Is there a need for end-of-life strategy for flexible packaging? Absolutely! “We must increase the recovery and value capture for flexible packaging,” according to Jeff Wooster, Global Sustainability Director, The Dow Chemical Company. Wooster spoke at the recent FPA Annual Meeting. Mechanical recycling, feedstock recycling, and energy recovery are a few of the options available for flexible packaging. There are many benefits of recycling/using recycled materials including: reduced GHG emissions; lower energy consumption; reduced raw material extraction; and less waste to the landfill.
In 2014, The Dow Chemical Company led a collaborative Energy Bag pilot program in Citrus Heights, CA that proved non-recycled plastics can be collected, sorted and converted to alternative energy resources through an existing curbside recycling program. In late 2016, Dow launched a second collaborative program, Hefty Energy Bag 2.0, in Omaha, NE, to increase the collection of non-recycled plastic packaging. Since its launch in September 2016, over 6,000 Energy Bags have been collected and sorted at First Star’s MRF, resulting in a diversion of over 6,200 pounds of material from the landfill.
Materials Recovery for the Future (MRFF) is a research collaborative both FPA and Dow are members of. MRFF is working towards developing the technology that allows flexible packaging to be sorted from other recyclables in a single stream MRF. In order to improve the acceptance of flexible packaging as a sustainable solution, consumers must be able to recycle it easily, whether by a store drop-off, an Energy Bag program, or cost effective technology must be developed that can separate flexible packaging from other materials at the MRF. The MRFF program is helping to develop the system needed to sort flexibles from other recyclables.
Wooster outlined some potential solutions to increase the recycling of flexible packaging which includes: creative designs to make more packages easily recyclable; increased collection to get more back into the system; better sorting to allow separation; more end uses to maximize the value of collected materials; and new technologies for mechanical and feedstock recycling.
For More Information
FPA members can view the presentation at www.flexpack.org by clicking on “Download Presentations from the FPA 2017 Annual Meeting” in the Spotlight section on the homepage.