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[00:00:00] Liz Bothwell: Hello everyone, welcome to Waste360’s NothingWasted! Podcast. In each episode, we invite the most interesting people from the fields of waste recycling and organic to sit down with us and speak openly about their thoughts, their work, this unique industry and much more. Thanks for listening and enjoy this episode.
[Music] [00:00:26] Liz: Hello everyone. This is Liz Bothwell from Waste360 with Steve Alexander, President of the Association of Plastic Recyclers. Hi Steve, and thanks for being on the show today. [00:00:37] Steve Alexander: Hello or good morning, Liz. Thanks for having us. We look forward to being part of your show. [00:00:42] Liz: Me too. We usually start at the beginning, Steve. Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you ended up in the waste and recycling industry? [00:00:51] Steve: Well, I don’t want to tell anyone how long I’ve really been in this industry, but it’s been a while. I remember the Mowbray barge that went up and down the east coast from New York in 1988, and if that gives anyone a clue. By and large, I’ve been dealing with environmental issues since then. He was heavily involved in the plastics industry and took over APR as a young organization almost 16 years ago. Since then he has tried to expand the organization. I’ve been around for a long time, Liz, why don’t we just leave it at that.
[Laughter] [00:01:43] Liz: That sounds good. I get it, apparently people find this industry and stick with it and it’s proof of how good it is, right? [00:01:52] Steve: Well the people who are in there are very involved and passionate about it. I want to say this about the people who have worked with APR for us that we don’t pay them well at all, but they are dedicated and passionate about what they are trying to do here because I think we all in the plastics recycling industry are looking at this as we develop the sustainability solution to a problem that is there and we all try to make the world a better place for future generations.
There is a reason for this and we are trying to solve the infrastructure problems and the other problems we have today and come up with realistic solutions for plastic packaging. [00:02:42] Liz: Absolutely. Can you talk a little about it, Steve? Tell me more about what APR does, what your mission is and who you work with? [00:02:50] Steve: In the absence of federal supervision, APR is … The staff hates it when I say that, APR is the technical soul of plastics recycling. We are the people who recycle the plastics. We have a plastics design guide, recyclability that really is one of the world’s leading and authoritative guides, or a packaging innovator, a consumer brands company, whatever. They design their packaging so that it is compatible with the recycling stream. Because one of the biggest problems we all face from the electricity is a material that contaminates the electricity.
We have test protocols that companies can go through and they can provide an innovation, a new package, a new label, or a conclusion. You go through our test protocol to determine compatibility. You can go through our design guide to determine which design of your packaging is compatible with recycling. We run these training programs, we literally run bespoke training programs for a container manufacturer or branded company to review their packaging basket and help them understand what to do to make this packaging recyclable.
Also tell them what to think about when designing the packaging. By and large, Liz, we don’t think anyone is deliberately putting out a package that is not recyclable, but I have to be honest and say that the concept of recyclability is not always a priority for people who develop a product with With a new package or innovation, they may have no idea what effect this will have on the future. We’re really the umpire at the end of the day on Recyclable, and it’s an ever-evolving activity.
When there is a new problem in the market, we are the place to look and develop solutions. This is an ink that can cause problems, a label, a shrink label in full packaging, a seal. an additive or a barrier layer. These are the things we are working on to solve these problems and provide solutions to the industry. One of the examples I like to use is about eight years ago when you saw an excess of what we call full wrap shrink labels in the market and there is the entire bottle of material on one label.
A great idea from a branded company’s perspective as it made the product popular and sales skyrocketed. Unfortunately, the infrared sorting technology with a shrink wrap label was unable to read the resin underneath. As a result, it got into the long stream and contaminated the material load. We’ve worked with stable manufacturers to come up with the solution called a floating label, as well as with the device manufacturers to come up with a device called [unintelligible 00:06:14]. By and large, it’s not really the problem today, seven or eight years later, that it was at that point, it was a break in critical mass.
These are the things that we do from a technical point of view. We are developing new test protocols, but we are a full-service trade association. We have a complete means of communication, like I told you, we have our own podcast, Recycled Content. We have committees that range from our technical data to our market development committees, our communications committees. Of course we also have a political apparatus. We are strong in politics. By and large, APR doesn’t believe we have solved the problem and that we need a policy driver as part of our solution.
