Megan Workman

The author is associate editor of Recycling Today magazine.


Thinking in circles

Conferences & Events

The keynote session of the 2015 Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference addresses sustainable materials management, while other sessions highlight additional hot topics.

August 11, 2015

The circular economy concept has been gaining ground in recent years. The recycling industry has historically aimed to maximize the value of materials once they reach end of life, and this is the goal of the circular economy. That’s according to a January 2014 report, Towards the Circular Economy Vol. 3: Accelerating the Scale-up Across Global Supply Chains, which explains that if companies worldwide focused on encouraging the establishment of circular supply chains to increase the rate of recycling, reuse and remanufacturing, more than $1 trillion annually could be generated by 2025, creating 100,000 new jobs for the next five years.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation in the U.K., which commissioned the report through a collaboration with McKinsey & Co. consultants and the World Economic Forum, says, “A circular economy is one that is restorative by design and which aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value.”

The foundation goes on to say that a shift should occur, explaining, “Circular economy advocates the need for a ‘functional service’ model in which manufacturers or retailers increasingly retain the ownership of their products and, where possible, act as service providers—selling the use of products, not their one-way consumption.”

This is the sentiment that Michael Biddle, founder and president of U.K.-based MBA Polymers, expresses in the September 2014 Recycling Today article, “A Pioneer in Plastics,” available at In the article, he says “the growing adoption of EPR (extended producer responsibility) and circular economy policies and principles that, among other things, encourage manufacturers to take a more ‘cradle to cradle’ view of their products” can help manufacturers close the loop between end-of-life products and the production of new products.

Biddle serves as the moderator of the keynote session at the 2015 Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference, which will be Oct. 14-16 at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile.

The session, “From Waste to Recycling to Resource Management,” from 4 to 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 14, addresses how manufacturers and retailers are embracing the circular economy. Speakers on this panel discuss sustainable materials management and explore advances in the circular economy as well as the critical role that recycling and recyclers play.

Ron Sherga, CEO of EcoStrate SFS Inc., based in Dallas, says manufacturers and recyclers must develop business models that address the circular economy.

Plastics priorities

SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association, based in Washington, and the Recycling Today Media Group, organizer of the Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference, have formed a partnership through which SPI will assist with programming, speaker recruitment and promotion of the event. In exchange, Recycling Today Media Group will promote and assist with programming at SPI’s Re|focus Recycling Summit & Expo, April 25-27, 2016, in Orlando, Florida.

“As conferences, Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference and Re|focus share many of the same goals,” says James R. Keefe, Recycling Today Media Group publisher. “Both events aim to empower professionals in the recycling industry with the market insight and professional connections they need to solve the most pressing problems facing today’s recycling industry.”

Sherga is among the professionals who share insights into plastics recycling in a workshop starting 2:45 p.m., Wednesday, titled “Five Polymer Families: What are their Applications? What are the Markets?”

He says paper and metal recycling companies are forming strategic partnerships to expand their existing collection and processing infrastructure to include plastics. He says this change demands a better understanding of plastics basics.

“There are large-scale streams that require collaboration between paper and plastics in order to find successful solutions,” Sherga says.

By accepting more materials in their operations, recyclers are trying to fulfill the needs of their clients as well, says Jonathan Levy, director of member services for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), Washington.

Levy says, “It reflects the changing nature of the recycling industry: You’ve got paper folks now dealing with plastic; metals guys dealing with paper, plastics and electronics; and so on.”

Specifications help to ensure everyone speaks the same language in transactions involving recycled plastics. From 1:30 to 3 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 15, Levy moderates “ISRI/APR – Plastics Specifications,” where speakers Maite Quinn of Sims Metal Management, New York, and Rick Moore, executive director of the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR), Florence, Kentucky, share the details behind these specifications and outline how they can be used in commercial applications.

Plastics also are the focus of the conference’s closing session from 10:15 to 11:45 a.m., Friday, Oct. 16. Kim Holmes, director of recycling and diversion for SPI, evaluates the short- and long-term outlook for recycled plastics in the session “Market Outlook: Plastics.” Speakers during this session discuss the numerous factors that influence market movement and pricing for plastics.

