The Recycling Partnership’s Polypropylene Recycling Coalition Celebrates “Widely Recycled” Upgrade

The Recycling Partnership’s Polypropylene Recycling Coalition is celebrating the How2Recycle upgrade of polypropylene (PP) rigid containers to “Widely Recycled” in the U.S. This major milestone comes as the Coalition marks its two-year anniversary.

Launched in July 2020, the Coalition brings together stakeholders across the PP value chain – from resin suppliers and manufacturers to consumer packaged goods, and recycling processors – to improve PP recovery and recycling in the U.S. and to further develop end markets for recycling PP.

In the two years since the launch of the Coalition, its catalytic grants have proven highly successful at rapidly impacting the recycling system.  The Coalition has awarded 24 grants totaling $6.7 million, including four grants that will be announced in August, to support sorting improvements and community education across the U.S.

As a result, curbside access to PP recycling will improve for approximately 8% of households, positively affecting over 20 million people and increasing the amount of PP recovered by an estimated 25 million pounds annually for established domestic end markets.  The speed at which the Coalition has been able to drive impact is attributable to the commitment of its members and the strong desire of materials recovery facilities (MRFs) to collect and sort this valuable commodity.

“Achieving success for challenged materials is not a narrative often heard in our industry.  It was a mere two years ago when we acknowledged the challenges polypropylene recycling was facing and its uncertain future.  In forming the Polypropylene Recycling Coalition, we committed to leaning in and taking action in support of the material, to push ourselves and the industry to a more circular future,” said Keefe Harrison, CEO of The Recycling Partnership.  “The power of collaboration across the value chain can be seen through this substantial system-wide shift for polypropylene.  The precedent we are setting for materials, coalitions, and innovations is exciting and hopeful.  We encourage companies to join us as we continue to push polypropylene recycling to new heights.”

In assessing the potential for the Coalition’s efforts to support an upgrade of PP to “Widely Recycled” under the How2Recycle program, the Coalition and How2Recycle teams worked closely together over the course of many months.  Updated inputs were evaluated for the access and end markets criteria that originally led to PP being downgraded to “Check Locally” in January 2020.

Using the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s 2020/2021 Centralized Study on Availability of Recycling for a prior baseline where PP rigid containers were reported as having a 59% access rate, the teams leveraged The Partnership’s National Recycling Database to evaluate the current U.S. access rate, which is now 65%.  To evaluate the current state of end markets, the teams utilized The Partnership’s Circular Packaging Assessment tool to confirm the growth and strength of domestic end markets for PP. The teams saw improvements in these two areas as largely attributable to the catalytic work of the Coalition, as well as industry investment and increased recognition of the value of PP as a recycled commodity.

“The efforts of the Polypropylene Recycling Coalition are a great example of the impact that can be made with collective action focused on supporting the full recycling system and we are honored to have been in an advisory role since its inception,” said Caroline Cox, Director of How2Recycle.  “As rigid polypropylene access, sortation, and end markets are on an upward trend across the U.S., we are excited to upgrade this packaging format from Check Locally to Widely Recycled eligibility.  Thanks to the strength and efficacy of the data provided, How2Recycle is confident that this change in eligibility continues to be in line with federal law. While this win should be recognized, it is important to note that this is not the end of the road; the entire value chain should continue to invest in improving the recyclability of all materials and packaging formats.”

The Coalition is celebrating this significant impact – made in only two years – while recognizing that the work to support PP recycling must go further. The Coalition will continue to lead efforts to increase curbside access to PP recycling, support sortation equipment upgrades, as well as ensure PP domestic end markets continue to grow.

The mission-driven work of the Coalition is supported by contributions from organizations representing all segments of the material’s value chain. Members include Keurig Dr Pepper, Braskem, The NextGen Consortium, the Walmart Foundation, Advanced Drainage Systems, AMP Robotics, Berry Global, Campbell Soup Company, EFS-plastics, Ferrero, The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation, KW Plastics, LyondellBasell, Merlin Plastics, Milliken & Company, Nestlé, Plastic Ingenuity, PolyQuest, Procter & Gamble, Sabert, St. Joseph Plastics, Total Energies, and Winpak. The Coalition is advised by industry leaders including, Association of Plastic Recyclers, Sustainable Packaging Coalition, World Wildlife Fund, Closed Loop Partners, and Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners.

All companies that use polypropylene are encouraged to become part of the solution to ensure greater and better capture of this valuable material. To learn more about the Coalition and how to get involved in supporting its goals, visit the Polypropylene Recycling Coalition webpage.  For MRFs interested in applying for a grant, the application is available on the Coalition webpage.

About The Recycling Partnership

At The Recycling Partnership, we are solving for circularity. We mobilize people, data, and solutions across the value chain to unlock the environmental and economic benefits of recycling and a circular economy.

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