The truth about blister/clamshell recycling in America: preview

By Posted by Lisa McTigue Pierce in Smart Packaging on February 16, 2011

 

Disclosure: Sustainability in Packaging is presented by Pira International in association with Packaging Digest.

 

Chandler Slavin, sustainability coordinator at Dordan Manufacturing Co. Inc., is presenting at the Sustainability in Packaging conference on Feb. 23 at 3:40 p.m. in the End of Life/Waste Management session. The presentation, titled "Recycling Report: The Truth about Clamshell/Blister Recycling in America," is a condensed version of an extensive research report, which itself draws on over a year of independent research.

 

Slavin began researching recycling in the fall of 2009, when she first discovered that like most types of consumer product packaging, thermoformed containers—like the clamshells and blisters Dordan manufactures—are not recycled in 60 percent or more American communities. Therefore, they can't be considered "recyclable" as per the FTC Green Guides' definition. Upon this discovery, Slavin tried to uncover the obstacles keeping thermoformed plastic packaging out of the recovery system, with the hope that, in understanding the problem, the industry could develop solutions.

 

This simple inquiry, however, introduced Slavin to the complexities surrounding recycling in America. It illuminated the necessity of supply-chain collaboration, investment in technology and infrastructure, and the development and nourishment of domestic end markets for the post-consumer materials.

 

She explains, "The [packaging] industry, the waste-management industry and the [product] producers need to collaborate to decide how to design thermoform containers for recycling. We need to set up the infrastructure to recover them before consumers can begin to recycle them. The potential value of this growing PET packaging segment is not being successfully realized."

 

Despite the challenges, she is optimistic that the industry will be able to resolve the issues and technical challenges and create a PET thermoform recycling stream.

 

"I think it is only a matter of time because the demand for post-consumer PET recyclate far exceeds the supply," says Slavin, who served as the co-lead of the PET subcommittee of the Material Optimization Committee for Walmart Canada Corp. in winter 2010.

 

Slavin will discuss what is "recyclable" and why, the economics of recycling in America, the progress being made in recovering thermoforms and more during her presentation at the Doubletree Resort. While the focus of the presentation is on recycling PET thermoforms, Slavin hopes that her findings can be interpreted as analogy for the obstacles facing the inclusion of many types of consumer product packaging in the recycling infrastructure.

 

Source: Dordan Manufacturing Co. Inc.

 

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