The Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI) recently announced the formation of the Plastics Recovery Group (PRG) to create and develop potential solutions for the recovery and processing of used foodservice packaging.
The group behind PRG realizes they have a difficult journey ahead.
"We are out to make a difference and our long-term goal is landfill diversion," FPI Vice President Natha Dempsey told PlasticsToday. "We are making progress and moving the needle in the right direction with realistic actions."
Today, many foodservice packaging items are typically not being recovered after use because of limited infrastructure and end markets.
Most foodservice packaging can be recycled, but isn't for a variety of reasons. The biggest barriers to recycling foodservice packaging items are public health and economics, the FPI stated.
For example, about 70% of food sold in foodservice packaging in a typical quick service restaurant goes out the drive through window, or out the front door, according to the FPI. Once the packaging leaves the foodservice operation it becomes widely dispersed and discarded.
No single company has enough influence to affect broad change alone, the FPI stated.
After several months of preliminary discussions, a conference call in May marked the official kick off for the PRG. Part of the work includes learning sessions to evaluate opportunities and barriers along the material movement chain. First sessions will explore recycling, waste to energy, plastics to oil, and composting. In addition, the group will assess key generation, current recovery, and recovery infrastructure points.
"Our members decided this is an area in food service we can do something about," said Lynn Dyer, president of the FPI. "We started working and collaborating to figure out where to fill in the holes for food service packaging."
The PRG is a separate member-funded project within FPI. Current PRG members include BASF, D&W Fine Pack, and HAVI Global Solutions. Additional members are sought from various parts of the value chain including raw material suppliers, converters, retailers, operators, waste haulers, recyclers, composters, waste-to-energy facilities, and more.
The PRG is encouraging partnerships with cross-industry allies to leverage efforts.
"Sometimes there is a competitive nature among packaging recovery projects, but this is completely void of that," Dyer said. "We are dedicated to creating strategic alliances. Various plastics industry members working together can only help consumers."