On June 1, 2018, Recycle BC introduced a pilot project to collect a new type of material: Other Flexible Plastic Packaging.

Other Flexible Plastic Packaging is one of the fastest growing packaging types on the market and the largest category of packaging that previously wasn’t collected by Recycle BC.

This material is collected at a portion of Recycle BC depots only around the province. Collection of Other Flexible Plastic Packaging is part of a research and development project to determine how we can best recycle this material. During this time, material that is unable to be recycled will be recovered and produced into engineered fuel.

Other Flexible Plastic Packaging are types of film and flexible plastics that often include multiple layers of different types of plastic, making it more difficult to recycle. Examples of Other Flexible Plastic Packaging include: stand-up and zipper lock pouches, like pouches for granola, frozen berries, etc.; crinkly wrappers and bags, like coffee bags, chip bags, or cellophane; flexible packaging with plastic seal, like packaging for fresh pasta or pre-packaged deli meats; non-food protective wrap like bubble wrap or plastic envelopes; and net bags for onions, avocados, lemons, etc.

For more information please see the frequently asked questions below.

 

 

Other Flexible Plastic Packaging Pilot

Other Flexible Plastic Packaging is now being collected by some depots as a new collection category as part of a pilot project. Packaging in this category is often referred to as “multi-laminated plastic packaging” which are essentially the types of film and flexible plastics that are not currently captured under Recycle BC’s current Plastic Bag and Overwrap category or any other category.

Other Flexible Plastic Packaging is one of the fastest growing packaging types on the market and the largest category of packaging that previously wasn’t collected by Recycle BC.

Recycle BC is launching the collection of this material on June 1, 2018, as part of a research and development pilot project. Many Recycle BC depots located across British Columbia have opted to participate in this first phase of collection and accept Other Flexible Plastic Packaging as a separate collection stream starting in June.

All depots were provided with the opportunity to collect Other Flexible Plastic Packaging, starting June 1, 2018 as part of this pilot project. 117 depots from around BC confirmed participation starting June 1.

After this pilot phase, we expect all depots will begin to collect Other Flexible Plastic Packaging starting January 1, 2019.

During the research and development project phase, material will be collected to try to determine how best we can recycle the material. During this time, material that is unable to be recycled will be recovered and produced into engineered fuel.

Accepted Materials

There are five main sub-categories of Other Flexible Plastic Packaging. The categories and examples are included below:

Stand-up and Zipper Lock Pouches

  • Zipper lock pouches for frozen foods like prawns, berries, prepared food, etc.
  • Zipper lock bags for fresh foods like grapes, berries, deli meat, etc.
  • Stand-up pouches for baby food, hand soap refills, etc.
  • Stand-up and zipper lock pouches for things like dried fruits, granola, sugar, oatmeal, quinoa, dish detergent pods, grated cheese, etc.

Crinkly Wrappers and Bags

  • Bags for potato chips, candy, dried pasta, cereal, etc.
  • Cellophane for flowers, gift baskets, etc.
  • Wrappers for cheese slices, snack bars, instant noodles, etc.

Flexible Packaging with Plastic Seal

  • Packaging for fresh pasta, pre-packaged deli meats, pre-packaged cheese, etc.

Woven and Net Plastic Bags

  • Net bags for avocados, onions, oranges, lemons, limes, etc.
  • Woven plastic bags for rice, etc.

Non-food Protective Packaging

  • Padded protective plastic like plastic shipping envelopes, plastic air packets, bubble wrap

Yes, residents can include zipper lock bags with Other Flexible Plastic Packaging at depots.

Yes, there are some packaging items that are not collected as part of Other Flexible Plastic Packaging. They include:

  • Plastic Squeeze Tubes
  • Plastic-lined Paper
  • Paper-lined Plastic
  • Plastic Strapping
  • 6-pack Rings
  • Biodegradable or Oxo Plastic
  • PVC/Vinyl
  • Squishy Foam

Other Flexible Plastic Packaging will have one of more of the following characteristics:

  • Has multiple layers of different types of plastics
  • Is crinkly and loud when crumpled
  • Is a flexible plastic that won’t stretch
  • Has a foil lining
  • Is used to keep food fresh over time
  • Has a zig-zag edge when sealed (like the edges of dried pasta bags or snack bars)
  • Has a zipper lock seal
  • Isn’t a stretchy plastic (can’t poke your thumb through it)

End-market for Other Flexible Plastic Packaging

Collection of Other Flexible Plastic Packaging is part of a research and development project. Recycle BC will work with Merlin Plastics on research and development to develop a viable, stable commercial process at scale for the recycling of Recycle BC’s Other Flexible Plastic Packaging. To conduct this research and development, Merlin Plastics requires a clean stream of Other Flexible Plastic Packaging of sufficient quantity to run tests on the component parts of the multi-laminated material.

