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Kimberly-Clark Professional to accept used plastic packaging in recycling program

The RightCycle Program will accept flex-film plastic packaging from Kimtech and KleenGuard products.

Kimberly-Clark Professional says it has expanded the RightCycle Program, which it calls the first large recycling effort for nonhazardous lab, cleanroom and industrial personal protective equipment (PPE) waste. Flex-film plastic packaging from Kimtech and KleenGuard products will now be accepted for recycling through the program.

“This is a significant step in addressing a challenging waste stream that currently has very low recycling rates compared with other commodities, such as paper and cardboard,” says Mike Haley, vice president of PPE at Kimberly-Clark Professional. “As the program continues to grow and evolve, we remain committed to finding ways to expand our recycling capabilities in order to help our customers reach their goals and to deliver on our purpose of better care for a better world.”

Since 2011, RightCycle has empowered more than 900 customers to divert 3.7 million pounds of waste, the company says.

Film and flexible packaging are composed of various substances, and recycling them requires a specific approach. In 2019, only 5 percent of managed plastic waste in the United States was recycled, according to scientists with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. RightCycle has established partnerships and processes to properly recycle these items.

In addition to plastic packaging waste, RightCycle collects previously hard-to-recycle PPE, such as garments, masks, gloves and goggles. These items are then recycled by regional partners that create new plastic pellets, which are used to produce consumer products and durable goods, including flowerpots and lawn furniture, benches and bicycle racks.

Originating in the United States with a few scientific manufacturing customers, RightCycle is now available in nine countries across Europe and North America with a wide range of customers that include universities, zoos, laboratories, manufacturing facilities, breweries and a variety of other businesses.

RightCycle contributes to Kimberly-Clark’s global 2030 ambition, which is to improve the lives of 1 billion people in underserved communities around the globe with the smallest environmental footprint. Kimberly-Clark says it understands that a strong and enduring focus on safeguarding natural systems is just as essential to helping people live a better life. To that end, the company is focused on the areas where it can make the biggest difference – climate, forests, water and plastics.

Irving, Texas-based Kimberly-Clark aspires to be at the forefront of the transition to a circular, reuse economy by reducing waste, promoting waste-handling system improvements and innovating new ways of providing people with the products that they need to live their best lives, the company says. In 2021, it expanded RightCycle in Europe to other categories to include the recycling of plastic dispensers and hand towels. According to Kimberly-Clark, this will provide the company with an even greater opportunity to reduce its environmental footprint in collaboration with its customers.