If you are always the first trade association in 2006, come out and support the mandatory recycled content and certain packaging because we believe that if you have a demand market the whole system will be monetized, otherwise if you do not have a demand market collect, We only sort and process rubbish, and who the hell wants to get into this business?
These are the kinds of things we do. We also have an international presence. The design guide I mentioned to you has been translated into Spanish. It is currently being translated into Chinese. China uses our design standards as well as our design guide and we harmonize our test protocols all over the world and other continents. We really have a pretty strong footprint on what is recyclable and what needs to be done to make your packages recyclable around the world. [00:08:16] Liz: You really are a full service organization. I didn’t even know how many things you touched. That is amazing. [00:08:21] Steve: We’ll try. I think what separates us a little is: remember, plastic recycling is everything we do every day. Much of this is basic blocking and tackling, but there are many great organizations out there that have recycling and plastic recycling as part of their organization. For us it’s not a component, it’s our daily focus. We have to touch all of these fundamentals if we really want to really have an impact on the industry. [00:09:00] Liz: So true. You’ve been doing this so obviously with APR for a while. What do you think of the world that is paying more attention to plastics these days? [00:09:11] Steve: It’s a catch 22. Because no one has listened to us for so long and now everyone’s paying attention and they come up with some crazy ideas out there. I mean, I think the challenge is to steer this discussion towards solutions that actually affect the material, and the decisions are made with some databases and some rationality.
I’ll give you an example. We see a lot of political drivers calling now. We want all packaging to have a recycling rate of 50 percent by 2025 and a recycling rate of 70 percent by 2030. What we are doing is that we provide the data for example in California last year. There was a recycled content bill for beverage containers and they had a 25% content demand by 2025. Then, a few years later, they had 35% 50%, a few [unintelligible 00:10:21]. We did the analysis and we told them, « Look, the industry can get you up to 25% by 2025, but after that just think » and they said, « Well the industry will respond. » They always answer « .
I said, « No, you don’t understand. There is nothing for the industry to respond with. You don’t have the infrastructure. You don’t currently collect enough material for us to do and process. » more than 25% and you are trying to educate people about the system itself. « One of the analogies I like to use to ask waste management to deal with packaging today is like asking the 1978 Chevy Chevette to meet current California emissions standards. You know it better than I do, the packaging stream has developed and changed dramatically in the last eight to ten years. How do we get our Christmas packages and Christmas presents, what do you have?
There are a lot that the system needs help with and we cannot continue to do the same. People talk about recycling like it’s their own business, but recycling is a component of a system that includes: Are we putting the right things in the trash? Number one. Is it labeled correctly? There are many misnomeres associated with what is and what is not recyclable. Is it sorted properly? Can the MRF identify packaging and sort it properly? And if it’s dented afterward, is it somehow right for recycling?
Recycling itself is just one step in the whole system, and people just want to say, « Well, it has to be recycled at a certain rate. » They are going to change the whole system so that we can do that. It’s a long-term problem and unfortunately people in this environment just say, « Ah, yes. We’ll just ban it. » I want to say that you never have to get out of plastic packaging. You have to create sustainability solutions for this.
I think this is where the dialogue has to take place now. Since there are a ton of guidelines out there that are as well meant as they are, you don’t want this attention to go on from a political perspective after 30 years of ignoring your enacting something, and then move on to the next big problem but it doesn’t solve the problem, you want to make sure it solves the problem. We cannot go on with what we have done and expect a different outcome. These are the big things that we look at and try to resolve this. Not everyone agrees. That, too, is something that you surely know.
