Earth Day challenge: Be a leader in recycling plastics

From Plastics Today

By Heather Caliendo Published: April 19th, 2013

Every year on April 22, more than one billion people take part in the Earth Day. From Beijing to Cairo, Melbourne to London, Rio to Johannesburg, New Delhi to New York, communities everywhere will voice their concerns for the planet, and take action to protect it, according to Earth Day network.

I’ll admit it; I’ve always loved Earth Day. I remember back in elementary school, I would proudly wear my t-shirt with a picture of the earth as my fellow classmates and I would participate in a collection of activities from helping to pick up litter around campus, planting flowers and making crafts with recycled materials.

I felt I was exposed to the importance of recycling and reusing materials fairly early on, so it’s pretty disappointing that overall recycling rates for plastics remain at about 8%. Although, there has been some encouraging news on the plastic recycling front as now at almost 39%, the recycling rate for single-serve PET plastic bottled water containers has more than doubled in the last seven years.

Obviously, the goal is a 100% recycling rate for all materials, which isn’t an impossible dream. After all, American Chemistry Council (ACC) says more than 80% of Americans have easy access to plastics recycling opportunities, whether you participate in a municipal curbside program or live near a drop-off site.

Recycling isn’t just a feel-good endeavor – there’s a whole market for it.

U.S. demand for post-consumer recycled plastic is forecast to rise 6.5% per year to 3.5 billion lb in 2016, according to the Freedonia Group. Packaging will continue to be the leading market for recycled plastic in 2016. Bottles will remain the leading source of plastic for recycling, accounting for over half of all plastic collected in 2016. PET and HDPE were the two leading resins used in recycled plastic products in 2011, accounting for more than 70% of demand.

Recycled PP

Brands such as Starbucks would love to be able to use recycled material in its packaging. Earlier this year when the Seattle-based coffee giant unveiled its $1 reusable plastic cup, Starbucks Jim Hanna, director of environmental impact for Starbucks, told me that the launch was one way to reduce the company’s environmental footprint. The reusable cups are thermoformed with 100% virgin PP, which includes the lid.

He said the company wants to be able to eventually use post-consumer resin in this cup.

“We are focusing on what we can do to reduce our footprint and one of the key aspects around sustainability and packaging is using low impact and post-consumer material,” Hanna said. “Frankly, there’s not a lot of access to post-consumer plastics in food grade applications.”

He cited a past example when the company took the initiative to start using post-consumer fiber in its paper cups. It wasn’t an easy endeavor to achieve by any means; for instance, it took a significant amount of time to get FDA approval. Still, the company is willing to go the extra mile in order to offer a complete sustainable solution.

“Sustainability needs to involve all players in the system, and we really want to challenge the plastics industry as one of its missions to offer this,” he said. “We know significant infrastructure improvements need to happen to close the loop on recycling, but we would love nothing more than to use post-consumer resin in this product.”


Arrowhead, the West Coast brand of Nestlé Waters, recently unveiled its .5-liter ReBorn bottle, made with 50% recycled PET (rPET).

“In a way, it’s a two-fold launch,” Gigi Leporati, brand manager for Arrowhead, told me. “This is not only about reducing the amount of virgin plastic, but it’s also about driving awareness of recycling and encouraging recycling. We need consumers to cooperate with us and recycle more and more in order for us to be able to use the recycled material in our bottles.”

Nestlé Waters’ newest bottled water, Resource spring water, packaged with 50% recycled PET, is now available to retailers across the U.S. The bottle is offered in 700mL and 1L single-serve bottles and six-packs.

The company conducted a trial launch of this product in 2012 in Southern California. Joe Wiggetman, general manager for Resource, said the bottles performed well to-date and delivered the margins that retailers were looking for in the bottled water category. The decision to use rPET material was made over two years ago by the company.

“The reusing of plastic, where we give them another life, is an important goal of ours,” Wiggetman said. “Recycled plastic is very symbolic of an environmental and sustainable message.”

The eventual goal is to use 100% rPET in the bottle.

“But that will certainly be based on improvements in the recycling rate as well as obtaining true quality PET,” he said. “We will take any steps further that are needed to get to that goal of 100% sometime in the future.”

Earth Day challenge & beyond

Since 1990, the plastics industry, as individual companies and through organizations such as ACC’s plastics division, has invested more than $2 billion to support increased recycling and educate communities in the U.S., according to the ACC.

But we can all do more.

Here’s the thing to keep in mind. Until recycling rates go up, consumers will continue to blame the industry for waste issues. That’s a fact.

So on this upcoming Earth Day, I ask material suppliers, device designers, plastic processors, wherever you are on the supply chain – take a closer look at your recycling initiatives. If you’re tired of bans and restrictions in packaging, do your part in adopting recycling as a cultural value.

If you don’t know where to start, visit the Earth911 Recycling Directory, which provides a variety of resources and information about recycling.


