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The Importance of Infrastructure to Achieve Circularity

Plastic is a powerful material that we use every day. It helps keep our food fresh, and offers convenience for today’s lifestyle. Plastics is not only lightweight and efficient; plastics also produces less greenhouse gas emissions than alternative materials.12 Despite the many benefits of plastics, circularity has been elusive. In fact, plastic recycling was historically limited only to bottles. To achieve circularity, we must expand and modernize recycling infrastructure to capture the economic value that is currently being lost and supply the recycled content necessary to meet commitments.

At Berry Global, we are strategically targeting both investments and partnerships to foster recycling infrastructure. An example of this is a recent collaboration with our local materials recovery facility (MRF) to purchase and install a new AMP Robotics Cortex™ high-speed robotics system to sort plastic #5, polypropylene (PP). We are proud to have donated half the funds required for this installation; IDEM matched the other half through a Recycling Market Development Program grant.

The AMP Robotics system can sort up to 80 items per minute using a vision system and artificial intelligence (AI). The AI identifies recyclable items by comparing their appearance to an extensive image library. Given the focus on PP, the robot will prioritize sorting #5 PP cups and containers, but will also sort #1 PETE and #2 HDPE bottles with any available capacity. The robot is located near Berry’s corporate headquarters in Evansville, Indiana. In fact, Evansville is the first city in Indiana to use robotic sortation in a single-stream recycling facility.

We plan to use the recovered PP in our products and, more importantly, will share the learnings from this installation to catalyze similar investments. By expanding and modernizing recycling infrastructure, we will capture the economic value that is currently being lost and supply the recycled content necessary to meet commitments. This is critical to achieving a circular economy and giving natural resources multiple lives.

Power of Plastics

1 https://plastics.americanchemistry.com/Reports-and-Publications/LCA-of-Plastic-Packaging-Compared-to-Substitutes.pdf 

2 https://plastics.americanchemistry.com/Plastics-and-Sustainability.pdf

About the Author:

Robert Flores is the Vice President of Sustainability at Berry Global. Flores leads the Company’s efforts across more than 100,000 products and 280 global manufacturing sites to achieve their ambitious Impact 2025 sustainability strategy. This strategy includes 100% of the fast-moving consumer goods packaging Berry produces to be reusable, recyclable, or compostable and have an average of 10% recycled content by 2025. Flores works closely across the organization to ensure customer sustainability goals are achieved leveraging Berry’s deep expertise in design for circularity, while reducing its operational impacts.

Flores works with many other global sustainability leaders as part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Alliance to End Plastic Waste to share insights across the value chain from Berry’s investments in innovative circular solutions. As a long-time recycling advocate and plastic substrate expert, he has been an active member of the Association of Plastic Recyclers since 2009, and has subsequently worked with several other local, national, and global organizations to foster a circular economy.

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