You have seen many legislative proposals that would require participation. Either from the new resin manufacturers who are at the beginning of the chain here, or from the end of the chain with consumer branded companies who have a shared responsibility or responsibility for the packaging they bring to market. That always creates a conflict, but it seems certain that the trend line is moving in that direction from a political perspective. I think that’s a realization that we have to do something different than we did in the past. [00:13:51] Liz: Absolutely. For you it’s a whole system, recycling is postponing part of it, and there is always debate about whether recycling in the US is broken as if it is being fixed or the infrastructure is being repaired. It will fix everything within the whole system by itself, that’s obviously just not the reality. It’s good to hear your thoughts – [00:14:12] Steve: The interesting thing is that this is one of the things that we frankly pushed back when they say the recycling is broken. Recycling, as you just said, is a component of a system that needs to be updated. When people say recycling is broken, they kind of think that the recycling component – « We just have to fix this. » No, unfortunately that is not the problem. I can tell you from a recycler’s point of view that we are able to process more material, but much of what we get and much of what is collected and streamed is contaminants.
You see all of these claims with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the United States Plastics Pact, in which we are a big part, and we are very grateful for those programs. However, they have promises from brands and others that they will meet certain content requirements or recycling rates up to certain dates. You cannot further contaminate the material stream on which you would expect good material to be produced in order to enable you to meet these obligations. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
When you talk about circularity, in graduate school we’re talking about garbage in, garbage out of a software system. It’s similar here. You need to bring good recyclable material that can be properly sorted into the system that is to be properly labeled. It will be properly designed and sorted so that it can be recycled so that the recycler can provide you with the recycling that you can use a second time.
Folks, they only want to focus on one component and that is very unfortunate. We have to think about it because what you are seeing now is that everyone wants a quick fix in the short term: « Well, we just need to collect more. » I’m not sure everyone in your industry would say, « Yeah, that’s exactly what we need. Much more material contaminated by our system to deal with. » I’m not sure if that is so – we need to collect more good material, better labeled material and better designed material and then make sure that at the end of this system there is a market that monetizes the system.
If you think about it, if there is no market to monetize the system, the components of the system, the cities, the waste disposal companies, the MRF community and the recyclers, we will bear the cost of providing a product that creates from another entity that then expects us to take this product and transform it so that they can then use it again. There has to be some stake there across the board because otherwise, if there is no monetization, the system – we bear all of the cost, the burden of that cost, and the burden of implementing the technology to cope with each new innovation on the line Market.
Let’s face it, lots of new innovations, not the most recyclable material you’ve ever had up there. Now you get tuna in a multi-layer, multi-laminate bag instead of putting it in the steel can that was normally recyclable, and now you have a container that cannot be recycled. It’s a broader subject when unfortunately it’s a complex subject and that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to public discourse or legislative process, if you get my drift. [00:18:22] Liz: Yes, absolutely. You’re right at the end of the day. If there is no end market and this business model is not established, the entire system will never be fixed. Me towards the end of the game, right? [00:18:38] Steve: Absolutely. I think the thing that we need to think about here – well, we can talk about some specific programs that we have because we create demand everywhere. Ali Briggs-Ungerer from APR runs our Demand Champions program for her to talk about. I think what people seem to be forgetting is that, by and large, plastics recycling, when you really think about it, is still an embryonic industry.
The infrastructure for collecting certain resins, high density PET, was essentially the result of some legal restrictions in the 1980s and 1990s. The positive legislation in the late 1970s and early 1980s really created the infrastructure for PET recycling. Then California passed the RPPC Act in 95, which really set up the high density polyethylene infrastructure. I think APR started a rigid plastics recycling program back in 2012 to focus on a resin that could be captured and processed in high density beyond PET, and polypropylene was significantly better than other materials.
We have started a big campaign to get more communities to collect polypropylene so that the waste management industry can see that there is a market for this material and that APR members have markets for this material. We conducted a survey of consumer brands and asked them how much recycled polypropylene they would use in their packaging if it were actually available. We surveyed 22 branded companies, 12 of which responded and said they use over a billion pounds of material a year. We knew from our economic models that you really need £ 350 million to £ 400 million of good demand to support a nationwide infrastructure. That was around 2012.
The reality is that we knew that if we could code the material it could be separated. If we could process it, we would have a market for it. That really helped the polypropylene market. Unfortunately, the polypropylene market has seen some effort by municipalities over the past year to get it off programs, which is extremely unfortunate as there is a huge demand for this material and the consumer brand space and recyclers would like to get their hands on it.