Editor’s Note:  Thanks Heather for promoting plastics recycling, but don’t forget recycled HDPE.  Kellogg’s Kashi brand cereal will be using our EcoPrime food grade recycled HDPE in their packaging.   Kellogg’s recognizes the need to use recycled content in their packaging, not just using materials that are recyclable.

Embleton Hall Dairies to use new Inifini Milk Bottle Containing Food Grade Recycled HDPE

Editor’s Note: We ran across this article on Packaging Europe’s website, promoting the use of the Infini® milk bottle made with food grade recycled HDPE.  Food grade recycled HDPE is not currently used in milk bottle packaging in North America although FDA approved recycled HDPE is available in North America exclusively from Envision Plastics.  Our food grade recycled HDPE is marketed under the brand name EcoPrime™ and is suitable for packaging a broad range of food products including water, juices, yogurt drinks, coffee, tea, dairy creamers, cereal, nutritionals, syrups, condiments and many other products. 

Embleton Hall Dairies, based in Wingate, County Durham are launching the new 2 litre infini® HDPE recyclable milk bottle following extensive market research. Designed by Nampak Plastics, one of the UK’s leading plastic milk bottle manufacturers, infini® is the innovative next-generation, eco-friendly bottle.Infini-iPad-version1

Infini® has been designed to be lightweighted by up to 25% across the range without compromising strength, resulting in an initial weight reduction of 13% on the standard 2 litre bottle (33g vs 38g). Research has shown customers love its unique design and retailers love the combination of robustness and its environmental credentials.

When placed in the door of a fridge the handle position makes it easier for the consumer to remove the infini® bottle. The bottles are made of HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) and recycled HDPE (rHDPE). Every infini bottle contains up to 15% rHDPE. This recycled content will increase further in the future with a target of up to 30% by 2015.

HDPE plastic milk bottles are 100% recyclable and the consumer can recycle the infini® bottle in exactly the same way as a standard bottle. Also there is a carbon footprint saving over the standard bottle, resulting in approximately 75% of the research panel expressing their preference for the infini® bottle. The bottle achieved international industry recognition, picking up the top award in the ‘Best Dairy Packaging Innovation’ category at the Dairy Innovation Awards 2012, in addition to the World Packaging Organisation 2013 World Star Award.

Commenting on their change to the bottle, Paul Thompson, director of Embleton Hall Dairies said: “The design of milk poly bottles has remained unchanged since we started back in 1984, so we were very interested when Nampak approached us with a new design, in response to growing customer requests for a more environmentally-friendly form of packaging. That it improves bottle strength and reduces leakage rates is a massive bonus, and the results are good for both our customers and the environment”.

Carl Thorley of Nampak who worked with Embleton commented “Infini® is the result of a four year journey that my colleagues undertook in order to reduce the weight and carbon footprint of the standard milk bottle, but without compromising on its strength. It is ‘better by design’ and is playing an important role in helping the British dairy industry to meet its environmental targets and the support we have received from Embleton shows we are meeting the demands of the market.

More info:

Alpla to Produce Milk Bottles with 50% Recycled Content for Arla Foods

Arla Foods has appointed leading plastic packaging company, Alpla, to manufacture bottles on site at its new one billion-litre dairy in Aylesbury, and support Arla’s aim for the dairy to be the most environmentally advanced in the world.

Arla Foods Milk Bottles will Contain 50% Food Grade Recycled HDPE

Alpla, which is targeting an industry first recycled HDPE material content of 50 per cent in all bottles for Arla, will support the dairy company’s aim of delivering a zero carbon facility with zero waste to landfill in Aylesbury.  Alpla has already designed a new range of lightweight HDPE bottles, which will deliver a weight saving in excess of 20 per cent compared to Arla’s current milk bottles.

Lars Dalsgaard, director of supply chain at Arla, said: “The appointment of Alpla supports our sustainability strategy and commitment to become Closer to Nature. Alpla will blowmould and handle plastic bottles for Arla with the lowest energy consumption possible, which will assist our zero carbon ambition. It will also provide our customers with the lowest carbon fresh milk packaging available in the UK.”

Alpla will work at Aylesbury dairy through a ‘hole-in-the-wall’ operation. Although on site bottle production is currently used at a number of Arla’s other sites, this will be the first on this scale in the dairy industry. The new facility will be of the highest quality, and will have total flexibility, allowing Arla to react quickly to customer requirements in today’s challenging dairy market.

Guenther Lehner, CEO of Alpla global, said: “We’ve been working with Arla on this project over the last 18 months and it has been hugely challenging. Our continuous effort to develop plastic container manufacturing processes and packaging designs with utmost environmental and economic efficiencies in mind has resulted in Alpla being a perfect match for Arla in this exciting project. The whole Alpla team is looking forward to putting this ambitious concept into reality and to strengthening the close partnership between our two organisations.”

