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Plastics recycling innovators recognized

The American Chemistry Council honors KW Plastics, Safeplay Systems, and Sony Electronics for developing innovative products using PCR plastics.

KW Plastics is the first domestic reprocessor to collect and recycle woven and nonwoven flexible PP.
KW Plastics is the first domestic reprocessor to collect and recycle woven and nonwoven flexible PP.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) has announced the winners of this year’s Innovation in Plastics Recycling awards. Three companies—KW Plastics, Safeplay Systems, and Sony Electronics, Inc.—were  honored. This year’s winners are being celebrated for developing innovative processes and/or products using post-consumer recycled plastics.

“Thanks to the creative advancements brought about by these recyclers and others like them, we are able to keep more valuable plastics out of landfills than ever before,” says Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for ACC. “Used plastics are too valuable to waste and can be recycled to make high-quality, innovative products, such as furniture, car parts, home building products, fashion, and packaging.”

KW Plastics was awarded for its pioneering approaches to recycling post-consumer polypropylene packaging. Due to the range of PP products found in household waste, many reclaimers have had difficulty handling the various melt flows, layers, and additives. KW Plastics has developed processes, specifications, and equipment that overcome these challenges, allowing the processing of yogurt cups, butter tubs, ketchup bottles, juice boxes, and even corrugated yard signs made from PP—and all as part of an integrated processing system. The Troy, AL-based firm now purchases these items from around the country and reprocesses them.

In addition, KW Plastics is also an innovator by forging new ground as the first domestic reprocessor to collect and recycle woven and nonwoven flexible PP. KW Plastics currently has the capacity to reprocess 450 million pounds of high-density polyethylene and 300 million pounds of PP annually.

“As the world’s largest plastics recycler, KW Plastics has often been the leader in developing new markets and technologies to divert plastics from the landfill while creating jobs and revenue for the domestic economy,” says Stephanie Baker, director of market development for KW Plastics Recycling Division. “The innovations we have implemented, together with cooperative efforts with our partners and suppliers, are making plastics recycling easier than ever before.”

Safeplay Systems™ won for EcoPlay®, its popular line of playground equipment for schools and parks made from PCR HDPE. EcoPlay lumber is made from a minimum 95% PCR content. Though the Marietta, GA-based company creates custom products that can range from smaller structures designed for young children to larger designs of up to three-stories high, on average, each playground structure keeps 35,000-plus milk jugs out of landfills. Safeplay has its own recycling program and accepts all its products for re-recycling at the end of their useful lives.

“We are proud of our high-performance polypropylene structures that don’t splinter, crack, swell, or rust and are virtually maintenance-free. But more than that, environmental stewardship is an integral part of Safeplay Systems’ business, and we are honored to be recognized for our innovations in plastics recycling,” says Eric Torrey, director of marketing for Safeplay.

Based in San Diego, Sony Electronics won for its development of SoRPlas, a material made from 99% recycled polycarbonate that is used in the housings of some of Sony’s popular consumer products, particularly in high-end cameras. To make SoRPlas, Sony uses 50% post-industrial scrap from optical disc manufacturing, such as CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray discs, and 50% PCR plastics from end-of-life products, containers, and other items. This process has additional environmental benefits in helping to reduce CO2 emissions during manufacturing and transportation. The Sony Group uses more than 17,000 tons of recycled plastics annually, including SoRPlas, in various products.

“Sony is dedicated to protecting and improving the environment in all parts of our business,” says Doug Smith, director of corporate environmental affairs for Sony Electronics. “We are excited to be recognized for developing SoRPlas, a durable resin made from recycled polycarbonate that helps to conserve resources and reduce emissions in the manufacturing process, and we are committed to expanding the use of recycled plastics in our products as research continues.”

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