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November 2003

Getting More for Scrap Plastics

by Robert Render, Maine Plastics, Inc.

When we first started our company, we hired a plastic industry veteran to help us set up our plant and consult on issues specific to plastic recycling. Stanley was old school and was always giving me advice. Consider these sage words:

“Contamination in plastics is like being pregnant - either you are or you aren’t. Preventing contamination is the whole ballgame.”

Then Stanley started talking and I started writing… Here are a few simple rules you can recommend to your suppliers or as a supplier yourself, you can follow to avoid contamination and maximize your return on industrial plastic materials.

Use clean containers…. Gaylord boxes with new liners are preferred. Used boxes may contain residues from their previous application. When possible, provide a top for the box to keep out dust, tramp metal, and accidental contamination.

Clearly label the containers…. Consider color-coding the area where the scrap is generated and the box in which the scrap is accumulated. This is particularly important in plants where multiple materials of the same color are used. Encourage employees to put their trash and other recyclables in other, appropriately marked containers.

Separate clear and natural parts from colored parts…. Clears, naturals, and clear tints are worth more in the market place than colors. If the materials are the same resin number, you can combine colors in one box, but keep a separate box for naturals and clears.

Separate filled plastics from unfilled plastics…. Unfilled scrap materials are usually worth more than filled plastics. Looking up the trade name and resin number and reading the material description will tell you if the material is filled or unfilled. Check out www.matweb.com for a quick and easy reference tool.

Know what you are selling…. Supply the manufacturer name, resin trade name, and resin number where possible. Generic descriptions like “polypropylene scrap” are worth less than detailed descriptions. Label the containers clearly and use a detailed packing list.

Fill the boxes to the top…. Freight plays a major role in the pricing of scrap plastics. Maximize the weight in each box to reduce freight costs and ensure that the load will have a smooth ride. Keep the money for yourself or your supplier and keep it away from the freight line.

Successful scrap recovery programs require cooperation from every department; from production, to shipping, and accounting. Plant visits are a powerful tool to reinforce the above rules, congratulate successes, and encourage teamwork to attack problem areas.

So, take some advice from Stanley. We have.

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