Through ambitious commitments and cross-sector partnerships including the Polypropylene Recycling Coalition, KDP is helping to further the shift to a circular economy.
According to research from The Recycling Partnership, nearly half of all municipalities within the US do not have comprehensive recycling services, largely due to a lack of investment and resources to advance recycling infrastructure — a challenge that was further exacerbated by COVID-19. When recycled materials aren’t properly collected and sorted, it means they can’t find a meaningful second life, even as corporate demand for post-consumer recycled (PCR) content — particularly plastics — skyrockets. The systemic barriers to achieving a circular economy — from varied access to recycling to limited consumer awareness of recycle-right behaviors — are too complex for any one entity to tackle alone.
That’s why Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP), a founding member of The Recycling Partnership’s Polypropylene Recycling Coalition, is addressing these barriers through partnership. The Polypropylene Recycling Coalition is part of The Recycling Partnership’s Pathway to Circularity — an initiative creating scalable solutions to packaging and system challenges to accelerate the shift to a circular economy. The work of the Coalition is supported by steering committee members KDP, Braskem, NextGen Consortium and the Walmart Foundation, along with other organizations representing all segments of the polypropylene value chain.
The Coalition recently announced a third round of grants that will distribute $1.8 million to six Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) across the country, further advancing polypropylene recycling in the US With this latest round of grants, the Coalition has now invested $4.2 million to date, which will improve curbside polypropylene recycling access for nearly 6 percent of US households — nearly 15 million Americans.
“In our journey to shift to a circular economy, we saw an opportunity to significantly improve US recycling infrastructure through cross-sector collaboration — amplifying both dollars and action,” said Monique Oxender, Chief Sustainability Officer at Keurig Dr Pepper. “Not only did we catalyze improvements to polypropylene recovery by co-founding and becoming the largest funder of the Coalition, but we have also invested over $30 million to improve recycling infrastructure since 2014 — with $10 million specifically dedicated to polypropylene recovery.”
Polypropylene plastic, often referred to as PP or No. 5 plastic, is a material widely used in an array of packaging — including food packaging — because it meets stringent requirements for food safety. Even though it is in high demand as a recycled material, a recent study by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition found that only 59 percent of US households have curbside access to recycling polypropylene because a number of municipalities lack the adequate infrastructure to support the recycling process. With the Coalition’s strategic grants, it is estimated curbside acceptance of polypropylene will increase by nearly 6 percent once all equipment is installed by early 2022.
The Coalition addresses infrastructure challenges by providing funding to improve the ability for MRFs to collect, sort and recycle No. 5 plastic — ultimately increasing the supply and value of recycled polypropylene and reducing the need for virgin plastic in packaging and other applications. To date, grants through the Coalition have increased the recovery of polypropylene by an estimated 13 million pounds annually. Improved recovery further increases the supply of recycled polypropylene for use by companies with ambitious commitments to utilize PCR material, such as Keurig KDP Pepper — which has committed to achieving 25 percent post-consumer recycled (PCR) content in plastic packaging by 2025.
“At Keurig Dr Pepper, we are just as committed to external collaboration as we are to internal actions,” said Charlie Schwarze, KDP’s Director of Sustainability. “Investing in partnerships like the Polypropylene Coalition scales our impact and allows us to drive meaningful progress on our path toward achieving a circular economy. As we look to the future, we are actively exploring more innovative ways to close the loop and incorporate more recycled content back into our products and packaging.”
To learn more about The Coalition, its members, and how to get involved in supporting its goals, visit recyclingpartnership.org/polypropylene-coalition. For MRFs interested in applying for a grant, the application is available on the website.