Canadian Plastics Watch

Canadian Plastics Industry Association Newsletter on Environmental & Sustainability Initiatives | Fall 2018

In This Issue:

CPIA establishes 100% target for reuse, recycling & recovery of plastics packaging by 2040

 CPIA and its members have made a bold commitment to a future without plastics waste. On behalf of our members and with the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC), on June 4 we announced shared societal goals to reduce plastic packaging waste as follows:

  • 100% of plastic packaging is recyclable or recoverable by 2030
  • 100% of plastic packaging is reused, recycled, or recovered by 2040

Is this achievable?

We think it is, but only with substantial investment across the value chain, in new and upgraded infrastructure, sustainable procurement policies both public and private and improved packaging design. It will also need commitments from government and members of the public to put in place and use programs that reduce litter and require fill participation in reuse, recycling and recovery programs.

What's happening now?

CPIA and CIAC members are working with Canada’s federal and provincial governments and many others to expand recycling and recovery options for plastics, with innovation for processes such as the new advanced plastics molecular recycling technologies to make new plastic feedstocks and manufacturing materials to achieve these bold goals.

As one step in this direction, in late June, along with the Waterloo Institute of Sustainable Energy and many other partners, CPIA hosted a two-day conference to roll up our sleeves and start working to develop a better understanding of the true barriers as well as new opportunities in technology and policy that will help achieve these goals. More on this below.

Not just in Canada – Its global!

It's important to note that we're not working alone. CPIA’s sustainability targets align with our counterpart associations, PlasticsEurope and the American Chemistry Council, all of whom are demonstrating leadership by setting aggressive targets and working hard to meet them. With several organizations combining forces to achieve similar goals, albeit in different ways, with information-sharing and collaboration, these goals become much more attainable. Watch for updates in this e-newsletter.

For more information: CPIA Press Release

CPIA seeks industry input to expand the resource recovery framework for plastics in Canada

  Policy-makers, companies and government staff around the world are working to integrate circular economy and zero waste principles into strategies to guide waste management and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) activities. This past June, at the two-day Resource Recovery Partnership Conference (RRPC), they worked together to help define what the circular economy means for products and packaging design, and the systems we use to manage and re-value them at the end of their 'first lives.'

Organized by CPIA; the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy (WISE); the City of London; University of Western Ontario’s Institute for Chemicals and Fuels from Alternative Resources (ICFAR); University of Waterloo; and PacNext, the conference goal was "to engage international experts, policymakers, researchers, business leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs in helping to shape a broader approach to a resource recovery framework,” said CPIA’s President and CEO, Carol Hochu.

It succeeded, with more than 170 attendees participating actively in discussions that will help define the future of resource recovery and sustainability for plastic products and packaging in Canada.

Framing and facilitating meaningful conversations

Organizers set the stage by inviting participants to review a Primer for Developing an Advanced Resource Recovery Framework before the conference, as a starting point for discussions on:

  • The role resource recovery practices such as mixed waste processing, mechanical biological treatment and energy from waste should play in helping provinces achieve diversion goals
  • How feedstock supplies should be directed toward resource recovery facilities
  • The types of innovative opportunities that exist for the government to support leadership and development of resource recovery technologies in Canada, and
  • New ways to de-risk emerging technologies to support resource recovery sector investment and development from research through pilot projects to full commercialization (see CPIA Member Companies ReVital Polymers, Pyrowave and INEOS Styrolution partner to launch closed-loop North American polystyrene recycling consortium below).

It's not too late to contribute to the conversation

Insights from this conference will be crystallized in a draft white paper on Developing an Advanced Resource Recovery Framework that we will share with conference participants and CPIA stakeholders in the coming weeks. We'll invite your input via webinar and written comments.

As the landscape for resource recovery continues to change, this topic remains one of the most important issues for stakeholders in the plastics industry today. Should you be interested in learning more about the RRPC content, we invite you to click here to review the slides or click here to watch the videos.

For more information at RRPC or the white paper: Please email: Fergal McDonough

Industry innovation spurs new diversion approaches

It's not news that some of the characteristics of plastics that are most beneficial for advanced packaging systems – such as protecting and extending shelf life for food and having exceptionally low carbon footprints compared to other recyclable packaging – can create challenges for recyclers at their end-of-life. We also know that sometimes technology and end markets simply need time to develop so new materials and formats can be included in 'blue box recyclables'.

As an option we're now seeing 'out of the box' approaches that succeed in managing newer, advanced packaging materials such as multi-material laminate structures, reminding us that there's no single, 'best' answer for waste diversion. The reality is that we will not be able to mechanically recycle our way to 100% diversion, so other diversion options are needed to move the needle. The expertise and innovation that the plastics industry brings to developing new applications is equally valuable in creating diversion options for newer packaging types.

Flexible packaging can challenge recycling systems

“Flexible” packaging - chip bags, juice pouches, standup pouches, pudding cups and the like keep products fresh and safe while reducing packaging and associated greenhouse gas emissions, throughout the package or product's lifecycle.

Once used, newer types of packaging like these challenge traditional recycling programs because:

1.     Materials laminated together are difficult to recycle
2.     Small items in lower volumes are difficult to separate for recovery
3.     End markets and technologies need time to catch up with newer materials

The Hefty® EnergyBag® collection program increases diversion in a new way

The Hefty® EnergyBag® program, currently in use in the US, is an innovative way of 'thinking outside the box' with a recovery approach that solves end-of-life challenges for hard-to-recycle plastics like flexible packaging, and the #4 - #6 plastics no longer accepted by China. The program was originally piloted in 2014 and has since expanded to several full-scale programs in communities which demonstrate that the Hefty® EnergyBag® program can divert impressive amounts of these material that often aren't collected or are sorted out of traditional recycling systems. Since inception of the program through August 2018, over 152 tons of these hard-to-recycle materials have been diverted from landfills. This is equivalent to converting these materials into about 727 barrels of diesel fuel, thereby reducing the amount of virgin oil and natural gas needed to be mined and processed. 

A goal of the program is to help advance a circular economy by allowing conversion technologies, such as pyrolysis and gasification, to develop to the point where they can create chemical feedstocks at the scale and quality to make new plastics – from non-recycled plastics.  

Consumers purchase branded Hefty® EnergyBag® orange bags that they fill with hard-to-recycle plastics - like chip bags, frozen fruit and vegetable bags, microwave pouches, plastic dishware, straws, plastic utensils, plastic toothpaste tubes, packaging peanuts - that aren't usually recycled at a material recovery facility. 

What happens to these plastics?

The program uses the existing waste management infrastructure. The orange bags, once full, are placed in the recycling bin or cart where they are picked up by a regular hauler on a regular recycling day and taken to the local material recycling facility (MRF) where they are pulled out at the front end, baled and shipped to the approved end-market to be converted into new valuable resources. The orange bags are never opened and never go through the MRF. Detailed waste audits have proven that the quality of materials is acceptable for use in energy recovery technologies, thus decreasing the amount of material sent to landfill. Further, removing these loose, hard-to-recycle plastics from the MRF stream can improve the quality of the traditional blue box recyclable streams which is critical in this new era of limited markets as we adjust to China and other jurisdictions that are limiting imports of recyclables. A future goal and opportunity is to create a feedstock to manufacture new plastic resins to align with a circular economy model of using plastics to make new plastics. 

The bottom line

This approach supports traditional diversion programs and promotes a sustainable materials management (SMM) life cycle approach and low carbon objectives to supercharge the goals of the circular economy. It helps to capture more valuable plastic resources and increase the quality of recycling commodities that are being sold into today’s quality conscious markets. Plus, in the interim, it provides a new way to divert valuable plastics out of landfill until traditional mechanical and/or chemical recycling system infrastructures can be established.  

New approaches like the Hefty® EnergyBag® are valuable in promoting additional diversion and by expanding conversations about how to manage the changing material mix. It's this type of innovation that will support the development of advanced conversion technologies (such as pyrolysis and gasification) and find new ways to achieve the ‘plastics to plastics’ circular model goals.

For more information, go to Hefty® EnergyBag® or watch a Hefty® EnergyBag® video.

