One of the biggest challenges facing plastic recyclers are containers that come through the stream that may have a negative impact on recycling. Both recyclers and product manufacturers often do not realize the implications of new products, until they have been brought to market, made it through the collection process, and contaminate the recycling stream. Certain types of labels, inks, closures, adhesives are just a few examples of packaging design features that can adversely impact recyclability, or simply cause an otherwise perfectly recyclable container to be landfilled rather than recycled. Either alternative leads to a yield loss for recyclers that are always looking for good, clean material.
Communication is an integral part of that challenge. How can we shift the recognition process from the end of the line to the beginning of the design development stage? How can recyclers communicate with container manufacturers and consumer brand companies about the importance of designing packaging with recyclability in mind? The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR), the trade association representing the plastics recycling industry in North America, is working to provide answers to those questions. APR firmly believes that companies want to design packaging that is recyclable and sustainable, and has developed a variety of tools and programs to aid them along the way.
The APR DesignTM Guide for Plastics Recyclability is a technical document that details the potential for well-designed packaging to be reused and remanufactured into new products and enhances the economic viability of plastic recycling. It was developed for packaging designers and engineers. The Executive Summary helps to ensure brand managers, sustainability and marketing managers, as well as other decision makers gain a basic understanding of the impact of packaging design on recycling. It can also serve as a quick reference tool for packaging designers and engineers. Ultimately, we want all packaging professionals to have the APR website as a link on their desktops, so during the first stages of new product development, they can immediately determine if it aligns with current recycling technology. This would be a huge step forward for recyclers.
The next step will be the release of the new and improved Interactive APR DesignTM Guide for Plastics Recyclability. The updated Interactive Guide will be completely web enabled allowing users to easily access the information pertinent to them at various levels of technical detail. Additional resources will include photos, videos, and quick links to all of the APR documents and tests referred to in the Interactive Guide. This project is expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2015. APR is expected to announce the publication in a press release this fall.
Going even further, APR has recently embarked on an effort to bring these resources directly to packaging professionals through the APR DesignTM for Plastics Recyclability Training Program. A variety of training options are available, including in-person and online sessions, and each session is developed to meet the specific needs of individual companies and their chosen participants. Beginning in late 2014, this program has continued to grow, with major brand companies reaching out to APR on a regular basis to schedule training sessions.
For more information on The APR DesignTM Guide for Plastics Recyclability, APR programs, or other issues associated with plastics recycling, visit PlasticsRecycling.org.