Rogue bottles and bad labelling are threatening the entire system of plastic recycling in the US according to two leading trade associations.
The Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers (APR) and the National Association of PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) have warned that mislabelling could cause serious long-term damage to the recycling market.
APR and NAPCOR said poorly labelled bottles can disrupt recycling operations in the short term, and in the long term, they can have even more serious consequences. The two trade bodies warned that if reclaimers become unable to rely on the quality of recycled materials, they could stop buying altogether.
In the fight against mislabelling APR and NAPCOR are underlining the importance of adherence to the Resin Identification Code - an industry standard set up by the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) in 1988.
Steve Alexander, executive director of the APR, said: “Misuse of the Code is an extremely serious issue for plastics reclaimers.”
The industry representative gave examples of different violations and illustrated how these can cause problems for the industry.
“We see bottles labelled with such terms as ‘Compatible with PET Recycling’ and wonder what that undefined phrase means. We also see bottles that are clearly not made from PET resin being labelled as ‘#1 PETE.’
“These rogue bottles can have a draconian impact on the plastics reclamation process. Many of these rogues have such low melting points that inclusion with PET bottles can shut down recycling operations.”
The biggest danger is that a material that is not properly labelled can become mixed up with material that is labelled correctly, thereby contaminating the entire bale. This causes serious and costly disruption, and if repeated can undermine confidence in the market.
Taking a stand
NAPCOR spokesperson Kate Eagles said that at a recent meeting with the APR the two trade bodies had decided to take a stand on the issue of mislabelling. This involves both publicising the issue and working with brand owners to address specific violations.
“We are looking to deal with this issue before it becomes an even greater detriment to the recycling of all plastics packaging,” concluded Alexander.