With the current economic downturn and the collapse of commodity prices, it’s time to get serious about keeping problem packaging materials out of recycling plants. Certain packaging types need to be redesigned for recyclability or not introduced in the first place, as they gum up the works in material recovery facilities (MRFs) and create problems in collection, processing and marketing of finished materials (creating so-called “contaminated” bales).
Packaging continues to find exciting new shapes, designs and composition, but MRF operators are left handling a diversity of materials without the proper tools. There’s a disconnect between the people choosing the package and the people entrusted with diverting it from disposal. Either the packaging has to change, or new technology has to be invented to sort this stuff.
Perhaps tighter regulations could keep these materials out of the blue box, or steward fees could be raised for “problem materials.” We must engage the brand owners, packaging manufacturers and marketing experts for a joint solution. Perhaps if producers were made wholly responsible for the cost of end-of-life management, they’d change their packaging choices. — ed. (See Cover Story, page 8.)
NOTE: This article is based on a presentation Phil Zigby made at the AMRC fall conference in Niagara-on-the-Lake. For more information about the AMRC and it’s new name, see the Up Front section, pages 6-7.