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Solid Waste & Recycling Services

J.P. Mascaro's Exeter Plant will be FIRST in the Nation with New Recycling Pilot Program

J.P. Mascaro's Exeter Plant will be FIRST in the Nation with New Recycling Pilot Program

Exeter plant will be first in nation to accept plastic shopping bags at its recycling facility

The facility owned by J.P. Mascaro and Sons is playing a lead role in a project that could revolutionize recycling.


A state-of-the-art materials recycling facility, TotalRecycle Inc., in Exeter Township is ground zero in a recycling pilot project that some say could revolutionize the recycling industry with respect to recycling so-called flexible plastic packaging.

TotalRecycle's owner, J.P. Mascaro and Sons, is playing a lead role in the project that, if successful, could make the recovery that plastic, known in the industry as FPP, economically feasible for material recycling facilities across the country. The bulk of such plastic currently ends up in landfills.

In a press conference at its Lower Providence Township, Montgomery County headquarters on Friday, Mascaro officially kicked off the latest phase of a pilot program in which it will become the first solid waste company in the nation to offer single-stream curbside recycling of FPP.

Mascaro officials said curbside pickup of FPP will begin as early as June in a municipality in Berks or Montgomery County that already contracts with Mascaro and that already uses the covered recycling trash cans.

"We plan to roll this program to all our residential customers in two years from inception," said spokesman Frank Sau.

Flexible plastic packaging is the fastest-growing form of packaging, experts say.

Glass and plastic bottles, tin cans and other rigid containers that once dominated grocery store shelves are giving way to the stand-up FPP pouches that hold everything from granola and dish soap to baby food and tuna fish. Plastic shopping bags are also part of the FPP family.

The increased usage is owed to the fact that FPP is durable, less costly to manufacture, lighter and easier to transport.

However, the machinery commonly used to sort recyclables cannot distinguish between, for example, flat paper and flattened FPP drink pouches.

Plastic can contaminate stockpiles of recyclable paper. As a result, FPP is not included in residential recycling programs, according to recycling experts.

The new machinery at the heart of the pilot project can detect and separate FPP from other recyclables such as glass, paper, cardboard, metal, tin, electronics and more. It is to recycling machinery what the Ferarri is to automobiles, Sau said.

That machinery was added to the already state-of-the-art, 2-year-old Exeter facility and is now undergoing testing to work out the bugs. That facility already processes 20,000 tons of recyclables each month.

The pilot project is a joint effort with a group called Materials Recovery for the Future, a research collaborative of leading brands, manufacturers and packaging companies aiming to increase the recovery and recycling of FPP.

Mascaro, which started with a single trash truck in 1964, now has 17 operating divisions, 850 employees and 400 trucks. In addition, it owns four landfills and three trash transfer stations, four large-volume recycling facilities and one of the largest compost facilities in the country.

Resource Recycling Systems, the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based recycling consulting firm that is running the pilot program, estimates that TotalRecycle will produce 3,100 tons per year of high-quality post-consumer FPP feedstock for various end market uses that are being tested.

The plastics recycling world shook in 2017 when China, the largest importer of U.S. trash, banned import of 24 types of recycled material including plastics leading to a glut of unusable plastic.

According to T.J. Stinson, a sales executive for Mascaro, China's ban has made selling material to processors more difficult. But, Stinson added, "we're confident that this material will be recycled state side."

An article in Recycling Today in October detailed growing interest among some U.S. companies to invest in plastics processing equipment.

The pilot project will be evaluated after two years, but Mascaro officials believe the results will show that it is economically feasible to include FPP with other recyclables, and keep it out of landfills.

"Cleaning our planet is a huge motivator for this," Stinson said. "We all have children, some grand children, and are invested in their future.

"The sooner anyone gets on this train, the better," he said.

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