Foodservice Packaging Recovery Case Study

KW Plastics Recycling Division (Troy, Alabama)

KW Plastics, headquartered in Troy, AL, boasts the world’s largest capacities in processing and storage for recycled HDPE and PP resins

Background

In 1981, KW Plastics was established in Troy, AL to recycle polypropylene (PP) battery casings and expanded to Bakersfield, CA in 1986.  KW Plastics Recycling Division opened in 1992 to recycle post-consumer high density polyethylene (HDPE).

 

With continued research, development and investment, KW expanded to recycle post-consumer PP, HDPE bulky rigids and flexible PP, in addition to traditional HDPE bales.  As the world’s largest reprocessor and recycled resin supplier of HDPE and PP resins, KW boasts over 100 million pounds in silo capacity, and more than a billion pounds in annual extruder capacity. 

 

KW Plastics is an ISO-9001: 2008 registered manufacturing facility with ultra-modern ISO-IEC 17025: 2005 accredited lab and testing facilities. Having the ability to maintain strict control over the raw materials, from procurement to final product, ensures a consistent, high-quality resin.

 

KW is a recycled resin supplier to Automotive, Beauty & Personal Care Packaging, Pipe, Recreation, Construction, Agriculture, Paint and Coatings, Flexible Packaging and Sheet applications. KW resin holds several certifications and supplier awards.

 

Foodservice Packaging Materials

KW offers a purchasing specification for a postconsumer PP bale comprised of many foodservice packaging materials. PP thermoform examples include yogurt cups, margarine tubs & lids, drink cups, clamshells and food trays. PP blow mold examples include hot-fill jugs and bottles such as ketchup, tea and juice containers.

 

The company not only recycles PP foodservice packaging; KW is a resin supplier to several foodservice packaging applications.

 

In September 2013, KW announced its receipt of a letter of non-objection from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition for the recycling process to produce post-consumer polypropylene suitable in the manufacture of reusable crates or pallets for holding relatively large quantities of fresh, unwrapped product and shelled eggs under room temperature and below (Conditions of Use E-G).

 

The Condition of Use were expanded in July 2014 with a second FDA non-objection letter, confirming the resin was suitable for use in the fabrication of single-use food service items, under Conditions of Use C-G.

 

The resin, commercially referred to as KWR621 FDA, is a food grade PP and has been approved for levels up to 100% content.

Offers a portfolio with more than 30 core recycled resin products for blow molding, injection molding, pipe and corrugated extrusion, sheet extrusion and film blowing

Quality assurance is prioritized through a system of laboratory testing, inspection and management from the inbound receipt of raw material, throughout the washing, extrusion, storage and shipping departments

Challenges and Solutions

Supply: With the continued demand for PCR, there is an increased challenge for quality supply. KW strategically sources raw material by expanding its geographic reach beyond North America and expanding its feedstock beyond bottles. KW believes that recycling is not simply an environmental issue but an economic one as well.

 

Packaging Design:  It’s not simply enough to have the access and education to get plastics in the recycling bin. Due to choices in material or design, some innovations can result in plastic packaging that is unrecoverable at best, or creates havoc in the recycling process at worst.  KW encourages packaging designers and sustainability executives to refer to Association of Plastics Recyclers (APR) “Designing for Recyclability Guide”. From labels to adhesives and inks, the guide has technical data as well as preferred alternatives from the recycling industry.

 

Additionally, KW often works directly with brand owners to test their product and/or package within the recycling process and offers technical feedback. Testing moves beyond the lab, simulating the package in the recycling process in order to better understand how the package is recovered and determine the resulting effects on recycled resin. 

End Uses

Appropriate applications for KWR621 FDA, KW’s food-grade post-consumer recycled PP resin, include single-use cutlery, soup containers, and hot and cold drink cups, such as stadium cups, reusable food contact crates and pallets.  Additionally, KW has increased interest in FDA material for caps & closures, toys and personal care packaging.

 

PP forks molded with KWR 621 FDA

Key Learnings and Recommendations

“Never say never” seems to be an underlying motto for KW Plastics Recycling Division. In an effort to meet the demand, the company has continued to seek new supply and reinvest to develop new technology and thus new domestic markets for plastics.

 

KW is actively involved in APR and credits the organization with collaborative efforts in research and messaging to bridge the supply chain together so that challenges become opportunities for joint projects.

 

Increasing interest from retailers in offering sustainable packaging, while also understanding the economic advantages, has created a momentum for plastics recycling that has spurred growth in both the supply and demand.

 

Communication, critical mass and continued investment in infrastructure have proven to generate successful change throughout the supply chain. 

- June 2016

Case Studies

For additional case studies, click on the end markets below.

Blue Mountain Plastics Recycling  | Ontario, Canada

Toolkit brought to you by FPI's Paper Recovery Alliance (PRA) and Plastics Recovery Group (PRG).

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