Our last post detailed how consumers can embrace flexible packaging recycling at local stores across the country. Now, we are going to explore where those materials go once they are dropped off. Certain companies partner with these retailers and collect materials from them so they can be processed and recycled into something new. Two of the best examples of flexible packaging recycling being revitalized into, useful products are Trex and Rothy’s. These companies are encouraging consumers to create a more circular economy by reducing waste, promoting sustainability, and demonstrating that high quality goods can be manufactured from recycled materials.
Approximately 32,000 stores in the U.S. participate in the NexTrex retail recycling program. After collection at these retail sites, the recycled plastic material is sent to local distribution centers, where it is sorted and shipped to Trex’s manufacturing facilities. Trex is able to divert hundreds of thousands of tons of discarded plastic film from ending up in oceans and landfills each year by repurposing it into Trex decking.
Trex decking is made from 95% recycled materials, including reclaimed wood and sawdust as well as recycled plastic from many common household items, such as the plastic overwrap on packaging for paper towels and toilet paper, dry cleaner bags, newspaper bags, grocery, and shopping bags. Trex annually salvages and keeps more than 500 million pounds of plastic and wood scrap out of landfills which makes Trex one of the largest plastic film recyclers in the U.S. In fact, the average 500-square-foot composite Trex deck contains 140,000 recycled plastic bags.
The founders of Rothy’s discovered during four years of research how much waste is generated in traditional shoe manufacturing. The team wondered how they could make a fashionable shoe with virtually no waste. To make Rothy’s shoes, the company buys plastic water bottles in bulk from recycling centers worldwide. They create the recycled plastic material by collecting plastics from beaches and waterways, which are then broken into chips, melted into pellets, stretched into fibres and then treated with air into yarn.
A 3D printer then uses the fibers to create shoes that are the right fit, color, and pattern for whatever style the team is working on that day. Changing the style is as easy as updating software and within six minutes, the three main parts of the shoe are complete. Since its founding, Rothy’s has diverted more than 10 million water bottles from landfills.
Rothy’s also manufactures handbags using their threading and a new fibre made from post-consumer plastics the brand said are sourced within 30 miles of coastlines and marine environments. The combination of materials means the bags are made from 100 percent recycled materials, aside from the metal zippers and hooks.
These companies are the early adopters of recycled plastics and flexible packaging. There is still much more packaging that cannot or is not recycled, and therefore goes to landfills and further pollutes the environment. There are initiatives and programs in development to test new methods of processing materials, thereby moving towards becoming a circular economy. Creative problem solving like the solutions discussed above are only the beginning in becoming a sustainable ecosystem.