JULY 2011

Model bale specifications set to ease recycling of plastics

The ever-expanding variety of new and creative types of plastic packaging can create collection and recovery difficulties for community recycling programs and material recovery facilities (MRFs). The Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers (APR) is working to ease those concerns with the establishment of new model bale specifications for the collection of “bulky rigid plastics” and “tubs and lids.”

“These new model bale specifications allow the recycling industry a common vocabulary,” explained APR rigid recycling director Liz Bedard. “By clearly identifying commodities that have a growing domestic market, we can begin to increase the collection and recycling of these valuable plastic materials.”

The bale specifications come on the tail of a year-long study evaluating types of non-bottle plastics bales being generated in North America. “We regularly hear from community leaders that their households are calling for more recycling opportunities for materials like yogurt and margarine tubs. Those containers are often made out of polypropylene, a resin very present in the material stream and with a growing recycling market,” said APR executive director Steve Alexander.

Since communities and business must be strategic in their decision to expand collection of new materials, APR has initially focused on model bale specifications for non-bottle rigid plastics that have strong domestic markets. “Just as communities are interested in expanding the types of materials they collect, our business and industry partners are also interested in additional clean recyclable materials. Bulky plastic items such as five gallon buckets are a good and steady source of recoverable and recyclable material,” explained APR chairman Scott Saunders.

APR looks to educate the recycling industry about the new model bale specifications through a variety of actions including the APR website, webinars, market lists and case studies.

These two specifications are the first in a series of new model specifications for bales that contain non-bottle rigid plastics. APR will continue ongoing work to secure specifications for other material streams that are primed for steady growth.