Report on Flexible Film Packaging Released

Canadian groups seek strategies to increase the collection and recycling of plastic film.

June 17, 2013
Recycling Today Staff
Legislation & Regulations Plastics

The Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA), along with the Continuous Improvement Fund (CIF) and the Stewardship Ontario (SO), have jointly released a report on the flexible film plastics packaging industry. The joint project, initiated in the fall of 2012, examines the current and potential future options for flexible film collection, processing and sorting and end uses.

The report was undertaken by a consulting consortium comprised of Reclay StewardEdge, Resource Recycling Systems and Moore Recycling Associates. Advisory support for the project was provided by Pac Next, which coordinated the provision of technical information from its membership.

The groups note that plastic films currently represent around 35 percent of the plastics packaging stream in the province of Ontario, with some types of flexible films growing at more than 5 percent per year. According to the CPA, given the volume and growth, there is an increased interest and need to ensure this packaging stream is effectively managed after use. To that end, the project took a first-time specific assessment of the current barriers, opportunities and associated costs to collect and process flexible film plastics packaging.

The objectives of this project were to conduct a comprehensive study of flexible film packaging in the marketplace and in Ontario households to understand what is currently recyclable and the issues at material recycling facilities and at plastic re-processors. The project also sought to identify technologies that can sort film in a materials recovery facility (MRF) or at a re-processing operation; identify possible packaging design changes to increase recyclability and assess collection costs for film.

The CPA says that the report is intended to provide a basis for informed decision-making by governments and industry in their efforts to improve the recyclability and diversion of flexible film plastics from landfill.

Findings of the report include the assertion that there is excess recycling capacity in North America for clean polyethylene film (PE) being generated. To promote greater recycling of flexible films, in the short term, efforts should be focused on collecting clean PE stream separately. The report also found that return centers for PE-based collection proved to be the most cost effective option to provide a clean source although with lower recovery rates compared to curbside collection. Curbside collection of PE film can achieve higher recovery levels, but requires further development of additional domestic wash capacity. According to the consortium, collecting mixed films with PE film is not economically viable at the present time due to the lack of cost-effective sorting technologies and end market uses. However, mixed films can be used as an energy source or converted to a fuel for which there is excess demand.

To view the full report, click here: