In This Issue:
2016 was a busy year for CPIA, and rather than telling you about it, we thought we'd show you what we were up to over many months. To that end, we've created an infographic that highlights key sustainability area achievements and activities in 2016. From noting that more Canadians can recycle even more types of plastic packaging in local programs to celebrating a 3% increase in plastic packaging recycling, we're proud of the achievements of the past. We hope you enjoy it. Click here to view full infographic
A look at supermarket shelves these days reveals that flexible plastic packaging is becoming more prevalent than ever before. While it offers benefits for the safe and convenient delivery of food from chips to fresh food wraps to juice pouches, we know it also challenges consumers who often don’t know what to do with it. Wishful recycling often means people default to putting it into the recycling bins. But, because end markets don’t exist for these materials yet, it doesn’t belong there.
To ensure CPIA's online Image Bank provides the up-to-date images you need, we've just added a new section for flexible plastic packaging focusing on several types of plastic pouches. These free-to-use, unbranded images will help recycling program educators develop communication materials that illustrate what residents should recycle.
The first set includes images of four of the most common plastic pouches. In the coming weeks, the section will be expanded to include a variety of shapes and sizes used for packaging.
We always welcome your comments and suggestions about how to continue to improve the Image Bank for you – contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As in 2016, an oversupply of low-priced virgin materials and lower oil prices continue to challenge prices for recycled resins but there are three notable trends worth watching through 2017.
Impact of extended producer responsibility
Extended Producer Responsibility and circular economy discussions are likely to continue with new legislation (like the Waste-Free Ontario Act) coming on-stream, requiring recovery of a consistent and broader range of plastics. With a dependable, high quality supply of recovered materials, end markets may be more likely to invest in high-tech processing to produce resins that can better compete with virgin.
Corporate sustainability programs
Last October, retail giant Walmart rolled out a playbook for evaluating packaging sustainability in its US operations1. In Canada, Walmart's sustainability guidelines also include "Responsible packaging", encouraging suppliers to increase recycled content and use recyclable materials as much as possible. We see this as a potential indicator of similar initiatives to come.
Innovation in recovery and recycling processes
2016 saw the emergence of new end markets that promise to expand demand for recovered plastics. These markets encompass mechanical recycling, chemical recycling (where plastics are broken down to single monomers and redeveloped into resins) and recovering plastics to convert to fuel sources. Many programs have also put in place new technologies and expanded promotion and education efforts to recover higher quality materials - at curbside and through municipal and retail-based depots. These efforts are expected to support demand for recycled plastic materials in the circular economy.
Impact on recycling programs?
We don't expect to see a quick change in market prices for recovered plastics. However, Jerry Powell of Resource Recycling reports2 that across the US, prices for recovered plastics are beginning to inch up with MRF managers receiving about $10/ton more for PET and HDPE than previously. Matched with a new report3 that indicates a significant increase in demand for all kinds of plastics, we're cautiously optimistic about the potential that signals like these hold for markets for plastics recovered across Canada.
Find out more:
CPIA's Plastic Newsfeed
Plastics Make It Possible: weekly updates on new uses for recycled and virgin plastics
CIF Price Sheet: Ontario spot markets on plastics and other materials
For inquiries about markets for plastics in your program, contact a CPIA regional representative
1 Plasticstoday.com, October 31, 2016
2 Resource Recycling, Recycling markets continue to rise, Jan. 10, 2017
3 Plastics News, Report: US plastics industry seeing growth in employment, plant expansions, Jan. 12, 2017
In its new Sustainability Living Plan, Unilever, a multi-national consumer goods corporation has committed to ambitious sustainability goals that integrate circular economy concepts throughout its manufacturing processes, from the design stage on. This expands on a prior commitment to reduce the weight of its packaging worldwide by one third by 2020 and to increase the use of post-consumer plastics by 25% in 2025, measured against a 2015 baseline.
Specifically, Unilever has committed to:
The plastic-laminate initiative is aimed at providing new solutions for recycling an increasingly popular plastic packaging material to reduce the amount that emerges as litter or enters waterways as waste material. This far-reaching program assumes collaboration of suppliers, producers, retailers, customers and consumers working together to achieve a new, practical vision of sustainability.
Contributing to system change
With new technologies for recycling, an expanded focus on end-market development and a defined commitment to practicing circular economy principles, this statement offers promise to promote sustainability worldwide. According to the MacArthur Foundation, with these initiatives, "Unilever is contributing to tangible system change and sends a strong signal to the entire fast-moving consumer goods industry" that will help convert the circular economy principle into reality. It's hard to say exactly what changes will result from this commitment but we'll be watching carefully and providing updates on developments over the months to come.
A new study conducted of over 2,000 US residents shows that overwhelmingly, people are learning to recognize fact from fiction when it comes to recycling. In an online poll conducted by Harris Polling for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, respondents were asked if they agree that material placed in a residential recycling bin is just mixed with trash later anyway. Only 11% agreed this was true.
Similarly, and belying the 11% who distrust recycling, just 7% of respondents agreed that recycling offers little or no economic benefits and only 5% agreed that it doesn't help conserve energy or natural resources. What's more, nearly 50% of respondents indicated instead that recycling actually helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Results of the poll further indicate that consumers recognize the value of end market uses of recyclables, with only 8% stating that they believe goods made from recyclables are inferior to those made from virgin materials. Plus, nearly 30% of respondents understand that recycling is highly technical and sophisticated industry with the potential to supply a good amount of raw materials to satisfy manufacturing requirements nation-wide.
This is a big win
For the many people who work in and around the recycling industry, there's always been a question of how to explain the process and address perceptions of low-value materials and expensive processes. Yet, despite the rise of 'fake news', and the fact that problems do occur from time to time, consumers now recognize the value of recycling for their communities, the environment and for the economy as a whole. Even though this is a US study, it might hold some truths for Canadians, too.