Day 14: Oct. 27, 2009

February 17, 2010

The next day I arrived to the office full of enthusiasm; I had brought my favorite lunch—penne puntanesca and garlic bread—which ensured that no one in the office would want to talk to me for the duration of the afternoon. Silence is golden. 😉

After establishing that NAPCOR was super cool but a little outside our means at this time, I found another industry group dedicated to the use and recycling of plastics: APR stands for the Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers. Like NAPCOR, they represent those in the industry that work with post consumer plastics. Their website reads:

Our goal is simple-we want to increase the amount of plastic material that is recycled in North America. We do that by sponsoring education workshops and ‘webinars’ designed to help local and state solid waste officials learn more about the technology of plastics recycling and the markets for material; holding design for recyclability workshops for packaging professionals; working to assist legislators to make decisions that enhance the recycling of plastics; and numerous other market development and technical programs.

RADICAL… I sent a letter of inquiry to the email provided:

Hello,

My name is Chandler Slavin—I am the Sustainability Coordinator at Dordan Manufacturing, which is a Midwestern based, national supplier of custom thermoformed solutions. We source post consumer RPET for manufacturing our packages and are currently investigating recycling options for the end-of-life management of our products. After visiting your web-site I am interested in your association and would like to know the process of applying for membership and also the advantages of being a member. Are any thermoform members in the APR?

Thank you for your time and I look forward to speaking with you soon!

Best,

Chandler Slavin

In a previous post I described a conversation I had with a representative from the SPI (plastics industry trade association); I discussed her desire to help increase the recycling rates of plastic packaging but emphasized her underlining understanding of economics and how such economics did not support such an initiative. During this conversation I suggested that the SPI revisit the resin ID numbers currently prescribed to different polymers used in plastic packaging in order to account for the introduction of PLA into the stream and make recycling of plastics easier. She subsequently indicated that a subcommittee was formed that year to address these concerns and indicated that she would follow up with me about their approach.

To my surprised, that day I received a follow-up email from this contact:

Hi Chandler,

Thanks so much for the call earlier and the great conversation. Sounds like you have your hands full with issues surrounding sustainability, “green-washing”, recycling, bio-resins, additives, resin identification code, Wal-mart Scorecard, and the ultimate goal of reclaiming all your clamshell packaging. These issues are being addressed in our processors council and materials supplier council predominantly.

I have touched base with our sales director in the Midwest. He will follow up with you to give you a better sense of the issues, including the above, that we are involved with on behalf of industry. And, certainly I am available as well.

Hurray; another bread crumb! Processors council and materials supplier council, eh? Time to do more research!

After lunch that day, I got a call from the Midwestern sales director of the SPI. He was really cool, and although he wasn’t totally versed in sustainability issues, he listened to what I had to say and told me he would put me in touch with someone at SPI that would be more of a help to me and my inquiries.

Splendid.

Ironically, later that day, just as I was assembling my things to catch the train back to Chicago, I received the following email:

Dear Plastics Industry Professional,

On September 23, 2009, ASTM International’s D20.95 subcommittee on Recycled Plastics distributed a new draft subcommittee ballot on the resin identification codes to its membership. There are 18 new items being balloted as part of the draft, which will update the original system developed in 1988 by SPI. Members of the D20.95 subcommittee are eligible to vote on the draft until its closing date on October 23, 2009. SPI is strongly encouraging all members of D20.95 to review and vote on this ballot.

Huh…so the SPI is reconsidering the resin ID numbers; that’s great! Although the language of this email is a little ambiguous, at least they are being proactive about these issues. I wonder how I get involved…

Just before I walked out the door, I sent the sales director of the SPI this follow-up email:

Hey, 

 I just wanted to send you a quick email to follow up with our phone conversation today. First, thank you for taking the time to talk with me about my concerns regarding the plastic packaging industry. As per our conversation, I was wondering if there were any contacts at your association who would like to have a dialogue with me about issues pertaining to sustainability and the plastic packaging industry. Aside from the millennial campaign and discussions about adding to the SPI resin identification number family, what else is SPI doing to confront the challenges facing our industry? How is SPI working to save the reputation of the plastic industry? What kind of initiatives is SPI taking to increase the sustainability profile of plastics? Is SPI considering different material recovery technologies or recycling programs?

As per our conversation, I have spent a considerable amount of time researching issues pertaining to plastic and sustainability. If there is anyone I could talk with, or would appreciate talking to me at SPI or one of its sister organizations, please let me know.  

Thanks!

Chandler

Tune in tomorrow for more recycling in America tidbits; good times!

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