The Association of Plastics Recyclers (APR) recently aligned their guidance regarding the amount of EVOH preferred for recycling in high-density polyethylene (HDPE) rigid and polypropylene (PP) rigid containers to that of RecyClass Design for Recycling Guidelines. Now, both entities recommend recycling containers that contain up to 6% EVOH. This alignment reflects an acceleration in global alignment of recyclability principles. We interviewed David Hagen, Technical Service and Development Engineer – EVAL™, and member of APR’s olefins technical committee, to learn more about these recent changes and what they mean for the industry.
What do you think encouraged this alignment between RecyClass and APR?
Most U.S. packaging producers are eager to support recycling efforts, but ensuring recyclability of a package is not a simple task due to the variability in sorting and processing equipment of local Municipal Recycling Facilities (MRF) and recyclers. Additionally, many producers of plastic packaging participate in the global economy, which adds even more layers of complexity. This alignment of APR and RecyClass, two of the world’s leading voices on plastic packaging recyclability, will make it much easier to design packaging that is recyclable across the U.S., Europe, and other parts of the world.
What impact does this have for the producers of packaging that includes EVAL™ EVOH?
This harmonized guidance recognizes the recyclability of a wider range of packages containing EVOH. Previously, the guidance was more restrictive, requiring testing for any rigid HDPE package with more than 5% EVOH or utilizing EVAL™ L171 (27 mol% ethylene) EVOH out of an abundance of caution based on limited testing in 2019, not failed results. While this slight increase to 6% may seem minimal to many, it actually substantially impacts the amount of containers that can be recycled. In addition, Rigid PP guidance has also broadened now allowing up to 6% EVOH content, after previously only allowing up to 3% without testing. Both of these allow increased recycling of EVAL™ EVOH.
Does this guidance mean packages with EVOH above 6% aren’t recyclable?
No, not at all. There are multiple instances where packages containing more than 6% EVOH have passed both APR and RecyClass testing. This updated guidance of 6% is an amount that both organizations are comfortable with based on the compilation of the testing that has been performed to date. Packages with EVOH greater than 6% can be submitted to APR recognized labs, such as Plastics Forming Enterprise (PFE) and Plastics Technology, Inc. (PTI) to demonstrate their recyclability. Those results can then be submitted to the APR for future recognition, which is a recommended action to our customers who would like to further qualify their packaging.
If extremely high barrier performance is needed with a thick layer of EVOH, compatibilizers are available on the market to improve performance of the package in the recycling stream, but this is typically only needed for the higher demands of film-to-film recycling.
Any final words to share about Kuraray or EVOH?
The Kuraray EVAL team is here and available to help converters and value chain partners design and optimize their packaging needs. With this recent update to the guidelines, we remain committed to helping our partners find recycling solutions and continue to grow their businesses.
Founded in 1926, Japan-based Kuraray is a world leader in performance-based polymer and synthetic chemistry technologies, including resins, chemical, fibers, and textiles. It was the first entity in the world to bring ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) polymers to market. The company operates 19 subsidiaries around the world, including Kuraray America, Inc., which is headquartered in Houston, TX. The U.S. division is a world leader in barrier polymer material with products like EVAL™ EVOH and Plantic™, a bio-based polymer with high barrier properties. For more information, visit eval.kuraray.com
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