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Plastics Recycling project reveals chance for even more sustainability

Editor: Briggette Jaya

U.S.-based organisation that supports the entire plastics supply chain, Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS), has just released the results of its Secondary Sorting Demonstration Project.

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The project covered 60 days of operation in Portland — receiving, sorting and measuring the possible recovery from two types of material streams from four MRFs.
The project covered 60 days of operation in Portland — receiving, sorting and measuring the possible recovery from two types of material streams from four MRFs.
(Source: PLASTICS)

The first-of-its-kind Pacific Northwest Secondary Sorting Demonstration Project (PNW Sort), headed by PLASTICS, is a collaborative group project of government and packaging industry companies, with the goal to determine how a wider range of materials can be captured from the residential recycling stream.

The project made use of a portable Secondary Material Recovery Facility (secondary MRF) that operated for 60 days in Portland — receiving, sorting and measuring the possible recovery from two types of material streams from four MRFs located in Oregon and Washington. Titus MRF Services operated the facility and provided the equipment for the project.

Materials recovered in this study included polyethylene, mixed paper, cartons, polypropylene, polystyrene, and PET bottles and thermoforms. The results of PNW Sort suggest that a regional secondary sorting MRF sized to serve the populations of both Oregon and Washington would:

• Increase material recovery or landfill diversion by more than 50,000 tonnes (100 million pounds) per year, which is equivalent to 2,500 semi-trailer truckloads of recovered materials bound for recycling facilities.

Increase the recovery rate by 3 % to 6 % without significant programme changes or investments.

• Generate 46 green jobs per Secondary MRF.

• Reduce the generation of greenhouse gases by more than 130,000 tonnes per year, which is equivalent to taking more than 27,600 cars off of the road.

• Enable future expansion of the accepted materials list without needing to retrofit primary MRFs.

• Provide accountability for all collected recyclable materials and eliminate the risk of potential mismanagement and pollution.

“Projects like this are important as we work towards a more sustainable system nationwide,” commented Scott Farling, vice president of business development and research at Titus. He added that top producing primary MRFs can recover almost 90% of recycled materials from the waste stream. This project, as such, was to explore even higher recovery of what remains like low-volume and “difficult to manually sort” materials along with machine yield losses.

“Our biggest takeaway following this pilot programme is that a secondary sorting facility model is a viable option to help meet the ever-increasing demand for recycled materials,” said Tony Radoszewski, president and CEO of PLASTICS. Radoszewski hopes that the data from this report can help inform state and local decision makers on how to improve their recovery systems.

The project was funded by the American Chemistry Council, Amsty, Berry Global, the Carton Council, Lyondell Basell, Metro (Portland Metro Regional Government), Milliken & Company and PLASTICS.

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