We Can Improve Recycling Rates

Volume 11, Issue 6

In This Issue:

  • Picking the right green claims
  • RECYCLING/RECYCLED CONTENT

    We Can Improve Recycling Rates

    The U.S. recycling rate for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles dropped about 2% in 2016 to 28.4% due to a decrease in the volume of bottles collected and an increase in the volume of bottles available for recycling.

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  • Picking the right green claims
  • RECYCLING/RECYCLED CONTENT

    Coca-Cola plans to boost recycled content in PET bottles to 50% in Europe

    This Is Forward, a sustainability action plan launched by The Coca-Cola Company calls for more than doubling the recycled content in their polyethylene terephthalate bottles to 50% in 2025...

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RECYCLING/RECYCLED CONTENT >

We Can Improve Recycling Rates

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The U.S. recycling rate for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles dropped about 2% in 2016 to 28.4% due to a decrease in the volume of bottles collected and an increase in the volume of bottles available for recycling. “The decrease in collection volumes in 2016 appears to be the result of a drop in deposit volumes outside of California and in PET collected at curbside,” according to the Report on Postconsumer PET Container Recycling Activity in 2016, published on Oct. 31, 2017, by NAPCOR, Florence, KY, and The Association of Plastic Recyclers, Washington, DC.

Factors affecting the rate include lower prices for virgin PET, higher bale prices and issues with bale quality. Noting Design for Recycling remains essential to bale quality, the report explains, “Core to the continuing decline in PET bottle bale quality is the proliferation of PET packages that are difficult to recycle. Colors, barriers, additives, metal components and certain labels, inks and adhesives can all increase processing costs and, in some cases, decrease end market material value.” 

Other studies agree that improved sorting and Design for Recycling are essential to boosting recycling rates. In fact, the Deloitte Sustainability, Blueprint for Plastics Packaging Waste: Quality Sorting & Recycling, published by Plastics Recyclers Europe, Brussels, Belgium, predicts Design for Recycling and better sorting could help Europe achieve a recycling target of 65% in 2025. 

For the United States, Cleaning the rPET (recycled PET) Stream, a study published by Closed Loop Partners, New York, NY, also recommends:

  • Bypassing the pellet stage to go directly from flake to preform or blend with virgin resin
  • Negotiation of long-term purchase agreements to decrease market volatility
  • Building depolymerization facilities to produce monomers equivalent to virgin purified terephthalic acid and mono ethylene glycol and
  • Market development for non-PET materials like polypropylene and polyethylene, which “would incentivize materials recovery facilities (MRFs) to improve quality of PET bales and other commodities.”

The authors of Cleaning the rPET Stream predict implementing this suite of interventions would benefit MRFs, reprocessors and brand owners/end users. MRFs would boost yields by more than 10%, reduce costs and increase revenues. Reprocessors would improve yields more than 21%, cut costs more than 10% and lower price volatility and commodity risks. Brand owners/end users would gain an increased volume of higher quality rPET at lower cost, greater flexibility in end uses and less price volatility. The report concludes, “With more than 6 billion pounds of PET bottles and containers generated each year, these interventions have the potential to increase the domestic supply of rPET for bottles and other uses by 6% or more over time.”

The report also notes, “Improving infrastructure for rPET production can benefit PET end uses beyond packaging, as well as other resin types….The interventions recommended here for PET – in particular at the MRF – would have a ‘halo’ effect on other materials [like PP and HDPE].”

Meanwhile technology continues to advance. One sorting improvement separates mixed plastics via tracer-based technology from Polysecure, Freiburg, Germany. The company supplies both the inert, fluorescent tracing material and the sorting system, which quickly identifies plastics according to fluorescence properties. Polysecure’s first sorter, the Fluosort machine, is currently being tested. 

