In this week’s NothingWasted! podcast, we chat with Steve Alexander, president of The Association of Plastics Recyclers (APR). APR is an international trade association representing the plastics recycling industry, whose member companies are committed to the success of plastics recycling. The organization also promotes development of the industry by providing leadership through initiatives including the development of protocols for packaging design, promoting a cooperative testing program for new packaging, and educating key audiences.
We spoke with Alexander about the challenges and opportunities in plastics recycling, the importance of the partnership between waste and recycling stakeholders and more.
Here’s a sneak peek into the discussion:
Waste360: How did you end up in the waste and recycling industry?
Alexander: I’ve been involved in environmental issues since the ‘80s and heavily involved in the plastics arena. I took over APR about 16 years ago and have tried to grow it ever since. The people in this industry are very committed and they’re passionate about it. They want to bring realistic solutions to the problems with plastics.
Waste360: Can you tell us more about what APR does?
Alexander: APR is sort of the technical soul of plastics recycling; we’re the guys who recycle the plastics. We have a design guide for plastics recyclability, which is really one of the world’s foremost and authoritative guides for package innovators and consumer-products companies to design their packaging so it’s compatible with the plastics-recycling industry. The concept of recyclability is not always top of mind for people who are developing a new package, and they may have no idea of the implications of that going forward. So we really are the arbiter, at the end of the day, to say what is “recyclable.” That’s an ever-evolving activity.
Waste360: What specific types of projects does APR work on?
Alexander: One example is that, about eight years ago, you started to see a preponderance of full-wrap shrink labels in the marketplace. Great idea from a branding perspective, but the infrared sorting technology couldn’t read the resin underneath the label, and these packages ended up going into the wrong stream and contaminating the stream of materials. So we worked with brands and manufacturers to solve this problem. Those are the types of things we do on the technical side. But we’re full-service. For instance, we have a policy apparatus, and APR was the first trade association, back in 2006, supporting mandated recycled content in packaging. We believe when you have a demand market, that monetizes the entire system.
Waste360: Can you tell us about the APR Post-consumer Resin (PCR) Certification Program?
Alexander: Yes, we’ve introduced a certification program for PCR in the marketplace, which allows companies that are using recycled materials to be able, with absolute certainty, to understand that the material they’re using is at least 95% post-consumer. One of the things that’s very important to us is that we’re very concerned about other certification programs out there that will allow a company to put a label on a container claiming it’s made with recycled content when, in fact, that container may contain no recycled content at all, through what is called “mass balance.” Frankly we think that is wrong.