US Plastics Pact sees big changes in packaging

By the end of the year, the pact plans to publish its list of “problematic or unnecessary” packaging that member companies want to phase out by 2025. Tipaldo said the list shows how the pact’s goals are intertwined, because replacing hard-to-recycle resins with other materials or reusable packaging will make it easier for the pact to reach its 50 percent recycling rate.

The group, she said, will “think through what the resins are and” [packaging] Formats that we really have to maximize to get that 50 percent piece. “

Tipaldo said the group had discussed in its working sessions how the United States tends to dislike “bad lists” of products that should be restricted in trade. But she also sees that the attitude towards packaging is changing with regard to the choice of materials.

“We enjoyed that companies can do what they want,” she said. “However, I think that because of the challenges we have seen, companies have come to realize that if that is the goal we need to achieve a circular economy for plastics, then we need to look at the packaging cycle.” Format X or the inclusion of this particular material in packaging format X. “

Part of the discussions in the pact will be guided by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s definition of what is recyclable. It states that a packaging material should have a recycling rate of at least 30 percent in order to be used.

However, Tipaldo conceded that under that definition, most, if not all, plastic packaging in the United States would currently fail.

“The harsh reality of using the EMF definition for recyclable packaging means that depending on the definition, it is questionable whether a PET bottle in the US meets that definition,” she said.

But she said the group will also look at what path a packaging material will take to be recyclable, reusable or compostable.

“Just because it’s not recyclable today doesn’t mean it’s problematic or unnecessary,” she said. “We should meet this definition of recyclable packaging in the context of recycling by 2025.”

EPA figures show that for 2018, the last available year, only two types of plastic packaging hit just under 30 percent. PET bottles and HDPE natural bottles were at 29.1 and 29.3 percent, respectively. But the overall recycling rate for plastics in packaging and containers was 13.6 percent and much less for other materials, the EPA said.

The overall rate for polypropylene packaging was 2.7 percent (PP bottles were 8 percent), while polystyrene packaging was 3.6 percent. Low density PE bags, films and sacks and linear low density PE material had a recycling rate of 13.3 percent.

Assessing the potential of a given resin is complicated, Tipaldo said, referring, for example, to ongoing discussions and investments in polypropylene recycling.

The plastics and consumer goods industries announced last year $ 35 million to encourage recycling of PP packaging.

“Polypropylene falls short of some of these things, but not of all,” she said. “Polypropylene is unique in that the material has great value and there are markets.

“The main thing we miss out on is sorting,” she said. “Not all material recovery plants are equipped to separate polypropylene, so some of them lose this value.”

However, Tipaldo said the pact will look at investing in certain materials or types of packaging to solve recycling problems and see if that is enough to address deficiencies. If not, the material could run into problems, at least when used by Pact members.

“There are certain products on the market today that have a lot of industry invested in,” she said. “There are other things on the market today that are not as committed and I think red flags might pop up and you have to start asking, ‘What does the future of this material or format really mean?'”

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