Last week, FPI, along with four of our allied trade associations – American Chemistry Council, Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers, Carton Council of North Americaand National Association for PET Container Resources– announced the completion of a first-of-its-kind study that looked at how different packaging types flowed through different types of material recovery facilities (MRFs) to better understand how to get more recyclables actually recycled.
The five MRFs selected for the “MRF Material Flow Study” represented a range of facilities with various sizes and processing capabilities, such as single- and dual-stream; with and without optical sorters. A diverse lineup of packaging, including paper and plastic cups, clamshells, containers, domes/lids, trays, bottles, tubs and gable-top and aseptic cartons, were added to the mix of standard recycling items coming in to the facilities. Materials were processed without intervention from the MRF operators, and then samples were taken from various paper and plastic bales, as well as residue (i.e. material that did not end up in the appropriate bales to get recycled and would instead be sent to a landfill or waste to energy facility).
Some of the key findings from the study include:
1. Size and shape make a difference – Items tend to flow with similarly sized and shaped materials, so containers shouldn’t be completely flattened or crushed by residents before being placed in their recycling bin or cart. Additionally, package form and stiffness influences flow. Materials that hold their shape have a higher likelihood of making it to the right bale.
2. Good separation is important – It’s critical for MRF operators to maintain their equipment to ensure efficient sorting. Makes sense, since they want recyclables in the bales that make them money – not in the residue piles that cost them money.
3. Optical sorters can help identify material types – As the recycling stream evolves into being more diverse and lightweight, optical sorters play an increasingly important role. This certainly is applicable for foodservice packaging, given the use of a wide variety of resins and coatings.
The MRF study is yet another piece of the puzzle to getting more paper and plastic foodservice packaging recycled, and we look forward to identifying additional key learnings specific to our products and communicating them with MRFs interested in processing these valuable materials.
A copy of the high-level public report may be found here. A more detailed report specific to foodservice packaging is available only to members of FPI’s Paper Recovery Alliance and Plastics Recovery Group, which helped fund the study.
Posted By Lynn M. Dyer (President) | 7/14/2015 3:22:45 PM