Plastic bag makers face hurdle to meet goal of 40% recycled

22 April 2009 23:27  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--The plastic bag industry will have to invest in new equipment that processes used plastic in order to achieve its goal of incorporating 40% recycled content by 2015, a bag manufacturer said on Wednesday.

“We’re manufacturing thin-gauge films, so we need to get good, clean polyethylene [PE] resin that doesn’t have contaminants that would knock down our bubble,” said Mark Daniels, vice president of marketing and environmental affairs at Hilex Poly, a US plastic bag manufacturer.

Hilex currently incorporates 25% recycled content in its bags on average, Daniels said.

Most of that recycled content is post-industrial, such as cut-out scraps and off-spec production, but on average 5% of the resin Hilex uses is post-consumer, meaning it has already been used and discarded.

Through a reverse distribution arrangement with grocery stores, Hilex collects plastic films such as toilet paper and paper towel overwrap, newspaper wrap and grocery sacks at its reprocessing facility in North Vernon, Indiana.

“We shred it, wash it and compound it back into polyethylene resin pellets,” Daniels said.

Sorting out the different types of polyethylene is not critical because the melt index of the recycled pellet can vary, but removing paper and other non-plastic contaminants is essential, he said.

The technologies that can help with this cleaning process are still developing, according to Daniels, and recycling companies are getting better at supplying good pellets from post-consumer waste.

The Plastic Bag Affiliates, part of the American Chemistry Council, announced on Tuesday the initiative to increase the recycled content in plastic bags to 40% by 2015.

The group also established a six-year time frame for bringing post-consumer content in bags up to 25%, partly to allow time for the waste processing technology to catch up to rising demand for post-consumer resin, Daniels said.

($1 = €0.77)

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By: David Barry
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