How to Improve Your Shrink Wrap Recycling Program

Whether you call it shrink wrap or stretch, an effective film recycling program can translate into serious revenue to help your operations' bottom line and can help toward Zero Waste goals? 

Oftentimes, recyclable wrap ends up in the garbage container which goes to landfills, or contaminants end up in the plastic wrap recycling bin, making it non-recyclable. It can also be a deal breaker for people looking to buy your film if they find too many contaminants in it. A key challenge for businesses is to recover as much recyclable material as possible through recovery and accurately streaming materials into the correct collecting bins.

Here are some tips to make sure that companies get the most out of their plastic recycling efforts.

Locate a Recycling Firm that will Buy Soft Plastic Scrap

Soft plastic that could be recycled
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It goes without saying that in order to recover wrap, a relationship must be established with a recycler to take it. Many recyclers are implementing soft plastic pickups based on the volume generated. For smaller volume pickups, there may be a fee but if volume generated warrants the installation of a baler, there are many recycling firms that will ​pick up and reimburse for baled plastic.

Determine Your Recovery Rate

Plastic scrap
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For operations with existing wrap recycling programs, calculate the total recycling opportunity versus what is currently being recycled to see how good of a job your group is actually doing. This likely would include an estimate of wrap removed from pallets at your location compared to actual recovery. It could also include an estimate of the proportion of wrap sent to regular customers which was recovered if a reverse logistics program is in place with consigners.

Make Wrap Recycling an Operational Goal

Goal Setting
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Make plastic recycling one of your operational goals. Set recovery goals, supervise and encourage. Also ensure that recycling is part of the conversation at crew meetings, employee reviews, and other communications. Increasingly, employees want to actively participate in making your business sustainable.  ​

Make Plastic Wrap Recycling Easy

Recycling bin
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Create opportunities for shrink wrap to be recycled by making it easy. Clear signage and conveniently located, color-coded recycling bins can help employees to more accurately place the scrap. Ensure that there are also adequate receptacles for other residuals, to avoid co-mingling of wrap with other scrap materials. A recent study supports the role of color in improving recycling recovery.​

Take Steps to Minimize Contaminants

Control contamination
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Clear wrap holds higher value. Residual labels reduce the value of the wrap, as do other contaminants such as strapping and tape. Employees should remove labels before recycling. If labels are applied to incoming or outbound wrapped pallets, personnel should be encouraged to place the label directly onto the box rather than to the wrap, when feasible. Consider working with suppliers to promote the use of clear wrap and your own employees to remove labels before recycling.

Maintain Observations of Recycling Activities in the Warehouse

Warehouse observation
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Peer and supervisory observations can help spot when employees are placing wrap in the wrong receptacle, and challenge them to consistently make the right choice. If you see clean wrap disposed in the garbage, or garbage placed in the wrap container, then take the necessary steps to get it right, whether the issue is poor recycling bin location, training, or complacency. A good place to monitor the recycled material is when it is being fed into the baler. Using a clear bag to accumulate wrap can help the bale operator better identify any foreign materials placed in the bag with the recycled wrap.

Managing a Multiple Location Recycling Program

Manage multiple locations
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Where there are limited locations of stretch wrap accumulation, recovery will be more easily achieved than if recovery locations are scattered across a large distribution center, or even more challengingly, if wrap and is returned from perhaps hundreds of retail customers. Such programs require attention to effective communication and reverse logistics planning in order to succeed.

Post Results and Strive for Improvement

Results posted
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Let team members know how good of a job they are doing in recovering wrap and other recyclable materials both in terms of volume and quality. Challenge them to find ways to improve. By tracking potential and actual recovery as well as material quality, businesses can help drive improved recovery rates for plastic wrap, and generate extra revenue in the process. And don't forget, there may be opportunities to save even more money than by recycling through more innovative approaches, such as reusable pallet wraps.  ​