Introduction to the “Recycling project”

January 20, 2010

I am a third-generation thermoformer, which means I have a passion for plastic packaging; it’s in my blood. Having just graduated from DePaul University with a degree in Religious Ethics, I entered the family business at an interesting time: the economy was in the pits and “sustainability,” as it pertains to packaging, was the “it” word. Because of my background in academia, I was given the task of understanding the sustainability debate from the perspective of a packaging professional. Four months later, I am proud to call myself the Sustainability Coordinator at Dordan Manufacturing, which is a successful, National supplier of custom design thermoformed packaging, such as clamshells, blisters, trays and components.

At my first “business conference” in Atlanta this past fall for the members-only meeting of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, I learned that most plastic thermoformed packaging is NOT recycled in American communities[1], nor is A LOT of other packaging materials. Outraged that my family’s pride-and-joy often ends up in landfills, I made it my personal project to discover: (1) why thermoforms are not accepted for recycling at most Material Recovery Facilities (hereafter, MRF); and (2) how we could integrate thermoformed packaging into the existing recycling infrastructure. With no previous background in environmental science, I took to the books, armed with nothing more than a recent graduate’s motivation and altruism, to uncover the complexities of recycling in America.

What follows is a day-by-day account of my attempts to find an end-of-life market for plastic thermoform packaging; I am still working towards that goal.

This is the recycling project.

[1] Less than 60% of American communities.

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