The APR Design® Guide for Plastics Recyclability is published to help package design engineers at consumer brand companies and converters create packaging that is fully compatible with plastics recycling systems in North America. APR Preferred package design can ensure that recyclers achieve high yields of marketable material with maximum productivity and minimal extra costs. Contamination in the recycling stream by poor package design impacts not only the recyclers, but also the brands creating the packaging - by reducing the quality of PCR that brands ultimately need to achieve their corporate sustainability goals.
APR’s Design® Guide for Plastics Recyclability closes the loop between package designers and plastic recyclers with a forum allowing collaboration toward the common goal of creating a Circular Economy for plastics. Preferred package designs drive the Circular Economy by enabling the highest value end use applications for recycled plastic.
The APR Design® Guide for Plastics Recyclability is the most comprehensive resource outlining the plastics recycling industry’s recommendations in the marketplace today. The content is regularly updated to ensure APR’s Recyclability Categories accurately reflect the operations and technology in use by today’s North American plastics recycling infrastructure. Although it is designed as an online resource, with links to all relevant information, a PDF of the complete document can be downloaded as well.
The APR Design® Guide specifically addresses plastic packaging, but the principles can be applied to all potentially recycled plastic items.
APR encourages package designers to utilize The APR Critical Guidance and Responsible Innovation programs, as well as the APR Design® Guide to create the most recyclable packaging. Assistance is available through APR or one of the APR member, independent laboratories found in the member directory.
This guide covers plastic items entering the postconsumer collection and recycling systems most widely used in industry today. These include curbside collection, processing in single stream and dual stream MRF’s, deposit container systems, mixed waste facilities, and grocery store rigid plastic and film collection systems. The impact of package design on automated sortation process steps employed in single stream MRFs and high volume reclamation processes is of primary consideration.
Before accessing the APR Design® Guide for Plastics Recyclability the user should thoroughly understand the fundamentals of its concept as described in the scope, definition of recyclability and recyclability category tabs below.
- APR’s DEFINITION OF RECYCLABLE
- APR’s RECYCLABILITY CATEGORIES
This guide covers plastic items entering the postconsumer collection and recycling systems most widely used in industry today. Collection methods include single stream and dual stream MRF’s, deposit container systems, mixed waste facilities, and grocery store rigid plastic and film collection systems. The impact of package design on automated sortation process steps employed in a single stream MRF, as well as high volume recycling processes is of primary consideration.
Items recovered in recovery systems where they are source-selected and sent to a recycler specializing in this particular item are specifically excluded from this guide.
An item is “recyclable per APR definition” when the following three conditions are met:
- At least 60% of consumers or communities have access to a collection system that accepts the item
- The item is most likely sorted correctly into a market-ready bale of a particular plastic meeting industry standard specifications, through commonly used material recovery systems, including single-stream and dual stream MRFs, PRF’s, systems that handle deposit system containers, grocery store rigid plastic and film collection systems.
- The item can be further processed through a typical recycling process cost effectively into a postconsumer plastic feedstock suitable for use in identifiable new products.
The APR Design® Guide is itemized by design features commonly used with packaging applications. The recycling impact of each design feature is discussed within the Guide. The APR’s guidance on the design feature is developed considering this impact and broken down into four categories which should be thoroughly understood:
- APR DESIGN GUIDE® PREFERRED: Features readily accepted by MRFs and recyclers since the majority of the industry has the capability to identify, sort, and process a package exhibiting this feature with minimal, or no, negative effect on the productivity of the operation or final product quality. Packages with these features are likely to pass through the recycling process into the most appropriate material stream with the potential of producing high quality material.
- DETRIMENTAL TO RECYCLING: Features that present known technical challenges for the MRF or recycler’s yield, productivity or final product quality, but are grudgingly tolerated and accepted by the majority of MRFs and recyclers.
- RENDERS PACKAGE NON-RECYCLABLE PER APR DEFINITION: Features with a significant adverse technical impact on the MRF or recycler’s yield, productivity or final product quality. The majority of MRFs or recyclers cannot remove these features to the degree required to generate a marketable end product.
- REQUIRES TESTING: In order to determine compatibility with recycling, testing per an APR testing protocol is required.
This guide has been prepared by the Association of Plastic Recyclers as a service to the plastic packaging industry to promote the most efficient use of the nation’s plastics recycling infrastructure and to enhance the quality and quantity of recycled postconsumer plastics. The information contained herein reflects the input of APR members from a diverse cross-section of the plastics recycling industry, including professionals experienced in the recycling of all postconsumer plastic bottles discussed in this guideline. It offers a valuable overview of how package design impacts conventional plastics recycling systems and provides useful recommendations on how problems routinely encountered by plastics recyclers might be addressed through design changes that make plastic bottles more compatible with current recycling systems. Because new technological developments are always being made, this guide cannot anticipate how these new developments might impact plastic bottle recycling. Thus, while the information in this guide is offered in good faith by APR as an accurate and reliable discussion of the current challenges faced by the plastics recycling industry, it is offered without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied, including WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE, which are expressly disclaimed. APR and its members accept no responsibility for any harm or damages arising from the use of or reliance upon this information by any party. APR intends to update this document periodically to reflect new developments and practices.