NatureWorks LLC has announced plans at the National Recycling Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota to institute a large-volume “buy-back” program in North America for post-consumer PLA bottles in mixed plastic waste recycling streams. The program provides an additional landfill waste diversion option for corn-based NatureWorks PLA.
NatureWorks LLC has created this program as part of its commitment to the principle of responsible innovation. The company is proactively working to ensure that future mass-market introductions of bottles made from NatureWorks PLA have minimal negative impact on the current recycling system in the United States. Through the buy-back program, commercial material recovery facilities (MRFs) in geographic areas would separate post-consumer PLA bottles into distinct PLA bales meeting a predefined specification, resulting in truckload quantities (40,000 lbs.). NatureWorks LLC will buy these bales at an agreed-upon price and route them to an appropriate end-of-life solution and/or post-consumer use based on geography of collection and prevailing market economics.
This program allows a bridge to the development of a commercially viable post-consumer PLA market. In designing this initiative, NatureWorks representatives consulted with many leading stakeholders in the recycling community at the national, municipal and local levels to solicit their input, ideas and concerns. As a result of this collaborative process, the company determined that it was appropriate to publicly outline its current and future position regarding the introduction of NatureWorks PLA and its potential impact at future mass-market scale.
“NatureWorks LLC is committed to developing a responsible approach for introducing new plastic materials to the market and ensuring the successful introduction and proper disposal within the existing waste management and recycling infrastructures,” said Glenn Johnston, Manager –Global Regulatory Affairs at NatureWorks LLC.
“This program is the first step toward a commercially viable post-consumer market for NatureWorks PLA,” continued Johnston. “In addition, as part of our commitment to environmental responsibility, we will continue to work with representatives of the plastics recycling industry to study the handling of post-consumer PLA in mixed plastic streams, and provide more waste diversion options as they become available.”
Today NatureWorks PLA can be sorted from other plastics using standard Near-Infrared (NIR) equipment. In the future, MRFs will have the ability to sort PLA into a pure stream that can be mechanically or chemically recycled back to its monomer through hydrolysis. Third-party independent research verifies that NatureWorks PLA can exist with minimal impact in the current recycling infrastructure for recycling PET and HDPE. As a polymer, NatureWorks PLA is technically suited for single-use-bottle applications such as regional still water, fresh dairy, fresh juice, and edible oils. The current technology is not applicable for carbonated beverages. In the United States today, the most commonly recycled item is the soda bottle which makes up the majority of the collected recycled waste stream.
About NatureWorks PLA
Based in Minnetonka, Minnesota, USA, NatureWorks LLC is the first company to offer a family of commercially available polymers derived 100 percent from annually renewable resources with cost and performance that compete with petroleum-based packaging materials and fibers. The company applies its unique technology to the processing of natural plant sugars to create a proprietary polylactide polymer, which is marketed under the NatureWorks PLA and Ingeo fiber brand names. For more information about NatureWorks and its brands, please visit www.natureworksllc.com
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