My point with all of this is that from a regulatory perspective, people are thinking that we can just snap our fingers and then create an infrastructure for all of this and that plastics recycling has somehow failed in its development. From the consumer’s point of view, too, plastics recycling is still in its infancy. It’s been about 30 years and the fact is we’re talking about generational changes that are going to change the way we handle packaging across the board. Not just plastics, and yet people seem to want us to do it next, not until … Today, Tuesday, they want us to do it by Friday.
It will take some time. It’s a systematic change that we need to focus on, and it’s consumer behavior too. Eventually it will happen. We will solve this problem. We have to solve the problem because, as I told you before, we cannot forbid your way out of the problem of the sustainability of plastic packaging. You will have to do it sustainably, how do you do it? Recycling must be the basis of all sustainability solutions for plastic packaging. [00:22:54] Liz: Absolutely. I know Steve, you mentioned the Demand Champion program. I know APR had some really great programs and I would love to hear more about it if we could bring in your colleague Ali to tell us more about it, we would love to hear. [00:23:09] Steve: Absolutely. Ali Briggs-Ungerer has been with APR for several years. She was also extremely active in the Oregon Recyclers Association. Market demand creation has had a huge impact on APR, a great program for APR, for a long time in two ways. Ali will talk about it, we both have the Demand Champions program and then APR also certifies recycled post-consumer content. I’ll let them talk about it. Ali, good morning. [00:23:45] Ali Briggs-Ungerer: Good morning. Hi. Thank you both. Yes, I’m happy to start by talking a little about the APR Recycling Demand Champions program. I’m just going to provide a little bit of background on what the plastics recycling industry was like at the time the idea for the program came up because I think this will help us better understand why the program was created.
I think we all remember how a few years ago we had China’s national sword policy, which limited the amount of material that could be exported. This included roughly all of the bulky, rigid materials that were recycled by the roadside or in depots, and about 65% of the polypropylene that was recycled by the roadside. At the same time that we were losing those overseas markets for these materials, we were seeing a bunch of virgin resin hit the market.
Native resin does not mean recycled content. At that time there was an estimated £ eight billion increase. Something on the order of 260 railroad cars per month of new, brand new resin coming out, and that material competed directly with recycled resin. A third aspect of what was happening in the industry was that there were no long-term contracts with the recyclers. We had one of our members, a major U.S. plastics recycler, who told us that a standing order for 20 trailerloads of post-consumer resin per month was canceled last week just because the converter had switched to the manufactured, large-spec, wide-spec resin available and at a much better price.
We had these three big problems. We had the Chinese national sword that we couldn’t export materials with, we had this cheap virgin resin, and we had no contracts. For all of these reasons, we started thinking about recycling plastics for homes like we do at home. If this is to be sustainable, there must be sustainable markets. We talked a little earlier about the importance of markets. It is demand that creates value, and that value is what drives recycling. We implemented this program in 2018 with the idea of the APR Recycling Demand Champions. It follows this basic concept.
The idea is for companies to commit to plastics recycling and use their purchasing power to get these recyclables through the market at the roadside. These companies also buy products that contain post-consumer resin, which increases the demand for more PCR. This request passes money on to the plastics reclaimers who have then increased their investments in sorting technology, which ultimately leads to more recycling and recycling. Again, this is the kind of thing you and I partake in at home.
The more products contain PCR, the greater the demand will be. In short, the Demand Champions program was created for private sector companies to declare that they are committed to helping the plastics recycling industry by purchasing more items that contain PCR. What they might do is take a tour of their warehouses and say, « All right, what products can we buy here that may contain post-consumer recycled content? » There are a number of products in every warehouse that can easily contain PCR.
We’re talking about boxes [unintelligible 00:27:33] and pallets. All of these items are in each individual warehouse. Private sector companies can advocate recycling plastics and improving demand by looking for products that contain recycled post-consumer content.
Or if they are a company that makes products, they could try adding more recycled content into their products. Either their packaging or the product itself.
I would say that in the few years since we started the program, we started the first year. 10 companies said, “Hey, we’re going to commit to using more post-consumer recycled content, either in our products or in the products we buy.” Then by the time we got into the second year of the program, that doubled Number. We had 20 participants. In the third year we had 32 participants. The growth was enormous. We saw … I don’t have the number in front of me. I can get this in a moment.
