U.S. packaging industry study findings of interest to sorting centres in Canada
What factors affect the end of life of a recyclable container? Why do they sometimes end up in the wrong bale at the sorting centre? Five packaging industry groups in the United States, including the US equivalent of the Carton Council of Canada (CCC), recently commissioned a study to find ways to optimize the recycling of their packaging after it goes into the bin or cart. The study specifically evaluated where packages end up in a sorting facility, why packages flow in certain ways and what potential changes to the sorting processes could improve recycling of recyclable containers, among them carton packaging for milk, juice, soup and other food and beverage products.
The results of the US study are also applicable to Canadian sorting centres, which operate within comparable parameters. “This report is a step in the right direction for understanding how materials react as they pass through sorting centres. Not only could it lead to improvements in the handling of materials in sorting centres, but the data could also have an impact on packaging design,” says David Yousif, who is in charge of the recycling facility for the City of Hamilton, Ontario. “Although the study was conducted in the United States, we have reached the same conclusions in Quebec. Our sorting centres operate with similar parameters and the material is the same,” says Jean-Sebastien Daigle, Vice President of Operations at La Société VIA.
Canada is already in a good position in terms of collection with the majority of recyclable materials going into recycling bins. The study highlighted the importance of every action along the recycling value chain, particularly the links involving the recycling industry. The study’s key findings are highlighted below. To access the complete study report, please click here.
Size and shape have an impact on sorting: don’t crush your containers!
Items tend to move better along conveyor belts when they have a similar size and shape. For this reason, citizens participating in curbside recycling should not crush containers before putting them in the recycling bin. Cartons and other containers that keep their shape are more likely to end up in the right bale during sorting. Used cartons are a high-value commodity and can be resold at a higher price and used, for example, in the making of paper products and building materials.
The study also showed that the separation step is critical. By promoting rigorous maintenance of equipment at sorting centres, managers ensure a better capture rate and minimize material loss. Finally, the study confirmed that the use of optical sorters, where appropriate, help to identify material and are playing an increasing role in the sorting of recyclable materials.
Organizations, such as the CCC, are actively involved in the search for global solutions to increase recycling rates in Canada.