Green Plastic Bale /Shutterstock_26427160_Huguette_RoeAlmost 150 plastics recycling stakeholders came together in San Antonio last week to highlight ongoing efforts to boost the volume and quality of recycled plastics, in part via engagement with packaging producers and brand owners.

A number of plastics recovery initiatives were discussed and announced at the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) mid-year meeting, including the recent update of the group’s Design Guide for Recyclability for product producers.

The following is a list of highlights from discussions among APR’s numerous committees and subcommittees:

The PET Technical Committee recruited a team to dive into bale quality and focus on APR Design Guidance to address the impact of labels on PET thermoforms. A team will look to assess the impact of colors used for PET containers on PET recycling. Further, the committee created a team to update APR Design Guidance and testing procedures to better understand the effects of ink that enters into recycle wash water.

The Olefin Technical Committee will look into nascent technologies and their potential effects on PP and HDPE recycling. The persistent issue of labels was discussed as well, with a team created to investigate opportunities to identify recycling-friendly best practices for labels used for PP and HDPE containers.

The group’s Rigids Committee shared results from a survey measuring post-consumer polypropylene demand: 277 million pounds per year for a variety of physical properties. From the Bulky Rigids Subcommittee, a new communication campaign will be launched. Called “Beyond Bottles,” it will target non-bottle containers as well as residential bulky rigids and will continue to communicate reclaimers’ preference to keep the caps on partially deflated bottles. The subcommittee also discussed the development of a market development toolkit, which is in the works. Lastly, the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) Subcommittee will be developing a template for brand name companies to test their products in recycling facilities.

The Film Committee discussed numerous studies and efforts to improve the recovery and end markets for film, including the national WRAP effort and the ongoing Materials Recovery for the Future flexible packaging recovery research. It was also noted that APR will contribute to a survey of end markets for film-derived PE PCR, which has now been expanded to include other plastics.

At the meeting of the Polystyrene Committee, which is focused on improving PS recovery and utilization, efforts for surveying and development of markets for recovered PS were considered.

Finally, the Communications Committee announced the next round of the APR’s 2016 webinar series, with the upcoming installment covering the group’s updated Design Guide for Recycling, among other outreach efforts.

Recognizing innovation

To close the meeting, the group highlighted five companies that have made strides to produce recycling-friendly products, particularly in the field of labeling.

First, APR gave its Responsible Innovation Recognition to Dow Chemical for the firm’s RETAIN Recycle Compatibilizer Technology which, if used in the manufacture of barrier packaging, would allow for the recycling of that type of packaging into a traditional PE film stream, and could be potentially added to store drop-off programs for such material.

The other four companies presented data as part of applying for APR’s Critical Guidance Awards (CGA) and recognition program. All of the label-related products were tested by the independent testing firm Plastics Forming Enterprises (PFE). That firm’s technical director, Kristi Hansen, spoke about the testing process, detailing the work going into each of the innovations.

Plastipak was given an award for its Direct Object Printing process, which allows for direct printing onto HDPE containers without creating ink bleed in the recycling process. Such ink bleed can cause discoloration in recycled material.

Multi-Color Corporation was awarded for a line of floatable labels the company developed. Labels that don’t float can create issues for plastics reclaimers because they can mix with the flaked material and have a deleterious effect on the resulting resin.

UPM Raflatac also offered a label innovation. The company’s product uses traditional polyolefin material for the label but leverages an adhesive that allows the label to be light enough to float.

SKC was recognized for its Modified PET TD Shrink Sleeve Label innovation. According to the company, this label is made from PET. While the label doesn’t float, it can be recycled with the rest of the PET material stream.

The next APR meeting will be held on Oct. 4-6, 2016 in Charlotte, N.C. Updated information will be available on the APR website soon.