WRAP more than doubles at-store collection of plastic film in Washington city

A Wrap Recycling Action Program (WRAP) campaign in Vancouver, Washington, helped to more than double collection of plastic film wraps and bags through return-to-retail recycling programs, according to a new study conducted with the city of Vancouver’s Environmental Resources Division. The report also found that plastic bag contamination at a local material recycling facility (MRF) by residents who had received regional educational outreach materials decreased by 75 percent.

The American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) Flexible Film Recycling Group (FFRG) partnered with the city of Vancouver, Clark County, Safeway and Trex Co. to implement this program, known as “Recycle Wrap/Beyond Bags.” The campaign sought to increase consumer awareness and recycling of many types of flexible polyethylene (PE) packaging, known as “film,” in select Vancouver area Safeway stores while decreasing unwanted plastic bags/film placed in curbside carts.

According to the study, the key outcomes of the campaign included a 125 percent increase in amount of plastic wraps, films and bags collected at stores; a 500 percent increase in collection of consumer product packaging beyond bags (e.g., case wrap, product wrap, bread bags, produce bags, etc.) at stores; a 75 percent reduction in plastic bag contamination at a local MRF by customers who received campaign outreach materials; and an insignificant (less than 2 percent) increase in contamination at stores.

“This was really a model campaign,” says Shari Jackson, director of ACC’s Flexible Film Recycling Group. “It goes to show how effective WRAP can be when we all work together. We showed we could get the word out to increase wraps, bag and film collection at retail stores with negligible contamination.”

The return-to-store WRAP public outreach campaign and technical support tools fit seamlessly with a Recycling Done Right campaign and grant-funded waste characterization study conducted throughout Clark County, Washington, including within the city of Vancouver, according to the ACC.

“Leveraging partnerships, we were able to educate residents to keep this material out of our curbside program and divert it to the retail drop-off infrastructure, where it belongs,” says Tanya Gray, solid waste supervisor for the city of Vancouver. “Importantly, these efforts have raised awareness of the ease and opportunity to recycle a variety of plastic film beyond the bag.”

ACC describes WRAP as “a scalable program with national reach,” adding that it continues to gain momentum. In addition to Vancouver, WRAP just released the results of a similar public education campaign in Milwaukee, which also showed a measurable increase in at-store collection of PE film. Furthermore, North Carolina recently announced that it plans to implement a WRAP program this year, and additional states are expected to announce soon, the organization adds.

Plastic film is one of the fastest growing areas of recycling in the United States. The “2014 National Postconsumer Plastic Bag and Film Recycling Report,” authored by Sonoma, California-based Moore Recycling Associates Inc., found an 80 percent increase in plastic film recycling since just 2005. During that time, film recycling has grown from 652 million pounds to 1.17 billion pounds annually. Based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data, the recycling rate for film has grown from 6.6 percent to 17 percent of production.

Currently, more than 90 percent of Americans have access to a local program that collects PE wraps and bags, primarily at more than 18,000 major grocery and retail stores, the ACC says.

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