Recycling and Energy Recovery

Plastics provide a wide range of benefits from lifesaving medical devices, to lighter more fuel efficient cars, better insulated homes, and packaging that protects contents and helps keep food fresh longer.  As with all materials, proper “post use” management helps ensure a more sustainable future for ourselves and our children. Plastic makers have long supported the recycling of used plastics, through technical innovation and material sortation and separation, to helping promote programs that encourage public participation in recycling.  Still, not all plastics can currently be recycled, and it would be a shame to bury these energy-rich materials forever in landfills.  Because they are made from energy, non-recycled plastics are uniquely well suited to provide energy back to communities, whether through conversion to steam that generates heat and electricity, or to synthetic gasses used as chemical feedstock, or to diesel fuel that can be used for transportation. Through a range of research, programs and partnerships plastic makers have developed examples of where recycling and energy recovery are helping communities around the globe maximize value from used plastics.  For examples, see:

North America

  • Curbside Value Partnership: The Curbside Value Partnership is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping communities improve their residential curbside programs by encouraging citizen’s to recycle. CVP engages recycling stakeholders (including government, private industry, haulers and materials recovery facilities) to identify solutions to improving curbside recycling programs through education and data analysis. Through this work, communities are able to increase the tons of materials recycled. ACC has been a sponsor of CVP since 2012. Visit www.recyclecurbside.org/ to learn more.
  • I Want To Be Recycled Campaign: Designed to motivate Americans to recycle every day, the “I Want To Be Recycled” campaign launched in 2013 as a partnership between Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council. ACC is a founding sponsor of the initiative which utilizes advertising that resonates with consumers and shows them that many everyday products, whether a plastic bottle or an aluminum can, among other products, have the potential to become something bigger when recycled. Visit www.iwanttoberecycled.org to learn more.
  • Measuring Recycled Plastics: ACC sponsors surveys that measure the amounts of plastics that are recycled annually. This allows us to track our progress and to identify areas in need of assistance. Our National Post-Consumer Plastic Bottle Recycling Report has continued since 1990, and in 2005, we began a separate annual survey to track the recycling of plastic bags, films, and product wraps. In 2012, we issued a fourth annual report on U.S. pounds of postconsumer non-bottle rigid plastics—packaging and non-packaging—recovered for recycling.
  • Economic Potential for Plastics-to-Oil in the United States: The “2014 Energy and Economic Value of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), Including Non-Recycled Plastics (NRP), Currently Landfilled in the Fifty States” study provides a wealth of information of how plastics are recycled, recovered for energy or landfilled in the fifty states. The report calculates the energy and fuels that could be derived and greenhouse gas emission avoided if Americans captured this resource for use.
  • UT Study: The “Residue-Derived Solid Recovered Fuel for Use in Cement Kilns” study is based on an actual pilot program. The study looks at the environmental benefits of using materials recovery facility residue as an alternative fuel to coal at cement kilns.
  • Plastics-to-Oil: The Plastics-to-Oil Technologies Alliance, a self-funded group of the American Chemistry Council, was founded in 2014 to work on enhancing public policy in support of technologies that convert non-recycled plastics into petroleum based products.
  • PTO economic study: The American Chemistry Council’s Economics Department found in 2014 that the United States could support up to 600 plastics-to-fuel (PTF) facilities and generate up to 39,000 jobs that support PTF operations.

Europe

  • Zero Plastics to Landfill – In 2012, the European plastics industry launched the initiative “Zero Plastics to Landfill”, which aims at reducing to zero the amount of post-consumer plastics waste sent to landfills in Europe by 2025. To achieve this goal, the plastics industry is calling for a European landfill ban of recyclable and other recoverable waste. Nine European countries already recover over 90% of their post-consumer plastics waste demonstrating that, whilst it is ambitious, zero plastics to landfill at a European level is a realistic objective. PlasticsEurope is supporting actions all across Europe and with a special focus on five European countries, which represent the largest quantities of waste being landfilled in Europe. These actions include:
    • An open dialogue with all relevant stakeholders and participation in collaborative projects targeting the improvement of plastics waste management
    • An analysis and dissemination of data on plastics waste generation, recycling and recovery in Europe
    • Sharing know-how and best practices
    • Communication campaigns to raise public awareness

Middle East

  • Waste Free Environment – Every year, thousands of school children and volunteers across the Arabian Gulf join hands to clean up their local environment for Waste Free Environment (WFE). An initiative from the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA), WFE aims to promote recycling and encourages a more responsible attitude towards litter disposal. Besides being a cleanup, each Waste Free Environment event has a strong educational component, teaching participants to reduce, reuse and recycle; how to recycle by explaining what goes where; and promoting that materials such as plastics can have a useful second life.In 2015, the third edition of Waste Free Environment, clean ups took place in 20 locations in 10 cities: Jubail, Yanbu, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Ruwais, Dubai, Doha, Sohar, Manama and Kuwait City. For the first time, WFE was celebrated not only in the Arabian Gulf, but successfully exported to Mumbai in India and Sittard/Geleen in the Netherlands. In total 10,881 people participated in the campaign including students from 119 schools and 72 divers. Jointly, they collected 52 tons of waste that was transferred to recycling facilities.

    WFE is a key element in GPCA’s broader advocacy activities and with the support of its members, GPCA will continue to expand the initiative by stretching the event further around the globe. The next Waste Free Environment in 7-11 February 2016.

    (You may download all above referenced reports in the members section of the site)