Republic Services, Inc. unveiled development plans for the nation’s first integrated plastics recycling facility, which will directly address increasing demand from consumer brands and packaging manufacturers for recycled plastic, enabling greater circularity. The Republic Services Polymer Center represents the first time a U.S. company will manage the plastics stream through an integrated process from curbside collection of recycled material to production and delivery of high-quality recycled content for consumer packaging.
“Packaged goods manufacturers have set ambitious targets to use more post-consumer content in their products, but the current supply of recycled plastics falls short. The Republic Services Polymer Center will help meet the increasing demand for a reliable, high-quality supply of recycled plastics, assisting brands in achieving their sustainability goals,” says Jon Vander Ark, president and CEO. “This is a critical step forward in solving the plastics circularity challenge. As a leader in the environmental services industry and one of the nation’s largest recyclers, Republic is uniquely positioned to support the circular economy.”
Today in the U.S., only about 30% of single-use plastic bottles and jugs are recycled. Even when these plastics are placed in the recycling bin, their lifecycle is not always circular. Instead of being recycled back into consumer packaging, these plastics often are downcycled into products such as textiles or carpet, or to industrial uses like construction pipe, which have few options for further recycling.
Brands continue to make voluntary sustainability pledges to increase the use of recycled content in consumer packaging, while states such as California and Washington are requiring the use of recycled content in single-use plastic containers. Despite this growing demand, there is not enough high-quality recycled plastic for manufacturers to use in consumer packaging. The Polymer Center will help bridge the gap between curbside collections and manufacturers’ needs, providing a reliable supply of domestically sourced recycled plastics for use in food-grade and other consumer packaging.
Rigid plastics collected from residential and commercial customers and sorted at local recycling facilities will be delivered to the Polymer Center for processing, including shredding and hot washing or sorting by color. The facility is expected to produce more than 100 million pounds per year of recycled plastic products including 100% post-consumer PET flake delivered to the food-grade marketplace to enable bottle-to-bottle circularity. In addition, HDPE and PP packaging such as detergent jugs, which today are collected in multicolored bundles, can be separated by plastic type and color, allowing, for example, an orange jug to be recycled into another orange jug.
The first Polymer Center, opening in Las Vegas in 2023, will process plastics from Republic’s recycling facilities in the West, where legislation is driving increased demand for recycled content. Republic anticipates opening two to three more centers to provide national coverage and further drive circularity.
The Polymer Center directly supports Republic’s long-term sustainability goal to increase the recovery and circularity of key materials by 40% by 2030 and will help our customers meet their own sustainability goals.