The American Chemistry Council (ACC) Plastics Division, Washington, has announced a new partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designed to promote sustainable materials management (SMM) for plastics. SMM offers a systematic approach to more efficiently use and reuse materials throughout their life cycles to reduce environmental impacts and waste, the organizations say.
Through the partnership, EPA and ACC say they will work together to:
- decrease disposal rates by tracking and lowering the overall amount of plastics disposed through activities that enable source reduction, reuse, recycling and prevention;
- reduce environmental impacts, including greenhouse gas emissions, water and energy use, of plastics throughout their life cycles; and
- increase stakeholder capacity to implement SMM through technical assistance and raising the per capita quantity of plastic recyclables recovered.
“We are looking forward to collaborating with ACC to reduce environmental impacts from plastics,” says Barnes Johnson, director of EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. “We believe that there are great gains to be made for the environment, our society and our economy by working together with the ACC on this important issue.”
“We are excited to work with EPA to advance the adoption of sustainable materials management among plastics makers, brand owners, retailers, policymakers and others,” says Steve Russell, ACC vice president of plastics. “By relying on a full evaluation of a material’s life cycle, sustainable materials management can help us make more informed choices that conserve resources and reduce overall environmental impacts.”
Through the SMM partnership, EPA joins the Wrap Recycling Action Program (WRAP) campaign, a public-private partnership with the goal of increasing the volume of plastic wraps and bags (also known as plastic film) recycled, through public education and sharing tools and best practices. The WRAP program has been shown to increase collection of postuse plastic wraps and bags through store drop-off programs and reduce the amount of film that is erroneously placed in curbside bins, ACC says.
More than 18,000 stores across the U.S. collect plastic film for recycling, but many consumers are not aware of this opportunity. The ACC says WRAP seeks to educate consumers about the many types of everyday packaging that can be recycled at stores, including plastic bags from bread, produce, shopping, and dry cleaning; clean food storage bags (with or without zippers); wraps from paper towels, bathroom tissue, napkins and beverage cases; shipping pillows and bubble wrap; and anything labeled with a No. 2, No. 4 or the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) “Store Drop-Off” label.
Other WRAP partners include the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), the Association of Plastics Recyclers, the city of Vancouver, Washington, and the states of Connecticut and North Carolina. Several additional states are expected to announce WRAP partnerships early next year, the ACC says. Retailers involved in regional WRAP campaigns include Safeway\Albertsons and Harris Teeter.
Plastic film is one of the fastest growing areas of recycling, with collection growing 79 percent since 2005,” Johnson says. “At least 1.17 billion pounds of postconsumer film was recovered in 2014, and the recycling rate grew to 17 percent. There is still a long way to go—only 9.5 percent of plastics, by weight, were recycled in 2014. It is an area that is ripe for growth and we are looking forward to partnering with ACC and SPC to make real advances in plastics recycling.”
“On behalf of the WRAP campaign, I’m thrilled to welcome EPA as our newest member. We look forward to working with the agency to strengthen our national footprint and raise awareness of opportunities to recycle plastic bags and wraps in communities across the nation,” Russell says.
“As a founding partner of the WRAP campaign, we’re excited to work with EPA to help Americans learn about the many types of plastic wraps and bags that can be recycled at participating stores,” says Nina Goodrich, SPC director. “We encourage consumers to look for the How2Recycle ‘Store Drop-off’ label on products and packages to learn more.”