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MRF study shines light on lost material

United States – An estimated US$ 11.4 billion of post-consumer packaging is ‘wasted’ each year in the USA, a new study by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and several other associations has concluded.

The research evaluated five material recovery facilities (MRFs) of various sizes and streams to obtain a clearer picture of post-consumer packaging recycling; across all five, approximately 20% of polypropylene cups were found in PET bales. ‘This is likely due to manual sorters positively sorting them to the PET stream because they so closely resembled PET cups,’ the report says.

The study showed that the average material loss to the paper stream was 5% for PET bottles; 10% for plastic cups; 12% for plastic containers; 18% for aseptic and gable-top cartons; and 29% for plastic clamshells. Additionally, it found that three-dimensional objects – such as packages in their original form – are more likely to make it through the MRF into the appropriate containers as opposed to flattened or crushed objects. 

This proves that consumers should be educated about not flattening items before placing them in recycling containers, according to Jim Frey, ceo of Resource Recycling Systems.

Besides the ACC, the other parties behind the commissioning of the study were the National Association for PET Container Resources, the Foodservice Packaging Institute, the Carton Council of North America, and the Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers.

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