Over the past several months I’ve been working closely with our Division leadership and staff to determine the direction of The Plastics Division. Throughout this process, the same question keeps coming back to me – “Can the Plastics Division be all things to all plastics recyclers?”
The reason for the question is that scrap plastic is found in every recycling facility in one form or another. Whether you’re a metals recycler processing automobiles and other industrial scrap, a MRF processing curbside materials, or a paper recycler collecting and processing plastic film, each type of plastic requires a different strategy to process and market successfully. This may make each of these recyclers to approach plastics differently and require something from the Division unique to that resin.
And while different plastics may need to be handled differently, the common thread throughout all of these materials is the need to have a comprehensive set of plastic scrap specifications to help with the buying and selling of them. It is these specifications and the Division’s work on developing them that binds all of us together. It is the common language of our business and can help us continually add new types of plastics to our scrap stream. This week in Salt Lake City at the Fall Board and Governance meetings, we’ll complete our work on the development of post-consumer plastics (bulky rigids, PET bottles, LDPE film, etc.) when we submit our newly revised post-consumer scrap specifications to the ISRI Board of Directors. The development of these specifications was a long time coming and helps to provide clarity for the industry. We worked with the Association of Plastics Recyclers to ensure these specs accurately reflect what is being bought and sold in the marketplace. With these scrap specifications complete, we’ll turn to post-commercial grades of plastic such as PVC from vinyl siding and windows, polycarbonates, and engineered plastics. This task will be ongoing and will require the expertise of our members that work with these types of plastic. ISRI’s scrap specifications are the gold standard for the other commodities ISRI represents, and once completed the plastic scrap specs will be as well.
Outside of scrap specifications, ISRI’s Plastic Division will play a leadership role in representing plastic recyclers by working with other stakeholders. ISRI is a member of the North American Plastic Recycling Alliance. This coalition of plastics associations represents the entire plastics value chain, from the resin suppliers, manufacturers and brand owners to recyclers. Working with all of these groups in concert, we will help set the communication agenda and ensure that any messages sent to the public about plastics has a strong recycling component. ISRI is also working with W.R.A.P, a coalition that is focused on making sure that plastic film (stretch wrap, grocery bags, etc.) is recycled properly.
Finally, the Plastics Division will continue to support its members by ensuring that plastic recyclers have the educational tools necessary to understand more about the plastics they handle and those they may want to add to their scrap stream. ISRI’s Convention, April 22-27 in New Orleans, will once again play host to the Plastics Business and Operations Summit. This comprehensive two-day event housed within the Convention will provide 12 hours of educational programming spread across two full days. These include a comprehensive markets report that will focus on the interconnectedness between virgin and recycled resin pricing. Other workshops will discuss plastics identification, how to implement a bale audit to ensure the quality of the material, and what to consider when adding new plastics to your current materials stream. All in all, this Summit will provide you with important information you can bring back to your facility and implement right away.
So how does a Division become all things to all people? By having the participation of many different points of view and all working towards the same goal. With your help, ISRI’s Plastics Division can ensure that no matter what type of plastic you handle, tools will be developed to fulfill that need.
Maite Quinn, Chair
ISRI Plastics Division