Day 11: Oct. 25, 2009

February 5, 2010

Happy Friday!

I finally figured out how to add tags to my posts, hurray!

After tagging it up, I tried searching one of my tags in the wordpress.com search engine. I started with “clamshells” and what I found was all sorts of crazy stuff. My favorite is “Death to the Clamshell” at: http://envirogy.wordpress.com/2009/08/25/death-to-the-clamshell/. Check out my reply, it’s the last one.

Anyway, while waiting for the educational tour guide’s response, I began researching incineration as a form of energy recovery for plastic packaging. As briefly discussed in my last post, Belgium is at a 96% packaging waste recovery rate because of their sophisticated recycling and incineration infrastructure. That which they can’t recycle, they incinerate. Why don’t we do that here, I wondered.

After several googling sessions, I stumbled upon this “new” technology called Polyflow. I called the number provided on the website…

After a quick Q&A with their rep, I was a little skeptical about this technology because it just sounded too good to be true. Because I didn’t know much about it, I sent Robert the following inquiry:

Hey Robert,

How’s it going? I saw Where the Wild Things Are this past weekend and it was AWSOME! You must see it at your earliest convenience.

Okay, I don’t want to be a nuisance, but have you heard of Polyflow? It is this new technology that breaks the plastic polymer chain down into its chemical components by vapor and then reconstructs the molecules in order to create diesel and fossil fuel and the monomers that make plastic polymers. This technology supposedly takes all types of plastics not currently recycled by single stream and provides the feedstock for the above mentioned products. I spoke with a representative from Polyflow and he says that this system will be economically and environmentally sustainable next year but that they are still in the pilot phase and need additional funding to construct the actual facility that will house this technology.

Any knowledge about this waste management alternative?

Moreover, I have not heard back from the Environmental Director of Starbucks and was wondering if you had unearthed any contacts at your organization that would be able to help me implement my recycling program. I have a dialogue going with SPI, our industry association, but they don’t think the economics will support it.

Hope all is well!

Best,

Chandler

My reference to SPI, the Society of Plastics Industry, was legitimate; I had spoken with one of their reps about my concerns about the environmental and plastic, specifically, recycling, and it went no where.

I first spoke with the Senior Director of State Affairs, who does a lot of petitioning for plastic on our industry’s behalf. She was aware of all the obstacles facing our industry but didn’t seem interested in helping me increase the recycling rates of plastic packaging because, as she explained, it is just not economical: If people can buy virgin resin for cheaper than recycled resin why would we work to create an end-of-life market for mixed rigid plastic packaging?

My one suggestion was to change the SPI resin ID numbers on the back of plastic packages. For instance, the number “1” indicates PET but doesn’t specify the various fillers added to the PET polymer to enhance/alter its properties. Therefore, we manufacture APET, RPET, RPETG, PETG, etc. and they are all labeled as “1” as mandated by the SPI. Because of the different additives in these polymers, the recycling facility won’t accept any thermoforms labeled “1” because they do not know how that specific additive will influence the overall integrity of the bale. Therefore, although it may be the same material as that in PET bottles, they can’t integrate it into the bales to be reprocessed for fear of contamination.

As an aside, PLA is just making its introduction into the market and I don’t know if it has been assigned a resin ID number; therefore, sorters may not be able to distinguish PLA bottles from PET bottles, thereby increasing the chances that the PET stream will be contaminated by PLA. I don’t know what the PLA people have to say about it…I will follow up with some more research in future posts.

Do check out this article; it may provide insight into the ramifications of incorporating into the PET recycling stream: http://www.linkedin.com/news?viewArticle=&articleID=107200234&gid=160429&srchCat=RCNT&articleURL=http%3A%2F%2Fblogpackaging%2Eblogspot%2Ecom%2F2010%2F02%2Fbioplastics-and-oxo-degradables%2Ehtml&urlhash=oSuc.

Anyway, I suggested that SPI be proactive and work with recyclers to develop the best labeling for resins to increase the recyclability of plastic packaging. Although this contact did not know exactly how the SPI was handling the resin ID number situation, she did say that they had a subcommittee devoted to the investigation of these issues and she would follow up with me about this subcommittee…  

Tune in Monday to see Robert’s response to my Polyflow inquiry. Good stuff to come; have a splendid weekend!

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