The Association of Plastic Recyclers announced the development of the “APR Plastic Sorting Best Management Practices Guide,” to encourage the standardization of data collected during waste characterization studies. The Plastic Sorting BMPs are intended to help the solid waste industry better understand the different types of plastic materials in the current recycling stream for comparison, to develop trending data, and to improve the industry’s knowledge about the composition of plastic waste by expanding on the current methodology. The BMP’s do not change any categories but add clarity to the existing categories that could provide more insight because the industry is naming, dividing, and sorting consistently.
Municipalities and states regularly sort their waste and recycling streams, but there is not a consistent use of terminology and categorization used by all. The BMPs define plastic sorting categories by resin and form, with categories aligning with plastic recycling commodities traded after sorting at MRFs. The terminology aligns with annual plastic recycling tracking.
APR’s standards place plastics into five categories:
Three sorting levels provide flexibility on how extensive a study is necessary. For example, PET, HDPE natural and HDPE color are common plastic commodities nationwide; almost every recycling program is recycling the sub-categories in Level 1. While Levels 2 and 3 add more sub-categories so that the solid waste and recycling industry and municipal policies, that will always vary somewhat, will find the BMPs useful.
With the tonnage of waste increasing every year and the challenges of National Sword policies, it is more important than ever to collect data consistently to improve recovery and understand the volume of specific types of plastics to make the appropriate capital investments in infrastructure.
The solid waste industry is positioning itself to meet increased demand and enhance the quality while suppliers consider how to adapt their packaging for a future of greater recycling and reuse. Municipalities can identify more easy-to-regulate commodities for increasing commodity sales.
Quoted recently in Resource Recycling, Stacey Demers of SCS Engineers explained that standardization is a great idea to help municipalities know the percentage of recyclable plastics in their waste stream and what their program needs to target later on.