How is FPP so popular?
The demand and use of flexible plastic packaging or FPP has skyrocketed with a share of 19% of the total packaging market in the US. This fastest growing plastic packaging segment is valued between USD 8 – 12 billion globally and is gradually replacing rigid plastics. This versatile packaging product has been made popular for various reasons including being environmentally favorable across its life cycle. FPP uses less fossil fuel – reducing green house gas emissions and is more water efficient than other forms of plastic packaging. FPP offers excellent product-packaging ratio that is resource efficient and performs better in the transportation phase of their life cycle as well. Consumers also widely prefer this packaging as it offers conveniences such as reclosure and dispensing options apart from creating shelf appeal and providing good content visibility.
Are they widely recycled?
However, the packaging type has performed poorly in its end of life phase. According to More Recycling’s 2016 study, just about 3% of film plastics were recovered from curbside MRFs in the US. Most of the FPP are multi-layer and laminated to suit specific product needs (specifically for food and beverage where a protective barrier is an important function), and this characteristic has made it impossible to classify by specific resin type and thereby recycle. Monolayer FPP or single-resin FPP such as HDPE and LDPE films have also been difficult to recycle curbside as there are challenges with film contamination and recovery due to its two-dimensional structure. Typically, FPP and plastics films cannot be practically recycled or recovered with current MRFs due to their sorting mechanism which often involves a simple technology where fans are used to remove light weight, non-rigid plastics out of their streams. It is therefore likely that over 95% of all our FPP end up in landfills.
FPP continues to flourish in the market, and with increasing adoption of bio plastics, paper and mono-resin FPP, it will be more sustainable in the category of plastic packaging. Here’s what to look for when you are thinking about disposing off your FPP or film plastics.
What to keep in mind during disposal?
In case of grocery bags, produce bags, zip lock pouches etc, look for drop off options available WRAP directory link: https://www.plasticfilmrecycling.org/recycling-bags-and-wraps/find-drop-off-location/
Look out for informative and instructive labels such as this one created by the Sustainability Packaging Coalition (SPC)
If you think you have compostable packaging that can go into local composts – check for credible labels (examples below), and also check with your local/ curbside composter on whether they accept said compostable plastics.
Bio-degradable Plastics Institute (BPI) Certification label:
Compost Manufacturer Alliance (CMA) approval:
Cedar Grove approval (Similar to CMA label, in addition to BPI)