These companies have merely committed to buying more products that contain recycled post-consumer content or to increase the recycled post-consumer content of the products they make. They completely changed the representation of plastic recycling by supporting demand. I think the work they do is just very, very important. We do not pass on any individual data for these companies, so participation is very easy. It’s not that a company has to worry that what it does will get published in the news or the like. We just aggregate the data and say, « These are the companies that participated. They are Demand Champions, and here is the overall impact. »
Through this program, you are increasing domestic demand for mixed plastics for homes that you and I recycle. We are reducing our dependence on export markets. The companies are very publicly committed to plastics recycling because we support this program to an appropriate extent. You contribute to promoting a circular economy for plastic packaging. Again, this is a low barrier program. It’s voluntary participation. There is no fee, but the ROI for the companies is pretty good because, as I said, we do quite a bit of promoting their involvement. [00:30:18] Steve: Let me add, Liz. I think one of the things about this program is that it wasn’t a big program to begin with. We did it in the house. We thought about sitting around at a staff meeting one day and reaching out to some companies. Most importantly, we wanted to make people aware that there are other ways to use recycled content. We wanted to broaden the paradigm after which companies put PCR in the market and think about it.
We originally introduced this program and we thought from a manufacturing point of view. Things like pallets, trolleys, [unintelligible 00:30:53] sheets and things like that. That showed how narrow-minded we were. The companies that have used this have come up with ideas. It’s universal, the possible application for it. All of … Jim Fisher, Waste Management, announced last year that 10% of Waste Management trolleys will use recycled content in the future. This is, of course, a huge pump for the program.
To a family-owned laundromat in Atlanta, Georgia. Somehow they got wind of the program. They said, « Hey, we’re replacing all of our machines, our laundry trolleys, and some components. Can we use recycled content and be a demand champion in our laundromat? » Whatever it was, it ended up being 200,000 pounds of PCR demand in the market. This program is also internal marketing. We talk about it and it has grown dramatically, so the year 2020, even 2019, right, Ali? The last year we reported was 2019, or is it ’20? [00:32:04] Ali: 2020. [00:32:06] Steve: You had nearly £ 180 million of new demand with a slip if we can. If you take that further, you create market demand like us previously mentioned, Liz, monetized the system again. The other program that is incredibly important that we have implemented is the launch of a PCR certification program in the market that will allow companies using recycled material to understand with absolute certainty that this material is at the very least 95% post-consumer material. Ali, why don’t you talk a little about it? [00:32:48] Ali: Sure. This program, the PCR Certification Program, also has a good back story. APR received calls. We got calls from both brands and plastic recyclers, but they called about the same thing. Those brands said, « Hey, I’m in the post-consumer recycled content market. We looked for offers and let’s say we received six offers. » One of them was drastically lower than the others and they were really skeptical.
That set off alarm bells, of course, but there was no way for them to clarify this discrepancy. For example, they didn’t know if the low bid they received was actually post-industrial recycled content, not post-consumer products, not things that come out of our bins at home. On the other hand, we had these reclaimers, the recyclers, calling us and saying, « Hey, I’m selling legitimate post-consumer recycled content here, but I know one of my competitors is selling material at a lower price is not a PCR, but they call it PCR « .
When we look at these two issues, they really address the same thing in that there was no way to confirm that claims about post-consumer recycled content were in fact post-consumer. The PCR certification program confirms that the flake or pallet that the recovery companies make comes from consumers. Again, the PCR certification program is all about certification. No resin. We have a theory. We have four auditors whom we approved for us to carry out the certification. So APR set the guidelines for ourselves. For example, « This is how the program is supposed to run. This is the integrity and the determination of whether or not the material is PCR. »
Then we had these four examiners who applied and we support them to do the certifications themselves. Then the auditors did the audit, but then APR goes and advertises the list of certified PCRs available in a directory on our website. That program was about a year ago and we have … I think there are nine companies listed on our website that offer certified PCR. I think the program works pretty well. [00:35:37] Steve: I think I want to add something. I think the reality is, one of the things that is very, very important to us, Liz, is that APR is very concerned about other certification programs that allow a branded company to put a label on a container that claims it is is made with recycled content, although this container line may not contain any recycled content at all, which they call mass balance.
