NatureWorks Announces Plastics Buy-Back Program
Through the buy-back program, commercial municipal recycling facilities (MRFs) in geographic areas will separate post-consumer PLA bottles into distinct PLA bales meeting a predefined specification, resulting in truckload quantities (about 40,000 lbs.). NatureWorks will buy these bales at an agreed-upon price and route them to an appropriate end-of-life solution and/or post-consumer use based on geography of collection and prevailing market economics.
PLA can be sorted from other plastics using standard near-infrared equipment. In the future, MRFs will have the ability to sort PLA into a pure stream that can be mechanically or chemically recycled back to its monomer through hydrolysis.
The program provides an additional landfill waste diversion option for corn-based PLA. Third-party independent research has verified that PLA can exist with minimal impact in the current recycling infrastructure for recycling other plastics such as PET and HDPE.
NatureWorks hopes the program will help create a bridge to the development of a commercially viable post-consumer PLA market. "NatureWorks is committed to developing a responsible approach for introducing new plastic materials to the market and ensuring the successful introduction and proper disposal within the existing waste management and recycling infrastructures," said Glenn Johnston, the company's manager of global regulatory affairs.
"This program is the first step toward a commercially viable post-consumer market for NatureWorks PLA," continued Johnston. "In addition, as part of our commitment to environmental responsibility, we will continue to work with representatives of the plastics recycling industry to study the handling of post-consumer PLA in mixed plastic streams, and provide more waste diversion options as they become available."
As a polymer, NatureWorks PLA is technically suited for single-use-bottle applications such as regional still water, fresh dairy, fresh juice, and edible oils. The current technology is not applicable for carbonated beverages. In the United States today, the most commonly recycled item is the soda bottle, which makes up the majority of the collected recycled waste stream.
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