Flexible plastic packaging research shows positive signs

Materials Recovery For the Future (MRFF), an initiative of the Foundation for Chemistry Research and Initiatives, a tax-exempt organization established by the American Chemistry Council, has announced that its pilot research report demonstrates the successful collection, separation and preparation for recycling of flexible plastic packaging (FPP). The pilot research was performed in partnership with J.P. Mascaro & Sons at the Total- Recycle material recovery facility (MRF) in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania.

Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Resource Recycling Systems (RRS) prepared a report on the pilot research, which says FPP can be captured efficiently in a large, single-stream MRF and processed into a commodity bale, known as rFlex, for reuse in a variety of markets while diverting plastic from landfills.

The report also identifies more than a dozen end-market opportunities for FPP. Building envelope products, such as roofing materials, represent the highest volume and most immediate end market opportunities. Other high-volume opportunities for rFlex include pallets and railroad ties.

Within one year of installing FPP sortation equipment at the TotalRecycle MRF, four of the five sortation performance goals established for the pilot demonstration were achieved, and the program continues to progress toward achieving the fifth goal, according to RRS. The five pilot research goals include:

  • reducing the amount of FPP going into fiber products;
  • minimizing paper in the rFlex bale;
  • reducing fiber quality control staff by 25 percent and reallocating that staff to other job functions in the MRF;
  • integrating the FPP recovery system into TotalRecycle’s existing MRF control system; and
  • capturing at least 90 percent of FPP.

According to the report, the FPP capture rate needs improvement as the pilot project achieved a 74 percent capture rate in testing this February. The report states that additional equipment tuning and a minor upgrade were underway to help meet this goal.

“It’s critically important to find financially viable opportunities and markets for rFlex bales,” says Susan Graff, MRFF research director and vice president at RRS. “Our hope is that the pilot research serves as a valuable dataset to help other MRFs and communities economically recycle FPP while making cleaner paper bales. By working together to update sorting equipment, municipalities and businesses can support better quality recycling and meet commitments to buy more recycled-content products.”

The full report is available at www.materialsrecoveryforthefuture.com/wp-content/uploads/MRFF-Pilot-Report-2020-Final.pdf.

Photo courtesy of Eastman

Eastman introduces Tritan Renew copolyester

Specialty plastics provider Eastman, Kingsport, Tennessee, has introduced Tritan Renew copolyester, which contains up to 50 percent recycled content derived from the company’s Advanced Circular Recycling technologies.

“Tritan Renew is a significant step forward for Eastman as the first product to market using molecular recycling made possible by Eastman’s Advanced Circular Recycling technologies,” says Mark Costa, board chair and CEO of Eastman.

In 2019, Eastman began commercial- scale recycling for a broad set of plastics using its Advanced Circular Recycling technologies—carbon renewal technology and polyester renewal technology.

Plastics made with the raw materials produced using these Eastman technologies have a significantly lower carbon footprint than production processes for products made from fossil fuel-based raw materials, the company says.

“Thanks to the rapid innovation of polyester renewal technology, Tritan Renew adds certified recycled content to its exceptional performance and delivers one of the most exciting sustainability solutions available,” says Scott Ballard, vice president and general manager for Eastman Specialty Plastics.

Eastman is producing Tritan Renew with certified recycled content for a variety of durable products, including those made by CamelBak and Nalgene. The recycled content of these products is achieved through a mass balance allocation process certified by ISCC (International Sustainability & Carbon Certification), the company says.