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APR Announces Positions on Key Recycling Issues

July 20, 2021

According to Resource Recycling, new position papers statements on chemical recycling, bottle bills, and mass balance methodology for postconsumer resin have been issued by the Association of Plastics Recyclers (APR)  that “cover topics that have taken center stage at industry events, dominated corporate press releases and fueled legislative debates.”

At NERC’s Fall 2019 Conference, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) described chemical recycling as “Leveraging chemistry to convert post-use plastics into valuable next generation products which extend the life of the plastic.” Now APR has weighed in on the controversial issue, stating that “chemical recycling has the potential to expand opportunities for recycling of materials that are not recycled by mechanical processes today, but that “[c]hemical recycling is not a replacement for mechanical or traditional recycling, but it is a compliment to these processes for materials that are rarely recycled mechanically.”

“Chemical recycling should only include processes converting resin feedstock to resin,” APR continued. “Feedstock to fuel or energy should not be considered recycling.”

On the issue of Container Deposit laws – “bottle bills”, APR was unequivocal, stating that “[n]o alternative mechanism has been identified to replace existing deposit laws that would provide a similar stream of consistent, high volume, high-quality supply as that generated by these programs.” Furthermore, APR urges that existing laws be expanded to include non-carbonated beverage bottles such as water and juice containers.

“The loss of this supply would have significant consequences for the plastics recycling industry and the recycling infrastructure,” APR warned.

“APR will continue to coordinate with all plastic recycling stakeholders to implement various programs to increase supply and improve quality of recyclable material,” the organization concluded. “Infrastructure and funding structures should be clearly defined in newly proposed bottle bills.”

Because of recent commitments by major plastics producers to increase the percentage of recycled content in their products, not enough plastic is being recycled to meet demand. According to UL, “you need to use what is called a mass balance accounting method to track volumes through a production system and be able to account for what winds up in a final product. That methodology has to be standardized and applicable across different business models.”

The third policy position staked out by APR addresses the issue of mass balance, stating its support of its use as a “methodology for resin manufacturers that produce recycled content resin in a chemical recycling system in which materials are not segregated by material type.”

Along with its support of the accounting methodology, APR’s position includes caveats intended to discourage manipulation of data for purposes of greenwashing. “Mass balance methodologies need to be grounded in driving credibility and scalability to increase the amount of plastics that are recycled and the use of PCR in plastic manufacturing,” the organization states. “Claims based on mass balance should be restricted to the utilization of postconsumer resin.”

“Companies should only claim postconsumer content if postconsumer content was used,” APR concluded. “Misleading marketing claims stating postconsumer resin neither encourage nor enable higher demand for recycled plastics.”

By Robert Kropp, NERC Office Manager

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