A study conducted in Vancouver, WA on a Wrap Recycling Action Program (WRAP) campaign — which promoted recycling of polyethylene (PE) through consumer education — found that during the campaign, there was a 125% increase of plastic film wrap retrieved through at-store collection/recycling programs; contamination at a local MRFs dropped 75%; 500% more consumer product packaging of other types was returned; and there was less than a 2% increase in contamination at stores.
The program was a joint effort of the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) Flexible Film Recycling Group (FFRG), the city of Vancouver, Clark County, Safeway, and Trex Co. to increase consumer awareness and recycling of polyethylene packaging in select Vancouver Safeway stores while decreasing plastic bags/film in curbside carts.
Currently more than 90% of Americans can tap into local programs that collect PE wraps and bags, with more than 18,000 major grocery and retail stores participating.
Plastic film is one of the fastest growing recyclable commodities in the U.S. with an 80% increase in recycling since 2005, according to the 2014 National Postconsumer Plastic Bag and Film Recycling Report.
Some municipalities have played a key role in bumping those numbers up by investing in education — including Milwaukee, which also generated significantly higher at-store collections. North Carolina plans to implement a WRAP program this year, and other states will likely soon announce plans to do so, according to ACC. The return-to-store WRAP program will provide a tested protocol for them.
“This was really a model campaign,” said 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.”
“Importantly, these efforts have raised awareness of the ease and opportunity to recycle a variety of plastic film beyond the bag,” said Tanya Gray, a solid waste supervisor for the city of Vancouver.