The term “recyclable” has received a global definition in relation to plastic packaging and products from two international recycling organisations.
In order for a plastic to be considered recyclable according to the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) and Plastics Recycling Europe (PRE), it must meet four conditions.
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The product must be made of a plastic that is collected for recycling, has market value and/or is supported by a legislatively mandated program. It also must be sorted and aggregated into defined streams for recycling processed.
It must also be able to be processed and reclaimed or recycled with a commercial recycling process and it must become a raw material that is used in the production of a new product.
Under this definition, innovative materials must demonstrate that they can be collected and sorted in sufficient quantities, must be compatible with the existing industrial recycling processes or will have to be available in sufficient quantities to justify new recycling processes.
In a joint statement from PRE President Ton Emans and CEO of APR Steve Alexander said the onslaught of recent announcements around commitments to package sustainability and recyclability often did not have a defined definition.
“Recently, we have seen many announcements regarding legislative measures on plastics products and pledges of the industry actors committing to making their products recyclable,” Mr Emans said.
“As recyclers, we are a fundamental part of the solution to the issue of sustainability of plastics, and we need for the appropriate audiences to understand what is necessary to label a product or package ‘recyclable’,” he said.
Mr Alexander said the use of the term ‘recyclable’ is consistently used with packages and products without a defined reference point.
“At the end of the day, recyclability goes beyond just being technically recyclable there must be consumer access to a recycling program, a recycler must be able to process the material, and there must be an end market.”
Both groups have said they understand the complexity of a global system and welcome comments from the plastics recycling industry and relevant stakeholders.