Secondary Sorting Pilot
America’s Plastic Makers® are taking important steps to significantly increase the amount of plastic packaging that we reuse, recycle, and recover in the United States. Responding to the urgent need to improve recycling rates across the U.S., the American Chemistry Council (ACC) partnered with the Plastics Industry Association, Americas Styrenics, Berry Global, Carton Council, LyondellBasell, and Metro. The group raised money and installed a portable secondary sorting system at the Far West Recycling materials recovery facility (MRF) in Oregon. The demonstration project, called the Pacific Northwest Waste (PNW) Sort, made use of a portable Secondary Material Recovery Facility (Secondary MRF) that operated for 60 days in Portland, receiving, sorting and measuring the possible recovery from two types of material streams from four MRFs located in Oregon and Washington. Titus MRF Services operated the facility and provided the equipment for the project.
Materials recovered in this study included polyethylene, mixed paper, cartons, polypropylene, polystyrene, and PET bottles and thermoforms. The results of the Pacific Northwest Secondary Sorting Demonstration Project suggest that a regional secondary sorting MRF sized to serve the populations of both Oregon and Washington would:
- Increase material recovery or landfill diversion by more than 50,000 tons (100 million pounds) per year, equivalent to 2,500 semi-trailer truckloads of recovered materials bound for recycling facilities.
- Increase the recovery rate by 3% to 6% without significant program changes or investments.
- Generate 46 green jobs per Secondary MRF.
- Reduce the generation of greenhouse gases by more than 130,000 tons per year; this is equivalent to taking more than 27,600 cars off of the road.
- Enable future expansion of the accepted materials list without needing to retrofit Primary MRFs.
- Provide accountability for all collected recyclable materials and eliminate the risk of potential mismanagement and pollution.
 Based on a regional model where MRFs recover 88% of recyclable materials
Demonstrating Successful Secondary Sorting
The data collected from the pilot project is expected to show how secondary sorting offers communities an effective and valuable new recycling option.
This exhibition, the first regional project of its kind, could drive nationwide change in recycling capabilities. Communities could even generate revenue by selling recovered materials that have value in the marketplace.
Learn how you can bring secondary sorting to your community.
- Drive new recycling innovation
- Improve recycling capabilities
- Expand sustainability goals
- Generate revenue from in-demand recovered materials
- Strengthen industry and public sector collaboration
How Secondary Sorting Works
As usual, recyclables collected from residential and commercial locations are taken to a local MRF to be sorted and recovered.
Any remaining materials that cannot be recovered at the MRF are shipped to a secondary sorting facility and placed into six specialized collection streams.
The newly collected materials get measured, recovered, and then sold for reuse.
Types of Materials Recovered
The materials that get a second chance at recovery in a secondary sorting facility include:
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
High-density polyethylene (HDPE)
Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
Gable top and aseptic cartons
The Pacific Northwest Secondary Sorting Demonstration is a public-private partnership co-funded by a diverse group of organizations dedicated to plastics recovery innovations.