CPIA Member Companies ReVital Polymers, Pyrowave and INEOS Styrolution partner to launch closed-loop North American polystyrene recycling consortium 

  • Three industry leaders collaborate to close loop by recycling single-serve polystyrene packaging
  • Advanced recycling technology will help to reduce amount of polystyrene packaging going to landfill
  • Canadian solution to tackle the global problem of plastic pollution in waterways and oceans

At the G7 Ministerial Meeting on Working Together on Climate Change, Oceans and Clean Energy in Halifax on September 19, three industry leaders involved with post-consumer packaging recovery – ReVital Polymers, Pyrowave and INEOS Styrolution – announced a strategic partnership to use advanced recycling technology pioneered by Pyrowave to recycle polystyrene packaging collected in consumer curbside and depot recycling systems as well as other sources such as restaurants, offices, schools and universities. This Canadian solution will not only reduce the amount of polystyrene packaging going to landfill but will also address the global problem of plastic pollution in marine environments. Read more >

Keeping coffee pods out of landfill  

About one-third of Canadian households use single-serve coffee makers regularly. The ubiquitous single-serve pods offer the benefit of brewing only the amount of coffee to be consumed, avoiding the need to pour un-consumed coffee down the drain. They also reduce lifecycle impacts such as energy consumption and waste.

Until recently, however, the plastic pods were mostly relegated to the garbage after use. That’s changing now with new commitments to use sustainable plastic resins that improve the potential for resource recovery and diversion of the pods.

Capital investments in research and development have made plastic coffee pods compatible with blue box and green compost bin programs. There are three main types: pods made from polypropylene (PP) or polystyrene (PS), pods made of compostable plastics and those made of aluminum.

What is the fate of your favourite pod?

Plastic pods made from PP or PS can be optically sorted at material recycling facilities (MRF) for recycling. In a Keurig-Recycle B.C. pilot program to test recovery in a MRF setting, partner Emterra Environmental recovered an average of 92% of the new recyclable plastic K-Cup® pods. As a result of the pilot, Recycle B.C., British Columbia’s industry stewardship program, added recyclable coffee pods to its range of accepted materials

For pods made from certified compostable plastic resins, CPIA is a member of and working with the Compost Council of Canada Certified Compostables Committee to develop and promote certified compostable policies for compostable packaging and products that aim to produce quality compost product.

Finally, coffee capsules composed of aluminum can also be recycled through retail take-back programs. 

Educating consumers about recycling options

This is a new aspect of recycling so it's vital to educate consumers about the opportunity and how to 'recycle right'. Some brand owners label pod lids and packaging with instructions: remove the aluminum lid, empty and compost used coffee grounds, and recycle or compost, depending on the pod.

Along with information supplied by brandowners, CPIA's Image Bank features a new selection of coffee pod photos that municipal recycling programs can use in their promotion and education. It's another way of taking the message to consumers and residents to increase awareness and ensure materials are prepared properly so that valuable plastics like these continue their lives as part of the circular economy.

Also in this issue, three short items that are noteworthy

  • Yes, black plastics are recyclable
  • Update on municipal bans on plastics packaging
  • Environmental impact of plastic bags scientifically proven to be lower than alternatives

Yes, Black plastics are recyclable:
Over the past few months, there have been media reports about black plastics not being recyclable. According to a study completed by Scout Environmental for CPIA, technologies currently exist to capably identify black plastics to be processed for recycling. A recent blog from the Continuous Improvement Fund identified challenges in recycling some black plastics, but suggests with time and appropriate focus, some of these can be overcome and indicating one Ontario recycler identifies 'black plastics as "an indispensable element of its processing and marketing regimes". View: Technical Report(Scout Environmental, 2018) and CIF June 4 Blog           

Update on municipal bans on plastics packaging:
Despite the increases in access to recycling for many materials; the increase in recovery and expanding technology to process materials, some municipalities are continuing with plans to achieve zero waste by banning items such as plastic bags, straws or foam take out containers. CPIA is working with City of Vancouver staff to demonstrate the recyclability of subject materials to prevent what we see as a mistake, that will ultimately pose a threat to achieving zero waste and building a circular economy. View CPIA May 17 Press Release

Environmental impact of plastic bags scientifically proven to be lower than alternatives:
Results of a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) conducted by the Government of Quebec found that no replacement option has an environmental advantage in the event of a ban on plastic shopping bags. Rather, LCAs have shown that show scientifically that a ban on plastic shopping bags will actually harm the environment with options that have a significantly greater carbon footprint that the single use options. View CPIA May 9 Press Release

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