We've talked a lot about the recovery work being accomplished by our Paper Recovery Alliance and Plastics Recovery Group.
Now we want to share some of the recycling-specific work. Last year we asked Resource Recycling Systems, to conduct a benchmarking survey on our behalf.
We had three main goals for this survey:
· Determine the current acceptance rates for foodservice packaging by material recovery facilities (MRFs) in the U.S. and Canada and the trends and/or factors impacting those items' acceptance.
· Set a baseline measurement to chart future foodservice packaging recovery.
· Identify types of foodservice packaging items that could justify additional research to substantiate recyclability claims.
We set out to collect data from MRFs throughout the U.S. and Canada, including the largest facilities and those meeting other specific criteria such as their geographic location, type of facility and owner/operator. Once we identified the facilities, we determined which items to include in the survey: cups, take-out containers, pizza boxes, bags, beverage carriers, cup sleeves and egg cartons.
Through community research, phone interviews and written responses from the MRFs, we received data from nearly 70 facilities. The results showed that the three most accepted products are cup sleeves, pizza boxes and paper carryout bags, with rigid plastic items such as cups and takeout containers being accepted by a majority of MRFs. The availability of end markets for the recovered materials appeared to be the biggest driver of acceptance.
So what does all this mean, and why do we care?
We care because it validates the current work that FPI is doing with our recovery groups, showing us we're on the right track with our systemic, MRF-to-market approach to increasing recovery of foodservice packaging. It also helps us identify specific areas of focus for our recovery groups — things like standard definitions across the packaging industry, MRFs and the market, dispelling myths about food residue on packaging, and how all this affects recycling.
Although this is a small survey it not only refutes the assumption held by many that foodservice packaging isn't recycled, but it shows promise for increased acceptance. Widespread acceptance of foodservice packaging will only help increase the recovery of these valuable resources.
That’s a win-win for everyone.