Together again

Features - Conference Preview

The Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference returns in person this fall with a new format and venue.

August 3, 2021

© Mark Campbell Productions

2020 challenged the recycling industry to stay connected in new ways. While last year’s online Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference International was a great success, the Recycling Today team is looking forward to welcoming attendees back to the Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference (PPRC) in person this October.

“We can’t wait to welcome back our attendees, sponsors and exhibitors in person this year,” says Jim Keefe, Recycling Today Media Group publisher. “With a new venue and reformatted schedule, this year’s event is a great way to resume face-to-face connections.”

Decades of growth and expansion ushered in a change for the 2021 event in the form of a new venue. The conference’s new home is the Marriott Marquis Chicago in that city’s South Loop area.

“We’re thrilled to not only return to an in-person meeting in 2021 but to move to this fabulous new property right in Chicago. The meeting space, exhibit hall, suites and lobby will create a fabulous environment for our conference,” Keefe says.

The Marriott Marquis Chicago was designed as a conference hotel and features 90,000 square feet of meeting space and floor-to-ceiling views of Chicago. The property offers the latest technology, unmatched meeting space and sleek designs. This new venue matches the event’s elevated agenda, which is shifting to a two-day educational format. Attendees have the chance to sit in on hours of insightful sessions and workshops led by some of the industry’s brightest minds. With more space for networking and education, sessions run concurrently throughout the event.

The 2021 keynote session, The Future of Recycling, features a panel of thought leaders and is moderated by Keefe and Recycling Today Editor DeAnne Toto.

Attendees can expect many additional sessions at this year’s event. The lineup for Wednesday includes a number of workshops and sessions.

The Domino Effect of China’s Recovered Paper Ban

Oct. 20, 9 a.m.

Bill Moore and Dan Gee of Moore & Associates, Atlanta, give an overview of the history of China’s recovered paper (RCP) import ban and the impact it has had on the markets over the last few years. This workshop covers how China has dealt with the fiber shortage and how RCP has been redistributed to other Asian countries and to new North American recycled fiber mill projects. It also reviews Chinese investments in mills in the U.S. and Southeast Asia, the recycled fiber pulp business and restrictions on RCP imports by other Asian countries and examines the impact of rising ocean freight rates from the U.S. to Asia.

Recycled-Content Certification

Oct. 20, 10:30 a.m.

As recycled-content certifications are developed, they can change the landscape for plastics recycling. This workshop examines what’s happening in the space and the benefits these certifications might offer to plastics reclaimers and consumers of recycled plastics.

Moving Materials

Oct. 20, 2 p.m.

Trucking and container shipping have been challenging to navigate in 2021. This session examines transportation trends and their impact on the recycling industry and presents strategies for managing related issues.

MRF Technology

Oct. 20, 2 p.m.

The technology available for today’s material recovery facilities (MRFs) offers many benefits but also adds dramatically to the capital required for plant builds and upgrades. Panelists discuss how to leverage the opportunities technology offers while being conscious of return on investment.

State of the Industry Report: Municipal Recycling

Oct. 20, 4 p.m.

Recycling Today publishes its exclusive state of municipal recycling report in September. This session provides an inside look at the findings from our editors.

Additional programming on Wednesday, Oct. 20, highlights legislation and developments in chemical recycling.

After networking Wednesday evening, programming resumes Thursday, Oct. 21, and features a robust lineup of sessions.

Economic Update

Oct. 21, 9 a.m.

COVID-19 disrupted the economy in many ways and continues to have effects. Also, numerous changes were fomenting through the economic system before the pandemic. This session examines those trends and provides insight to the future.

Sustainable Packaging Design

Oct. 21, 2 p.m.

Packaging design has a direct effect on recyclability. In this session, our panelists address how brands and packaging producers are looking at packaging to meet their sustainability objectives and their recyclability commitments.

Paper Mill Buyers

Oct. 21, 4 p.m.

Moore leads the discussion with recovered fiber buyers about their sourcing programs to ensure furnish for their mills. They share successes, concerns and issues.

Day two of the conference also offers sessions dedicated to exploring specific commodity markets, including old corrugated containers and mixed paper, high-density polyethylene and polypropylene as well as polyethylene terephthalate.

The Washington-based Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries’ Paper Stock Industries chapter plans to host a session the afternoon of Oct. 21 that delves into new recovered paper mill capacity within the United States and North America more broadly.

One week, two curated conferences

As in past years, the MRF Operations Forum is the same week as the Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference and is in-person again in 2021.

Set the day before PPRC kicks off, the MRF Operations Forum begins Tuesday, Oct. 19. The forum also remains co-located with the PPRC at its new venue. The event homes in on the nuts and bolts of successful MRF operations. Operators get in-depth education to help keep all parts of their MRF operations running smoothly and optimally.

Starting with sorting technologies, the forum examines robotics and optical sorting technology through two frames of reference: that of the MRF operator and the equipment supplier.

Opticals: From the Supplier Perspective & the Operator Perspective

Oct. 19, 10:15 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Optical sorters have become the workhorses of many MRFs. Optimizing their efficiency is essential to effective materials classification in today’s facilities. This unique session encompasses two panels: one comprised of suppliers who provide insight into today’s technology and how to optimize it within plant operations, and one with MRF operators who provide their insights into how their operations are benefiting from and leveraging the power of optical sorters.

Robotics: From the Supplier Perspective & the Operator Perspective

Oct. 19, 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Today, everyone is talking robots. These two panels are designed to help operators understand what they are, what they can expect and how they perform in a plant environment. A panel of industry suppliers discusses the newest robotic technologies, how they have evolved and how to generate the greatest success and return from an investment in this technology. Separately, a panel of MRF operators using robots discusses the lessons they have learned from implementing robotics into their sorting lines.

Additional MRF Operations Forum programming includes sessions on baler sizing, compressor maintenance and how operators feed their sorting systems. System feeding often is overlooked, but the introduction of material into a processing system is vital to smooth operations.

The author is the conference producer for the Recycling Today Media Group and can be reached at