Plastics

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Recent news from the various sectors of the recycling industry

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August 2, 2016

Dow introduces recyclable flexible plastic packaging

The Dow Chemical Co., Midland, Michigan, has announced the creation of recyclable polyethylene-based barrier packaging using its RecycleReady technology.

Created through a collaboration with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), Charlottesville, Virginia, and other industry members, Dow’s RecycleReady helps converters create recyclable flexible barrier pouches and packaging for products like granola and nuts, the company says. This technology aims to divert packaging waste from landfills or incineration, to increase postconsumer recycling yields and to aid in the creation of a circular economy for plastics.

“Working together with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and our value chain collaborators was crucial to achieving our breakthrough RecycleReady technology, which incorporates Retain polymer modifiers, a key enabler for the recyclability of the packages,” says Stacy Fields, North America director of packaging solutions for Dow Packaging and Specialty Plastics.

The stand-up pouch made with Retain polymer modifiers is the first package of its kind with barrier film that can be recycled in a polyethylene (PE) recycling stream, according to Dow. When combined with other PE resins, the Retain compatibilizer offers a recyclable package with enhanced barrier characteristics. These pouches have multiple layers but use only PE as the basic raw material, the company says.

SPC’s How2Recycle Label program has approved RecycleReady technology to use the Store Drop-Off label in North America. Plastic film, wrap and bags with this label can be recycled at participating retail and grocery stores.

“This technology is a breakthrough in packaging design for recyclability,” says Kelly Cramer, SPC project manager. “It possesses the properties of a multilayer pouch but behaves like a pure polyethylene bag in the recycling stream.”

Association of Plastic Recyclers updates design guidelines

The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR), Washington, says increasing supply and enhancing the quality of the plastics recycling stream are two primary goals of an updated resource guide the association released at its June 2016 Membership Meeting in San Antonio. The design guidelines featured in the APR Design Guide for Plastics Recyclability, www.plasticsrecycling.org/apr- design-guide/apr-design-guide-home, outline steps for packaging and design engineers to consider the recycling implications of new products or containers.

“The APR Design Guide for Plastics Recyclability is the most comprehensive and user-friendly resource outlining the plastics recycling industry’s recommendations in the marketplace today,” says Scott Saunders, general manager of KW Plastics, Recycling Division, and chairman of APR. “The content has been updated to more accurately reflect today’s North American plastics recycling infrastructure.”

The goal of the APR Design Guide for Plastics Recyclability is to have packaging that is compatible with the recycling infrastructure. “One of the biggest challenges facing plastic recyclers are containers that come through the stream that may have a negative impact on recycling,” says APR President Steve Alexander.

“APR firmly believes that companies want to design packaging that is recyclable and sustainable,” he continues. “Both recyclers and product manufacturers often do not realize the implications of new products until they have been brought to market, made it through the collection process and contaminate the recycling stream.”

The APR says the design guide is aligned with its test protocols and provides a variety of additional resources. It specifically addresses plastic packaging, but the principles can be applied to all plastic items for potential recycling, the association says. It is organized by individual resin categories, which are then divided into design elements, such as color, dimensions, labels, inks and adhesives.

John Standish, APR technical director, says, “If products are designed with recyclability in mind, it allows the plastics recycling industry to help consumer brand companies meet their sustainability goals, while boosting supply and enhancing the quality of the plastics recycling stream.”

Scientists discover recycling process for polycarbonates

IBM Research, headquartered in Yorktown Heights, New York, has announced that researchers from its Almaden lab in San Jose, California, have discovered a new, one-step chemical process that converts recycled polycarbonates into plastics that are safe for use in water purification, fiber optics and medical equipment by preventing decomposition that leads to the leaching of bisphenol A (BPA).

In the study of the new recycling process for polycarbonates, IBM researchers added a fluoride reactant, a base (similar to baking powder) and heat to old CDs to produce a new plastic with temperature and chemical resistance superior to the original substance. When the powder is reconstructed into new forms, its strength prevents the decomposition process that causes BPA leaching.

“Polycarbonates are common plastics in our society—especially in consumer electronics in the form of LED screens, smartphones and Blu-rays, as well as everyday eyeglass lenses, kitchen utensils and household storage gear,” says Gavin O. Jones, Ph.D., research staff member, IBM Research – Almaden. “We now have a new way of recycling to improve how this prominent substance impacts the world’s health and environment.”

“While preventing these plastics from entering landfills, we simultaneously recycle the substance into a new type of plastic—safe and strong enough for purifying our water and producing medical equipment,” says Jeanette Garcia, Ph.D., research staff member, IBM Research – Almaden. “It’s an environmental win on many fronts.”

The full research paper, “One-step Conversion of Polycarbonates into Value-added Polyaryl Ether Sulfones,” was published in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

IBM Research, which says it is the world’s largest industrial research organization, has more than 3,000 researchers in 12 labs located across six continents. Additional information is available at www.ibm.com/research.

Connecticut joins initiative to increase plastic film recycling

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Washington-based American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) Flexible Film Recycling Group (FFRG) have announced a public-private partnership designed to increase opportunities for residents and businesses to recycle flexible film packaging, including consumer and commercial product wraps; bags for groceries, produce and bread; and items such as sealable food storage bags and shipping pillows.

“Recapturing and recycling more plastic bags and flexible film packaging material will reduce solid waste disposal costs, reduce the contamination of other materials contained in single-stream recycling bins and create jobs right here in Connecticut,” Connecticut DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee says. “This strategy is also one of many action-oriented steps we can take to meet the goal outlined in our draft Comprehensive Materials Management Strategy of increasing the state’s diversion rate to 60 percent by 2024.”

A focus of the partnership is to increase voluntary participation in the recycling of plastic bags, wraps and other film packaging at supermarkets, grocery stores and other retail locations. Encouraging Connecticut’s retailers to offer this opportunity—and building greater public awareness of it—will reduce the volume of plastic bags and film inappropriately deposited in curbside recycling containers, according to the partners.

“Cleaning up our single-stream recycling and making our recyclables more marketable is a very high priority,” Klee says. “Plastic bags and other film packaging are recyclable and have real value—just not in our curbside bins.”

He adds, “Our partnership with ACC’s WRAP program will strengthen that recycling network and make more people aware of it.”

The FFRG, a collaboration working to double the recycling of postuse PE film by 2020, represents materials suppliers, brand owners, manufacturers and recyclers. In Connecticut, the partners include municipalities, waste authorities, recycling processors, haulers and retailers.