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Issues Of The Environment: Ann Arbor To Launch New Plastics Recycling Program

Todd Bukowski

The theme of Earth Day 2018 is End Plastic Pollution.  Earth Day comes up this Sunday, April 22nd.  To coincide with the theme, 'Issues of the Environment' focuses on an upcoming initiative in Ann Arbor aimed at reducing plastic waste that typically does not end up in the recycling stream.  Packaging expert and consultant Todd Bukowski discusses the program and what the public will need to know to make it work. 

Todd Bukowski is a Principal at the packaging consulting group, PTIS LLC.  Todd has over 20 years of experience in food and pharmaceutical packaging. As part of PTIS, Todd focuses on sustainability initiatives, has been a presenter on Essentials of Sustainable Packaging Course through the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.

He is a lead presenter and program leader at the PTIS’s Future of Packaging programs, which use foresight to look out 5-10 years and understand how global trends will impact packaging. Todd holds an MBA in Supply Chain Management and a Packaging degree from Michigan State University.

Bukowski is a packaging consultant but this initiative was brought up as part of an Ann Arbor Resource Management Team looking to identify programs to help drive up recycling & recovery rates in Ann Arbor, It is not part of his consulting work.

Websites of note:

  • www.how2recycle.info – the labeling scheme I mentioned that helps communicate which parts of each package can be recycled, and how to do.  Also will list a number of the brands that are using the relatively new label scheme, which is meant to help reduce some of the confusion about what can/ cannot be recycled by using national data on how many consumers have “reach” or availability to recycle a particular package.  Was developed from Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) – industry NGO

Program overview:

  • Using the WRAP program as a model – we are looking to utilize the existing plastic bag recycling infrastructure that is already in place at many retailers – and expand to collect flexible polyethylene film (PE) that is made of the same material as grocery store bags

  • A number of materials that most consumers are not aware of:

  • Produce bags, bread bags, dry cleaning bags, overwraps for water bottles/ beverages, newspaper bags, air pillows for e-commerce, overwraps for paper towel/ napkins/toilet paper, flexible diaper overwraps

  • Enables collection of more material to keep out of landfill

  • Coincides with the How2Recycle burst – communication scheme to make easier for consumers to know what to recycle – and really first system to call out using store drop off programs for films

Additional Resource:

  • www.plasticfilmrecycling.org – website that part of the national program about plastic film recycling.  Also has information on where you can recycle, type of packages that can be recycled, and reports on the size of the program, and case studies of other communities that have implemented this system.  National program called WRAP – Wrap Recycling Action Program – developed by American Chemistry Council

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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