Technological watch

Trex offers free recyclability testing of polyethylene packaging

Are you sure your plastic film is being recycled and not ending up in a landfill? Plastic film has always faced challenges when it comes to recycling; yet, it plays a critical role in the packaging and transportation of many consumer goods. How does a company ensure that its plastic used to package and transport goods is being recycled?

Trex Co. (Winchester, VA), the world’s largest manufacturer of high-performance, wood-alternative decking and railing, is offering free recyclability testing to packaging engineers, manufacturers and brand owners through its NexTrex Recycling program. The NexTrex program will help manufacturers overcome the recyclability issues of plastic film by assessing the plastic packaging and film composition for recyclability, the risk of remaining product contamination in the package/film after use, and the risk of contamination for non-recyclable “look-alike” packages/films.

In a previous life, parts of this decking were plastic shopping bags.Each year, Trex diverts more than 400 million pounds of plastic film, bags and wrap from landfills and uses it to manufacture its industry-leading composite decking, which is made from 95% recycled material. Among its sources are retailers and makers of consumer packaged goods that partner with Trex to responsibly dispose of plastic shopping bags and polyethylene film used to wrap products and pallets. This testing validates whether the material is capable of being recycled in the Trex recycling stream.

“Trex invented composite decking more than 25 years ago as a way to reduce waste generated from plastic bags,” explained Dave Heglas, Senior Director, Material Management. “Today, we are one of the largest recyclers of plastic film in North America.”

Packaging designers, producers, and brand owners can simply send in a packaged product sample and Trex will provide them with a comprehensive report assessing three areas for acceptance: Package/film recyclability, effect/risk of product contamination, and effect/risk of non-recyclable “look-alike” packaging contamination, so that they can make adjustments, as needed, to meet recyclability standards and select the appropriate recycling method.

With more biodegradable materials coming onto various markets, PlasticsToday asked Heglas if that material was an impediment to Trex’s polyethylene film recycling requirements. “Over the past several years, successful consumer education about the importance of recycling plastic bags and polyethylene film packaging has led to a significant increase in the amount of recycled content that is available for end-market uses, such as the manufacturing of high-performance, low-maintenance outdoor living products by Trex,” replied Heglas. “Due to the abundance of recycled polyethylene plastics, the increase of biodegradable plastics in the market does not negatively impact Trex’s ability to source recycled plastic film.”

Trex provided a list of acceptable packaging and film for its recycling programs, which include:

  • distribution/manufacturing stretch film;
  • grocery and retail bags;
  • bread and produce bags;
  • case overwraps;
  • dry cleaning bags/film;
  • newspaper sleeves;
  • ice and salt bags;
  • Ziploc and other recloseable bags;
  • flexible PE e-commerce mailers; and
  • PE packaging such as bubble wrap and foam.
“By giving recycled plastic film a second life as high-performance, low-maintenance composite decking, Trex is providing a solution to manufacturers’ plastic waste problems,” Heglas said. “Our free testing program is intended to encourage more manufacturers to participate and take advantage of this ‘win-win’ scenario, while ensuring that the plastic we are collecting meets our high standards for production.”

Heglas reiterated to PlasticsToday that “Trex makes it easy for companies to recycle their large amounts of unwanted plastic film through the free NexTrex testing program and competitive compensation." Trex is looking for LDPE, LLDPE, MDPE and HDPE plastics.

Once packaging samples have been tested and approved by Trex, companies may quality for a Trex Commercial Recycling Partnership. In addition to providing competitive compensation for recycled materials, Trex works with its recycling partners to ensure the collection and transportation of materials. “We are proud to offer a viable solution for our country’s growing supply of plastic content,” noted Heglas. “The U.S. needs more end markets for recycled materials. Through our NexTrex Recycling program, we hope to lead by example and inspire others to find ways to be part of the solution.”

Publication date: 16/07/2019

Plastics Today


This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 837761.