In This Issue:
If you are one of the many people across Canada who regularly visits CPIA’s Image Bank for high quality, no-charge and royalty-free images of plastic packaging and ready-to-go ads, you’ll want to know about our latest addition to this rich resource of plastic packaging images.
Available now is a series of infographics called “What Becomes What” that depict some of the new products made from post-consumer plastic packaging.
Vivid and colourful, the infographics are designed for recycling educators to use as motivational tools to educate and encourage consumers to improve their recycling performance. They are free and easy to download and use as jpg, tiff or eps files that can be added to your website, used in electronic or print newsletters or posted to social media. The series includes five material groups so educators can use them as a repeating series. They’re great to tweet and retweet.
At CPIA, we know it can take hours to find just the right photo to convey a message and to clarify exactly what you mean in communication materials. That’s where the Image Bank adds value. You can select images from more than 145 items on the site…and we are continually adding more. Bookmark the site so it's easy to check back to see what’s new.
As always, we welcome your suggestions about what’s needed on the Image Bank. And we definitely would like to hear what you think of our latest additions, the “What Becomes What” infographics. Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The term "Evolving Tonne" continues to aptly describe what is happening in recycling programs for packaging and printed paper. We regularly have access to new products and packages that benefit from technical advances that further the goals of sustainability from cradle, back to cradle. These include lower weight, high performance packaging options that frequently replace heavier packaging. Where typical recycling bins used to contain up to 45% newsprint, chances are that's less than 25% today. Glass jars, cans and paper packaging have been replaced by a proliferation of plastic-based options. Several plastic containers like PET pop bottles have changed, too; they can be as much as 50% lighter than they were 20 years ago1.
So what does this mean for recyclers?
Measuring the amount of waste diverted, through recycling and other means is vital to understanding our operations. It's the basis of costing that's critical to our programs, and it’s essential to long-term planning for close-to-home issues such as landfill and MRF planning and costing, and for broader issues such as climate change and greenhouse gas reduction. The question is, are we tracking the right metrics?
The most common measurement for recyclers is weight-based: how much paper and packaging do we divert from landfill. But now, when the average bin of recyclables is lighter, a common question is: is weight the right indicator to use to track progress?
In a recent webinar2 and article series3, US-based consultants suggested a change to goal-setting and measurement for recycling. Rather than focusing exclusively on weight-based measurement as packages become progressively lighter, they suggest considering the overall environmental impacts of a product's manufacturing, use and disposal. Using a life-cycle approach, the analysis suggests targeting specific materials for recycling that offer the greatest overall sustainability benefits and measuring diversion accordingly.
It's a start
With CPIA members, we will continue to seek information to identify sustainability solutions for plastic products and packaging and see this as an important and timely discussion. Over the months to come, we expect more discussions of this nature as packages continue to become lighter and more diverse and challenge the current approach to measuring waste diversion impacts.
It's not every day that you get to take a behind-the-scenes look at not one, but two state-of-the-art waste management facilities but that's what a group of 30 policy-makers, industry experts and government representatives did on September 15, courtesy of the CPIA Resource Recovery Tour.
Urban Polymers and the Durham York Energy Centre opened their doors to CPIA's tour of their Greater Toronto Area facilities; demonstrating two completely different, but compatible approaches to the circular economy in action.
As we all set out our end-of-life products at the curb, it's easy to forget about the value they offer at this stage in the reverse supply chain, when separated out for recycling or directed to sustainable energy recovery systems.
Viewing the activities at these facilities offered tour participants a timely reminder of the value of secondary resource materials, as well as the technical ingenuity and the care in collection and processing that help make sure these resources are managed sustainably in energy recovery and recycling.
Coming up in November!
On November 16, the conversation about circular economy options for plastic packaging continues with a CPIA information session that focuses on chemical recycling and conversion technologies.
And, in case you missed it...
In June, we hosted the third annual Resource Recovery Partnerships Workshop featuring presentations by specialists in several areas related to sustainability. Their presentations are all available for review on our website: Resource Recovery Partnerships Workshop presentations
For more information email email@example.com.
Lower oil prices combined with the oversupply of some virgin resins continue to apply pressure on prices in Canada for recycled plastics. When priced lower than recycled resins, virgin resins often gain the edge - except among customers who focus on sustainability and are using more recycled content in products and packaging.
US experts suggest the impacts of lower oil prices may be the new normal, anticipating a period of five years until the price of oil climbs back to the $70 to $80/barrel range, and thereby, shifting a competitive pricing edge to recycled resins. Overcapacity in US virgin resin production, trends to lightweighting bottles (demanding less resin) and more moderate growth of new opportunities to substitute plastics for other containers further limits for growth in existing markets.
Despite these trends, Fredonia Report (November 2016) suggests US demand for recycled plastic may rise by 6% by the end of 2016 and more over the coming years. The authors cite increased emphasis on sustainability in packaging choices, combined with improved technology to sort and process materials. This may temper the impact of low oil prices, as the report suggests bottle recycling will lead with stronger growth in PET markets and a bit less for HDPE. Expected rebounds in construction may also fuel demand for LDPE and PS.
