Quality Conundrum

Departments - Plastics

November 5, 2013

The 2013 Paper Recycling Conference & Trade Show session “A World Hungry for Plastics,” Thursday, Oct. 17, addressed opportunities and challenges associated with plastics recycling. Panelists David Bender of Perpetual Recycling Solutions, Richmond, Ind.; Scott Saunders of KW Plastics, Troy, Ala.; and Mike Smith of Mervis Industries, Danville, Ill., shared their insights on topics ranging from quality concerns to current market conditions during the Q&A session moderated by Recycling Today’s Dan Sandoval.

Perpetual Recycling’s PET (polyethylene terephthalate) recycling plant opened in January in Richmond. The plant recycles PET bottles and thermoforms into flake suitable for food-grade applications. Bender said yields vary considerably by MRF (material recovery facility) for the PET bales the company receives, ranging from 42 percent on the low end to 72 percent on the high end. Perpetual has begun tracking yield by MRF, Bender said, adding that the company will adjust its raw material pricing based on this factor.

Saunders, with high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP) recycler KW Plastics, said his company’s yield loss ranges from 18 to 29 percent per bale. He added that KW Plastics sends out teams of buyers to suppliers to grade material in an effort to improve bale yield.

Smith said Mervis, which recycles some 40 million pounds of industrially generated plastics per year and brokers an additional 20 million pounds of material, pays its suppliers more for material that has been well-segregated. Perpetual does the same, with Bender saying the company pays a premium of up to 30 percent for material of benchmark quality.

Smith predicted quality would improve in the next six to nine months.

Regarding current market conditions, he said HDPE pricing had been trending downward in the third and fourth quarters of 2013 because of a glut of injection-grade material.

Since China launched Operation Green Fence in February, Smith said, the film market has dried up. The market for metalized polycarbonate (PC), like that found in CDs and DVDs, also has weakened since the advent of the Green Fence.

“Mixed plastics will remain a challenge for all of us,” Smith added.

The 2013 Paper Recycling Conference & Trade Show was Oct. 16-18 at the Marriott Downtown Chicago Magnificent Mile.