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Increasing plastic film recycling

What’s one of the most effective ways to reduce plastic waste around the world? Making it easier for people to recycle. 

SC Johnson is supporting industry initiatives that aim at understanding and enhancing plastic recycling, helping lead our industry forward. An example? We’ve shown that, with the right approach, plastic film recycling can be efficient and successful.

Scrutinizing problematic materials
A closer look at flexible plastic packaging recycling

Plastic film, or flexible plastic packaging (FPP), is used for items like food wraps. While it’s a commonplace material, it has traditionally been viewed as problematic to recycle. 

As plastic film is thin and flexible, recycling facilities have not designed their equipment to sort and separate it. It’s problematic for existing systems because it can get wrapped up in machinery or slip through into other recycling streams, like paper for example. As more communities switch to “single bin” recycling, these issues can be particularly prevalent. 

But with so much FPP in use, it’s vital that recycling solutions are found. As a member of Materials Recovery for the Future (MRFF), SC Johnson helped support a pilot to upgrade a recycling facility to collect, separate, and prepare flexible plastic packaging for recycling.

Approximately 12 billion pounds of FPP are consumed annually in the U.S.

Overcoming obstacles to success
Increasing plastic film recycling with equipment and processes

In 2020, MRFF launched a report titled: “Flexible Packaging Recycling in Material Recovery Facilities Pilot” that pointed to a brighter future for recycling flexible plastic packaging. 

The pilot showed that, with the right optical sorting equipment and processes, FPP can be efficiently captured and processed for reuse across a variety of products and markets, diverting plastic from landfills. 

The report identifies more than a dozen end market opportunities for the captured FPP. Building products like roofing materials were named as the highest volume and most immediate opportunities. Other innovative ideas like pallets and railroad ties were identified. In these instances, recycled plastic can serve as a more durable alternative to traditional wood.

Putting our findings into action
Piloting plastic film recycling in the U.S. 

Along with supporting this industry research initiative from MRFF, SC Johnson has been conducting our own research on residential curbside plastic film recycling through pilots in New Jersey and Washington.

Our aim? To learn more, so we work to create greater positive change.