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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
New Guide Aims to Help Designers Increase Plastic Packaging Recycling

The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) claims it has created the plastics recycling industry’s most comprehensive plastic packaging design resource. The latest iteration of its APR Design® Guide for Plastics Recyclability outlines detailed steps for packaging and design engineers to consider the implications of new products or containers in the recycling process. The organization suggests that the new and improved guidelines are more user friendly, align with APR test protocols, and provide a variety of additional resources.

The goal of the APR Design Guide is to have packaging designed that is compatible with the recycling infrastructure. APR President Steve Alexander explained, “One of the biggest challenges facing plastic recyclers are containers that come through the stream that may have a negative impact on recycling.

“APR firmly believes that companies want to design packaging that is recyclable and sustainable. Both recyclers and product manufacturers often do not realize the implications of new products, until they have been brought to market, made it through the collection process, and contaminate the recycling stream.”

It has been estimated that 95 percent of the value of plastic packaging, worth up to $120 billion annually, is being lost to the economy since it is only used once. Furthermore, scaling up use of sustainable plastic could deliver environmental savings of $3.5 billion.

The APR Design Guide specifically addresses plastic packaging, but the principles can be applied to all potentially recycled plastic items. It is organized by individual resin categories, which are then divided into design elements such as color, dimensions, labels, inks, and adhesives.

“If products are designed with recyclability in mind, it allows the plastics recycling industry to help consumer brand companies meet their sustainability goals, while boosting supply and enhancing the quality of the plastics recycling stream,” commented John Standish, APR Technical Director.

Increasing plastic recycling or circularity – in other words, increasing how much the materials are used before being disposed of in a landfill or incinerated – has received quite a bit of attention recently. Amidst a culture of excess packaging and struggling recycling industry in the U.S., organizations have called for standardized labels, extended producer responsibility (EPR), and a host of other solutions to curb the plastic waste problem. The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) recently launched a tool for plastics manufacturers to evaluate waste reduction opportunities and maximize landfill diversion. The trade group says its Zero Net Waste program provides plastics companies with a concrete set of resources they can use to pursue, and achieve, zero waste in their facilities and offices.