Another way to recycle more plastics, do-it-yourself recycling machines, target entrepreneurs and hobbyists. The plastics recycling machines shred, inject, extrude or compress and can be built from plans provided by Precious Plastics, a global community focused on reducing plastic pollution. Machines can be self-built with locally sourced parts or parts purchased on the Precious Plastics Bazar, a forum that also sells goods made on the machines. Machines also may be purchased from machine-building members of the Precious Plastics community. 

Recycling growth also depends on demand for recycled content. This is a bright spot in the recycling picture. A market study, Recycled Plastic Market: Global Industry Analysis 2012 – 2016 and Forecast 2017 – 2025, published by Persistence Market Research, New York, NY, projects the recycled plastic market will grow in value to more than $30 billion in 2025. According to the report, PET and high-density polyethylene account for two-thirds of the recycled plastic market.

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RECYCLING/RECYCLED CONTENT >

Coca-Cola plans to boost recycled content in PET bottles to 50% in Europe

This Is Forward, a sustainability action plan launched jointly by The Coca-Cola Company in Western Europe, Atlanta, GA, and Coca-Cola European Partners plc, London, calls for more than doubling the recycled content in their polyethylene terephthalate bottles to 50% in 2025 from 21% in 2016. 

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The companies, which sell in 11 countries and 13 territories in Western Europe, also have committed to 100% collection of their packaging and plan to eliminate any packaging that is not recyclable or reusable by 2025. Other priorities involve climate, water usage and supply chain practices including to 

  • Cut greenhouse gas emissions from their core business by 50%
  • Replenish 100% of the water used in areas of water stress and
  • Acquire 100% of primary agricultural ingredients and raw materials from sustainable sources by 2020

The companies also plan to lower calorie content in recipes, support community partnerships, encourage volunteering among employees and increase the number of women in management roles to at least 40% by 2025. “…these actions will ensure we have a positive impact wherever we sell our drinks,” concludes Damian Gammell, CEO of Coca-Cola European Partners plc.

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RENEWABLE >

Global bioplastics market to grow 20%

The global market for bioplastics is predicted to grow 20% during the next five years, according to a market study by European Bioplastics, Berlin Germany. Driving forces include the transition to a low-carbon and circular economy, stronger policy support for the bioeconomy and greater consumer awareness of sustainable products and packaging. 

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“We are witnessing a growing number of major brands switching from fossil-based to bio-based materials or to offer biodegradable solutions for their products in response to the increased consumer demand for more sustainable products and an overall change in awareness about the impacts of consumption choices on the environment,” explained François de Bie, chairman of European Bioplastics, in a presentation at the 12th European Bioplastics Conference (November 2017, Berlin). 

The global bioplastics production capacity is set to increase from around 2.05 million metric tons in 2017 to approximately 2.44 million metric tons in 2022. Biopolymers such as polylactic acid (PLA) and polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are the main drivers. PHAs have been in development for some time and are reaching commercial scale with production capacities forecast to triple during the next five years. These polyesters are 100% bio-based and biodegradable and can be composed to deliver an array of physical and mechanical properties. 

Production capacities of PLA will grow 50% by 2022. PLA offers excellent barrier properties and is available in high-performance grades that can replace polystyrene, polypropylene (PP) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene.

Bio-based, nonbiodegradable plastics, including drop-in replacements such as bio-based polyethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyamides, currently account for more than half (about 56%, or 1.2 million metric tons) of global bioplastics production capacity. The production of bio-based PE is expected to continue to grow as planned expansions come online in Europe. 

However, increases in production capacity for bio-based PET have not been realized as anticipated. Instead, the focus has shifted to the development of polyethylene furanoate (PEF), a new polymer that is expected to enter the market in 2020. PEF is comparable to PET but 100% bio-based and is said to feature superior barrier and thermal properties, making it an ideal material for packaging beverages, food and nonfood products. In 2022 bio-based PP is expected to enter the market on a commercial scale with a strong growth potential due to the widespread use of PP in many sectors.