Alpla has considerable experience in the plastic bottle market, having in-plant facilities at blue chip companies all over the world (including five in the UK), as well as two stand-alone UK sites in Milton Keynes and Manchester, ensuring Arla has good supply contingency to support the company’s changing requirements.

More info:

Pureology Uses EcoPrime, FDA Approved Recycled HDPE in its Hydrate Collection

As posted on “inside cosmeceuticals”, January 13, 2012

Pureology ~ Hydrate for Dry Color-Treated Hair

IRVINE, Calif.—Pureology introduced its Hydrate Collection, a vegan hair care line designed for dry, color-treated hair. It contains the company’s Anti Fade Complex®, a blend of antioxidants and full spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreens including heliogenol, plus vitamins C and E. In addition, the collection features a multi-weight protein complex made with soy, oat and wheat.  For improved environmental sustainability, each bottle is produced with 50 percent of EcoPrime, the only FDA-approved, post-consumer recycled High-density polyethylene (HDPE) from Envision Plastics.  For secondary packaging, Pureology decreased the amount of cardboard and uses Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified cardboard boxes made from 100 percent recycled fibers. Pureology also added educational messages to these boxes, reminding purchasers to recycle the box and providing tips on how they can conserve water. Pureology’s shampoo and conditioner bottles are 100 percent recyclable.

The line includes:

Hydrate Shampoo: Sulfate-free, salt-free, color-preserving formula derived from coconut, corn and sugar with rose, sandalwood and green tea extracts. Hydrate Condition: Formulated with jojoba esters, shea butter, peppermint, sage and rosemary extracts and peppermint and corn mint essential oils. Hydrate LightCondition: Formulated with jojoba esters, shea butter, peppermint, sage and rosemary extracts and peppermint and corn mint essential oils. Hydrate HydraWhip: Formulated with avocado, shea, jojoba and mango butters, peppermint, sage and rosemary plant extracts and an aromatherapy blend of rose, plumeria, sandalwood, amber and vanilla. Hydrate ShineMax: This product is formulated with multi-weight silicones, a selected blend of some of the most technologically advanced silicones. It also contains a mushroom blend (Shiitake, Mannentake and Mucor Miehei) and an aromatherapy blend of bergamot, orange blossom, thyme, cardamom and cinnamon.

Save the Plastics 2011 in Review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for our blog.  Thanks for reading and stay tuned in 2012 for new content as we strive to Save the Plastics!   Happy New Year!

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,900 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Recyclers Milk Bottle Market at Record Level

The following article appeared in Plastics & Rubber Weekly, a Plastics News Global Group Site on November 8, 2011.  The article discusses the increase in recycling of HDPE milk bottles in the United Kingdom.  The UK is significantly ahead of us here in the United States when it comes to including recycled HDPE in their milk bottles.  Greenstar, Closed Loop Recycling and Nampak (among others) are working together to include up to 50% recycled food grade HDPE back into milk bottles.  At this point in time, there are no milk bottles in the U.S. that contain recycled plastic.  EcoPrime™, the only FDA approved, food grade recycled HDPE for use in direct food contact applications in North America is now available to fulfill that need.  Visit to learn more about how EcoPrime™ can be used to reduce our use of virgin plastics, save energy and improve the sustainability of HDPE packaging in most food applications.


Posted in Plastics & Rubber Weekly – 8 November 2011

By Anthony Clark

HDPE milk bottle recycling rates in the UK are up

The UK’s HDPE milk bottle recycling rate has reached an all time high, according to latest industry study.

The annual recycling study from Recoup shows that 76% of HDPE milk bottles consumed and collected in the UK during 2010 were recycled – a steady rise on 2009’s figure of 72%, following the substantial jump from 57% in 2008.

The report, which identifies recycling rates of all plastic bottle types, revealed that a total of 281,000 tonnes of plastic bottles were collected for recycling in 2010, with HDPE milk bottles representing a third of this total, or 93,000 tonnes.

This continued annual rise can be attributed to the growth of kerbside collections, with 21.7 million UK households now having access to a plastic kerbside collection. An estimated 83% of all household plastic bottles are collected for recycling via this route.

Despite the sustained rise in the number of HDPE milk bottles being recycled, an estimated 22,700 tonnes of HDPE milk bottles were still landfilled in 2010. This material is expected to cost £1.8m in landfill costs, and has a potential recyclable sales value of £8m.

Plastics News Article Features Envision Plastics

Plastics News published an article on June 21 regarding Envision’s new recycled plastics wash line in Reidsville, NC.  Envision is installing the additional washing capacity to meet the growing demand for our FDA approved EcoPrime™ food grade recycled HDPE.  The article details our plans to significantly increase capacity at both our Reidsville, NC and Chino, CA plants.  You can read the full article at