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September 30, 2019

Pottstown is first in U.S. to test curbside recycling of bubble wrap, grocery bags, shrink wrap, more

The pilot program will even take those air pillows that come in Amazon boxes; it's for all types of 'flexible plastic packaging'

Plastics Recycling
RFlex recycling Source/J.P. Mascaro & Sons

J.P. Mascaro & Sons' TotalRecycle facilty in Berks County will process flexible plastic products for a pilot program in Pottstown.

A $2.6 million grant from some of the nation's biggest companies will make Pottstown the first municipality to test recycling items like potato chip bags, candy pouches, plastic shrink wrap and more.

These materials – known as flexible plastic packaging – historically have been sent to landfills due to collection issues, a lack of suitable processing facilities and a limited market for the recycled product. Some other examples of FPP include grocery and shopping bags, bubble wrap, air pillows, snack food pouches and even the plastic wrap that covers new rolls of paper towels.

RELATED: Things that can and cannot be put in Philadelphia's curbside recycling pickup

This kind of plastic packaging has become an increasingly large share of residential waste.

After a nationwide search, Pottstown selected Audubon-based J.P. Mascaro & Sons to lead the pilot program that demonstrates the viability of processing FPP.

The grant is being provided by industry-sponsored research collaborative Materials Recovery for the Future (MRFF), which includes companies such as Procter & Gamble, Target, The Dow Chemical Company, PepsiCo, Nestlé USA, Walmart and KraftHeinz.

J.P Mascaro & Sons selected Pottstown because its wheeled recycling bins have lids and it's located nearby the company's automated single stream recycling facility in Exeter Township, Berks County.

"Our company is thrilled to have been chosen by the MRFF for this Pilot Program," said Joseph P. Mascaro, the plant's director of sustainability. "We have purchased and installed all the new automated optical sorting equipment needed to recycle FPP; and we are excited to add FPP to the Borough of Pottstown's existing curbside recycling program."

Mascaro said the pilot aims to show that there is an end-user market for the recycling product of FPP, which the trash-hauler calls rFlex. The product can be used for corrugated pipes, decking materials, playground surfaces and other building materials.

The goal of the pilot is to generate data that can be shared with other municipalities that may be interested in developing programs to recycle FPP.

Collection in Pottstown will begin this fall. Company officials have sent information out to residents to help them comply with the pilot program, which requires that recyclables be clean and dry.

An informational display has been placed at the Pottstown Borough Hall. Residents who have already received the mailed notice can begin recycling FPP immediately.