Packaging accounts for the largest segment of the bioplastics market with a share of almost 60% (1.2 million metric tons). Asia remains a major production hub with more than 50% of the bioplastics market. However, Europe’s share is projected to expand from about 20% currently to 25% in 2022 due to the European Commission’s commitment to the transition to a circular economy model.

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SUSTAINABLE EFFORTS >

ProFood World calls for entries

Deadline for entries in the fourth annual Sustainability Excellence in Manufacturing Awards is Jan. 12, 2018. 

The peer-reviewed awards recognize food, beverage or consumer product manufacturing facilities for projects or programs that improve pollution prevention, compliance assurance and environmental protection. Categories include reduction in water and energy use, waste conservation, pollution prevention and packaging reductions. Winning plants will be recognized in June 2018 at a celebratory event. 

The competition is sponsored by ProFood World, Chicago, IL, a publication of PMMI Media Group, a division of PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, Reston, VA.

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SUSTAINABLE EFFORTS >

Diageo earns sustainability award

Diageo North America, Norwalk, CT, a global leader in beverage alcohol, has received a 2017 Supply & Demand Chain Executive Green Supply Chain Award. 

“We are honored to receive this award, recognizing our commitment to making environmental sustainability a priority for our business,” states Erik Snyder, president of Supply & Procurement at Diageo North America. He reports, “We are working successfully on a global scale to lessen environmental impacts by reducing carbon emissions, waste sent to landfill and packaging weight, while improving water stewardship and sustainable agriculture.”

Diageo promotes responsible practices throughout its supply chain and invests in technologies and processes to support its sustainability strategy. The company has published a guidance document, Partnering with Suppliers Standard, to drive higher standards in its supply chain, and participates in the CDP Supply Chain Program, which reports annual supplier carbon and water performance. In the United States, Diageo participates in the Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay program, a voluntary public-private effort, which helps companies advance supply chain sustainability by measuring and benchmarking freight transportation efficiency. In addition, the company collaborates with suppliers, other consumer goods companies and industry associations including AIM PROGRESS (a program to promote responsible sourcing) and the Supplier Ethical Data Exchange to improve practices in the supply chain and in the industry as a whole.

Diageo established sustainability targets in 2008 and updated them in 2015. The goals outlined in Sustainability and Responsibility Targets for 2020 build on its achievements and are aligned with the emerging United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

New targets involve water, carbon emissions, sustainable packaging and waste. Specific goals include: 

  • 50% improvement in water use efficiency
  • Safe return of 100% of wastewater to the environment
  • Equipping suppliers with tools to protect water resources in the most water-stressed locations
  • Reducing absolute greenhouse gas emissions from direct operations 50%
  • Achieving a 30% reduction along the total supply chain
  • Ensuring new refrigeration equipment is HFC-free with a reduction in associated greenhouse gas emissions from 2015
  • Reducing total packaging volume 15%
  • Increasing recycled content to 45%
  • Making 100% of packaging recyclable or reusable
  • Sustainably sourcing all paper and board packaging to ensure zero net deforestation and
  • Achieving zero waste to landfill

Diageo is included in the 2017 Dow Jones Sustainability Index and ranks sixth in the 2017 Carbon Clear report on the sustainability performance of the FTSE 100.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR >

Hallie Forcinio has covered packaging-related environmental topics for more than 25 years, first as an editor on Food & Drug Packaging magazine (now Packaging Strategies) and more recently as a freelance packaging journalist and principal of Forcinio Communications, an editorial services firm. “My interest in the environment dates back to a high school government class,” she notes. “I was collecting glass, newspapers and aluminum cans for recycling long before my community had a curbside recycling program.” In addition to preparing the TricorBraun Sustainability Times, she contributes articles to numerous trade publications including Pharmaceutical Technology, Dairy Foods and National Provisioner. She also serves as editorial director of the PACK EXPO Show Daily.

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