The Recycling Partnership launches Film and Flexibles Task Force
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The Recycling Partnership launches Film and Flexibles Task Force

The new task force aims to conduct pilot studies, research to create long-term scalability for recycling plastic film and flexibles.

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The Recycling Partnership, Falls Church, Virginia, has announced the launch of a Film and Flexibles Task Force to define, pilot and scale recycling solutions for a more than $31 billion U.S. packaging category, including plastic film, bags and pouches. Amazon, Dow, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble are serving as anchor funders and advisors for the formation of this new task force, The Recycling Partnership reports in a news release. 

According to a report titled North America Flexible Packaging Market – Growth, Trends, and Forecasts (2019-2024) from India-based Mordor Intelligence, film and flexible packaging in North America is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 3 percent as consumers and brands alike recognize the economic and convenience benefits of the lightweight, durable packaging materials. However, most of these materials are sent to landfills due to a lack of collection and processing infrastructure and established end markets. 

“Building public-private partnerships to enable a more circular economy through increased recycling participation, decreased contamination, and establishment of viable end markets is what we do best at The Partnership,” says Keefe Harrison, CEO, The Recycling Partnership. “The Film and Flexibles Task Force will bring this knowledge to work alongside the unique expertise of our community and funding partners to drive meaningful and measurable change in the growing film and flexibles category.”

Current consumer takeback programs for film at retail storefronts see an average recycling rate of about 4 percent, The Recycling Partnership reports in a news release. Yet residential recycling programs experience high levels of contamination and increased mechanical processing costs when consumers incorrectly attempt to recycle film in curbside carts instead of returning them to retail programs. Laura Thompson, senior director of strategic projects at The Recycling Partnership, says to successfully recycle film and flexibles in the U.S., it’s necessary to both understand needed infrastructure and education required to empower consumers.

“By joining the Film and Flexibles Task Force, partners are coming to the table to define and measure the challenges faced today and develop a roadmap to drive innovative recycling solutions for tomorrow,” she says. 

The Recycling Partnership reports that this task force will employ a four-step framework that includes data gathering and benchmarking; goal setting; establishment of pilot programs; and determining the means for long-term scalability. Initial data gathering will include capture rate studies, consumer insights research, analysis of end markets and other areas. Goal setting and pilot programs will include partnerships with cities and community recycling systems over a multiyear period, as well as piloting pathways of feedstock for potential chemical recycling solutions.

“Hill’s Pet Nutrition is committed to 100 percent recyclability of our packaging and is finalizing design of a new laminate for our kibble and treats that is far more recycling friendly than the flexibles we use today,” says Peter Fallat, director, global design & packaging for Hill’s Pet Nutrition. “There is a big job ahead to establish a viable infrastructure to make the packaging truly recyclable, and we welcome the opportunity to work with The Recycling Partnership on this important initiative.”

To learn more about the Film and Flexibles Task Force or to request to become a funding partner, contact Thompson at lthompson@recyclingpartnership.org