In recent weeks, media outlets around the world have published articles questioning the feasibility of recycling plastics. Much of it is based on recent Greenpeace reports. Meanwhile, states are enforcing laws aimed at strengthening material recovery overall. Add the softening resin market, which is rapidly declining in price, to the mix.
Against this backdrop of stress and change, nearly 330 plastic recycling professionals from across the country gathered at the Association of Plastics Recyclers (APR) conference in Austin, Texas last week.
APR President Steve Alexander opened the conference by jumping into the current topic. Greenpeace reportusing dubious data analysis to demonstrate that plastic cannot be recycled, reinforcing the group’s argument that all single-use plastic products should be banned in favor of reusable packaging.
The document received widespread media coverage and Independently Written Criticism By Plastics Recycling Update. (APR owns Resource Recycling, Inc., the publisher of the Plastics Recycling Update.)
“This is all about plastic bans, and they’re getting you involved. Why? Because you’re the antithesis of their story,” Alexander told an APR member in the room. It makes it difficult to get funding for all the issues they want to raise.”
Alexander said he believes environmental groups view APR as “the greenwashing arm of the petrochemical industry.” There will always be plastic in the world, he said.
“Trust me, you’re solving this [plastic waste] It’s a problem to work with us,” he added, drawing applause.
Below are other highlights from the event, which took place November 9-11.
Explaining a volatile market
Emily Friedman, senior market editor for plastic recycling at research firm ICIS, said: Recent PET bale price crash, she believes, is due to several factors: increased summer seasonal supplies, higher interest rates, and a slowing housing market leading to lower carpet production (an increase in US scrap demand for PET bottles). More than a third are for carpets, she noted.) An overall decline in demand and an oversupply of inventories.
Since falling from record highs to record lows, veil prices started to rebound slightly about a month ago. She believes the RPET market is still struggling to separate from virgin PET, noting that the influx of imported PET, with sea freight rates now falling significantly, is putting downward pressure on prices. Did.
Even if domestic PET bale prices recover, they will still have to compete with cheaper unused cargo, she noted. That said, she sees strong brand owner demand for RPET, and in the long run there is a structural shortage of supply to meet demand.
In a separate session, at a Market Development Board meeting, Board Member and Granite Peak Plastics President and CEO Greg Janson said another market pressure facing post-consumer resin (PCR) is I mentioned market.
They may not even know what they’re doing, but they’re destroying a stable market for recycling,” he said.
A new face, and the loss of an industry veteran
With a total of 262 members, APR continues to grow as an organization, adding 40 member organizations in 2022.
APR recently hired Kate Bailey, who has worked for Colorado non-profit recycling organization Eco-Cycle for nearly 20 years. became the leading role About policies like Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). As APR’s chief policy officer, “she will be your voice to state and federal policymakers,” Alexander said. APR also hired Jazlin Lopez, previously an intern at US Plastics Pact, as the group’s Digital Communications and Analytics Associate.
To date, all APR employees have been part-time contractors, but the organization plans to transition them to full-time employment with benefits. He also announced that longtime APR film and flexible program director Sandi Childs is leaving the organization.
Alexander gave a moving tribute to APR’s Emeritus Technical Director, Dave Cornell. died recently. industry veteran, Cornell produced APR’s widely referenced design guide for plastic recyclability and the organization’s plastic recycling testing protocol, among others. He is also the only member of the plastics recycling industry to be inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame.
A memorial service was held for Cornell on Saturday, November 12.
“The greatest tribute we can give to his legacy is to continue solving this damned problem,” Alexander said.
Overheated policy action
In multiple sessions, APR staff and members noted an increase in plastics-related policymaking at the state and federal levels.Alexander points out the importance of the Federal Trade Commission’s pending update green guide, which covers the marketing of products based on their environmental attributes, including recyclable and recycled content. Last updated in 2012, this guide is not a binding regulation, but is closely monitored.
APR hired former FTC staff to help work with the FTC, particularly on package labeling and communication issues. He admitted that the FTC has been overwhelmed with comments from trade groups on the issue.
“They said last week that they would seek comment between now and the end of the year,” Alexander said.
There are nearly 20 active recycling-related bills in Congress, Bailey said.
“In my 20 years of recycling, I have never seen a total of 20 bills,” she said. “It is no exaggeration to say that we live in a time of rapid change.”
Anna Karakitsos, principal at Bracewell, APR’s contract lobbying firm in Washington, D.C., said, “We’ve seen an astounding amount of legislation introduced in the last two years” focused on recycling and waste reduction. I agreed.
Regarding the November 8 election results, she predicts that fragmented governance will mean a “middle-of-the-road policy” for recycling sustainability. “Split means you can’t explore more extreme options,” she said.
One place where one party is firmly in control is California, where Democrats hold majorities in both houses of Congress and continue to occupy the governor’s mansion. Bruce Magnani, a legislative advocate for Houston Magnani and Associates, where he serves as a contract lobbyist for APR in California, noted that sustainability with its anti-plastic bias is still alive in the Golden State. But state policymakers have passed legislation aimed at supporting recycling. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Bill SB 54He said this supports his belief that policymakers are still positive about recycling.
In addition to California, Oregon, Colorado and Maine have also passed EPR for packaging. Resa Dimino, of consulting firm Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), said the states to watch her EPR move forward are Washington, New York, Connecticut, Maryland, and possibly Minnesota and Illinois. I predict it will.
“I think these states are likely to be the most active as we move forward into 2023,” she said.
Recent plastic news articles We researched that Democratic dominance in some states could mean that EPR legislation is likely to gain momentum.
Effect of thermoforming on PET bales
An RRS-led study quantified how much yield was lost when PET bottle bales contained a high percentage of PET thermoform. In short, there are many.
Mr. Dimino of RRS presented the high-level conclusions of Phase 2 of the PET thermoforming research project, which includes trials at the Indorama Ventures PET Recycling Plant. About 15% thermoformed and 85% bottles, 25% thermoformed and 75% bottles, and 40% thermoformed and 60% bottles made up of recycled bales. The clear flake yield for standard curbside PET bottle bales is around 51%, but for 40% thermoformed bales that percentage dropped to 25%, she said.
“In short, the higher the level of thermoforming, the lower the yield,” she says, adding, “These results confirm that moving the thermoforming in a separate stream is the most efficient method.” I suggest to you,” he added.
The good news is that after the clear flakes were recycled into plaques for testing, higher levels of thermoformed content did not significantly affect product quality in terms of color or mottling, but significantly affected intrinsic viscosity. Kristi Hansen of Plastics Forming Enterprises, the independent laboratory that conducted the recycling tests, said:
After the presentation, Crystal Howe of Ice River Springs, a Canadian bottled water manufacturer in Ontario, noted that her company’s PET recycling arm, Blue Mountain Plastics Recycling, is constantly adjusting its processing systems. and cautioned against making further screening decisions based solely on this study. Consider different raw materials. Her colleague Amanda Fockler added that the company is now recycling 40% of her PET her thermoformed bales into new bottles.
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