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Flexible film plastic packaging report outlines challenges, opportunities

Plastic films currently represent around 35% of the plastics packaging stream in Ontario with some types of flexible films growing at rates of over 5% annually – and given this volume and growth, there is an increased interest and need to...


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June 4, 2013 by Canadian Plastics

Plastic films currently represent around 35% of the plastics packaging stream in Ontario with some types of flexible films growing at rates of over 5% annually – and given this volume and growth, there is an increased interest and need to ensure this packaging stream is effectively managed after use, according to a new study.

Undertaken by the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, the Continuous Improvement Fund and Stewardship Ontario, the report assesses the current barriers, opportunities, and associated costs involved in collecting and processing flexible film plastics packaging. According to a statement by Toronto-based CPIA, the objectives of the project were to conduct a comprehensive study of flexible film packaging in the marketplace and in Ontario households to understand what is available and recyclable today and the issues at material recycling facilities (MRFs) and at plastic re-processors; identify available commercial and upcoming pre-commercial technologies that can sort film in MRFs or at a re-processing operation; identify possible packaging design changes to increase recyclability; and assess the cost drivers and associated costs to collect film both at both curbside and at return centres for recycling and recovery.

The report reached several conclusions. First, it determined, there is excess recycling capacity in North American for clean polyethylene film (PE) being generated today; to promote greater recycling of flexible films, in the short term, efforts should be focused on collecting clean PE stream separately.

Second, return centres for PE-based collection are proving to be the most cost effective option to provide a clean source although with lower recovery rates compared to curbside collection; curbside collection of PE film, on the other hand, can achieve higher recovery levels but requires further development of additional domestic wash capacity.

Third, collecting mixed films with PE film, at this time, is not economically viable due to the lack of cost effective sorting technologies and end market uses; however, mixed films can be used as an energy source or converted to a fuel for which there is excess demand.

The joint project was initiated in the fall of 2012, and carried out by a consulting consortium comprised of Reclay StewardEdge, Resource Recycling Systems, and Moore Recycling Associates.

For further information on this project, contact the Canadian Plastics Industry Association: Cathy Cirko, ccirko@plastics.ca; Continuous Improvement Fund: Mike Birett, mbirett@wdo.ca; or Stewardship Ontario: Rick Denyes, denyes@stewardshipontario.ca.