Mechanical Recycling Options
The ability to mechanically recycle multi-material flexible packaging exists but the challenge is finding a solution that works with the unknowns found in curbside collection
Mechanical recycling refers to operations that aim to recover plastics waste via mechanical processes (i.e. grinding, washing, separating, drying, re-granulating and compounding). In mechanical recycling polymers stay intact, this permits for multiple re-use of polymers in the same or similar product — effectively creating a closed loop.
As more information and processes are tested for effective collection and sortation, wider application of these technologies may emerge.
Based in Trenton, NJ, TerraCycle is best known for upcycling of consumer goods into new products. Lesser known is that TerraCycle has a significant in-house ‘plastics to pellets’ team. Using melt-flow technology and compatibilizers, the company can take known multi-material flexible packaging and create new resins for use with other in-house products. Because this process requires an understanding of the resins used within structures, Terracycle limits feedstock to material directly received from manufacturer’s (pre-consumer), or collected through targeted campaigns with select post consumers – their ‘brigade program.’ Brigade participants register to collect specific materials and brands only, in return they receive a minimal payment and free shipping for their efforts.