WM Adds Program to Increase Plastic Film Recycling, Invests in MRFs

Plastic Recycling

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by | Nov 17, 2022

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With a significant focus on improving recycling efficiency, especially for hard-to-recycle materials, WM has increased investment in facilities and started a new curbside program with Dow. Dow will help increase recycling rates by building infrastructure that will help put recycled plastic materials back into the supply chain in the United States.

WM, which has rebranded from Waste Management, is beginning a program that will accept plastic films in curbside recycling. The films, including materials like food bags, cling wrap, and dry cleaning bags, are said to have the lowest recycling rate of plastics. WM also is investing $56 million to advance recycling technologies at three materials recovery facilities (MRF) in Washington.

The curbside project started with a pilot program in the Chicago-area community of Hickory Hills, Illinois. Once operating at full capacity, WM says it expects to divert more than 120,000 metric tons of plastic film from landfills a year.

Through the program, users will be able to put the plastic films in their curbside recycling bins.

According to the Recycling Partnership, less than 2% of plastic films are recycled, making it the least recycled plastic material. The EPA says overall plastic recycling rates in the US dropped to between 5% and 6% in 2021, down from nearly 9% in 2018.

WM, which is the largest waste and recycling hauling company in the US, also plans to invest more than $800 million through 2025 to improve recycling infrastructure. That includes systems that will help the company sort plastic films. The company hopes to reach 8% of US households with the program through 2025.

The MRF projects in the northwestern US are part of the overall recycling investment by WM. The company says it will advance recycling technology at the facilities and will help increase access to recycling and capture more recyclable materials.

The investment will rebuild a WM facility in Woodinville, Washington. The $34 million project there will add ballistic separators, volumetric scanners, and other sorting technology. WM says the project, which will be completed in 2023, will increase recycling capacity and capture rates, especially for aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and paper and cardboard.

The other projects are upgrades at facilities in Spokane and Tacoma, which also serve other states in the region. The Tacoma upgrades build on a 2019 investment to install additional paper screens, optical sorters, and a second plastic sorter.

In another effort to improve capturing recyclable materials at waste recovery facilities, EverestLabs recently raised $16.1 million to improve its artificial intelligence-based recycling operating system. The company says it can help MRFs recover two to four times more recyclables than traditional processes.

In September 2022, WM acquired a controlling interest in Avangard Innovative’s United State business. That move is also intended to significantly increase WM’s commercially used plastics and wraps recycling.

The acquisition formed an independent company called Natura PCR, and the new business is expected to grow its recycling capacity within five years to an estimated 400 million pounds a year of post-consumer resin. Natura PCR is expected to produce reusable materials from items such as plastic stretch wraps, furniture film, grocery bags, and potentially shrink wraps used for food and beverage containers.

Dow is participating in the WM program in line with its recycling targets which aims to recover 3 million metric tons of reusable and renewable materials by 2030. It has agreements with companies internationally to help increase recycling rates and technologies, including Mura Technology, Valoregen, Nexus Circular, Boomera LAR, Mr. Green Africa, and Lucro Plastecycle.

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