The Mystery of Aerosol Packaging Recycling This article is a compilation of my visits to town recycling centers, Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) and representing the Eastern Aerosol Association (EAA) at the Resource Recycling Conference in Louisville, KY in a booth with Hillary VanderBand of the Consumer Aerosol Products Council (CAPCO). 20 Spray September 2014 Dennis Sm ith Director of Sales & Packaging Precise Packaging, Fall River, MA Where does it go? The Mission In 2008, I embarked on a mission to understand what happens to household items left curbside for recycling. My focus was going to be on discarded aerosols. I started with my own recycle bin. I picked a tinplate aerosol (shave cream) and an aluminum aerosol (body spray). Pick-up I followed the cans from my curbside blue recycle bin directly to the Dutchess County, NY Material Recovery Facility (MRF). I learned that aerosols are not the only material thrown into the blue bin; 125 different materials or more make it to the MRF. At the MRF Once at the MRF, the cans were put through a single stream separation of materials. Most MRFs use a combination of labor and machinery to separate the materials. In many cases, these materials are sold to help offset the cost of recycling. If a facility can separate it and bale it, they can sell it. A typical bale of aluminum weighs 630 lbs. A tinplate bale weighs in at 1,375 lbs. The two cans I followed were separated into their specific areas. The tinplate can was pulled off by a magnetic separator and the aluminum can was pulled off by an eddy current separator, which repels nonferrous metals such as aluminum. I witnessed 12oz-plus and bagon valve (BOV) cans separated by the eddy current with no issues. An aluminum can with a tinplate or tin-free steel mounting cup can get pulled at this point. If the eddy current separation is first, the aluminum can will continue in the stream. If the magnetic separation is first, the aluminum can may get pulled and put into general recycle scrap. Our aluminum can made it through with the beverage cans. Cans as commodity The aluminum cans were baled with beverage cans and sold to a reclamation plant (smelter) in Oswego, NY. The tinplate cans were baled with other steel items such as soup cans and sold to a foundry in Connecticut. Recycled content Once melted down, the aluminum is processed into ingots and beverage coils. These coils use up to and over 50% recycled content. This means they still need 50% 1070 (99.7%) aluminum in their process, which they can get from various products, including aerosol cans. The environmental benefits of recycling scrap aluminum are significant. Scrap 1070 aluminum requires just 5% of the energy needed to produce virgin aluminum from Bauxite. According to the Steel Recycling Institute (SRI), steel is the most recycled metal in North America. Visit www.recyclesteel. org for information on recycling content in steel. Extended Producer Responsibility Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is an environmental risk-management tool enacted through government policy that requires producers of designated products to take responsibility for the life cycle management of their products. According to www.letstalktrashpr.com, EPR shifts responsibility and expenses associated with product end-of-life upstream from the consumer to taxpayers. This concept provides incentives for producers to design their products and packaging with environmental consideration. EPR programs are used to help pay for products that are not easily recyclable. At the Resource Recycling Conference, mattresses were used as an example to explain EPR. In this case, a fee is added to the sale price of each mattress. EPR programs look to the marketers and manufacturers to pay the bill for recycling, which may be passed on to the consumer. The SRI is strongly opposed to EPR programs. Safety concerns Reclamation plants, municipalities and haulers of aerosol cans all have some common concerns. Having product left over in an aerosol can is high on the list. Smelters, who melt down the aerosol cans, are also very concerned about receiving and processing any containers with liquid in them. There are strict rules about not having any type of container in these facilities Awaiting pick-up Now what?
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