Plastic Moves Up The Food Chain

Right now, I’m on my way back from touring an 80,000-square-foot in-house post-consumer recycling center in West Virginia. More accurately, I’m probably on a layover at Washington Dulles airport, enjoying my usual airport menu of several diet Cokes, praying that Newark doesn’t bless me with the ever popular “ground stop.”

I’ve never actually given much thought as to where my plastic diet Coke bottles go after I pat myself on the back for remembering to recycle them. Last I checked, they were shipped to China, only to return as carpet, fiberfill, plastic lumber, etc. Now, thanks to PWP Industries, my recycled diet Coke bottles have moved up the food chain — resurfacing as high-quality plastic packaging for food products.

This past June, PWP Industries, a food packaging thermoformer, opened an in-house recycling center, projecting an annual capacity to recycle 40 million pounds of PETE bottles. PWP has partnered with Coca-Cola Recycling to convert Coke’s post-consumer bottles into FDA-compliant resin, which is then used in the production of PWP’s food-grade packaging.

Besides being ground-breaking in the area of food packaging, the highly automated plant is certainly not what I had envisioned when I decided to visit a recycling facility. My fears of standing knee-deep in pits of dirty soda bottles were quickly quelled when I entered the meticulously neat facility, boasting 40-foot high ceilings and bathed in natural light. Even more surprising was the extensive quality-control program in place, complete with an on-site lab and constant product sampling.

The end product? Not only does it reduce landfill waste, energy use and carbon dioxide emissions, it’s clean enough to eat off…literally.

Stay tuned for the full story, on the cover of the October print issue, and learn about your company’s new sustainable packaging options.