PlasticsToday reported a month ago on industry efforts in recycling plastics films, wraps and bags, specifically when the Flexible Film Recycling Group (FFRG) of the American Chemistry Council (Washington, D.C.) joined partners in Omaha to launch a new campaign to increase the recycling of those materials both for recycling and, in some instances, converting the materials into fuel. You can read more about the program here.
We wanted to get a broader picture view of flexible film collection and recycling developments from an industry insider, and tapped the insights of the Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the ACC, who provides an update into progress, current initiatives and a preview of what’s next in diverting flexible packaging from landfills.
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Where does the collection of flexible materials stand today versus five years ago?
Russell: There have been significant advances in recycling of flexible film. ACC’s Plastics Division is working to expand opportunities to recycle two common types of flexible packaging: polyethylene-based film packaging and multi-material film packaging, such as pouches. Our WRAP program is helping to increase PE film recycling by raising consumer awareness that everyday used items can be recycled at more than 18,000 grocery and retail stores across the U.S. These include bags from produce, bread, and dry cleaning along with packaging from household paper products and beverage multipacks. Shipping pillows and bubble-style wraps, which we see a lot of this time of year, can also be recycled with film.
In addition, ACC’s research foundation is managing a project called Materials Recovery for the Future, which is conducting research aimed at recovering more film packaging, especially multi-material film, currently destined for landfill. So far, this initiative has shown that automated sorting technologies in use today can be optimized to capture flexible plastic packaging—potentially creating a new stream of recovered materials while improving the quality of other recycling streams (i.e., paper).
What’s the status for these programs?
Russell: The WRAP program launched in 2013 and is quickly gaining momentum. Today, WRAP programs are underway in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Vancouver, Washington; Mecklenburg County and Onslow County, North Carolina; and the State of Connecticut. We look forward to announcing in early in 2018 new WRAP programs in the northwest region and a major southeastern city. The program also received a big boost nationally this year, when U.S. EPA became an official WRAP partner.
Next: Consumer education and challenges