Polypropylene or PP is a material that is commonly used to make packaging bags for organic produce, such as fruits and vegetables. With polypropylene packaging, these products can be easily sorted and packed securely. Mesh polypropylene bags are also used as low-key marketing tools that can subconsciously entice buyers to buy what they contain. Have you ever noticed that these bags are usually red, particularly for packaging citrus fruits like oranges? That’s because red makes these types of fruits look more vibrant and fresher. There are also yellow or green citrus bags to make lemons look more yellow.
What becomes of polypropylene packaging after they have served their purpose? They often end up in the trash—but don’t worry, they’re not just dumped in the landfill. Modern technology now makes it possible to recycle them.
A good example of this is the technology introduced by PureCycle Technologies and P&G. Their efforts have resulted in a method that gives recycled plastic almost the same quality as new plastic.
This breakthrough recycling method was designed by P&G with the aim of removing odor, color, and contaminants from polypropylene, which is among the most widely used plastics in the world. On the 20th of July 2017, PureCycle Technologies partnered with P&G and hosted a ribbon-cutting for the plant in Ohio where used polypropylene plastics will be restored to almost new quality.
The recycling method was born as the result of P&G’s many innovations with meaningful benefits for sustainability. They agreed to license the technology to PureCycle, one of Innventure’s portfolio companies. Innventure is a Wasson Enterprise Partnership known for commercializing disruptive technologies.
Purecycle calibrated the recycling process for polypropylene. The feedstock evaluation unit began its operations in Lawrence County, OH in January 2018, with operations continuing after the opening of the full-scale plant in 2020. The technology is designed to remove virtually every color and contaminant from used plastics, so their properties and performance are almost the same as virgin materials and can be used in many different applications. This can have a huge impact in revolutionizing the plastics recycling industry.
Before P&G’s technology and method for recycling PP, it was challenging to dispose of mesh polypropylene bags and they ended up polluting the oceans and other natural places, and filling up landfills. Recycled polypropylene also had limited applications, so now, the goal is to remove those limitations to enable companies to choose sustainable recycled resins.
Polypropylene itself is a recyclable material that is durable and lightweight. It does not break down when exposed to high heat, moisture, or oil, so it ensures that organic products are safe and purchased in good condition.
An alternative to recycling mesh polypropylene bags would be to reuse them, and there are many creative ways you can do that. Most of them are made of #2 plastic, which is also reusable and recyclable. Reuse them when buying produce the next time, or roll them into a ball, secure with a rubber band, and use as a scrubber for pots and pans. You can also use polypropylene bags to hang bird feeders.