Plastics perceptions, waste reduction goals and marine debris efforts were among the meaty topics explored by the Association of Plastic Recyclers last week.
State of the APR
During the group’s March 2019 Members Meeting, co-located with the Plastics Recycling Conference and Trade Show outside Washington, D.C., APR President Steve Alexander outlined the challenges affecting the plastics recycling industry, including marine debris concerns, product bans and the poor press recycling has received due to weakening of global recycling markets.
He noted the need for a better recycling infrastructure in North America and increased investment as two key ways for increasing the recovery of polymers. (Disclosure: APR purchased Plastics Recycling Update parent company Resource Recycling, Inc. this month).
Walmart’s plastic recycling initiatives
Ashley C. Hall, senior manager of corporate sustainability at Walmart, discussed the company’s aspiration to zero plastic waste. This includes Project Gigaton, with a goal to reduce by one billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the firm’s supply change by 2030.
Walmart also wants to use less plastic, make it recyclable and label it. As part of these new initiatives, the retailer has, for the first time, set a recycled-plastic-content goal. Walmart has also developed a recycling playbook as a resource for companies setting packaging recycling and recycled-content goals.
APR programs in action
The association staff offered a review of several APR projects. Kara Pochiro, the group’s vice president of communications and public affairs, discussed out how APR has established a new pro-recycling strategic communications plan. The organization has hired a media firm to provide assistance, is collaborating with other groups on unified messaging, is undertaking federal advocacy efforts and will soon rebuild its website.
State legislation campaigns toward recycling market development are receiving the association’s attention, says Kate Eagles, APR program director. APR’s legislative goal is to boost the recycled content of plastics, based on inaugural work over the past two years in Nebraska.
Eagles also laid out how the association is addressing so-called problem bottles. Some containers are hard to recycle because of a handful of possible problems, including shrink sleeve labels on PET bottles, extrusion blow-molded containers containing PETG, metal closures and lidding, and barriers for oxygen and carbon dioxide.
The group provided acclamation to Colgate-Palmolive for the company’s efforts to design a recyclable toothpaste tube. The consumer products giant is working with APR’s technical committee and Plastics Forming Enterprises, the Amherst, N.H. plastics testing lab, to have the new product go through APR’s critical guidance protocol.
The Alliance to End Plastic Waste
Steve Sikra, the associate director for Global Products Stewardship at Procter & Gamble, offered his assessment of the establishment by 31 petrochemical companies, brand owners and consumer products companies of the nonprofit Alliance to End Plastic Waste.
Sikra noted the new group is a CEO-led effort to eliminate plastics waste, with an initial effort being in South and Southeast Asia, where there’s a “fundamental need of infrastructure development” in plastics waste management.
“Tangible investments will be made on the ground,” he said. An example is a project to develop new plastics recycling systems to reduce pollution in India’s Ganges River. The overall alliance program entails spending $1.5 billion over five years ($1.0 billion has been committed so far), with its staffing being established this summer in offices in Singapore, the U.S. and Europe.
During the Plastics Recycling Conference and Trade Show’s closing plenary, Sikra said Procter & Gamble will contribute $37.5 million to the Alliance to End Plastic Waste.
ACC’s goals for plastics packaging recycling
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) has announced new plastics packaging recycling and recovery goals, and Craig Cookson, a senior director at ACC’s plastics division, came before the APR meeting attendees to explain this action and talk about how APR and ACC can work together to achieve these goals. ACC wants to see 100 percent of packaging to be reused, recycled or recovered by 2040.
“We want to see change,” with one way being to have resin makers more involved in recycling, he said. In terms of collaboration, Cookson wants to see harmonization in standards and terms, a unified effort toward market development, an alignment on communications by the groups, and coordination in efforts to have governments adopt good plastic recycling policies. This includes a proposal by many industry groups to have expanded plastics recycling programs be included in any public infrastructure bill.
APR’s next membership meeting will be held in Minneapolis from June 4-6, 2019.
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