Impacts of compostable plastics on composting and recycling
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Impacts of Compostable Plastics on Composting and Recycling. David Cornell Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR). APR Who we are. APR is the trade association of 90+% of the capacity in the plastic bottle recycling industry.

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Impacts of Compostable Plastics on Composting and Recycling

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Impacts of Compostable Plastics on Composting and Recycling

David Cornell

Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR)


APRWho we are

  • APR is the trade association of 90+% of the capacity in the plastic bottle recycling industry.

  • Our members focus on PET and HDPE bottles (96% of bottles), but also reclaim LDPE and PP and have interests in other resins.


APR

  • APR promotes Design for Recyclability guidelines for container design

  • APR has Guidance Documents to evaluate new packaging innovations

  • APR promotes plastics collection


APR Goal

  • The primary issue is SUPPLY

    More, good bottles (and film)


Recycled PET Uses

  • 43% of R-PET used for fiber, typically carpet

  • 36% of R-PET used for bottle and film packaging, including food contact

  • 16% of R-PET used for strapping

  • Rest includes engineering resin compounds for appliances and auto parts


Recycled HDPE Uses

  • 43% R-HDPE used for bottles (non-food)

  • 23% R-HDPE used for pipe

  • 11% R-HDPE used for automotive

  • Rest includes lumber, lawn & garden, crates/pallets/pails and films


Compostable Plastics

  • Recycled plastics are often used for DURABLE applications. Including degradables is often forbidden.

  • BUT, not every plastic application will be recycled.

  • SOMETIMES the most efficient solid waste option is to compost the plastic with other materials


Can We ‘Gather Together’?

  • Please, Do Not

  • Careful planning is necessary to be sure compostable plastics do not end up in the recycled plastic stream

  • Separate Collection, Please


Compatible?

  • Most plastics are snobs and do not mix well with others.

    • PVC and PET are incompatible

    • PLA and PET are incompatible

    • PP and PE are often incompatible

  • Mixed plastics are low valued for recycling.

  • Should isolate resins for quality and value.


What about Degradable Additives?

  • If they work, the concept is not helpful to durable and food applications next use.

  • No way to isolate; all bottles suspect

  • The potential for negative impact is huge until, if possible, ‘no harm’ is shown. Failures mean liabilities, maybe injuries

  • Testing must include the service life of recycled products

    (25 years for carpet, 9 years for strapping).


Degradable PET?

  • Recycling rate for PET CRV containers in California: 62%

  • Michigan redemption rate: 97%

  • Degradation unnecessary


Life Cycle Analysis

  • Recycling spreads Inherent Energy and burdens over multiple uses.

  • Composting loses Inherent Energy after one use.

  • LCI’s are likely to favor recycling IF recycling is practical.


PET LCA

  • Energy use relates to emissions

  • Energy:

    • Inherent: 30 M Joule/kg

      • Captured with recycling, lost with composting. Partly captured with heat recovery

    • Process and transport: 40 M Joule/kg

      • Lost when polymer made

  • 1 use = 70, 2 uses= 42, 3 uses = 33


RECYCLING 101

Success requires four prerequisites:

  • Enough, good, identifiable raw material

    (300-400 million pounds annually in USA)

    (consistent with tolerable contaminants)

    CRITICAL MASS OF SUPPLY

  • Processes to convert raw material to product

  • Products of sufficient value to return a profit

  • Investment


Next in Plastics Recycling

  • Today: bottles and PE films

  • Tomorrow:

    • Non-bottle rigid packaging

    • More flexible films

    • Foam: packaging and other

    • More automobile plastics and carpeting

    • More appliance plastics

    • More pipe, gutters, siding, cable wrap


Thanks


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