Consortium Forms to Address Bioplastics Recycling

Consortium Forms to Address Bioplastics Recycling

About 20 organizations have gathered to form the Bioplastics Recycling Consortium, a group focused on developing how to recover, recycle and reuse post-consumer bioplastics.

Companies like NatureWorks have been using bioplastic, material derived from biomass instead of petroleum, in items like bowls, utensils, clothing, home furnishings and water bottles.

The Consortium's main aim is to figure out a system for recovering disposed items made with bioplastics and finding end markets for them. It will focus on operations within the United States, developing resale markets and values.

NatureWorks, a Consortium member, offers the NatureWorks polymer and Ingeo fiber bioplastics for use in apparel, gift cards, labels, plates, utensils and packaging like fellow Consortium member Primo Water Corporation's water bottles.

To properly compost and biodegrade, though, products made with NatureWorks' bioplastic need to be taken to an industrial composting facility. They won't compost or biodegrade if sent to landfills or left outside.

One issue the Consortium aims to look at is labeling bioplastics so they are handled properly when disposed of. Although bioplastics carry the number 7 recycling symbol, when used in the form of a water bottle they could easily be mistaken for normal plastic bottles, which have the number 1 recycling symbol.

Although current levels of bioplastics in the recycling stream aren't high enough to muck up recycled plastic, according to the Consortium, as more organizations use bioplastics, more might end up in the recycling stream. A study by the Freedonia Group found that U.S. demand for bioplastics could increase 20 percent a year through 2010, especially for use in films, bottles and food-related products. The Consortium hopes to develop a bioplastic recovery system to avoid widespread tainting of other recycled materials.

Members of the Consortium first met during a June teleconference to establish a mission for the group, with representatives from waste and recycling companies, brand owners, retailers, government, research institutions and non-governmental organizations. Consortium members include the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, Climate Neutral, Mountain Valley Recycling, NatureWorks, Porter Novelli, Primo Water Corporation, U.S. EPA Office of Solid Waste and the Yale Office of Sustainability. The group plans to meet again this fall.