Plastics Recycling Update

Leaders gather as the sector transforms

The 2020 Plastics Recycling Conference and Trade Show is taking place in Nashville, Tenn. this week. | Plastics Recycling Conference / Brian Adams Photography

More than 2,000 plastics recycling professionals are in Nashville, Tenn. this week to better understand the impacts of brand owner goals, policy proposals, recycling technology developments and more.

The 2020 Plastics Recycling Conference and Trade Show began yesterday and runs through tomorrow afternoon. The event, which is co-located with the winter meeting of the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR), has drawn nearly 2,400 attendees and roughly 250 sponsors and exhibitors.

Those numbers mean 2020 is the largest-ever iteration of the Plastics Recycling Conference, which has been held annually since 2006.

And it’s little surprise industry stakeholders would be rushing right now to come together to boost knowledge and strengthen connections. The business of plastics recycling is seeing a number of major trends converge, a reality that is bringing both unknowns and opportunities into the marketplace.

Policy is one area of note, with substantial plastics recycling-related legislation bubbling up at the federal level as well as in statehouses across the U.S. The conference’s opening plenary session this morning will feature staffers from the offices of two U.S. senators – New Mexico’s Tom Udall (a Democrat) and Ohio’s Rob Portman (a Republican) – who have introduced different pieces of recycling legislation in recent months.

Technological innovation is another theme being covered in Nashville.

On Monday afternoon, the American Chemistry Council, APR and Closed Loop Partners hosted a sold-out workshop outlining developments in the much-discussed chemical recycling realm. Presenters included representatives from seven different companies pushing forward techniques to handle major tonnages of previously nonrecycled plastic waste.

Today, technology will be in focus via APR’s Technical Forum and Recycling Showcase and an afternoon session called “Innovation Now” that features leaders from Procter & Gamble-backed PureCycle Technologies, California reclaimer Global Plastic Recycling and more.

The ongoing push by brand owners to use more recycled plastic in their packaging will also receive plenty of attention. The conference’s closing session, set for tomorrow afternoon, is titled “How to Tackle the Supply-Demand Gap” and will see representatives from brands, recycling companies and other stakeholders discuss strategies to help the recycling market provide enough resin to meet corporate targets.

Other sessions over the next two days will explore the fast-evolving export market, fluctuations in resin pricing, new projects to tackle plastic pollution and techniques to help spread positive messaging about plastics recycling as a whole.

Next year’s Plastics Recycling Conference and Trade Show is scheduled for Feb. 22-24, 2021 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, located near Washington, D.C.

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