polyethylene flexible film

Two Web-based Tools Aim to Propel Flexible Film Recycling

The tools may help users identify opportunities to get materials recycled.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) and Sonoma, Calif.-based More Recycling have created two web-based tools to help recycling coordinators, waste managers and other partners more efficiently recycle polyethylene (PE) flexible film.

One of the tools, the Roadmap, assists in implementing Wrap Recycling Action Programs (WRAP) campaigns, which are designed to recover PE film at retail outlets. The Roadmap enables stakeholders to identify opportunities to start PE recycling programs or expand existing ones. The tool breaks down the steps, from assessing local needs, to launching WRAP campaigns, to facilitating commercial collections.

Some Roadmap features are downloadable educational materials and project plan templates. Users can also customize film drop off directories and infrastructure maps specific to their localities.

The other web-based tool, the Value Chain, illustrates the recycling process from collection to consolidation, reclamation and end use. In addition to explaining operations, it’s meant to shows retailers, brands converters and reclaimers there is value in this material, telling the stories of those who are working with it.

Some features for the Value Chain tool are a greenhouse gas calculator, historical pricing, and cost benefit calculator.

“Lacking awareness about PE film recycling is a big challenge, which is what WRAP is about and what these tools are designed to address while broadening our reach,” says Shari Jackson director of ACC’s Flexible Film Recycling Group (FFRG), representing the PE flexible film value chain.

“We are not looking to go state by state, municipality by municipality, but rather to equip [regions and communities] with resources and best practices to implement WRAP programs,” Jackson says. “It frees us to do other things to support the program while providing a guide.”

Designers have focused on making the tools customizable. With the Roadmap, users can tailor educational material, incorporate proprietary logos and print collateral or post it websites, says More Recycling CEO Nina Butler.

“The tools can sit on any WRAP partner’s site,” Butler says. “So if, for example, Carolina Recycling Association wants to help communities learn about WRAP, the content would be live on their website. But as we update it, it would automatically update on all partners’ websites.”

Connecticut has conducted a WRAP campaign and worked with the Connecticut Food Association to deal with PE film.

“It’s a complex partnership with a lot to learn as you go, and this partnership has gotten broader and bigger,” says Sherrill Baldwin, Connecticut WRAP coordinator, and environmental analyst with Connecticut’s department of energy and environmental protection. “The Roadmap can help municipalities or states understand who potential partners may be and help them meet their shared goals as more of them come on board.”

As WRAP facilitators, Vancouver, Wash., has already navigated program implementation. But these tools will provide a way to share information with others so they can see how they could fit into the picture as the city works to recover material, says Tanya Gray, solid waste supervisor for the city’s solid waste department. “The tools may help identify … opportunities to get materials recycled, depending on who you are and how you recycle. Businesses can contact who might pick up their film. Recyclers can get ideas about who to contact to find where material is generated,” says Gray.

Speaking of both the Roadmap and Value Chain, Butler says, “We tried to strike a balance between making it simple enough for folks to easily understand, while also providing the depth of resources and information available for communities.”

The tools were vetted and tested during the design phase, but they will be piloted, incorporating volunteers to understand where more or less information is needed.

More will be tabulating and sharing results from a beta campaign conducted at the recent Resource Recycling Conference, in which it incentivized attendees to explore and share the tools. 

As they are rolled out and pilots are established, FFRG is working with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state recycling organizations, providing them promotional content to spread the word.

“Film use is growing as companies shift to lighter packaging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Butler says. “Most people don’t know what to do with all of it, beyond bags … in many cases, it’s landfilled or ends up in the curbside stream where it creates challenges for material recovery facilities and gets contaminated making it nearly impossible to market. Ultimately, we hope that recycling professionals will be inspired to facilitate more responsible handling of bags and wraps in their community.”

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