4 Proven Recycling Strategies From the Association of Plastic Recyclers
March 14, 2016
As a custom packaging company, it is a primary responsibility to ensure that all plastic materials are not only sourced responsibly, but are also recycled and disposed of accordingly. As the Association of Plastic Recyclers communicates on its website, effectively communicating information about your recycling program can help to not only increase participation, but grow recovery rates as well.
At the 2015 Annual Blow Molding Conference, APR Technical Director John Standish outlined four proven recycling strategies for rigid plastic packaging, particularly plastic bottles. Already, the recycling recovery rate for plastic packaging and containers is the highest of all categories, coming in at an impressive 39.9% of the amount generated.
That being said, there are always ways for a custom plastic molding company to step up their recycling efforts. According to Standish, here are four proven ways custom product packaging manufacturers can step up recovery efforts (and one extra suggestion from our own custom blow molding experts). Not only will these strategies improve recycling recovery rates, but they can also help custom packaging companies save money in the process.
1. Package Lightweighting
No doubt this strategy will be familiar to anyone with experience developing custom plastic injection molding solutions. Even though Standish admits that “we’re starting to reach the point of diminishing returns that can be achieved in lightweighting and weight reduction,” it’s still a good place to start. In effect, lightweighting refers to the practice of designing smaller or lighter custom packaging, leading to increased sustainability in the manufacturing process.
2. Biosourcing of Polymers
While we may be approaching the limits of custom packaging lightweighting, substituting bioresources for traditional petroleum sources is an underused strategy. While that’s unlikely to change while crude oil prices are at rock bottom, many believe it’s the future of the plastics industry.
“Some of you might know that in polyethylene, you can make the ethylene used in polyethylene from natural resources,” Standish said at the blow molding conference, per Plastic News. “Or in PET plastics, you can make the ethylene glycol used to make PET from bioresources. But in today’s market, making polymers directly from traditional petroleum sources is by far more economical, so as appealing as this strategy is, it’s not economically practiced very much today.”
3. Design More Easily Recyclable Projects
So much of recycling efforts are focused on educating consumers, but such efforts are wasted if popular products are unlikely or impossible to end up in recycling bins. One classic example: those small plastic coffee pods that have become ubiquitous over the past few years. Already, some companies have started to redesign coffee pods that can be recycled rather than simply thrown in the trash.
Check out what Fair Harbor Clothing has based its business model on regarding recycling!
4. Using Recycled Resins
“The energy required to make recycled resin is about half that required to make virgin resin. And directly tied to that, the greenhouse gas generation from making recycled resin is about half of that associated with making virgin resin,” Standish also said. “So including recycled content is an important sustainability effort.”
Unfortunately, supply of post-consumer resins lags behind demand. By promoting more effective recycling recovery, plastic packaging manufacturers in turn increase the supply of cost-saving, sustainable recycled resins.
Bonus: Creating New “All Plastic Bottle” Programs
All plastic bottle programs make it much easier and more convenient to not only achieve high recovery rates for plastic packaging products, but to also reduce unwanted contaminants in your recycling program — especially with PET and HDPE bottles. While consumers may want to recycle their plastics, going by the identification code can make it confusing. PET plastic bottles are typically labeled with a #1 code, and typically have desirable recyclable plastic materials, as they can be recycled and repurposed over and over again. Currently, there are over 10,000 drop off recycling programs for PET plastic packaging products. Research shows that over 95% of all plastic bottle produced are either PET or HDPE. Asking for “all plastic bottles” will help you to recover more plastic that would typically be thrown away.
Finally, while rigid plastics have a high recovery rate, flexible packaging often ends up in landfills. And because the global flexible packaging market is projected to reach $248 billion by 2020, growing at an average rate of 3% per year, it is our responsibility and duty to make sure that this industry continues to grow responsibly and consciously through the proliferation of recycling education.
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