Pertaining to paper

In addition to these plastics-focused sessions, the conference offers programming focused on recovered fiber.

In a workshop titled “Recovered Paper Pricing,” from 2:45 to 3:45 p.m., Wednesday, Todd Petracek, RISI vice president of markets and compliance, and RISI Editor Greg Rudder share the methodology behind the company’s paper pricing indices.

Paper grades are the topic of discussion in a session hosted by the Paper Stock Industries (PSI) Chapter of ISRI, from 1:30 to 3 p.m., Thursday, titled “PSI Paper Grades – Reports on the Outcome of the Specifications Summit.” In February, the PSI hosted a summit that attracted nearly 150 industry stakeholders to discuss paper grade specifications. In this session, PSI leaders update attendees on the outcomes of the summit and the group’s progress toward finalizing changes in recovered paper specifications.

The “Mill Buyers Panel” kicks off the event’s last day beginning at 8:30 a.m., Friday. Moderated by Bill Moore of Atlanta-based Moore & Associates, a paper industry consulting group, the session features a panel of paper mill buyers, including Stephanie Bouchard of Kruger Inc., Mississauga, Ontario; Ted Gloeckler of GP Harmon Recycling, Jericho, New York; and John Hamilton of USG, Chicago, who provide insights into quality requirements and demand trends at paper mills.

The session “Export and Global Markets,” from 3:30 to 5 p.m., Thursday, features Rogelio Silva, Latin America director for Continental Paper Grading, Chicago; and Steve Sutta, president of Sutta Co., Oakland, California, who share their insights into the factors affecting the global trade of recyclables.

Managing materials

As recyclers dig more deeply into the waste stream to collect additional materials, contamination concerns everyone in the industry. Best practices and education can reduce those worries, says Karen Bandhauer, projects director for The Recycling Partnership, Falls Church, Virginia.

“Partnership across all material types to build a healthier reverse supply chain that focuses on more high-quality material is a growing strength of our industry and a critical need given the legitimate concerns around contamination,” she says.

In “Recycling Education and the Bottom Line,” 10:30 a.m. to noon, Thursday, Bandhauer joins Diane Brickett, executive director of the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District in Ohio, which recently partnered with The Recycling Partnership, and Chris Coady, director of bidding and governmental affairs for ReCommunity Inc., Charlotte, North Carolina, to share real-world strategies for educating stakeholders about recycling properly.

As the recycling industry moves forward to resolve specific quality issues related to certain materials in residential recycling programs, other materials in the recycling bin often benefit by experiencing decreased contamination as well, says Lynn Bragg, president of the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI), Arlington, Virginia.

The workshop “Glass: Managing the Residue Stream,” from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., Wednesday, looks at challenges, costs and potential solutions for best dealing with glass in the residential recycling stream.

Bragg is joined by Curt Bucey, executive vice president of Strategic Materials, Houston, and Susan Robinson, federal and state public affairs director for Waste Management, Houston.

Speakers in the session “Adding Electronics Recycling Profitably,” from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., Wednesday, share their experiences adding electronics recycling to their services and offer tips on maximizing the value of end-of-life electronics. Miles Harter, CEO of Dynamic Recycling, Onalaska, Wisconsin, and Ben Harvey of E.L. Harvey & Sons Inc., Westborough, Massachusetts, join this panel.

Place to be

The Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference brings together two interrelated segments of the recycling industry in one popular destination for education and networking.

“Finding opportunities to network, share ideas and explore emerging trends across our various roles in the industry is incredibly helpful,” Bandhauer says.

Sherga says the event helps to “debunk poor information that seems to shadow our industry.”

Attendees can network in the exhibit hall, which features more than 50 equipment and service suppliers.

Discounts for PSI members and for multiple attendees from the same company mean registration fees can start as low as $425 per person.

For more information about the 2015 Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference, including the full agenda, and to register for the event, visit

The author is associate editor of Recycling Today and can be contacted via email at


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