Recycle BC’s objectives of the research and development project are:

  1. Recycle some, if not all, of the materials categorized as Other Flexible Plastic Packaging over time to continue to maintain or exceed our 75% collection rate on behalf of Recycle BC members.
  2. Recover material not capable of being recycled – this will be done by processing the material into energy pellets, or engineered fuel, and marketed as an alternative to coal or other more carbon intensive fuels.
  3. Increase the amount of materials recycled and decrease the amount of material recovered and produced into engineered fuel as the technology is tested and refined.

Recovery is an activity where material or energy is recovered from the product. When an item cannot be recycled due its material type, condition, or level of contamination, then recovery is the next best alternative in the Pollution Prevention Hierarchy. Per the Recycle BC program plan, primary and downstream processors are encouraged to further process system residues to meet recovery end-market requirements and minimize the amount of residue sent to landfill.

The pollution prevention hierarchy is a series of steps to manage waste, in order of the preferred approach. It’s often simplified to “reduce, reuse, recycle”, but there are some additional stages.

The stages of the hierarchy include:

  1. Reduce the environmental impact of producing the product
  2. Redesign the product to improve reusability or recyclability
  3. Reusing the product.
  4. Recycle the product
  5. Recover material or energy from the product
  6. Dispose of waste

Section 5(1)(c)(viii) of BC’s Recycling Regulation requires that a stewardship plan adequately provide for the management of the product in adherence to the order of preference in the pollution prevention hierarchy.

Other Flexible Plastic Packaging collected at depots will be used for research and development at Merlin Plastics in Delta, BC. Merlin Plastics will run tests on the Other Flexible Plastic Packaging to inform development of a viable, stable commercial process at scale for the recycling of Recycle BC’s Other Flexible Plastic Packaging. A portion of the material will be recycled and the remaining material will be recovered and produced into engineered fuel.

Engineered fuel is an energy product engineered to exact specifications to produce a fuel that is a direct replacement for traditional non-renewable resources, such as coal. Not only is it a cleaner burning alternative, but the energy requirements for producing and transporting the fuel are less.

No, the material is not burned. The material is recovered from the packaging and a product (engineered fuel) is produced using exact specifications.

Material that is not recyclable is recovered by running it through a proprietary process to produce a product that meets the needs of the customer in terms of its chemistry and the physical properties of the material. It is critical that engineered fuel be of the right chemistry and physical properties to compete with non-renewable energy like coal. This means that it has to be equal to or better than coal in terms of calorific value and emissions. As well, the physical properties of the engineered fuel need to be consistent with the customer’s needs and, in particular, with how the customer’s system is set up to receive, handle, feed and make efficient use of it. This is where the shape and size and other physical properties of the engineered fuel is important. As such, significant effort needs to be undertaken to ensure that both the chemistry is right as well as the physical properties of the product.

There are a number of benefits of engineered fuel including:

  • Engineered fuel is a cleaner burning fuel source to more traditional fuel like coal due to its low sulphur and chlorine content.
  • Engineered fuel has a high BTU value (the amount of heat or energy required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit), comparable to that of coal.
  • By creating engineered fuel, materials that can’t be recycled have one additional use as opposed to going directly to landfill where they are preserved indefinitely.
  • Engineered fuel is a product that is custom created to exact specifications as determined by the customer.

Engineered fuel is primarily used in cement kilns in the production of clinker, a combination of limestone, silica, alumina, and iron heated to 1450°C. Clinker is then pulverized and mixed with gypsum to make cement. The high energy value of the engineered fuel means it can be used in place of coal to achieve the required temperatures needed to produce the clinker.

It’s the fastest growing segment of packaging so we want to do all we can to recycle or recover it. From a life-cycle perspective however (creation, transportation, disposal), the energy requirements and CO2 emissions for Other Flexible Plastic Packaging are significantly lower than those of glass, rigid plastic, or even aluminum.