MARCH 2012

Postconsumer plastics group identifies non-bottle plastic recycling potential

The Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers (APR) has recently completed a study that identifies key components of non-bottle rigid plastic available for recycling. The findings of the study, resulting from the most comprehensive bale sort survey known to date, will be used by APR to recommend guidelines designed to boost recovery of rigid non-bottle containers.

“This study was undertaken to determine the composition of the various types of mixed rigid plastic bales generated in North America,” explained APR rigid plastic recycling director, Liz Bedard. “We aimed to provide a theoretical estimate of the volume and type of non-bottle rigid plastic available for recycling.”

“APR understands that securing accurate estimates of the types, volume and destination of rigid plastic waste currently being recycled will strengthen and advance non-bottle rigid recycling,” said APR president and CEO Steve Alexander.

Prior to the sort, APR identified seven distinct types of mixed resin bales being produced in North America that contain non-bottle rigid plastic. Those marketed bale types include: All Rigids Bale, Bottles & Containers Bale, Pre-picked Bale, Small Containers Bale, Tubs & Lids Bale, Bulky Rigids Bale, and Olefin Bale. Using these 7 bale types as a base, 29 bales were sorted from 24 MRFs located on the West Coast, East, Midwest and Canada.

Bale sort summary results:

All Rigids Bale: From MRFs that combine all bottles, containers and bulky plastics into a single bale. Bales contain all non-bottle containers, bulky rigid plastic and all bottles.

Sort results – By product category the highest component is bulky items, followed by bottles. By resin type the greatest component is PE, followed by PP, PET and HDPE.

Bottles & Containers Bale: From MRFs that mix plastic bottles and containers together, but do not have – or separately bale – bulky rigid plastics. Bales contain all bottles and containers, but no bulky rigid plastic.

Sort results – By product category, on average, approximately 75 percent of this bale type was bottles and 12 percent was trash. The highest resin type was PET followed by HDPE.

Prepicked Bale: From MRFs that pull PET and HDPE bottles and bale all remaining rigid plastics. Bales contain all non-bottle containers, bulky rigid plastic and very few bottles.

Sort results – The highest product category was bulky items, followed by trash. The highest resin type was PE, followed by PP and HDPE

Small Containers Bale: From MRFs that pull PET and HDPE bottles and bale all remaining plastic bottles and containers together, but do not have – or separately bale – bulky rigid plastic. Bales contain: all plastic containers, very few bottles and no bulky rigid plastic.

Sort results – The highest product category was Flats/Thermoforms, followed by containers. The highest resin type was PP followed by PET.

Tubs and Lids Bale: From MRFs that service Tubs & Lids programs. Bales contain: PP, PE household and non-bottle containers including buckets.

Sort results – The highest product category was containers followed by buckets. The highest resin type was HDPE followed by PP.

Bulky Rigids Bale: From MRFs that pull large plastic items, usually at the front end. Bales contain: all large items predominantly PE and PP.

Sort results – The highest product category was bulky items followed by buckets. The highest resin type was PE followed by PP.

Olefin Bale: From MRFs that pull PET and HDPE bottles, then mixed olefin plastics. Bales contain: PE and PP bottles, PE and PP non-bottle containers, and PE and PP bulky rigid plastic.

Sort results – The highest product category was bulky items followed by nursery pots. The highest resin type was PP followed by PE.