APR and what new non-bottle rigid bale specs mean for recycling PET thermoforms!

March 17, 2011

Hey guys,

As per March 15th’s post, I was interested in what the newly released bale specs for non bottle rigids means for the progress in recycling PET thermoforms. As such, I sent my contact at APR the following email:


This is Chandler with Dordan—we spoke a while ago about the obstacles facing the inclusion of thermoform packaging in the recovery infrastructure. Remember?

I hope this email finds you well!

I wanted to applaud the efforts of APR as described in Mike Verespej’s PlasticsNews article, “Recycling group creating new bale specifications.” After speaking at several industry events about the need for specs for non-bottle rigids, I was delighted to discover this bit of news. So congrats!

Does APR have plans to develop specs for thermoform only (PET OR all mixed resins) bales, too?

I look forward to your feedback!

The next day, I received this response from the Technical Director at APR, David Cornell:


Thank you for your interest in plastics recycling.

APR has always been interested in more good raw material. To that end we have Design for Recyclability Guidelines, Guidance Documents, and Model Bale Specs. APR is a data-driven, science-based organization. We are also reflective of good business practices. To that end, we have provided our Model Bale Specs to help buyers and sellers establish common language for commercial transactions. We do that by reflecting what is happening and what we would see as logical extensions of proper commercial practice. Our Model Bale Specs include those materials to be included in specific bales and those materials not to be included and suggested levels of various extraneous materials along with best practices on bale size, density, and assembly.

The APR Rigids Committee is working on bringing some suggested standardization to the description of bales of various materials. More uniformity means both buyers and sellers benefit. This will be an ongoing activity as has been the description of both PET and HDPE bottle model bales.

To your question, the growing interest in just PET thermoform collection and recycle will very possibly lead to the commercial need for common description afforded by Model Bale Specifications. As the tolerances to various inclusions are fully understood, Model Bale Specs can be usefully written and likely will. Model bale specs for bales of mixed thermoforms will depend on the commercial need for such and establishment of commercial practices such that a document aids commerce. Bales of items made of incompatible resins, such as PET and PVC, are of less value than bales of those separated. Certainly we know of mixed resin bales, but see much more value in model bale specifications for higher valued, generic resin bales.

And I continued…


Thanks for the email and detailed explanation! From what I understand, there are several companies that have the capacity to reprocess post consumer PET thermoform containers into new products but can’t find any thermoform bales to purchase for said reprocessing. If demand for PET thermoform bales exists, what would it take to create PET thermoform bale specs? How do I go about moving the recycling of thermoforms forward as a representative of a thermoform manufacturer?

And his response:


The first step is to have a stream of useful material. That means today just PET with no look-alikes. The look-alike PS, PETG, and PLA need their own bales. It also means thermoforms that do not have unfriendly adhesives. The APR protocol on thermoform adhesives is on the website to guide in assessing adhesive and labeling choices.

When streams of such useful material are available, then it will make economic sense for MRF’s to isolate and sell such bales. Until we reach the MRF-provided bales, we will likely be looking for controlled flow PCR such as bakery trays from retail bakeries and food stores.

The issue is always one of critical mass for the collectors, sorters, and reclaimers. Jump starting as is going on in Canada really helps.


Round and round we go!

Tune in tomorrow for a description of part one (Bio-based products concepts) of Dr. Narayan’s workshop on the science of “biodegradable polymers.”

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