Fortunately for MRFs and cities, there are markets for residential bulky rigid plastics. North America is home to both experienced reprocessors and plastic recycling facilities (PRFs) that have established purchasing specifications and consistently procure these bales to recycle domestically.
According to the APR Buyers and Sellers Information for Polyethylene and Polypropylene, there are multiple APR members that purchase one or more bale types containing residential bulky rigid plastics. This resource contains company names with links to member profiles with additional information.
APR Model Bale Specifications for Residential Bulky Rigid Plastics
To facilitate communications between bale producers (MRFs) and purchasers (PRFs and plastic reclaimers) the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) in collaboration with ISRI, has developed mixed rigid model bale specifications. The below specs contain or may contain bulky rigid plastic.
Many MRFs do five rigid sorts: Bulky Rigid, PET Bottles, HDPE Bottles(separated by Color and Natural) and Pre-picked without Bulky. Some do fewer and others sort into even more.
APR’s Model Bale Specifications have seven standard components:
- Bale Content Overview
- Acceptable Levels of Contaminants
- Contaminants not Acceptable at any Level
- Bale Size/Minimum Shipping Weight
- Bale Wire
The following APR Model Bale Specifications contain non-bottle containers:
The commodities below may or may not contain
bulky rigid plastic depending on what is received
at the MRF:
Polypropylene Small Rigid Plastics - Includes the variation "Polypropylene All Rigid Plastics" to include Bulky Rigids
#1-7 All Rigid Plastics - Includes the variation "#1-7 Bottles and Small Rigid Plastics" to include Bulky Rigids
#3-7 Bottles and All Other Rigid Plastics - Includes the variation "#3-7 Bottles and Small Rigid Plastics" to include Bulky Rigids
How should residential bulky rigid plastics be sorted?
Sort For Value: Determining the right level of sorting for your program
A large percentage of bulky rigid plastic products are made of Polyethylene (PE) and Polypropylene (PP) making bulky rigid plastic a valuable stream of material, particularly when separated from other rigid plastic (bottles and non-bottle containers). The decision to sort bulky rigid plastic depends on a number of factors including market availability, MRF bunker space, and the flow of material in the MRF.
The Sort for Value Online Calculator, developed by APR and Moore Recycling Associates, is an analysis tool to determine the value of various plastic sorting options and help understand the benefits of increased sortation. The results are impacted by the price for various commodities at any given time and the percent breakdown of the rigid plastic (bottles, non-bottle containers and bulky rigid plastic) processed at the MRF.
Interpreting the Sort For Value Graphic:
The first column represents a one ton unsorted All Rigid Plastic Bale (1-7). The remaining columns demonstrate increased levels of sorting of that same ton of material. The breakdown of material provides an average level of bulky rigid material at 10% of the total material collected from the curbside stream. An update of the material breakdown will be complete in the Fall 2016.
- When plastic is not sorted, the value of the material is lower and there are fewer markets for the material. Sometimes this is the only option, due to infrastructure constraints.
- Sorting PET and HDPE bottles provides the largest increase in value, therefore this is very common.
- Keeping the bulky rigid separate from bottles and containers provides more value and demand for each of the commodities.
- Additional sorting (e.g., separation of PP rigid plastic and HD injection bulky plastics) may result in higher revenue for the sorted materials, but it will also increase sorting costs and residual disposal costs.
Questions about Sorting for Value?
APR members can help:
Contact Patty Moore, Moore Recycling Associates or Greg Janson, QRS.
What is the future of residential bulky rigid plastics?
There is growing demand for the often unrecognized component of the non-bottle container stream – residential bulky rigid plastics, which is used for applications ranging from buckets, pallets, crates, automotive consoles and small components, as well as a variety of building and construction items. Reclaimers and Consumer Brand Companies are actively seeking PCR to incorporate into their packaging and seeking opportunities to grow the supply chain to support their increasing demand and commitment to sustainability.
"As the world’s largest plastics recycler, KW Plastics has the capacity and innovative technology to reprocess a wide range of HDPE and PP materials. Because residential bulky rigid plastics, a good, clean source of HDPE, are increasingly being recycled by municipalities and MRFs, KW Plastics consistently purchases bales of this material. There is healthy value and demand for residential bulky rigids, and with the help of this toolkit, municipalities and MRFs can acquire a balanced understanding of how to join the growing trend of reducing the waste stream and capturing another revenue stream through the collection of bulky rigid plastics."
Stephanie Baker, Director of Market Development, KW Plastics Recycling