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YEAR IN REVIEW: J.P. Mascaro launches ‘first-ever’ initiative

Tuesday, December 31, 2019
YEAR IN REVIEW: J.P. Mascaro launches ‘first-ever’ initiative

AUDUBON — In 2019, Montgomery County-based J.P. Mascaro & Sons and its TotalRecycle facility in Exeter Township, Berks County, stepped onto the front line of an evolving recycling industry.

The company was chosen to pilot a two year program to do curbside pickup of flexible plastic packaging (FPP) to recycle at its TotalRecycle materials recovery facility (MRF).

Flexible plastic packaging includes items like clear storage bags, bread bags, grocery store carry bags, pet food bags, granola pouches, tee-shirt bags, spouted baby food pouches, chip bags, product overwrap and pouches.

J.P. Mascaro & Sons is the first company in the nation to recycle the material, which typically ends up in landfills. The material is the fastest growing segment of consumer packaging today, introducing 12 billion pounds of the material into the market for consumer use every year, according to Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), which conducts the Materials Recovery for the Future research program.

J.P Mascaro & Sons officials outlined the program for municipal customers and stakeholders from across the region at its Audubon headquarters Feb. 22. The meeting was the official launch of the company’s involvement in the pilot that was announced in June by the Materials Recovery for the Future program.

Company representatives were joined at the meeting by some of the members of the Materials Recovery for the Future. Companies involved in the initiative include: The Procter & Gamble Company, Target, The Dow Chemical Company, PepsiCo, Nestlé USA, the American Chemistry Council, the Flexible Packaging Association, The Plastics Industry Association and the Association of Plastic Recyclers.

J.P. Mascaro & Sons was awarded a $2.6 million grant by Materials Recovery for the Future, to install optical sorting equipment at its TotalRecycle facility, which allow the flexible plastic packaging material to be recycled.

The goal of the pilot program — the first of its kind — is to demonstrate that the material can be recycled and that the material — called r-Flex, can be marketed to end-users.

As testing progressed into the summer — the question of which municipality would be the first to begin collecting the material remained unanswered.

The suspense was lifted in September, when it was announced that Pottstown Borough in Montgomery County would be the first municipality to join the pilot.

J.P. Mascaro & Sons did a mailing to customers, letting them know what they could begin recycling.

Since its launch in Pottstown, the program has gone well, according to J.P. Mascaro & Sons and Justin Keller, Pottstown Borough Manager.

“Residents are thrilled to have this option and think it’s a great step for sustainability borough wide and toward their personal goals,” Keller said earlier this month, adding that communication about the program is important, because recycling these materials is a shift in what people have known.

A second municipality was added to the pilot program on Dec. 2, when J.P. Mascaro customers in Lower Providence, Montgomery County began recycling the flexible plastic packaging.

“We're happy and enthusiastic to be part of the pilot program. It’s a great opportunity for the township and residents,” Donald Delamater, Lower Providence Township Manager, said at the beginning of the township’s participation. “We’re looking to be a more sustainable community and this is one step that will help us get there. Environmentally, it’s a win-win for everybody.”

Information has been communicated with residents of Lower Providence, about the new things they can recycle.

On Dec. 19, J.P. Mascaro & Sons announced that a third municipality has joined the pilot program. Beginning at the end of December, South Heidelberg, Berks County residents will include flexible plastic packaging as a recyclable.

As the pilot program progresses, more municipalities will be added, according to Mascaro spokesman Frank Sau, with a goal of rolling the program out to all customers within the two years.

“By partnering with J.P. Mascaro and Sons, we’ve been able to make the TotalRecycle facility into a ‘living lab’ for flexible packaging recovery. Resident participation will be the next step in our research journey as we discover the best ways to fully integrate flexible plastic packaging into the recycling system," said Steve Sikra, director of sustainability for Procter & Gamble.

Evan Brandt contributed to this story.

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