A recycling program that focuses on post-consumer plastic packaging for engine oil and other petroleum-based products is being started by the National Lubricant Container Recycling Coalition (NLCRC).
The recycling pilot is a one-year project involving more than 40 locations in the Atlanta area, including retail stores, auto care centers, oil change locations, and commercial facilities. The NLCRC says the program aims to assess and measure economic and market drivers for post-consumer recovery and recycling.
The coalition also is looking to understand waste disposal behaviors and to come up with plans for the development of larger scale recycling programs. The NLCRC says it is an industry-first collaborative program, and partners include commercial and retail organizations, Safety-Kleen, and Nexus Circular.
The NLCRC says one of the biggest waste management challenges in the United States is collecting, sorting, and processing plastic packaging and making it reusable. Those processes are even more difficult for contaminated packaging if it is happening at all, the group says.
“The pilot focuses on the heart of the problem – collection – to find the most efficient ways to aggregate and transport the materials to processors that want them, creating value in a waste material that doesn’t exist today,” says NLCRC Director Tristan Steichen.
The demand to increase post-consumer recycled plastic packaging is growing, and a report from Smithers says worldwide demand for materials from the process will reach 6.37 million metric tons by 2026. Still, in 2020 4.8 billion pounds of post-consumer plastics were recycled in the US, which was down nearly 6% from 2019, according to Circularity in Action.
Most post-consumer plastic recyclables come from the food and beverage industry. The NLCRC says the type of recycling it is focusing on is not feasible for most individual companies, especially with complexities regarding distribution and supply chains.
A program by Solvay and Mitsubishi Chemical Advanced Materials is an example of another hard-to-recycle plan. Its focus is on recycling of medical equipment with plastics with the intent to return the materials to their original use. Like with oil-based products, possible contamination makes recycling medical equipment more challenging.
Consortium-based plastic waste company Cyclyx International is also seeking to increase plastic recycling rates to 90% across industries. Cyclyx wants to expand the range of plastics that are recycled, including materials not generally accepted due to poor quality, contamination levels, or chemical makeup.
NLCRC members include many leading companies in the petroleum and packaging industries including Castrol, Valvoline, Pennzoil-Quaker State, Graham Packaging, Plastipak Packaging, Berry Global, Chevron, and the Petroleum Packaging Council.