What can converters do to help? What can brands or retailers do?
Russell: Converters, brand owners, retailers—anyone with a stake in helping flexible film recycling succeed—can participate in our Flexible Film Recycling Group, which sponsors WRAP, or the Materials Recovery for the Future project, which is evaluating sorting solutions for all types of film packaging, including multi-material. Because it’s so light, flexible film packaging provides numerous well-documented environmental benefits such as helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and waste compared to alternatives. At the same time, we must develop workable, sustainable end-of-life solutions for these very efficient forms of packaging, or we risk losing these important benefits.
Another thing brand owners and retailers can do is to adopt the How2Recycle label on their film packages. The Sustainable Packaging Coalition created a “Store Drop-Off” label specifically for film. Companies such as Target, Kimberly-Clark, Ziploc, Clorox and Seventh Generation are already using the label, and we encourage more companies to follow suit.
What’s next, and how are things shaping up for 2018?
Russell: In the coming months, WRAP will work with U.S. EPA to support market growth for post-consumer recycled (PCR) film by recognizing companies that use PCR film in products and companies, such as retailers, that provide collection infrastructure. Additionally, the Materials Recovery for the Future project plans to announce the location of its flexible plastic packaging sortation pilot demonstration. The selected material recovery facility will be outfitted with the necessary optical sorters and configuration to effectively and efficiently sort certain types of flexible packaging at commercial scale. And we hope to see more communities implement energy bag-type collection programs to utilize valuable plastics that aren’t being recycled in commercial markets.
Anything else to point out?
Russell: We’re also excited that communities and even states are working to reduce contamination while recycling more types of plastics. One important facet is better education. ACC has worked with stakeholders throughout the plastics recycling value chain to create and streamline terms and images for educating consumers about plastics recycling. ACC’s Plastics Recycling Terms & Tools provides no-cost resources that enable community recycling coordinators to design clear and compelling educational resources for residents. Communities across the country are aligning their terminology and imagery to reduce confusion and increase valuable yields.