Manufacturer input sought

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has partnered with the American Chemistry Council’s Flexible Film Recycling Group  (FFRG) and GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition to establish the Wisconsin Plastic Film Recycling Initiative with the intent of dramatically increasing the recycling of plastic film and bags.

The recycling effort offers potential costs savings and a potential revenue stream for manufacturers, said Nina Bellucci Butler of Moore Recycling Associates, a plastic recycling consulting firm hired by the FFRG. A calculator application on the websitePlasticFilmRecycling.org provides a tool that allows manufacturers to calculate potential cost savings and benefits from taking part in the recycling program.

The Initiative is teaming with the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership to gather information from manufacturers throughout the state on plastic film usage and how it’s being handled. Click here to take the survey.

Through the survey, the Initiative wants to engage stakeholders of the plastic film packaging supply chain, including manufacturers, wholesale distributors and retailers, to establish a baseline of current plastic film recovery efforts. It also wants to determine drivers and barriers to plastic film recovery and identify opportunities for a collection infrastructure and develop markets for economic benefits.

The Initiative plans to use the information to drive greater capture of film that Wisconsin manufacturers need as feedstock, which in turn will create jobs and bolster economic development, said Claudia Alvarez, business sector development specialist in the Wisconsin DNR’s office of business support and sustainability.

Having film end up in landfills instead of being recycled has led to a “significant loss for Wisconsin’s economy and the environment,” Alvarez said.

Businesses that opt to take part in a film recycling program will experience costs savings resulting from reduced waste disposal costs. In addition, the availability of recycled film would be less costly than buying virgin materials, she said.

The benefits extend beyond a company’s bottom line, Alvarez added.

“Companies are interested not only in savings but also in being sustainable,” she said.

This public-private partnership is targeting commercial material such as pallet wrap as well as post-consumer material, including carry out bags, dry cleaning bags, bathroom tissue wrap, and case wrap. The material is readily recyclable with strong demand from domestic markets, if kept clean and dry.

The overall goal of the initiative is to significantly increase plastic film recycling across Wisconsin through the following efforts:

  • Expanding the collection infrastructure by utilizing existing networks in order to enable small to mid-sized retailers and other businesses to recycle plastic film and bags
  • Providing tools and resources to organizations interested in starting or expanding a plastic film recycling program
  • Increasing consumer awareness about the recyclability of plastic film packaging beyond bags
  • Encouraging companies and retailers to use the SPC’s How2Recycle store drop-off bag/film recycling label on plastic packaging and FFRG’s educational resources to promote bag/film recycling to consumers and the public

More than 1 billion pounds of plastic film was collected in the United States for recycling in 2011, up 55 percent since 2005, according to the DNR. There are more than a dozen domestic companies buying scrap polyethylene film for re-processing into new products such as new film and bags, composite decking, and piping.

For more information about this program or about the survey, please contact:
Claudia Alvarez at [email protected] / 608-743-4811 at Wisconsin DNR, Office of Business Support and Sustainability.