In all honesty, we think that’s wrong. We believe the FTC will be looking into this [inaudible 00:36:11] as the FTC is chartered to ensure that the labeling does not mislead consumers. The APR program certifies the use of PCR. If a branded company wants to use the APR logo on a label, these containers must contain the PCR. It can’t go through a corporate average or anything like that. If you want a statement that says, « In general, as a company, we try to use X percent PCR in our packaging. » It’s one thing, but putting a label on a package when the package does not contain post-consumer is potentially misleading for the consumer.
We are concerned about this because it does not ultimately do anything to improve the plastics recycling industry. That is really what we are talking about here. We’re talking about programs that can impact the industry you, me, and American consumers are part of by taking the package they used and adding it to their recycling program. We need to put better material in this bin, and we need to put better labeled material in this bin. We need to develop more for recycling material in this container. [00:37:30] Liz: Absolutely. Two great programs. I’m really happy to hear how well the Champions program is growing and how great the interest is in the labeling program. Do you see an increasing demand for these brands to prove that they are doing this well and want to be part of the solution? The way all eyes are on plastics. Every report is about sustainability and ESG, and it becomes a Wall Street darling. What do you see on your end in terms of an uptrend? [00:38:09] Steve: I think brands are under a lot of pressure to meet the commitments they have made publicly. I think this may have led to these other potential programs that would frankly allow them to claim that they meet the standard in a way that really doesn’t require them to change their packaging composition.
To use post-consumer material, material that is in the stream, and what most consumers consider when they say something was made with recycled content, they believe it came from a package or container that have used them and included them in their recycling program. This requires a manufacturing process, so you’ll need to change the way you make your product to make sure it’s designed to be recycled. Some of these other programs really don’t require anything – for example, they could either change through a program like Mass Balance, which is chemical recycling, which is still in its infancy and what you have.
I think brands are under a lot of pressure to deliver on the commitments they have made. The concerns we have can potentially increase the design potential and lead design changes away from containers that ultimately can actually be recycled in the consumers’ recycling stream so that they can say they are using recycled content. This whole issue of « Recycle Content » is something we’re going to see here in the short term. [00:40:01] Liz: That’s a great answer, we’ll keep an eye on it. Well, it sounds like you’ve all been very busy. Tell me how the pandemic affected your work at APR. [00:40:12] Steve: We were very lucky. APR has always been virtual. We have an office in Washington, but this is really just for me. Everyone works from home. The most important thing was the transition to a virtual platform for our meetings. I actually hate to say it, but there are some really good positive benefits to meeting virtually. There is no overlap in terms of committee meetings. People who take part in all of our committees don’t necessarily have to make a choice.
Obviously, the big loss is the networking opportunity because if you come to an APR meeting two or three times a year, chain representatives are basically in one place for three or four days. It’s not just the recyclers, but also the banking companies, processors, equipment manufacturers, label makers and consultants. Everyone is there and there is a ton of business obviously going on in the hallways and receptions and things like that.
We have a few platforms that can be online and seem to work pretty well, but people have to adapt a little. In terms of the work that APR does, we’ve moved our design staff training program to a virtual platform. That actually worked out very well. We’re making our design guide more interactive, an interactive platform. It’s going very well. We were able to continue the tests we came across.
Knock on wood, unfortunate as the pandemic is, and it’s terrible, we’ve been able to keep the work in progress we did in a virtual space too. Of course we’re already ready and want to get back out there and meet and move on, but the work really hasn’t stopped. I think the fact that you have seen such a tremendous surge in participation in the Demand Champions program yourself in 2020 is the kind of thing that keeps it growing.
