March Sustainable Times Newsletter

March Sustainable Times Newsletter

The New Plastics Economy

The plastics industry is undergoing a transition from a linear economy where most plastics are designed for single use applications to a circular economy where plastic materials have a continued value for future product applications. This circular economy is comprised of three fundamental pillars including a.) creating an effective after use plastics economy, b.) drastically reducing the leakage of plastics into natural systems and other externalities, and c.) decoupling plastics from fossil-based feedstocks. The plastics industry is focused on developing solutions for these essential elements.
This and upcoming articles will review elements of the New Plastics Economy and provide updates on progress being made in the industry as well as those solutions available from American Packaging Corporation.

Design for Recycle

Design for recycle is one of the fundamental pillars of the circular economy. This pillar is essential as the plastic industry needs to transition away from single use plastics toward a system where the plastic materials hold residual value. This plastic needs to be collected, cleaned, reprocessed, and transformed back into a plastic package or utilized as feedstock for another application. In the United States, a system has been established that now provides the consumer the ability to recycle certain flexible packages. At this time, the consumer needs to proactively collect and bring these packages back to the store in a program called front of store drop-off. Unfortunately, at this time, curbside collection in the typical curbside recycle bin is not available so some effort is needed. Collection locations as well as examples of recyclable packaging can be found by looking at the WRAP website by visiting www.plasticfilmrecycling.org.

95%: Plastics material value or $80-120 billion USD lost to economy due to single use packaging
14%: Plastic packaging collected for recycling

How do I know what packages can be recycled?

Look for the How2Recycle logo. The How2Recycle logo is part of a new program developed and actively managed by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC). The intent of the logo is to provide clear and consistent messaging to the consumer on how to prepare the empty package and the disposition of the package once consumed. This logo is available to a broad array of categories including both rigid and flexible plastics and
even covers products that both can and cannot be recycled. Brand owners interested in participating in the program must sign up for the
program at www.how2recycle.info. Once a member, the brand owner will receive the proper How2Recycle logo for their package after completing a questionnaire and details around the construction of the packaging material. The number of packages exhibiting this logo is growing rapidly so look for this logo the next time you shop at the grocery store.

Designing a Flexible Package for Recyclability

In the US market, flexible packaging designed for the front of store drop-off recycling stream must be comprised primarily of polyethylene (PE) materials. Polyethylene is a common material used in the industry for light-weight items like plastic shopping bags, dry cleaning and bread bags. These PE materials do differ considerably from traditional multi-laminate materials you typically see today and have certain limitations. To
accommodate the differences in material properties, newer PE formulations are being introduced. These PE formulations are supplemented with small percentages of barrier materials like EVOH which is typically used to provide an extended shelf life for the item within the package. The percentages of these barrier additives need to be closely monitored to ensure they do not impact the recycle stream. The inclusion of post-consumer recycled (PCR) content is also being urged as a raw material used in production of these design for recycle packages, where possible. Driving demand for these PCR materials is essential to drive improvement in the collection, sortation, and complete the loop for true circularity.

Design for Recycle Solutions

American Packaging Corporation has developed a broad portfolio of design for recycle solutions for a broad range of packaging applications including dry mix, confection, snacks, cereals, fresh produce, soaps, and lotions. These solutions have been designed and pre-approved for inclusion in the front of store drop-off recycling program. Potential packaging format options include bar wraps, pillow pouches, and stand-up
pouches. This portfolio has been developed with the appropriate barrier properties to ensure there is no compromised to the shelf life of the product. Recent material and process technologies have enabled packages with high-gloss, clarity and comparable stiffness to traditional multi-layer laminates. This portfolio can be provided in either roll stock or premade pouch format.

Sustainability – A Global Challenge

Solving sustainability challenges is not something any one company can develop on their own. The entire value stream needs to be examined or opportunities to develop, enhance and eliminate existing limitations to enable the full scope of sustainable solutions. We must learn from others’ successes and consider potential solutions from a global perspective. The European market tends to be ahead of the US driven by enhanced regulations. Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the CEFLEX organization in Europe.

CEFLEX is a European consortium of companies representing the entire flexible packaging value chain. They have 7 different active workgroups
focusing on the various elements of the value chain. Organizational goals include:

  • 2020 → Increasing the collection of flexible packaging for recycling in a greater number of European countries
  • 2025 → Enhance the development of collection, sorting, and the reprocessing infrastructure for post-consumer flexible packaging across Europe.

Steps toward achieving these goals include the development of robust Design Guidelines for flexible packaging and the End of cycle infrastructure to collect, sort, and recycle them, the identification and development of sustainable end markets for the recycled flexible packaging, and the development of a sustainable business case in which flexible packaging can be collected, sorted, recycled and returned to the economy in quantity and at a competitive qualify / price for the potential end market applications.

We will be monitoring the progress of the CEFLEX organization closely to see where we might gain some insights to include in our own domestic solutions.

The Sustainability Times is a quarterly newsletter compiled by the American Packaging Corporation designed to educate, provide industry highlights, and keep you informed of sustainable solutions being developed by APC. If there are any questions, please feel free to contact your sales representative or Jeff Travis at jtravis@ampkcorp.com. 

Jeff Travis
Packaging R&D, Innovation, and Sustainability

APC Sustainable Times Qtrly Update 1 March 2019

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