A critical component to creating a circular system, one where used packaging can be made into recycled material again and again, is a healthy and efficient materials recovery facility (MRF) system. The Recycling Partnership’s Paying It Forward report estimates the U.S. needs to invest $3 billion to upgrade and expand MRF infrastructure.
One way in which The Partnership is working to drive MRF modernization investment is through its Polypropylene Recycling Coalition (Coalition). Launched in 2020, the Coalition is a cross-industry effort dedicated to improving polypropylene (PP) recovery and recycling in the U.S., and to further developing end markets for recycling PP. Even though PP is estimated to be the third most prominent plastic in the residential recycling stream, it can be difficult to sort without the help of technology. By providing grants to MRFs for equipment upgrades, it provides them with the ability to effectively sort, capture and sell this valuable material nationwide.
As part of the fifth round of grants that the Coalition has provided, four additional MRFs will be implementing technology improvements:
- Bay Counties SMaRT Station, Sunnyvale, California
- Atlantic Coast Fibers, Passaic, New Jersey
- Sonoco Recycling, Columbia, South Carolina
- Carroll County, Iowa
With this latest round, the Coalition has provided a total of 24 grants amounting to $6.7 million, positively improving recycling for 20 million people nationwide. This will increase the recovery of PP by an estimated 25 million pounds annually for domestic end markets allowing for it to be used in new products ranging from gardening equipment to personal care items to automotive parts.
“Achieving a circular economy is ambitious but it is doable when we engage key stakeholders to accelerate innovation. Every stakeholder plays an important role – whether that’s the MRF, manufacturer, brand, community, or consumer – and we see the importance of that through our work with the Polypropylene Recycling Coalition,” said Katherine Huded, Vice President of Circular Ventures at The Recycling Partnership. “The Coalition continues to make a direct impact in communities across the country through infrastructure upgrades, increased awareness and more. As we welcome our fifth round of grantees, we encourage more stakeholders to engage with us in making a more circular economy for polypropylene possible.”
Since its launch two years ago, the Coalition has driven rapid and meaningful change – from demonstrating MRFs common interest in increasing collection and sortation of PP, to How2Recycle’s recent upgrade of certain PP rigid containers making them eligible for the “Widely Recyclable” label.
While the Coalition is pleased with the impact to date of its efforts, it recognizes that there is more to be done to support PP recycling at every step in the recycling journey. For instance, determining the recyclability of any material requires an evaluation of each part of the whole recycling system, demonstrated in our Circular Packaging Assessment Tool, which can be a labor intensive and ever-changing process. Additionally, consumer and community education is a critical component to improving the collection and sortation of PP which is why the Coalition also supports education for communities, so residents know what is and is not accepted in their recycling program.
This twofold effort – investing in MRF infrastructure and community education – strengthens PP’s recyclability and promotes the shift to a circular economy.
To learn more about the Polypropylene Recycling Coalition and get involved, visit recyclingpartnership.org/polypropylene-coalition.
Interested in optimizing your facility and driving change? MRFs interested in sorting polypropylene are encouraged to apply for grants by visiting recyclingpartnership.org/polypropylene-coalition.