This map shows the wide range of established and emerging facilities in North America capable of recovering pre-consumer multi-material flexible packaging waste.
Pre-consumer multi-material flexible packaging waste is a particular focus for two reasons:
- Pre-consumer multi-material flexible packaging is more easily processed than post-consumer. There are limited reprocessing technologies that can recover multi-material flexible packaging without having an understanding of the various materials within the overall blend. Pre-consumer material can be easily characterized since it has a known material makeup and is generally free of disruptive contaminants. In contrast postconsumer material is variable and unpredictable because there are so many different formats available in the marketplace. Currently, there are no identifiers within these packages to help material processors identify their chemical composition and thus assist with sorting and reprocessing. Additionally, post-consumer packaging is more likely to be contaminated with residual product
- Pre-consumer multi-material flexible packaging is widely collected for recovery, while postconsumer is not. British Columbia, Canada is the one exception in North America. The British Columbia collects post-consumer multi-material film via depot stations in order to drive research and development into long term recycling solutions. Material not used for R&D is shredded for use in refuse-derived fuel (RDF) pellets for energy recovery.
There are a few facilities listed on this map that are noted as emerging technologies. These technologies have not yet been proven as viable candidates for multi-material film recovery in North America but rather may be in very early testing or pilot stage. Their inclusion on this map is not an endorsement by the SPC. Rather they are listed to help users of this map monitor progress and emerging options as innovation in this space advances.
Are All Recovery Technologies Created Equal?
“Recovery” is an all-encompassing term for a wide range of re-processing technologies that use waste materials to create various new products or resources.
It’s common to try to assess the economic, environmental, and social merits of these new products or resources from a lifecycle perspective, but it’s difficult to make clear conclusions. The underlying principles inherent to the Waste Hierarchy offer this general philosophical approach to best and better recovery.
The most preferable recovery process:
- Retains maximum amounts of the embodied economic and environmental investment within the feedstock material
- Is socially just, economically productive, and incurs minimal environmental impacts.
- Creates products or resources that directly offset the use of conventional industrial inputs (such as virgin petroleum). Creating an overall circular system that is regenerative and restorative.
These general principles of the waste management hierarchy can be helpful in evaluating the relative merit of different recovery processes, but it is important to understand that the recovery landscape is constantly evolving. To get to a future with widely available and highly efficient recovery processes we must continue to expand and improve upon the existing technologies.