, SC Johnson, the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, and the Association of Plastic Recyclers. The research program announced Chevron Phillips Chemical Company as a new member.  

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