Our webinar program continues to grow. In fact, our political work has expanded enormously because we don’t have to go to all these places, we can sit in our office and testify through Zoom and hold all these meetings through Zoom. APR is really allowed to spread its resources a little further. It’s been an interesting year that we don’t want to repeat. Hopefully we’re about to go beyond that, but we’ve been very lucky as an organization. [00:43:05] Liz: That’s great to hear. We always have to find the silver lining. I know, Steve, you mentioned politics. What do you think lies ahead We talked briefly about the last six pack and a global commitment to it, but considering that a lot of it here is more local. What do you think is ahead of you and what are you working on? [00:43:28] Steve: Well Liz, we have a strong sense of the demands on recycled content. In all honesty, what we have done in the past with volunteer programs and volunteer participation, etc., did not solve the problem. If we continue to do the same thing in the future, it is almost the definition of insanity: « Doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. » We firmly believe that there has to be a policy driver, so we support the requirements for recycled content. Different requirements with different time frames for different residents.
We think that this is of vital importance as obviously not all residents are on the same level of infrastructure. I think that really has to be realized. This is something that is very important to us. I also think it seems inevitable to just monitor what is going on at the state level, some kind of producer responsibility. It’s been in Europe for years and Canada for a while. I think you will have a modification of – in Europe they call it an echo modulation piece or something.
I don’t know how it will turn out. Some EPR programs are for manufacturer responsibility organizations, but I think there needs to be some kind of shared responsibility and commitment to the branded companies as administrators of their program that are participating and frankly in the solution. I think that will come.
There are some really wild ideas that certain residents etc. ban. I don’t know about this, but I also think you will see a boost towards program consistency in terms of program adoption. We know there are 20,000 churches in this country, 15,000 recycling programs, and 9,000 different things. It is clear that this confusion has to stop somewhere, one way or another.
I realize this is a difficult path because if you are not there they will be winners and losers and there will be some pain. It’s easy for me to say, « Yes, we just want this list, » to be honest, but it has to be done very thoughtfully and rationally. I would point out what Oregon put together. Seems like a very rational approach. I know California received a commission. We’re monitoring this, but I think the US Plastic Pack is probably the way to go, the « plastic packaging circularity » because the brands have made voluntary commitments. They need to be pumped, transparent and accountable by the end of 2025, so the timeframe is very short.
I’m not sure how this will merge with politics, but I believe the plastics pact has probably the greatest potential to influence and transform the plastics recycling market of any previous program. I would keep an eye on that and the developments in how this goes on. [00:47:09] Liz: That’s great. I would like to hear your insights on this. Thank you for sharing. Thank you so much for the work you are doing at APR to really bring the manufacturers, the recyclers and the industry together to really solve this problem and create an industry that will thrive and be more sustainable in the future. That’s great. [00:47:32] Steve: Well, we hope so. We are partners here. It’s not either – or, and I think we have an MRF committee, for example, and I’ve always said, « The MRF guy is a reality. » You are the reality check because you come to these meetings and people are talking about all these great ideas and I always like to call the MRF reps and say, « Okay, now tell me what the reality is. » Because they are on the first floor. They are like the first leg. You have to deal with all of this and try to sort it out.
In many ways, the infrastructure of the materials recovery plants and the freight forwarders, the pressure on them to deal with the increased volume, complexity and the developing bin is an almost untenable situation. But somehow they should make these marketable products from it in the form of balls of material. The system that the MRF have, we are, like the MRFs, a step back because we have to ingest material, we have the contamination that we have to deal with, we have to sort it, then we have to process it and make a product that hopefully there will be demand in the market.
I am quoting Bob Cappadona from Casella all the time. It’s his quote and I pay him a cent every time I say it: « Without market demand, we collect, sort and process rubbish. » I think we all have to be there together. It just can’t be the component of collecting, sorting and processing the material. We cannot be the only ones responsible for solving this problem. [00:49:23] Liz: No, we can’t. We definitely can’t. It will take everyone. I am optimistic to see everyone working together and residents and consumers to be more aware because I think real change is happening and will continue, although it sure is not easy to do. [00:49:41] Steve: Yeah, absolutely. I am happy to work with you. [00:49:44] Liz: Yeah, me too. That was great [unintelligible 00:49:46] to jump on. You have been so insightful about your great program so thank you both. [00:49:52] Ali: Thank you. [00:49:53] Liz: Okay, we’ll have a chat soon. [00:49:54] Ali: Take care, people. [00:49:54] Steve: Have a good day. Take care people. [00:49:56] Liz: You too.
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