What does this mean for Canadian markets?
Recovery of plastics has increased by 3% over the past year as indicated in our most recent report on the Amount of Post-Consumer Plastic Recycled in Canada. As programs continue to enhance processing efficiency with optical sortation and resident education, contamination may decrease. Programs that offer higher quality material streams will likely gain a competitive edge over those that don't.
Markets for recyclables will always depend on your program design in terms of collection, sortation and promotion to encourage better quality recyclables from residents at the curbside or depot. However, we often turn to the CIF Ontario Price Sheet as an indicator of overall trends and in the most recent issue, we see:
Markets for polystyrene foam continue to pose challenges. Global markets for densified foam are 30% to 40% lower since 2015 with processors charging a fee to handle these materials. Quality remains the key to accessing end markets.
Questions about markets for your program?
CPIA program representatives welcome your call to discuss specific questions or trends that you've noticed.
Canadian Plastics Recycling Market Spotlight
Three months after Ontario-based plastics processor Entropex went into receivership, Emmie Leung and Tony Moucachen announced they had formed a partnership to buy the assets and restart the company in a staged manner under a new name, vision and mission.
Entropex had processed post-consumer rigid plastic packaging for the manufacturing of new, sustainable consumer and automotive products. When it went into receivership, President Keith Bechard said in a statement that despite best efforts, the company had “struggled to meet financial challenges caused by the dramatic decline in oil prices and the very competitive business environment.”
Leung said it will be a challenge to turn the company around but she and Moucachen are committed to revitalizing the business and bringing green economy jobs back to the Sarnia area.
“We understand the need to develop and deliver programs and services to customers to improve recovery and value throughout the reverse supply chain. We’ll be taking a long look at how we can provide effective, sustainable and responsible solutions to plastics recycling that maximize the value of the recovered materials in closed-loop cycles,” she said.
Moucachen said the new company will “create products that help our customers – producers and brand owners – achieve the best possible environmental outcomes that result in cost efficient end-of-life product management.”
Both are veterans in the North American resource recycling industry – Leung is the founder and CEO of Emterra Group and Moucachen is founder and CEO of Merlin Plastics Group.
Emterra, headquartered in Burlington, Ontario is a waste management company that provides municipal and industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) customers with services to collect, process and market waste, recyclables, organic waste and used tires, as well as secure product destruction. It has operations across Canada and in the State of Michigan, USA.
Merlin Plastics is headquartered in Delta, BC and serves customers throughout Canada and the USA, processing industrial and post-consumer rigid and flexible plastic packaging.
Merlin Plastics and Emterra are business partners in another venture (Green By Nature) which processes and markets recyclables collected in the Multi-Material British Columbia (MMBC) extended producer responsibility program for packaging and printed paper.
The use of plastics in all kinds of applications including automotive, healthcare and, of course, packaging is growing steadily. Plastics Europe4 puts the global growth over the 50-year period from 1964 to 2014 at a 20-fold increase, from 15 million metric tonnes (MT) to 311 MT. In the waste management industry, we see evidence of the growing presence of plastics in recycling collection bins and at material recovery facilities (MRFs).
There’s no disputing that plastics offer a range of benefits to society from extending the shelf life of food to producing lighter weight vehicles, which reduces fuel consumption and lowers greenhouse gas emissions.
But what about the environmental cost of producing and using plastic materials?
According to a recent Trucost study: “Plastics and Sustainability: A Valuation of Environmental Benefits, Costs, and Opportunities for Continuous Improvement”, the environmental cost of using plastics is nearly four times less than the cost would be if plastics were replaced by alternative materials such as steel, aluminum, paper and glass.
The study indicates that substituting materials that perform the same function would increase environmental costs from $139 billion to a total of $533 billion. It's important to note that while the environmental cost per kilogram of alternative materials is less than plastic, on average more than four times more material, by weight, is needed to perform the same function.
An example is the typical plastic soft drink bottle which contains 30 grams of plastic. If it were “replaced by a weighted average mix of alternative materials currently used in the market, an equivalent capacity bottle would require 141 grams of alternative materials such as glass, tin or aluminum in the USA.5”
The recommendations contained in the study also point to pathways to increase the overall sustainability of plastics in the future. Sourcing lower carbon energy, improving fuel efficiency, and designing for recycling strategies and material efficiency in product and packaging applications are identified as strategies that “hold potential to reduce the environmental costs of plastic across the life cycle.”
Trucost is an international company that produces data to enable organizations to manage risks and identify opportunities for growth. Their expertise includes quantifying and valuing the environmental impacts of operations, supply chains, products and financial assets.
For more information, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Waste Management, Calculating the Emissions Impact of Recycling, Greenbiz.com
3. Jared Paben, Resource Recycling, August 2016, A look at recycling's role in fight against climate change (August 16) and Are traditional recycling metrics failing to measure up? (August 24)
4. Plastic Europe.2015 – Plastics – The Facts 2014/2015 (link)